President Donald Trump has branded reports of him paying little to no federal income taxes “fake news”—though in 2016 he appeared to suggest it would be smart not to do so when questioned on the point by then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump has dismissed reporting from the New York Times, which claimed he has paid $750 in such taxes in 2016 and the same in 2017, describing it as “totally fake.”
It also suggested he had paid zero in such taxes for 10 of the past 15 years.
The president’s tax returns have long been a point of scrutiny from political adversaries, with Clinton pressing him upon them having not been released during a debate in 2016. Prior to the 2016 election, Trump dismissed the tradition of candidates releasing tax returns publicly, suggesting he would not do so due to being under audit by the Internal Revenue Service. Since the New York Times reporting, he has again said that he will release the details following conclusion of this audit.
In their first debate against each other, in September 2016, Clinton suggested “there is something he is hiding.”
She went on: “Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.”
At this, Trump interjected: “That makes me smart.”
Elsewhere in the debate, Trump told Clinton the U.S. needed money for “new roads, new tunnels, new bridges, new airports, new schools, new hospitals,” but suggested such funds had been wasted by politicians such as herself, claiming it had been “squandered on so many of your ideas.”
When she later returned to the tax issue, claiming he had not paid any “for a lot of years,” Trump said: “It would be squandered, too, believe me.”
The White House has previously referred to a statement from Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, in regards to the New York Times report, in which he said the story was “riddled with gross inaccuracies.”
Garten said: “Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015.”
Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.