President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended the more than US$1 billion he reported in business losses between 1985 and 1994, a previously undisclosed amount revealed in a New York Times investigation, as a best practice that other real estate developers had also used.
Yet even as he tried to explain in a pair of Twitter posts that showing "losses for tax purposes" was considered a "sport" among real estate developers like himself, the president also said The Times' account was "a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!"
It was not immediately clear what specifically in The Times investigation Trump disputed.
The article reported the staggering figure of $1.17 billion in losses between 1985 and 1994, an amount calculated from 10 years of his tax information obtained by The Times. It also raised questions about the image that Trump presented of himself, and whether he is a tarnished, not triumphant, businessman. In some years, Trump appears to have lost more money than any other single taxpayer among an IRS sampling of high earners. Trump has portrayed himself as a self-made billionaire and master deal maker.
The new details about the president's steep financial losses provide the fullest picture yet of his taxes. And his defense of the losses that he reported in the 1980s and 1990s will fuel House Democrats in their fight to get his tax returns for the past six years.
....you would get it by building, or even buying. You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes....almost all real estate developers did - and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport. Additionally, the very old information put out is a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2019
Trump has refused to release his tax returns, bucking a common practice of presidential candidates for the past four decades. Earlier this week, the Treasury Department announced it would not release the tax returns despite a formal request from House Democrats, kicking off a legal battle that will likely go to the Supreme Court.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., said the revelations about Trump's losses were shocking.
"Trump was perhaps the worst businessman in the world," said Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has broad authority to ask for the tax returns of any taxpayer. "His entire campaign was a lie. He didn't pay taxes for years and lost over $1 billion — how is that possible? How did he keep getting more money and where on earth was it all going? We need to know now."
Pascrell insisted that the IRS comply with his committee's request. "We now have another part of the truth," he said. "We need a lot more."
During a weekly meeting with reporters Wednesday, the House majority leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, said the new details bolstered Democrats' demand for Trump's tax returns. He dismissed Trump's longtime excuse that he was unable to release them because they were under audit.
"Presumably any time they get a piece of paper from Donald Trump, they put it under audit," he said.
Written by: Eileen Sullivan
Photographs by: Angel Franco, Don Hogan, Doug Mill, Marilynn K. Yee
© 2019 THE NEW YORK TIMES