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Trump surrogates: He’s a ‘genius’ if he didn’t pay federal taxes

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks Saturday, Oct.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Pennsylvania, the same day a New York Times story reported he could have legally paid no income taxes for up to 18 years. Credit: AP / James Robinson

Top surrogates for Donald Trump on the Sunday talk show circuit called him a “genius” with business prowess in the wake of a New York Times story that revealed the Republican presidential nominee could have legally avoided paying income taxes for up to 18 years after declaring a nearly $916 million loss in 1995.

“He did nothing wrong,” said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The headline should have been ‘Donald Trump takes advantage of provisions in the legal tax code.’ ”

Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, commended the candidate’s use of tax-code loopholes, saying it makes Trump qualified to reform the system for others as president.

“It shows you what a genius he is, how smart he is, how intelligent he is, how strategic he is,” Giuliani said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I want that working for me.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expressed a similar sentiment on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The genius of Donald Trump has been to make sure that he follows the law, which is exactly what he’s done, and politically he has said that he’s going to change these laws,” Christie said.

The New York Times published an analysis late Saturday of Trump’s never-before-disclosed 1995 income tax return, filed after several failed business ventures that included the mismanagement of three casinos in Atlantic City. The documents showed he declared $915.7 million in losses, and tax experts told the Times that Trump could have canceled out “an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period” at more than $50 million per year.

Neither Giuliani nor Christie explicitly denied that the real estate mogul avoided paying income taxes during that period.

A statement issued by the Trump campaign late Saturday also did not refute the premise of the Times story, but said the nominee and his business empire were subjected to other types of taxes.

“Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes, along with very substantial charitable contributions,” the campaign said.

Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns is a departure from the modern tradition of presidential nominees releasing their taxes. His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and the Democratic ticket, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, have released their documents.

A tweet from Trump’s Twitter account on Sunday morning said: “I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them,” before labeling the Times as “failing.”

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook released a statement Saturday saying the“bombshell report 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.”

Sunday afternoon, the Clinton campaign posted on its website a feature called “Trump’s ‘Smart’ Tax Calculator.” It asked users to input their annual income, then told them they would pay “$0.00” in income taxes if they “paid the same as Donald Trump.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose focus is income inequity and who endorsed Clinton after losing the Democratic primary to her, mocked Trump on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“Trump goes around and says, ‘Hey, I’m worth billions, I’m a successful businessman, but I don’t pay any taxes. But you, you make 15 bucks an hour, you pay the taxes, not me.’ ”

The Times reported that Jack Mitnick, a lawyer and certified public accountant who was listed as a preparer on Trump’s tax return, said the documents appear to be an authentic copy.

Sanders also sought to defend Clinton over remarks leaked Friday night of a February closed-door fundraiser during which she called his backers “children of the Great Recession, and they are living in their parents’ basement.”

Trump, who has often pointed out parallels between his populist campaign and Sanders’, tweeted over the weekend that Clinton was “nasty,” but Sanders said that he took the comments differently.

“What she was saying there is absolutely correct,” the senator said. “You’ve got millions of young people, many of whom took out loans in order to go to college, hoping to go out and get decent-paying, good jobs. And . . . they’re unable to do that.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mook encouraged people to listen to the whole audio clip.

“She was talking about young people that she’d met who were frustrated that they graduated from college and went into an economy where they couldn’t find the job they wanted,” he said.

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