Supporters defend Trump’s tax approach as business savvy

New York Times News Service

Donald Trump’s allies mounted an often-harried offensive on Sunday morning, seeking to redirect growing criticism around the Republican presidential nominee’s tax returns into an unusual argument for his unparalleled business acumen.

“The man’s a genius,” Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and close adviser to Trump, said on Sunday when asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” about a New York Times report detailing Trump’s use of tax provisions that could have helped him minimize what he pays in federal income taxes. “He knows how to operate the tax code for the people that he’s serving.”

In this case, Giuliani said, Trump was simply acting as any responsible American businessman would to save money for his enterprises. Trump’s investors, he added, could have brought legal action against the Manhattan businessman had he not taken advantage of the tax law’s provisions.

FILE — The Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, which closed in Sept. 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J., July 14, 2014. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show. (Matt Rainey/The New York Times)

$916M loss: The Times report, published late Saturday and based on documents obtained by the newspaper, showed that Trump had declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 tax returns, which could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes over an 18-year period.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, another adviser to Trump, argued that rather than demonstrating any kind of malfeasance, the tax records published by The Times showed Trump to be uniquely qualified to overhaul the federal tax code.

Not only that, Christie said, but the documents supporting the report illustrate Trump’s success in what the governor characterized as the weak economic climate of the early 1990s.

“This is a guy who, when lots of businesses went out of business in the early 1990s, he fought and clawed back to build another fortune, to create tens of thousands of more jobs,” Christie said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“This is actually a very, very good story for Donald Trump.”

Returns: Trump’s tax returns — which he has repeatedly refused to release in defiance of what has become the norm for modern presidential candidates — have been a lingering battle in his contest with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. Clinton has released her returns.

The Times report has refocused attention on Trump’s finances as the campaign moves into its final phase, giving Democrats a new opportunity to discredit the Republican nominee and forcing his surrogates to quickly try to change the conversation.

Trump’s campaign did not contest or confirm the report, but a lawyer for the Manhattan businessman said in a statement that the publication of the tax records was illegal.

Taking to Twitter on Sunday morning, Trump reiterated part of his campaign’s statement, boasting that he understood “our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president” and that he had created far more jobs than Clinton.

Supporters of Clinton used The Times report to draw attention to Trump’s refusal to release his returns and to portray the candidate as an unreliable businessman and the embodiment of a system “rigged” in favor of the wealthy.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who battled for the Democratic nomination with Clinton, said that far from making Trump a genius as his allies suggested, the disclosure about Trump’s taxes illustrated the unfair and unequal advantage given to wealthy Americans.

“The rich are getting richer,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Almost everybody else is getting poorer. And yet billionaires like Donald Trump are able to manipulate the tax system so that they avoid paying federal income tax.”