President Trump on Monday defended his tax and business practices in the face of a bombshell New York Times investigation that found he paid just $750 in federal income tax in both 2016 and 2017 and used questionable tactics to lower his tax bill.
Trump bashed the media over the report but did not refute any specific part of the Times's findings.
"The Fake News Media, just like Election time 2016, is bringing up my Taxes & all sorts of other nonsense with illegally obtained information & only bad intent," Trump tweeted.
"I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits," he continued. "Also, if you look at the extraordinary assets owned by me, which the Fake News hasn’t, I am extremely under leveraged — I have very little debt compared to the value of assets."
Trump added that he has long said he may release financial statements, which he called "very IMPRESSIVE," and noted that he has donated his presidential salary while in office. But financial statements only provide part of a picture of a politician's wealth and tax history.
Trump broke with decades of precedent in 2016 when he declined to release his tax returns to the public while running for president. He has not done so since taking office, citing an ongoing audit, though experts say an audit shouldn't preclude him from releasing the information.
But information about his taxes has leaked out throughout his first term, with the most significant instance being Sunday's sprawling report from the Times, which obtained more than two decades of Trump's tax returns.
The report found that Trump paid no income taxes in 10 of 15 years before he was elected president in 2016 and that he is battling the IRS over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund he obtained after declaring major losses.
The president paid $750 in both 2016 and 2017, the two most recent years the Times reviewed. Trump lowered his tax bill in part by leveraging business losses to avoid paying taxes on "The Apprentice" income and by writing off significant charges as business expenses, including "consulting fees" that appeared to be directed to his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump.
The reporting also found that while the presidency has aided certain parts of Trump’s business, he is still dealing with significant losses and has a number of sizable loans coming due in the next few years.
The president, appearing at a White House news briefing shortly after the Times published its investigation, dismissed the findings as "fake news" and accused the Times of wanting “to create a little bit of a story” before the election.
The report is likely to loom over the first presidential debate on Tuesday. Trump, in a sign he is not eager to discuss his taxes, tweeted moments after responding to the report about Democratic nominee Joe Biden.