Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attempted to spin a recent New York Times expose on his federal income taxes — namely, that he may have avoided paying any for up to 18 years after posting a $916 million loss in 1995 — by explaining the tax avoidance as a business prerogative and referring to his own management as brilliant.
At a rally in Pueblo, Colorado, Trump told supporters "I'm working for you now, I'm not working for Trump," CNN reported.
"It's my job to minimize the overall tax burden ... I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit," he added. "...Honestly, I have brilliantly used those laws."
Much of Trump's business empire, including his Atlantic City casinos, his airline and high-profile real estate purchases, fell apart in the early 1990s. The losses likely stem in part from the mogul's decision to take out $900 million in personally guaranteed loans, in addition to billions more in other loans, he spent on projects that fell through. By 1995, Trump had undergone several restructurings and bankruptcies and was in the process of clearing that massive debt.
The tax documents released by the Times this weekend show the $916 million single-year loss he posted in 1995, carried over, could likely cancel out the equivalent of 18 years' worth of earnings. That's even though Trump was likely able to shift much of the real costs of his ventures onto investors, and contractors and others who worked on his projects were left holding the empty bag.
During Trump's remarks in Colorado, the candidate attempted to portray himself as the triumphant underdog in a time of trouble for the real-estate industry, even saying he "reached deep within myself," reported the Washington Post's Rebecca Sinderbrand:
But as the Wall Street Journal noted, "the U.S. taxes income, not wealth, and savvy taxpayers often try to avoid reporting much of the former while generating the latter. They don't usually try to do so, however, by actually losing money."
On Monday, Trump's opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, was already countering the Republican's line of defense, telling a crowd in Toledo, Ohio, "What kind of genius loses a billion dollars in a single year?"
Oct. 3, 2016 at 11:33 p.m. Eastern: This article has been updated.