President Donald Trump said on Sept. 28 that he paid millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled to depreciation and tax credits, adding that he is “extremely under leveraged” and suggesting that he may release financial statements that show all his assets and debts.
Trump was responding to a New York Times report that claimed insight into the president’s tax returns, which he has fought to keep private and which Trump said the newspaper obtained “illegally” and then reported on with “only bad intent.”
The report claimed Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, after years of reporting heavy losses from his business enterprises. The tax-return data that The New York Times obtained reportedly spans several decades but doesn’t include the president’s personal returns from 2018 or 2019.
“I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I am extremely under leveraged—I have very little debt compared to the value of assets.”
Trump’s comments echo a response to the New York Times report by Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, who told the newspaper that “most, if not all” of the information about the tax returns appears to be inaccurate, adding that Trump paid “millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” while over the past 10 years, he paid “tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government.”
In his statement, Trump also said he may release financial statements from the time he announced he was running for office, calling them “very IMPRESSIVE,” in line with the theme of the many comments he has made about the reputed vastness of his wealth. While Trump’s net worth isn’t a matter of public record, Forbes recently estimated it at $2.5 billion.
“I am the only President on record to give up my yearly $400,000 plus Presidential Salary!” Trump wrote on Twitter, hinting that only someone with considerable wealth would be prone to such generosity.
Trump’s statement challenges the assertion by The New York Times that the tax returns “portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes,” and that the president “has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.”
The president told reporters at a briefing on Sept. 27 that he’s unable to release his financial records because he is being audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
“It’s under audit. They’ve been under audit for a long time,” he said. “The IRS does not treat me well.”
Trump added, “When they’re not [under audit], I would be proud to show [them].”
The president also said he’s paid a considerable amount of taxes over the years. “First of all, I paid a lot,” he said. “I paid a lot of state income taxes too. New York state charges a lot.”
News outlets and various Democratic officials at the state and federal level have tried to obtain Trump’s tax returns over the past four years.
Among them is New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who suggested last week that Trump and his businesses could be investigated for tax fraud. In a court filing, Vance’s team argued that “even if the grand jury were testing the truth of public allegations alone, such reports, taken together, fully justify the scope of the grand jury subpoena at issue in this case.”
The Supreme Court previously opined that that Trump wasn’t absolutely immune from state criminal processes, opening an opportunity for him to challenge Vance’s subpoena on other grounds.
Democrats in the House of Representatives are also suing the president in a quest for the tax returns. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who has tried unsuccessfully to obtain Trump’s tax records, said The New York Times report makes it even more essential for his committee to get the documents.
“Now Donald Trump is the boss of the agency he considers an adversary. It is essential that the IRS’s presidential audit program remain free of interference,” Neal wrote.
The New York Times said it obtained the two decades of tax returns from sources it said had legal access to the documents. The newspaper declined to provide the documents to the Trump Organization. The newspaper published the story shortly before the pivotal first presidential debate between Trump and Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden on Sept. 29.
A substantial amount of interest about the president’s tax returns was centered on whether they’d reveal a connection to Russia. The New York Times found no such connection and opted to not mention the recent revelation that Biden’s son Hunter Biden received a $3.5 million wire in 2014 from a Russian billionaire.
A similar “bombshell” report appeared shortly before before Trump’s second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton in October 2016. The so-called “Access Hollywood” tape was seen as a death knell for the campaign. Trump plowed on ahead and secured a surprise victory on Election Day.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News on Sept. 28 that Democrats are replaying “the same playbook they tried in 2016—the same playbook that the American people rejected and will do so again.”
Jack Phillips and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.