Donald J. Trump is facing the biggest crisis of his turbulent campaign for the White House following the publication of documents over the weekend that suggest the Republican candidate could have avoided paying federal income taxes for nearly two decades.
The explosive report from the New York Times on Saturday revealed the GOP nominee reported he lost $915,729,293 in 1995 and could have gone 18 years without paying federal income taxes as a result.
Global News has not been able to independently verify the tax documents. Trump’s campaign has not denied the report and has threatened to sue the newspaper over what it called “illegally obtained” material.
“The only news here is that the more than 20-year-old alleged tax document was illegally obtained,” the campaign said in a statement. “A further demonstration that the New York Times, like establishment media in general, is an extension of the Clinton campaign, the Democratic party and their global special interests.”
With just five weeks until Americans head to the polls, here are five things you need to know about the revelations of Trump’s tax documents.
Has Donald Trump paid income taxes since 1995?
While the Times report suggests Trump’s $916 million loss in 1995 would be enough to offset the taxable profits he earned from other businesses for 18 years we won’t know for sure if Trump has paid federal income taxes unless he releases his full personal tax returns.
It was previously reported by The Daily Beast, Politico and The Washington Post that Trump reported paying no federal income taxes in 1978, 1979, 1984 and likely at least two other years in the early 1990s.
WATCH: How to lose nearly $1-billion and still live like Trump
The Times report did not look at his federal return, but included pages of his New York State resident income tax return and his New Jersey and Connecticut non-resident returns. The paper also noted that Trump has not done anything illegal.
Trump’s refusal to release his taxes has become a central campaign issue. Every presidential nominee since 1976, including Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, has released their tax returns.
During the presidential debate last week, Clinton challenged Trump for refusing to release his tax returns suggesting that “he’s paid nothing in federal taxes,” to which Trump responded “that makes me smart.”
Was publishing Trump’s tax returns illegal?
Under U.S. federal law it is illegal to publish an unauthorized tax return or “return information” that includes the amount of “income, payments, receipts, deductions, exemptions, credits, assets, liabilities, net worth, tax liability, tax withheld, deficiencies, overassessments or tax payments.”
The New York Times‘ executive editor, Dean Baquet, said during a visit to Harvard in September that he would risk jail to publish Trump’s tax returns.
However, many have noted — including the Washington Post — that “while the media could be prosecuted for publishing Trump’s tax returns, a news organization could also assert a First Amendment defense.”
WATCH: Was the New York Times right to publish Trump’s tax info?
In several media interviews over the weekend, reporters David Barstow and Susanne Craig defended their story, adding that lawyers for the Times had supported the decision to publish the piece.
Craig said she checked her mailbox last month and found an envelope with pages containing Trump’s tax documents.
“I don’t think it’s a crime to check your mailbox and that’s what we did and we did some reporting,” Craig said on CNN’s Reliable Sources. “They told us that they may sue and we are comfortable with the story and went ahead with it.”
What have his allies said?
Former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani called Trump a “genius,” who took advantage of a loophole-ridden law that could have allowed him to avoid paying income taxes for 18 years after losing $916 million in 1995.
“Don’t you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman, and the only thing she’s ever produced is a lot of work for the FBI checking out her emails,” Giuliani told ABC.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called the report a “very, very good story for Donald Trump.”
“What it shows is what an absolute mess the federal tax code is and that’s why Donald Trump is the best person to fix it,” Christie told Fox News on Sunday.
What his opponents have said?
The Clinton campaign called the Times’ article a “bombshell report” and said it “reveals the colossal nature of Donald Trump’s past business failures and just how long he may have avoided paying any federal income taxes whatsoever.”
Meanwhile Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid called Trump “a spoiled, rich brat.”
“Trump is a billion-dollar loser who won’t release his taxes because they’ll expose him as a spoiled, rich brat who lost the millions he inherited from his father,” Reid told reporters on Sunday.
“Despite losing a billion dollars, Trump wants to reward himself with more tax breaks on inherited wealth while stiffing middle-class families who earn their paycheques with hard work.”
And speaking with CNN, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Trump’s taxes “are exactly why so many millions of Americans are frustrated, they are angry, they are disgusted at what they see is a corrupt political system in this country.”
How will it affect voters?
How voters will react to the tax revelations remains to be seen.
Recent polls show that voters are split along party lines whether it’s important for candidates to release their tax returns.
A recent Monmouth University poll found 62 per cent of voters said it was somewhat or very important that Trump show his returns. An Associated Press-GfK poll last month found that 46 per cent of registered voters say it is very important for candidates to release their tax returns, though Democrats were more likely to say so than Republicans.
— With files from the Associated Press