Donald Trump offered a new line of defense of his own tax problems Tuesday: blame Hillary Clinton.
At a rally in Prescott Valley, Arizona, Tuesday evening, the Republican sought to shift the focus on whether he has paid any income taxes over a nearly two-decade period -- due to a $916 million business loss on his 1995 tax returns -- to his Democratic presidential rival.
The tactic of shifting blame is one he has used many times before in the campaign -- including when he finally recognized that President Barack Obama was born in the U.S., then promptly blamed Clinton for first fueling the questions, a charge without substance.
“So now after years of failure she complains about how I’ve used tax laws of this country to my benefit. Then I ask a simple question: Why didn’t she ever try to change those laws so I couldn’t use them?” Trump told his audience. “The reason that she did not do that is her donors and contributors have used those same tax laws as I did, the same way,” he said.
As of Aug. 31, FEC fillings show that Trump has personally donated $54 million of the $165.9 million his campaign has raised.
The New York Times reported Saturday night that a leaked copy of his 1995 tax records showed he declared a $916 million business loss that legally allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for two decades.
Trump's attempt to shift blame to Clinton comes after two days in which the candidate and his surrogates have portrayed his avoidance of paying income taxes as a master stroke of business acumen.
“I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit,” Trump told an audience Monday at a rally in Pueblo, Colorado. “Honestly, I have brilliantly used those laws.”
“The man’s a genius,” former New York mayor and Trump supporter Rudolph Giuliani said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He knows how to operate the tax code for the people that he’s serving.”
On Tuesday, that emphasis had morphed into a full-on critique of his presidential rival, with Trump arguing that Clinton could have changed the laws when she was in the U.S. Senate representing the state of New York.
“These politicians folks don’t have a clue and if they do they can't do it because their donors won’t let them," Trump said.
Trump said he knows who Clinton’s donors are, “but it’s not up to me to make them public figures.”
Then he named names: “George Soros, who declared losses of $1.5 billion. Soros declared losses, $1.5 billion in just six months. And Warren Buffett declared $873 million. Ask him did they write of the losses? Oh, I doubt it right? Oh, I doubt it.”
Both Soros and Buffett have reportedly seen losses, but without seeing their returns, there's no way of knowing if they claimed losses on their personal tax returns.
At a Monday rally in Toledo, Ohio, Clinton sought to portray Trump's financial moves as self-serving.
“He abuses his power, games the system, puts his own interests ahead of the country’s,” Clinton said. “It’s always Trump first, and everyone else last.”
Trump’s defense of his tax history dominated his speeches at two rallies Monday. On Tuesday, he again said that he knows the complex system better than anyone, and claimed that, as a result, he is especially qualified to fix it.
It remains unclear whether Trump has paid any income taxes since reporting the $916 million business loss, and, citing an I.R.S. audit, he has refused to make his tax returns public. Clinton and her husband have released seven years worth of returns, and Trump would be the first presidential candidate from a major party since Richard Nixon not to do so.
While Trump said in the first presidential debate that not paying income taxes "makes me smart," most voters see doing so as unpatriotic. A CNN/ORC poll released Monday found that 86 percent of those surveyed viewed paying taxes as every American's "civic duty."