President Donald Trump yesterday said he paid “many millions of dollars in taxes” but was entitled to depreciation and tax credits and also said he was under-leveraged, having more assets than debt.
The Republican president responded in a series of Twitter posts to a New York Times report that he paid just $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, after years of reporting heavy losses from his business enterprises.
“I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am extremely under leveraged — I have very little debt compared to the value of assets.”
The Republican president, who will face Democratic rival Joe Biden tonight for their first debate before the November 3 election, said he had “extraordinary assets” and boasted a “very impressive” financial statement.
However, he has refused to release his tax returns, as presidents and presidential candidates have done for decades.
Trump says it is because he is under audit by the Internal Revenue Service but the agency has said there is no reason he cannot release his taxes while under audit.
Trump has hundreds of millions of dollars in debt amid chronic business losses that he uses to avoid paying taxes, the Times reported. It said it has obtained tax-return data covering more than two decades for Trump and his businesses.
Trump accused the Times of having obtained the tax information illegally, which the newspaper has denied.
He has rejected the Times report as inaccurate.
Meanwhile House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday said Trump’s debts raised national security issues. She added that the public deserves to know to whom he owes money.
Pelosi, in an interview with MSNBC, said it was not clear who held the debts and if it involved different countries, which could hold leverage over the Republican president: “To me this is a national security question.”
The scoop from The New York Times, reporting that Trump paid only $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017, and none at all for 10 of the previous 15 years, was a shot to the jugular of the self-described billionaire.
Throughout his unlikely rise to power, Trump has portrayed himself as a hard-nosed businessman on a mission to drain the Washington swamp and represent what he calls “the forgotten man and woman.”
Trump calls the Times’ story — which the newspaper says is based on his long secret tax returns — false.
“The Fake News Media, just like Election time 2016, is bringing up my taxes & all sorts of other nonsense with illegally obtained information,” he tweeted yesterday. But with several new polls on Sunday once again suggesting Biden has the upper hand, the Republican goes into the debate in Cleveland today ever more on the defensive.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll put Biden 10 points ahead of Trump nationally, at 53% to 43% support among registered voters, while an NBC News-Marist poll gave the Democrat a similar lead, of 54% to 44%, in key swing state Wisconsin — which Trump had carried in 2016.
Trump’s Democratic challenger is homing in on the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his controversial rush to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the late liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
But the tax report threatens the core of Trump’s political identity — that vaunted ability to connect with blue collar voters.
Biden, who frequently touts his early boyhood years in the hardscrabble Pennsylvania town of Scranton, has been trying to reframe the populist leader as a spoiled playboy from Manhattan.
Though its impact on voters was still far from clear, the Times’ report — which purports to reveal information that prosecutors and congressional investigators have been trying fruitlessly to obtain for years — hands Biden piles of new ammunition.
And the Democrat’s campaign immediately opened fire.
In a quickly crafted new ad, haunting piano music accompanies a montage of faces representing Americans in relatively low wage but admired jobs, listing the income tax they typically pay: $7,239 for teachers, $5,283 for firefighters, $10,216 for nurses.
Switching to footage of the president, the text then reads: “Federal income taxes paid: Donald Trump $750.”
The Times story raises new doubts about whether Trump is really the man with the Midas touch that he portrays or a hapless spendthrift owing a lot of people money.
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