HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. ― Donald Trump on Monday provided evidence as to why his proposal to raise up to $385 billion by collecting unpaid federal taxes may be easier said than done.
When Hillary Clinton pointed out during the first presidential debate that Trump’s only public tax returns show he paid nothing for several years, the GOP nominee replied by saying, “That makes me smart.”
When Clinton later disputed the idea that the United States doesn’t have enough money because funds had been “squandered,” suggesting instead that it was because Trump hadn’t paid any taxes, he answered: “It would be squandered, too, believe me.”
Trump remains the only presidential nominee in the past four decades not to release his tax returns, meaning voters have no way to determine with precision how he derives his income, what sorts of deductions and credits he claims, and how much money, if any, he donates to charity.
“So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health,” Clinton said. “And I think probably he’s not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see what the real reasons are, because it must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide.”
Trump and his supporters continue to claim that his lawyers and accountants have advised him not to release the returns until an IRS audit is finished, even though the agency has said nothing precludes Trump from releasing the information while the audit continues. (Republican President Richard Nixon released his returns, even though he was under IRS audit.)
Trump said Monday that he would ignore his lawyers’ advice and release his returns if Clinton released 33,000 emails she deleted from her private email server.
Clinton apologized for setting up the server and said it was a mistake she would not repeat. She did not respond to Trump’s offer of a trade.
After the debate, Trump’s campaign staff and supporters said the GOP nominee’s statements did not mean he hadn’t paid federal taxes over the years.
“Mr. Trump pays considerable taxes,” spokesman Jason Miller said. “Of course he pays federal taxes.”
“When you’re leader of a corporation, and people own stock in that corporation, it’s your duty to not pay more taxes than you have to,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a top Trump supporter.
Months before he officially began his presidential run last year, Trump promised on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s program that he would release his tax returns.
“I have no objection to certainly showing tax returns,” Trump said in February 2015.
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.