U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, according to The New York Times, which said the "substantial" tax deduction could have allowed Trump "to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years."
The nearly billion-dollar loss was large enough to eliminate more than $50 million a year in taxable income for 18 years, according to The Times. The newspaper said it had consulted tax experts who saw nothing illegal in the Trump tax documents that took advantage of a tax provision that is "particularly prized by America's dynastic families, who, like the Trumps, hold their wealth inside byzantine networks of partnerships, limited-liability companies and S corporations."
Responding to the report Sunday, Trump tweeted "I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them."
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, speculated Monday at the presidential debate that Trump had not released his tax returns because they would reveal that he had not paid any federal taxes. Trump responded to Clinton at the debate, saying "That makes me smart."
The Times said the tax records expose "the extraordinary tax benefits" Trump acquired from "the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan."
The Times says the documents were mailed to a reporter at the newspaper from a New York address, and consisted of three pages.
The returns were shown to Jack Mitnick who took care of Trump's tax matters and returns for more than 30 years, according to The Times. Mitnick told the newspaper the tax documents "appeared to be authentic."
The newspaper reported that a Trump lawyer has threatened legal action for the publication of the records because Trump had not authorized the disclosure.
The Times said the Trump tax documents it received "represent a small fraction of the voluminous tax returns Mr. Trump would have filed in 1995."
In other developments, at a Trump rally Saturday in Manheim, Pennsylvania, the Republican candidate questioned Clinton's physical health and said she had contempt for Americans. He also urged his Pennsylvania supporters to be observant at their polling places to avoid voting fraud.
After listing a host of world problems, Trump said his opponent is "supposed to fight all of these things and she can't make it 15 feet to her car. Give me a break." Clinton did not reveal she had a bout of pneumonia until televised footage was released of her stumbling into a vehicle.
Trump also told the rally that Clinton thought Bernie Sanders supporters are "hopeless and ignorant basement dwellers." Sanders lost to Clinton to become the Democratic presidential candidate.
In recently leaked documents from a February fundraiser, Clinton said Sanders supporters were "children of the Great Recession" who she said "are living in their parents' basement. They feel that they got their education and the jobs that are available to them are not at all what they envisioned for themselves." She said the idea that they could be part of the economic revolution that Sanders proposed was "pretty appealing."
Trump goes after Bill
Also, Trump has apparently launched a plan to discredit Clinton by attempting to make former president Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions a central issue of the presidential campaign.
In an interview Friday with The New York Times, Trump said he thought the negative attacks would help him win over more female voters, two-thirds of whom view him unfavorably, according to polls.
"She's nasty, but I can be nastier than she ever can be," Trump said.
"Hillary Clinton was married to the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics," Trump said in reference to her husband, who served as president from 1993 and 2001.
"Hillary was an enabler, and she attacked the women who Bill Clinton mistreated afterward. I think it's a serious problem for them, and it's something that I'm considering talking about more in the near future," Trump told The Times.
The Clinton campaign has apparently tried to preempt Trump's attacks by releasing audio of Bill Clinton discussing his marriage with Hillary.
Trump's verbal attacks come despite the fact that the first of Trump's three marriages ended in divorce after the real estate mogul developed a relationship with the woman who eventually became his second wife.
When asked by The Times if he was ever unfaithful to his wives, Trump responded by saying, "No. I never discuss it. I never discuss it. It was never a problem."
Poll numbers slip
In addition to finding a way to rally from what was widely perceived by independent political analysts as a loss to Clinton during Monday's presidential debate, Trump is trying to regain ground he has since lost to Clinton in the polls.
Clinton leads Trump by an average of 3 percentage points among likely voters nationwide, according to RealClearPolitics. The latest poll, released Friday by Fox News, confirmed Clinton's 3-point edge in a four-way matchup. The poll, conducted over a three-day period after Monday's debate, showed Clinton leading Trump 43 percent to 40 percent. That represented a 1-percentage-point increase over the previous Fox News poll conducted in mid-September, prior to Monday's debate.
Another recent poll showed most people who supported third-party presidential candidates were not completely committed to them, suggesting that a shift in their support toward Clinton or Trump could significantly alter the dynamics of the race. An Associated Press-GfK poll found that nearly 70 percent of third-party supporters said they could still change their minds. These voters were about evenly split between leaning toward Trump or Clinton.
With the November 8 presidential election about five weeks away, the presidential candidates are approaching the final stretch of what has been a grueling campaign season.
Trump was on the campaign trail Saturday in Pennsylvania, where Clinton was clinging to an average 1.8-percentage-point lead, according to RealClearPolitics.
If Clinton holds on to her leads and wins in Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, she could capture the 270 electoral votes needed with Colorado and Pennsylvania. If Clinton loses one of those states, she would have to earn victories in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, where the two major party candidates are tied.
U.S. presidential elections are not decided by a national popular vote. Instead, they are decided by individual races in the 50 states, with each state's importance in the overall outcome weighted by its population. Winning presidential candidates have to amass a majority of 270 votes in the 538-member Electoral College based on the state-by-state results.