As Donald Trump’s candidacy seeks to recover from a tough week, which started with the September 26 debate defeat and culminated in a revelation that he may not have paid taxes for up to 18 years due to losing $916 million in business deals, his allies are attempting to regain the momentum.
Trump’s allies have counterattacked by arguing that Trump was a genius for not paying taxes or by claiming that the New York Times’s article detailing his nonpayment of taxes was illegal. Trump supporters Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani took the former argument in interviews on Sunday. Christie stated, according to NBC, that Trump’s tax avoidance was not “outside the law or outside the ordinary” and that “what it shows is what an absolute mess the federal tax code is and that’s why Donald Trump is the person best positioned to fix it.”
Trump himself seemed to take that approach in a tweet where he stated that he knew “our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president,” and is “the only one who can fix them.”
This sort of argument has been part of Donald Trump’s campaign going back to the Republican primaries. Trump and his supporters have freely admitted that Trump has taken advantage of the system and the special interests through behavior like avoiding taxes and making donations to the Clintons. But they argue that Trump has remained an outsider to the system despite these activities and that his combination of insider knowledge and outside status would make him a great candidate to fix Washington politics.
While Christie may have claimed that the Times report was actually beneficial towards Trump, other conservative commentators and legal experts argued that the newspaper had violated legal and ethical principles in publishing the article. Joe Concha with The Hill stated that Times editor Dean Baquet “has not illustrated the kind of integrity” expected from one running such a prestigious newspaper, and a Trump advisor declared on MSNBC that the reporters could be jailed for five years if the documents were found to be authentic.
Concha and others argue that the Times published Trump’s tax returns without the candidate’s authorization, which is illegal under federal law. Furthermore, a statement by Baquet a few weeks ago, where he declared that he would be willing to go to jail in order to publish Trump’s tax records because of the importance of the truth, could be used as evidence that the Times had willful intent to break the law in order to publish the tax article whatever the legal consequences.
But even if the Times broke the law in order to publish the article, the fact remains that the information is out there. And while Trump and his supporters are portraying the move as a sign of business savvy, voters may wonder whether a savvy businessman would have lost $916 million during the economically prosperous 90s. Trump’s economically populist message could also be hindered by this tax news, as it would be easy for Democrats to portray him as a rich businessman out of touch with the needs of ordinary Americans and increase American’s distrust in Trump to fix a broken tax system.
Furthermore, the revelations about Trump’s taxes are not the only news which the candidate has had to struggle with. Trump has also received criticism for how he attacked a Miss Universe candidate for gaining weight as well as attacking the Clintons’ marriage. News like this has stunted his rising poll numbers over the past few weeks, though websites like FiveThirtyEight have stated that he still has more than a 30 percent chance to win the election this November.
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