The Trump Tax Bombshell

It looks as if the president paid $750 in taxes in both 2016 and 2017 — and for him, those were generous years. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

Ever since he began his run for president in 2015, Donald Trump has fought tooth and nail to prevent the release of his tax returns. Five years later, we finally have a good sense of why.

The Times’s investigative reporting team has obtained the president’s tax-return data going back over two decades. And it reveals that in 10 of the 15 years before his election as president, Trump paid $0 in income tax. In 2016 and 2017, he paid just $750 a year.

He has achieved these staggeringly low tax payments largely thanks to the enormous losses that his businesses have taken over the years, as well as his accountants’ knack for claiming tax write-offs, which together have allowed him to claim next to no net income in many years.

The files obtained by The Times include documentation of Trump’s personal tax filings, as well as those of the hundreds of companies that make up his business empire.

They reveal that the president now finds himself under increasing financial duress as he continues to fight a decade-long legal battle with the Internal Revenue Service, which has challenged the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed — and received — after declaring huge losses. If he loses that battle, he could be stuck with a bill for more than $100 million.

In the past two decades, Trump has leaned heavily on revenue from endorsements and investments in other people’s businesses while taking large losses on the businesses that he runs. You can see an interactive timeline of his finances here.

At a news conference on Sunday night, Trump called the Times report “fake news.” As he has said falsely in the past, he claimed that he would release his tax returns to the public once he was no longer under audit. “I paid tax,” he said, offering no evidence.

With his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he increasingly depends on making money from businesses that may put him in direct conflict of interest with his job as president.

Senate Republicans have a rough timeline for the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whom Trump named on Saturday as his pick to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Fox News that his committee would take up confirmation proceedings on Oct. 12, and would plan to report out the nomination to the entire Senate by Oct. 22, just 12 days before Election Day.

That would tee up a floor vote less than two weeks before the election. If it’s successful, Barrett would be the first justice in United States history to be confirmed this close to a presidential election.

Only two G.O.P. senators have said they oppose the sped-up confirmation process, so Republicans appear to have enough votes to muscle Barrett’s nomination through. But Democratic leaders have said they will use the limited tools at their disposal to make the process more difficult, according to a report in Politico.

In polls conducted after Ginsburg’s death, a majority of voters — both nationwide and in some key swing states — have said that they think the winner of the November election should be allowed to pick the next Supreme Court justice.

One such survey was a New York Times/Siena College poll released yesterday. That poll, The Times’s first nationwide canvass this fall, found Joe Biden leading Trump by eight percentage points among likely voters.

The Democratic nominee was powered in particular by strong support from independents, women and college-educated white voters.

In each of those groups, upward of six in 10 said they thought the winner of the election should be responsible for choosing the next Supreme Court justice. A similarly lopsided share in all of those demographics expressed support for the Affordable Care Act.

Likely voters across the country said by more than 2 to 1 that they would be less likely to support Trump in November if he chose a nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade, according to the Times/Siena poll. By more than 3 to 1, voters expressed approval of the Roe decision.

Barrett, who is avowedly anti-abortion, has said that she thinks that ruling is unlikely to be overturned — although with a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the court, the realm of possibility could be drastically altered. As an appeals court judge, she has repeatedly voted to rehear cases in which restrictions on abortion were loosened, including one ruling that allowed minors to seek abortions without notifying a parent.

If confirmed, Barrett would more immediately be in a position to cast a vote on the fate of the Affordable Care Act. The administration is backing a lawsuit that is currently before the court challenging the law’s validity. By a 19-point spread, likely voters in the Times/Siena poll expressed support for Obamacare.

Photo of the day

Protesters who support and oppose President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee squared off on Sunday outside the Supreme Court Building.

Dispatch from North Carolina: An empty campus says a lot about the state of the race.

By Jonathan Martin

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — I have visited this charming college town too many times to count over the years, sometimes to cover campaigns and more often for fun. But I’ve never seen Chapel Hill as quiet as I found it last weekend.

The coronavirus crisis has closed down a number of local landmarks, like Crook’s Corner restaurant, and forced the University of North Carolina to conduct classes online, leaving some students in town and others back home.

The candidates on the ballot this year are trying to adjust. Students whom I interviewed said there were voter registration efforts taking place via text message and social media, while some professors were using their video-conducted classes to encourage undergraduates to register.

Around town, there were signs of such efforts. Literally.

“Double Check, Make sure you are registered to vote at your current address,” read one lawn sign, planted next to a tree a block off Franklin Street, the beating heart of the community. It instructed passers-by to “Search NC DMV Voter.”

A nearby pub was offering on-site voter registration along with its takeout offerings and another lure: dog treats. The red, white and blue banner read, “Bark the Vote.”

Some Democrats, as is their wont, are nervous about the implications of voting in the age of Covid-19. They wonder if the students, from North Carolina and beyond, who attend the state’s many excellent universities will still find a way to cast their ballots. My conversations with those around town suggest that at least those who have remained in Chapel Hill intend to vote.

Whether they do in large numbers, though, might make the difference between Trump or Biden winning the state.

Most every political veteran in North Carolina — Democrat or Republican — is expecting a close race. Each of the last three presidential races in the state has been decided by less than four percentage points.

The Supreme Court fight may reshape a neck-and-neck race — a New York Times/Siena College poll this month found Trump and Biden effectively in a dead heat in North Carolina. But a number of people in the state have already voted: Absentee ballots began going out to the state’s voters three weeks ago.

What’s on many of their minds was made clear to me by a woman who, seeing me walk dejectedly away from a closed Crook’s Corner, pulled her S.U.V. over to lament what the virus has wrought and suggest a few places in town that remain open.

But as she beckoned me over to her open passenger-side window, she first offered an admonition in a honeyed Carolina accent: “Mask up, buttercup.”

This item was part of a series of short Battleground Dispatches our reporters have been filing from swing states, offering an in-person snapshot of what it’s like to be on the ground in Texas, Wisconsin and elsewhere. You can read all of those dispatches here.

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