Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Sunday that “of course” he’d taken a $916 million federal income tax deduction.
Trump’s remark, during the second presidential debate in St. Louis, came in response to a question from ABC News’ Martha Raddatz about The New York Times’ bombshell publication of three pages of Trump’s 1995 tax return.
“I pay taxes,” Trump said.
“The write-off is a wonderful thing,” he said, referring to the loss he claimed in 1995. Because Trump’s full tax returns have not been published, it’s unclear exactly what sort of losses Trump claimed, although several tax experts say it was likely related to debt in his flailing casino empire.
Trump’s partial tax return shows that he took a $916 million loss that year. Tax experts who reviewed Trump’s partial return for the Times said this loss could have allowed him not to pay any federal income taxes for nearly 20 years.
Before Trump’s partial tax return was published, he all but invited that line of attack. At the first presidential debate, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton floated the idea that Trump hadn’t released his tax returns because they would show how little he paid. “That makes me smart,” he quickly retorted.
In the wake of that debate, Trump’s son Eric said his father “pays a tremendous amount of tax.” But then, in an elaboration, Eric referred to his father’s company rather than his personal taxes, saying that “as a company, we pay a tremendous amount of tax.”
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, also muddied the waters about whether the Republican nominee had in fact paid federal income taxes after that deduction when she said on NBC News that Trump paid “hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes ― property, real estate, excise, state, local and federal payroll taxes, certainly.”
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.