May 8, 2019 / 1:18 PM / 15 days ago

Trump blasts report on his business losses, calls accounting a 'sport'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump defended himself on Wednesday following a media report that said his businesses had lost more than $1 billion from 1985 to 1994, saying he had leeway with his taxes as a real estate developer.

U.S. President Donald Trump applauds as he attends an event to celebrate the anniversary of first lady Melania Trump's “Be Best” initiative in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The report, published in the New York Times on Tuesday, detailed how his core businesses of casinos, hotels and apartment buildings had lost $1.17 billion over a decade, allowing him to avoid paying income taxes for eight of those 10 years.

Trump said he was allowed massive tax write-offs for depreciation and many “non monetary” losses, adding the report contained “very old information.”

“You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes ... almost all real estate developers did - and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport,” Trump said in a post on Twitter on Wednesday.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have requested Trump’s tax returns as part of investigations into the president and possible conflicts of interest. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week refused a request for those documents, setting up a likely legal fight.

Though U.S. presidential candidates have traditionally released their tax returns during election campaigns, Trump has refused to do so. He also continues to own his businesses, though he has said his sons run the day-to-day operations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday tweeted that the report underscored the need for lawmakers to review Trump’s taxes, as allowed by law.

Separately, she told the Washington Post in an interview it would be up to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal to decide the next steps over the tax return issue.

“He has a path,” Pelosi said, adding there were several options to move forward, including going to court.

Officials in New York state are also taking steps to seek the president’s tax returns, the New York Times has reported.

Trump has repeatedly said he could not release his tax documents because he is under audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

His former lawyer Michael Cohen, however, told a House panel in February that rather than an audit being underway, Trump feared releasing the tax information could lead to an audit and penalties.

Trump has previously warned that he considered any probe of his personal or business finances off limits, telling the Times in a July 2017 interview that any such scrutiny would be crossing a “red line.”

Reporting by Makini Brice, Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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