In what was arguably the most surreal moment during Monday night’s first presidential debate, Donald Trump, in effect, admitted to not paying taxes.
The well-prepared Hillary Clinton knew the moderator, Lester Holt, would bring up the issue of Trump’s returns and she was ready to pounce.
After Trump repeated his stock answer that he cannot release his returns while under IRS audit, Clinton said, “… 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 that point, Trump just couldn’t help being Trump. He had to get a word in edgewise.
“That makes me smart,” interjected the Republican presidential candidate.
But he wasn’t finished.
Clinton went on to add, “So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health. And I think probably he’s not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see what the real reasons are, because it must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide.”
Clinton speculated, “and maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years.”
Trump, well-known for doubling down on his blunders, reinforced the belief he does not pay taxes by implying such a civic duty is a waste.
“It would be squandered, too, believe me,” said the purported billionaire.
Donald Trump brings to mind another flamboyant New York real estate developer who years ago was convicted of tax evasion, Leona Helmsley. Known as the “Queen of Mean,” she was notorious for stiffing her employees and contractors. A woman of immense wealth, she took pleasure in “nickeling and diming” just about anyone, from her housemaid to major construction companies. But her greatest joy, of course, was stiffing the U.S. Treasury Department. She will forever be remembered as having bragged, “Only little people pay taxes.”
Leona Helmsley was convicted and received a 16 year sentence. However, she was required to serve only 19 months in prison and two months under house arrest.
Why the media hasn’t made Trump’s admission of possible tax evasion a bigger story is hard to understand. In a normal world, a politician who refuses to release his tax returns and brags about being too smart to pay taxes would be the target of a criminal investigation and not be one step away from becoming the chief executive of the land.
Photo | hlntv.com