HERNDON, VA (AP) – Donald Trump struggled Monday to stem the bleeding from weekend revelations – one challenging the Republican’s business performance and tax payments and another fueling continued allegations about his treatment of women. Democrat Hillary Clinton was determined to not make it easy.
Trump made no reference to either issue at a forum with veterans at a Virginia appearance. But the New York real estate mogul dispatched surrogates to defend him from questions raised in a New York Times report that showed he claimed a loss of nearly $916 million in a single year on his personal income taxes. The paper reported the size of the loss could have allowed Trump to avoid owing federal taxes for nearly two decades, an assertion his campaign neither confirmed nor disputed.
While Trump’s allies claimed the Republican presidential candidate was a “genius” for using the tax system to rebuild his fortune, the Clinton campaign sought to use the news to drive a wedge between the well-heeled candidate and working-class voters. Clinton planned to raise the issue in an economic speech in Ohio, and her campaign released a new television ad.
“If not paying taxes makes him smart, what does that make the rest of us?” the narrator asks in the spot to air nationally on cable networks.
Other Trump troubles mounted. Former cast and crew members from the reality TV show “The Apprentice” described for the first time his treatment of women on the set. The show insiders told The Associated Press that Trump rated female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he’d like to have sex with.
The campaign issued a broad denial, calling the claims “totally false.”
The revelations piled on a week of Trump missteps and his increasingly aggressive personal attacks on Clinton. Since a rocky debate last week, Trump has engaged in a distracting feud with a former beauty queen he called “Miss Piggy” because she gained weight during her reign. He seemed to try to shift the conversation Saturday night when he suggested, without evidence, that Clinton may have cheated on her husband.
Ahead of the second debate next Sunday, Trump’s campaign is searching for a way to rattle the typically disciplined Clinton – while also getting control of its own message. The new revelations only make that harder. While the tax records published by the Times show no irregularities, the size of Trump’s loss cuts at a core tenet of his presidential bid – his remarkable business success. Meanwhile, his boorish comments to women are threatening to turn away female voters.
Trump was more disciplined Monday at a forum hosted by the Retired American Warriors PAC.
Seizing an opportunity he missed on the debate stage last week, Trump went after Clinton’s commitment to fighting cybersecurity threats and pointed to her use of a private, email server when she served as secretary of state.
He said Clinton’s handling of classified emails on the server makes her “totally unfit” for the Oval Office. He said he would make cybersecurity an “immediate and top priority.”
“To truly make America safe, we must make cybersecurity a major priority – which I don’t believe we’re doing right now – for both government and the private sector,” Trump said. The Republican nominee was to hold two rallies in Colorado later Monday, and his campaign said he would accuse Clinton of using the State Department and the Clinton Foundation to enrich her family.
But Trump’s taxes dominated the conversation.
In a story published over the weekend, the Times said it received the first pages of Trump’s 1995 state income tax filings in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from an anonymous person. The filings show a net loss of $915,729,293 in federal taxable income for the year.
That Trump was losing money during the early to mid-1990s – a period marked by bankruptcies and poor business decisions – was already well established.
But the tax records show losses of such a magnitude that they potentially could have allowed Trump to avoid paying taxes for years, possibly until the end of the past decade.
His campaign said that Trump had paid “hundreds of millions” of dollars in other kinds of taxes over the years, and Trump supporters noted the story did not allege any illegal tax dodging.
“There’s no allegation – even form The New York Times – that he’s not complying with the tax laws,” Kingston said.
Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani called him “a genius at how to take advantage of legal remedies that can help your company survive and grow” on ABC’s “This Week.”
Clinton reposted a tweet from Trump, who wrote in 2012 that “HALF of Americans don’t pay income tax despite crippling govt debt.”
She tweeted: “Now that’s pretty rich coming from a guy who paid $0 in taxes for 18 years.”
Clinton was to campaign in Ohio on Monday.