On Monday, Donald Trump said at a campaign rally in Pueblo, Colo. that he had “brilliantly” manipulated tax laws to pay a minimal amount of taxes. The Republican nominee, who has been under fire since the New York Times published what appear to be his 1995 tax returns, repeatedly touted his business acumen and familiarity with the tax code, though he avoided discussing in specific terms the measures he had taken.
After a brief preamble that praised Pueblo for its history of military men and women, declared Americans’ Second Amendment rights “under siege,” and decried Hillary Clinton’s “war on American energy,” Trump launched into an oblique defense of the actions suggested by the Times documents. (The returns, verified by the original preparer, claim a net operating loss of nearly $916 million, which would allow Trump to pay zero tax on income equalling that total over an 18-year period.)
“As a businessman and real estate developer, I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit and to the benefit of my company, my investors, and my employees,” he said. “Honestly, I have brilliantly — I have brilliantly used those laws.”
Trump went on to say, “Fixing our broken tax code is one of the main reasons I’m running for president.” He criticized the current code for being too “ridiculous, complex — and yes — unfair,” and for being subject to the whims of lobbyists and politicians, all the while saying that he had a “fiduciary responsibility” to pay as little in taxes as was legally allowed.
At other points in the speech, Trump called the early 1990s the worst economic period in America since the Great Depression and teased “the largest middle-class tax cut since Ronald Reagan,” as opposed to Clinton, who he claims will increase taxes “very, very substantially.” (One mention of the Democratic nominee elicited chants of “Lock her up!” so loud that Trump couldn’t continue speaking.)
According to the real estate developer and reality television star, many tax experts “don’t have a clue” what is actually in the tax code, of which he calls himself “a big beneficiary.”
“But I’m working for you now,” Trump assured the crowd. “I’m not working for Trump.” This, of course, has been the subject of some controversy, as it has been theorized that his company’s ties to foreign interests would compromise his position to govern, not to mention that he has virtually no track record of doing work that benefits others outside of himself and his family.