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AirTalk election 2016 : How both campaigns should spin Trump’s tax returns




Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event on October 1, 2016 at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, Pennsylvania.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event on October 1, 2016 at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, Pennsylvania.
Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

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1995 was apparently a terrible year for Donald Trump's businesses.

According to pages of Trump's state tax returns for that year, he lost over $900 million. Over the weekend, The New York Times published the pages. It says they were mailed to the paper by an unknown person. Trump's former tax preparer verified them.

How does the disclosure affect the campaigns? Was the Times' publication legal?

Already both campaigns, and news media, are spinning the disclosure. For the Times, the angle is that Trump could have avoided paying income taxes for many subsequent years, given his ability to carry over 1995s huge losses. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton's campaign has declared that "This bombshell report 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. In one year (he) lost nearly a billion dollars. A billion."

There are many layers to the story -- was Trump's loss during these years a result of business incompetence, or just the nature of highly volatile holdings and investments? Is whether he potentially used his massive losses to offset future income taxes a concern of yours? Should the New York Times have published the pages? There's potential legal exposure, as well as ethical considerations.

Guests: 

Dorothy Brown, professor of law at Emory University; she is an expert on tax law

Matt Rodriguez, Democratic strategist and founder and chief executive officer of Rodriguez Strategies. He is also a former senior Obama advisor in 2008

Lanhee Chen, research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and former policy director for the Romney-Ryan 2012 presidential campaign; he tweets @lanheechen

Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member with The Poynter Institute and one of the nation's leading experts on media ethics