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Week In Politics: Trump's Taxes, Clinton's Marriage, The VP Debate


A few key pages of Donald Trump's old tax filings offer some facts behind his words. Days ago in a presidential debate, Hillary Clinton suggested Trump might be refusing to release his tax returns because he was paying no taxes. Trump replied, quote, "that makes me smart." Later, he discussed the exchange with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News.


BILL O'REILLY: Now they're going to come after you - they being the Clinton campaign - on the statement that you made that you were smart for paying as few taxes as you could possibly pay. You know that's going to be in the next debate. It's going to be on campaign ads. Do you have any defense for that right now?

DONALD TRUMP: No, I didn't say that. What she said is maybe you paid no taxes. I said, well, that would make me very smart.

O'REILLY: Right.

TRUMP: And I have to tell you something, tax is a big expense. And I wouldn't mind paying taxes a lot less if our politicians knew how to spend the money, but they don't. They waste the money.

INSKEEP: That's Trump the other day. Now the New York Times has published part of Trump's 1995 tax filings, which were mailed to The Times. They show Trump claimed a tax deduction for more than $900 million of previous business losses. The Times says he could have used that loss to avoid paying taxes for up to 18 years. So let's discuss this and more with commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays. Hi, Cokie.


INSKEEP: Also with us once again here in the studios, Tucker Carlson, Fox News host and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller. Thanks for coming by, Tucker...

TUCKER CARLSON: Oh, good morning.

ROBERTS: Hey, Tucker.

INSKEEP: ...Wearing your tie as always. Cokie, what should we make of this, the tax news?

ROBERTS: Well, obviously it's a very big story because Donald Trump has not released his income taxes. And so Hillary Clinton just tweeted out three pages of Trump's tax return, confirms he's a business failure who's gotten rich at your expense. Imagine what he's hiding in the rest. That is the theme that we're going to hear from the Clinton campaign. You pay your taxes, you support the veterans, the roads, the schools - he doesn't. And by the way, this was a failure at business. He's not the really terrific businessman that he portrays himself.

INSKEEP: Tucker Carlson, Rudy Giuliani was defending Trump over the weekend, saying he's a genius for not paying taxes.

CARLSON: Well, I mean, it's hard to know exactly what the story is. No one's alleging a crime here. Are we supposed to be offended that he didn't pay more than he owed? I didn't know we were supposed to do that. Or that he lost money in business? People do that. I mean, clearly the Tax Code itself is rotten. It's written by lobbyists. It discourages honest work. We literally - tax wages at twice the rate of investment. That's bad. And that's an interesting debate to have, but if the standard is that you have to pay more than you're required to pay, who meets that standard exactly?

INSKEEP: Although this maybe is the thing that makes this politically explosive, Trump drives casinos into the ground as a business failure, and then gets a free pass - as real estate developers legally can, you point that out - for many years forward. He doesn't have to pay taxes on profitable years. If you're an average person and you're unemployed for a couple of years and run up a bunch of debts, you don't get a free pass on your taxes later.

ROBERTS: Right. And other thing is you talk about running casinos into the ground, the - that's the part that I think is even worse for him. And that's something the Clinton campaign has been trying to capitalize on, bringing out people that he put out of business, people he didn't pay - those kinds of things which show the voters who have been very affectionate toward Trump start to worry that maybe he isn't really on their team.

INSKEEP: Tucker Carlson.

CARLSON: Well, but, I mean, but the way to play this if you're Trump or anybody trying to navigate the new populism is to take three steps back and say, wait a second, it is a corrupt system, everybody knows it. This is another example of it. But the people who are benefiting from that system - every lobbyist in Washington, every corporate chieftain - are 100 percent behind Hillary Clinton. Why is that?

INSKEEP: Well...

CARLSON: So who does challenge the status quo here?

ROBERTS: And that is what he's going to do, and apparently go after the way the Clintons have made their money, saying it all comes from big speeches. And he's forgetting about the books but - and that they are beholden to the people who have given them that money. And he said that over the weekend. He said Hillary Clinton's only loyal to her donors. She's - and then he went on to say she's probably not even loyal to Bill, and that thereby, you know, going in a direction that many of his advisers have said he should not go in, which is toward the Clinton marriage. And...

INSKEEP: You used an interesting phrase there, Tucker Carlson, the new populism. What's the new populism?

CARLSON: Well, the new populism is basically the idea that, you know, people who shop at Wal-Mart ought to be able to participate in the political process, too. It's the revolt of a dying middle class that neither party represents, neither party really wants to represent, from what I can tell. And, you know, it's kind of anger of people - maybe legitimate - who've been left out of the economic growth of the past 20 years.

INSKEEP: Let's bring in another subject here if we can. Hillary Clinton over the weekend continued her outreach to black voters. Yesterday, she was in North Carolina. Let's listen to a little bit of that.


HILLARY CLINTON: They say that all of our problems would be solved simply by more law and order, as if the systemic racism plaguing our country doesn't exist.

INSKEEP: Few interesting things there. One of them she is continuing to use the phrase systemic racism, the other that she's working hard to get the black vote. We had Leslie Wims (ph) African-American activist on the program from Florida the other day who said Clinton wasn't doing nearly enough, wasn't trying at all in her opinion. Cokie, how seriously does the Clinton campaign take that concern?

ROBERTS: Very seriously. I think it's wrong to say she's not trying. I think she's trying very hard, but she has not been able to energize, certainly to the degree Barack Obama did - African-American voters, particularly young African-American voters. But she's working hard on that, and her best surrogate there is Michelle Obama. And Michelle - Barack Obama's out there, too, but Michelle Obama is the person who really speaks to these young voters and speaks in a way that they relate to.

Also LeBron James endorsed Hillary Clinton overnight and said that she would build on his good friend Barack Obama's legacy. So I think she's working this very hard, but it is a problem because she has to get not just African-Americans, but women and young people and Hispanics more enthusiastic about her campaign if she wants to offset Donald Trump's support among whites and also the fundamental fact that this is a change election. And we still see...

INSKEEP: Tucker, let me just - I've just got to...

ROBERTS: ...Three-quarters of the people saying that they - the country's not going in the right direction.

INSKEEP: Tucker, just got a few seconds left, but I want to ask about that phrase systemic racism...


INSKEEP: ...The idea that bias is not a few individuals, it's the system. Can conservatives - some conservatives buy that notion of the United States?

CARLSON: Well, you know, it's part - you know, allegations need to be precise in order to be evaluated. And that one isn't, but if the idea is that white racism is the single most profound problem for black America - not many people believe that. I mean, it's part of the problem, presumably, but is it the biggest problem? I don't think that idea's enough to get black turnout where she needs...

ROBERTS: A lot of black people do believe that...

INSKEEP: And we've got to leave...

ROBERTS: ...She also uses the term implicit bias which a lot of people also believe.

INSKEEP: And because of the clock, we've got to leave the discussion there - so much more to say. Cokie Roberts, thanks very much. Glad you joined us once again.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And, Tucker Carlson, of Fox News and The Daily Caller, thanks for coming by as well.

CARLSON: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: And a reminder the vice presidential debate is tomorrow at 9 o'clock Eastern. We'll have live coverage on many NPR stations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.