Trump's taxes bump Miss Universe from headlines
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The spotlight shifted on Sunday to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE's tax returns, after a report surfaced showing the GOP nominee could have legally avoided paying federal income tax for up to 18 years.
 
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The New York Times report quickly bumped the controversy surrounding his treatment of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado from the headlines, as the GOP nominee's supporters sought to defend him, arguing the new information shows Trump's genius.
  
But Democrats and supporters of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers Biden struggles to hit it off with millennials MORE said the fact that a $916 million loss Trump reported on his 1995 income tax returns could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income tax for up to 18 years reveals a corrupt system and a candidate who only cares about himself. 
 
The latest average of polls from RealClearPolitics shows Clinton ahead of Trump by 2.5 points and it remains to be seen how the information about Trump's taxes will sit with voters. 
 
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Sunday touted the report as a good story for the Republican nominee, and worked to push the focus on the tax code, rather than the candidate's past. 

"What it shows is what an absolute mess the federal tax code is, and that's why Donald Trump is the person best positioned to fix it," the Trump surrogate said on "Fox News Sunday."

"There's no one who's shown more genius in their way to maneuver around the tax code and to rightfully use the laws to do that, and he's already promised in his tax plan to change many of these special interest loopholes and get rid of them."
 
Christie said people suffer under the current U.S. tax code and noted the NYT report did not show the Republican nominee did anything "outside the law" or "outside the ordinary."
 
The 1990s were a hard time for people economically, but Trump was able to push through it, Christie said, adding, "this is actually a very, very good story for Donald Trump."
 
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani expressed a similar sentiment, saying the report proves Trump is an "absolute genius."
 
“This was a perfectly legal application of the tax code, and he would’ve been a fool not to take advantage of it," Giuliani said on ABC's "This Week."
 
The vocal Trump defender said the GOP nominee actually had an obligation to use such lawful deductions.
 
“... If there is a tax law that says, 'I can deduct this,' you deduct it," he said. "If you fail to deduct it, people can sue you.”
 
Giuliani also noted on CNN's "State of the Union" that most Americans "take advantage of every deduction available to them."
 
He went on to put blame on the media — a common target of Trump and his surrogates — for overreacting.

"Because you take something that is perfectly legal, something that he had no choice but to utilize, and if he didn't utilize he would have been in a lot of trouble, and you try to make it into — he did no wrongdoing," Giuliani said.

"Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has violated probably 30 federal statutes," he alleged.
 
 
Sanders, who focused much of his campaign message on economic inequality, said it is an example of the "corrupt system."
 
"They're angry. They're disgusted at what they see as a corrupt political system in this country," Sanders said on CNN's "State of the Union."
 
"You got the middle-class people working longer hours for lower wages [but] ... the billionaires, no, they don't have to do that because they have their friends on Capitol Hill."
 
As most people seem to be getting poorer, Sanders said, billionaires like Trump are able to "manipulate the tax system so that they avoid paying federal income tax."
 
He also attacked Giuliani for saying the report shows Trump is a genius.
 
"If Mr. Giuliani thinks that Mr. Trump is smart and all the rest of us are dummies because we believe in America, we believe in our kids, we believe in national defense," Sanders said on ABC's "This Week," "Well, I think they have a very distorted view of the American people and what this country is about."
 

"If you look at the way Donald Trump has conducted business — he crashes businesses into bankruptcy, leaving stores of businesses unpaid, people really hurting with the losses his companies have suffered," the Clinton supporter said on "Fox News Sunday."
 
"But he walks away unscathed, and it appears he walks away with a golden ticket that allows him, under the tax code, to avoid taxes for decades."
 
She said he used his losses to avoid paying taxes, but these losses represent "real pain" to many people who didn't get paid.
 
She also disputed Trump supporters who have touted the GOP nominee's tax plan, saying it would only benefit billionaires, like himself.
 
"His tax plan benefits Donald Trump," she said.
 
"That should be no surprise to anyone, since that is the way he sees the world. He doesn't care about those small businesses he didn't pay. He doesn't care about the people who lost millions of dollars in all of his bankruptcies. He cares about Donald."
 
McCaskill also slammed Trump's record and the way he's treated working people throughout his business career. 
 
"I mean, it's so ironic that he's trying to lift himself up as some kind of champion of working people," she said. 
 
Before the New York Times report surfaced, the GOP nominee had been embroiled in criticism surrounding comments he made about the former Miss Universe's weight and her past — a topic Clinton's campaign has seized on in an attempt to reflect Trump's treatment of women.
 
Trump kept the controversy going on Friday, when he called Machado "disgusting" and referenced an alleged sex tape — an accusation Machado dismissed as "slander and cheap lies."
 
But after the tax report was  published Saturday night, the headlines quickly shifted.
 
The Times obtained fragments of Trump's 1995 tax records, not previously released, that show he reported a federal adjusted gross income loss of $915.7 million in the wake of financial struggles at three Atlantic City casinos, his airline business and purchase of Manhattan's Plaza Hotel.
 
On Saturday night, the Trump campaign dismissed the report, saying the "only news here is that the more than 20-year-old alleged tax document was illegally obtained."
 
Early Sunday morning, Trump also defended himself on Twitter, saying he knows the country's "complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president."
 
He touted himself as the only candidate who could fix the systems and said he will bring back thousands of jobs to the country.
 
Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, pounced on the report saying it "reveals the colossal nature of Donald Trump's past business failures and just how long he may have avoided paying any federal income taxes whatsoever."

“Now that the gig is up, why doesn’t he go ahead and release his returns to show us all how ‘smart’ he really is?” Mook asked in a statement. 

Throughout his campaign, Trump has declined to release his tax returns because he says he is under audit by the IRS.
 
Trump is the first presidential candidate in recent history to decline to release his tax returns, despite many calls from both sides of the aisle to do so.