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Trump challenged over tax avoidance in intense exchange: ‘Don’t interrupt me!’

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US President Donald Trump is under a month away from finding out whether he will serve the American people for a second term. The incumbent’s main opponent, the Democrat’s Joe Biden, has soared past Mr Trump in most national opinion polls. Many have noted, however, that the polls are often arbitrary, with Mr Trump polling badly in the run-up to the 2016 election despite going on to win.

Two weeks ago Mr Trump tested positive for coronavirus.

He left his hospital ward after three nights, and earlier this week held one in a string of packed Florida rallies – the country’s current biggest swing state.

Mr Biden also gave a speech in Florida this week, a much smaller event in which he told a senior centre that to Mr Trump, older voters were “expendable”.

Mr Trump has faced fierce criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with several other revelations also appearing to diminish his credibility in recent weeks.

Shortly before his COVID-19 infection, the New York Times released documents showing how Mr Trump had paid just $750 (£580) in federal income tax both in 2016, and in his first year in the White House.

It wasn’t the first time Mr Trump has been queried over his taxes: his Trump Tower project in the late Seventies and Eighties stirred the ire of New York’s City Council after he claimed he was entitled to a tax abatement on the building.

An interview nearly forty years later with Ruth Messinger, who was a member of the City Council, came during the documentary ‘Trump: An American Dream’ and revealed the intensity of the moment.

At the time, she was an outspoken critic of the tax abatement scheme floated and approved by the previous mayor.

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It was during the documentary that Ms Messinger explained her stance and message to Mr Trump throughout their disagreement over the abatement: “Don’t interrupt me, don’t challenge me. I know, and if you’re agreeing, there’s something the matter with you.”

This message came following a segment shown from the New York and Company Show aired in the Eighties, in which Mr Trump and Ms Messinger locked horns.

Mr Trump said: “Well, I built Trump Tower thinking I was going to get an abatement, I should get an abatement, and I am by law entitled to that abatement.”

Ruth Messinger replied: “That’s not true, the City has…” Mr Trump interjected and said: “I think you really better check your facts and figures.”

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Ms Messinger said: “I did, exactly.”

Mr Trump replied: “I think you better, because you’ll find out I could’ve built an as-of right office building 77 stories tall.”

When Ed Koch won mayorship in 1978, he outright refused to give in to demands for a tax break on the luxury tower block.

On hearing this, Mr Trump instructed his controversial lawyer, Roy Cohn, to sue the City.

Mr Trump won and secured a 40-year tax break on his first major piece of real estate in New York.

It meant that he got close to $160million (£124m) in tax relief.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has branded the most recent tax discrepancies highlighted by the NYT as “fake news”.

The newspapers say the records show the President paid no income taxes at all in ten of the previous 15 years.

The records reveal “chronic losses and years of tax avoidance”, it says.

Mr Trump said: “Actually I paid tax. And you’ll see that as soon as my tax returns – it’s under audit, they’ve been under audit for a long time.”

He has faced legal challenges for refusing to share documents concerning his fortune and business for years.

He is the first president since the Seventies not to make his tax returns public, though this is not required by law.

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