New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a top Donald Trump adviser, on Sunday dismissed a news report that showed the Republican presidential nominee reported a $916 million loss on his 1995 federal tax return, saying that the report showed nothing “outside the law,” despite the “big, splashy headline.”
The New York Times reported Saturday on the tax return and stated the reported loss could mean Trump won’t have to pay federal taxes for nearly 20 years, citing leaked copies of his tax records.
“For gosh sakes, no apologies,” Christie said on “Fox News Sunday,” reiterating that the story said only that the loss could allow him to not pay federal taxes in the following years.
“This was actually a very, very good story for him,” Christie continued. “You don’t know that he didn’t pay taxes. Let’s be precise about what [the story] said.”
Christie argue the U.S. tax code is an “absolute mess” and that “there’s no one better [than Trump] to fix it.”
He also argued that the tax return suggests how Trump, a first-time candidate and New York real estate mogul, was able to survive the sharp economic downturn of the mid-1990s and make the “comeback” that he has.
Trump responded Sunday to the news report, saying he knows the country's "complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president."
Trump made the comment on Twitter after the paper reported that his claimed losses were so large that they would have allowed him to avoid paying an equivalent amount of federal income tax over an 18-year period.
"I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them. #failing@nytimes," Trump tweeted.
Christie also suggested Trump's understanding of the tax code was business "genius."
Trump supporter and former New York Mayor Rubi Giuliani later described Trump on ABC's "This Week" as an "absolute genius" in how he used tax law to his advantage.
The Times report noted that tax experts have found no evidence of wrongdoing connected with Trump's 1995 returns, though the paper claimed that the large loss likely would have drawn the attention of the IRS.
The newspaper also reported that the documents were mailed to one of its reporters last month. The return address indicated that they had been sent from Trump Tower in New York City. The paper said it had confirmed the returns' accuracy with Trump's then-accountant.
The Trump campaign issued a statement late Saturday saying the documents had been "illegally obtained" and called The Times "an extension of the (Hillary) Clinton Campaign, the Democratic Party and their global special interests."
"Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required," the statement went on. "That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes, along with very substantial charitable contributions."
Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted late Saturday that the Times report was a "bombshell."
During last week's presidential debate, Clinton, the Democratic nominee, speculated that Trump's returns would show that he has paid little or no federal income taxes. She cited documents obtained by Politico that showed Trump didn't pay any federal income tax during at least two years in the early 1990s because he lost more money than he earned. Other documents show he also didn't pay any federal income taxes in 1978, 1979 and 1984.
Trump responded by saying, "That makes me smart," a comment he disavowed just minutes after the debate. Asked by reporters if he had admitted to not paying federal income taxes, Trump said, "I didn't say that at all."
Trump added during the debate that he would release his returns — over what he described as his attorney's objections — only after Clinton released roughly 30,000 emails she had deleted from her private server that she had deemed personal.
Since 1976, every major party presidential nominee has released tax returns. Clinton has publicly released nearly 40 years' worth, and Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has released 10 years of his tax returns. Democratic vice-presidential nominee Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine in August released his 2015 federal returns.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.