Trump In Pueblo Tackles Questions Over $916M Business Loss And Tax Maneuver

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Photo: Donald Trump Pueblo Oct. 3 2016
Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Pueblo, Colo.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump declared Monday in Pueblo that, “Legally I used the tax laws to my benefit,” as he addressed a New York Times story that showed his business posted a nearly billion-dollar loss in 1995.

Leaked 1995 tax returns showed Trump declared a $916 million loss, possibly enabling him to avoid paying income taxes for decades.

“Honestly I have brilliantly used those laws,” he told the crowd, and asserted that his knowledge of tax code gave him an advantage over competitors. His goal that year was to "pay as little tax as legally possible" during turbulent economic times. But he added, "I work for you now. I'm not working for Trump," and intends to use his tax law expertise to "fix" the complexity of the law.

Speaking at the first of two stops scheduled for Colorado Monday -- he’ll be in Loveland later in the evening -- he was campaigning in a traditional Democratic stronghold that the GOP believes it has a shot at turning red from blue.

Part of his pitch was aimed squarely at the region's Latino population: "This is a city with a rich immigrant history, a rich Latino history. Latinos love Trump, right?" he said.

Trump mentioned support for Colorado’s military bases. He also spent a few minutes talking about energy issues, declaring, “We are going to end the war on American energy, and we are going to put the miners back to work.”

“We have crumbling schools, rising crime, depleted military, an open border, an economy that can't create high-paying jobs,” he said. “We cannot have another four years of Barack Obama. And Hillary Clinton will be worse.”

His opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, seized on the Times report Monday to say Trump "may not have paid a dime" in federal income taxes for nearly two decades.

At a campaign stop in Toledo, Ohio, Clinton said that it means Trump never contributed to Pell Grants to help kids attend college, or federal veterans or military programs.

Trump represents the "same rigged system that he claims he's going to change,” Clinton said. "What kind of genius loses a billion dollars in a single year?"

Also Monday, the New York attorney general's office ordered the Trump Foundation to immediately stop fundraising in the state, saying it isn't registered to do so.

Despite the spate of challenging news, Trump was met by a supportive crowd at the Pueblo Convention Center. They cheered throughout the candidate’s 45-minute speech, booed any reference to Clinton, and drowned out calls from what appeared to be a few protesters at the event.

Some also said Trump’s business struggles and the tax issues raised over the weekend were of little concern.

“Everybody’s got a skeleton in their closet, I don’t care who you are. So it’s about time we start talking about what we need to do and not what somebody’s done in the past that is totally meaningless,” said Milton Vander Walker, a Republican who lives in Pueblo.

Others said they wished Trump would stop giving Clinton material to pounce on.

“I just wish he would quit doing all the dumb stuff he does,” said Ron Knutdson. “Like the tweeting and stuff in the middle of the night. You know just stick to message. You know I think he’d be doing a lot better if he didn’t do all of that kind of stuff.”

Gordon Carlton, a self-described libertarian who recently moved to Colorado with his wife, says he’s not totally on board with Trump because of how the New Yorker sometimes is prone to say things that maybe he shouldn’t say.

“I would like to see him be a little bit more reserved in his demeanor,” Carlton said. “That’s about it. But as far as all the other criticisms that you hear about him -- oh, he’s rich -- well guess what folks, there will always be rich folks and there will always be poor folks.”

As the Gazette reported Monday, only one Republican has ever won a majority of Pueblo’s voters: Richard M. Nixon in 1972. But the city’s shuttered steel mills and laid-off blue collar workers may be changing the traditionally Democratic stronghold, making it fertile ground for the GOP nominee.

According to the Gazette, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 39,869-22,642 in Pueblo County. But Mark Waller, a Republican El Paso County commissioner, told the paper he believes “there are a lot of labor Democrats in Pueblo who are looking for an opportunity to vote for someone besides Hillary Clinton.”

Trump has made law and order a central issue in his campaign, and the Colorado trip coincides with the three largest police unions in the state endorsing his candidacy: The Denver Police Protective Association, the Aurora Police Association and the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association, the Denver Post reported.

That endorsement comes as new FBI numbers show murders up across the country and in Colorado too. But Colorado's murder rate remains lower than the nation's as a whole, and 2015's bump is also small compared to the crime waves of decades ago.

Denver's 2015 murder rate -- 7.8 deaths per 100,000 people -- jumped slightly from 2014 and was much higher than the state's rate of 3.2. In terms of raw numbers, the city saw 51 murders last year -- a 10-year high. But the capital city's murder rate is less than half of what it was in the early 1990s.

The Associated Press and CPR's Hart Van Denburg contributed to this report.