Presidential races

Trump casts himself as underdog, comeback artist for use of tax laws

Greg Nash/The Hill

Donald Trump is seizing on a bombshell report about his massive business losses to cast himself as a plucky underdog and a comeback artist whose business savvy saved him from the poorhouse and has him on the cusp of becoming president.

{mosads}Speaking Monday night at a rally in Loveland, Colo., Trump described himself as a victor over unimaginable hardship as he sought to push back against accusations he has gamed the system to legally avoid paying federal income taxes.

Economic anxiety in the early 1990s was worse than during the Great Recession and nearly as bad as the Great Depression, Trump said, forcing him to get creative to avoid insolvency.

“When times were tough I performed best,” Trump said. “The economy and the banks were collapsing, but I enjoyed waking up every single morning to go to battle, and it was battle. I enjoyed getting up, taking on the financial establishment, dealing with the financial establishment … because I had to win. I know how to make a deal. I know how to make a comeback, and that’s the kind of thinking we need for our country.”

The Trump campaign is furiously working to reframe a report the New York Times published over the weekend that found Trump incurring nearly $1 billion in losses during the economic downturn in the early 1990s.

The paper concluded that Trump could have carried those losses forward to avoid paying federal income taxes on earnings for the next 18 years.

Hillary Clinton and Democratic surrogates have been hammering Trump as a fraud who, contrary to his core campaign message, has taken advantage of a system rigged in favor of the wealthy.

On Monday, Trump embraced the tax laws he said helped him survive financial turbulence.

The real estate developer said his competitors who didn’t know the tax laws as well as he did “lost everything and now they’re gone.”

“But I’m here and I’m ready to turn things around for our country,” Trump said.

“I knew in my heart that when the chips are down, that’s when I perform best,” Trump said. “The reason I never felt in danger was that I knew myself, my business, the tax code inside and out and backwards, and most importantly, I knew how to fight. That’s what I am and you are and I’m now going to fight for you.”

Alternately, Trump acknowledged that he had been a “big beneficiary” of a system he deemed unfair for average working-class Americans.

He vowed to “straighten it out and make fair for everyone.”

“I understand the tax laws better than anyone which is why I can fix them, and that’s what I commit to you,” Trump said.

“This is not the fault of the IRS, but the political class owned outright by the special interests and lobbyists,” he continued. “It’s these politicians who wrote and amended a tax code that’s a disgrace to our country in so many ways. It’s a favor to the donors and special interests, many so called experts who get tremendous fees to analyze what’s going in.”

Trump insisted that he pays many taxes – city taxes, sales taxes and employment taxes, among them –and justified his losses by saying other billionaires had done the same as him.

“George Soros declared $1.5 billion in losses in six months and in 2014, Warren Buffett lost $873 million,” Trump said. “I wonder if they deducted that? You think? No I don’t think so, why would they ever do a thing like that? Do you think they’d ever do a thing like that? No, I don’t think so.”

The New York Times was mailed Trump’s 1995 returns by an anonymous source.

Trump has not voluntarily released any of his tax returns, as is customary for presidential candidates.

He says he’s under audit by the IRS and that he’ll release the returns once the agency completes the audit.

The IRS has said that an audit doesn’t preclude a person from releasing their tax returns.

Clinton mocked Trump at a rally earlier in the day, asking what kind of a financial genius loses $1 billion.

“This is Trump to a T,” Clinton said. “He’s taken corporate excess and made a business model out of it. He abuses his power, games the system, puts his own interests ahead of the country. It’s Trump first and everyone else last.”

Trump fired back at his rally in Colorado.

“I was able to use the tax laws of our country and my skills as a business person to dig out of this real estate depression when few others were able to do that,” Trump said. “I reached within myself and delivered my employees, my company and my family…and I did a great job.”

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

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