Trump: I ‘brilliantly used' tax laws to benefit

PUEBLO, Colo. — Under fire over claims he avoided paying federal taxes for nearly two decades, Donald Trump began a new week by arguing he is best positioned to fix "a broken tax code" because it has benefited him so much over the years.

"I'm working for you now, I'm not working for Trump," the Republican nominee told a friendly crowd in the pivotal state of Colorado.

The Republican presidential nominee is coming off a rough patch in his presidential campaign, including news Monday that his foundation had been ordered by the New York attorney general's office to stop raising money in the state after failing to register with their office, a requirement of charities to solicit donations in New York.

Trump is seeking to bounce back from the recent spate of bad headlines by employing a familiar strategy: attack Hillary Clinton.

His Democratic foe "hasn't made an honest dollar her entire life," Trump said, calling it "corruption of the highest order."

A week after a poorly reviewed debate performance against Clinton and other flaps that included a damaging New York Times  story about taxes, Trump and his aides indicated they will continue to be aggressive headed into a second debate Sunday in St. Louis.

In his "question of the day" for Clinton, Trump aide Jason Miller said of her: "Almost all of your income has come from paid speeches and trading access. Do you think you have the business knowledge to be able to fight for our nation's job creators and workers?"

Trump also criticized Clinton on Monday over military policy during a cybersecurity speech to a retired veterans group in Virginia. The former secretary of State and the Obama administration have done little to bolster the nation's cyber defenses, Trump told Retired American Warriors, a newly formed political action committee.

Trump also seized on the cybersecurity issue as a way to criticize Clinton over her use of private email at the State Department, saying she should have been prosecuted over her handling of classified material.

"We don't want to have any servers in the basement." Trump said at one point.

The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, continued to hit Trump after The New York Times reported over the weekend that the real estate mogul had declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income — a deduction so large it would have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes for 18 years.

Speaking on Monday in Toledo, Ohio, Clinton said Trump was in a "category by himself" when it came to "egregious corporate behavior."

Trump didn't help his employees “while he was busy with his accountants to try and find out how he could keep living as a billionaire,” Clinton said.

“Trump was taking from America with both hands and leaving the rest of us with the bill," the Democratic nominee added.

At his Colorado rally, Trump said the media has become obsessed with the story, but that he had "brilliantly used" the tax laws to benefit himself, his family, and shareholders.

"Fixing our broken tax code is one of the main reasons" he is running for president, Trump said. "I understand it — I get it."

The tax story capped a rough week for Trump.

It began with his heavily criticized debate performance against Clinton on Monday night and continued with days-long arguments over Trump's comments about the weight of a former Miss Universe, a stretch that included a pre-dawn tweet storm by the GOP candidate attacking both the beauty pageant winner and Clinton.

Polls in recent days show Trump losing ground to Clinton in key battleground states.

A Monmouth University poll released Monday gave Clinton an 11-point lead in Colorado, the state where Trump campaigned on Monday.

Political analysts, including Republicans opposed to Trump, noted he has had bad weeks before and may be exhibiting a pattern.

Peter Wehner, a former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, said Trump is "self-destructing" because of his erratic and narcissistic personality.

"We've never seen anything quite like this," Wehner said. "Seeing a presidential nominee blow up in real time."

Rick Tyler, a former aide to Republican primary candidate Ted Cruz, said Trump may have had the worst week in the history of presidential politics and "is seemingly incapable of course correction."

Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, said there's no way to predict what will happen the last five weeks of the election.

A misstep by Clinton could allow Trump to rebound, Hemmer said, but Trump has his work cut out for him.

"Every issue last week went straight to the heart of Trump's flaws," she said, "from his lack of preparation, incuriosity, problems with women, caginess around taxes and money, and poor impulse control."

In Pueblo, Trump predicted he would come back, just as he and his businesses have rallied from tough times.

Said Trump: "When the chips are down, that's when I perform my very best."

Contributing: Heidi M. Przybyla 


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