Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a event with The Remembrance Project, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

This May Have Been the Moment Trump Snatched Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

Hillary Clinton’s campaign should have seen it coming. The email scandal was a big deal, resonated with the American public, and had potential to inflict serious damage on her. That her campaign did not well prepare her for the news, the questions, and the damage is political malpractice. They had to see it coming. It was obvious.

It was also obvious that Donald Trump’s failure to disclose his taxes would have the potential to inflict serious damage on him. Every Presidential candidate has released his taxes since Richard Nixon. Nixon was undergoing an audit when he released his taxes. Donald Trump, last night, seriously screwed up his handling of the issue.

Donald Trump so captured Ron Townley’s attention as “an outsider ready to tear down the system,” just the one who might break the Washington logjam, the doer to build new airports and highways, that he was considering voting for him.

But Trump’s response Monday night when Hillary Clinton accused him of not paying a cent of federal tax left Townley appalled.

“That makes me smart,” Trump said, unapologetic and smiling, during the presidential debate.

That comment caused a gasp in the hotel conference room where Townley and a half dozen other undecided voters in this battleground state were watching the debate.

“That’s offensive. I pay taxes,” said Townley, 52, a program director for a local council of governments.

“Another person would be in jail for that,” agreed Jamilla Hawkins, 33, who was sitting beside him in the Crescent conference room of the Embassy Suites in this city of 150,000 near Raleigh.

That was not a “man of the people” answer, but an “I’m above the law just like the Clintons” answer. It damages him. It also creates a field day for the press and the drip, drip, drip of new stories about his tax situation.

The Washington Post is going to keep having stories like this. These are not only potentially very damaging to Trump’s campaign, but to him personally. This latest could be seen as extremely serious by the IRS.

Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has received approximately $2.3 million from companies that owed money to Trump or one of his businesses but were instructed to pay Trump’s tax-exempt foundation instead, according to people familiar with the transactions.

In cases where he diverted his own income to his foundation, tax experts said, Trump would still likely be required to pay taxes on the income. Trump has refused to release his personal tax returns. His campaign said he paid income tax on one of the donations, but did not respond to questions about the others.

The longer Trump fails to release his tax returns, the more damage can be done and the more speculative stories the press and Hillary Clinton can raise with credibility. That Trump may be willing to sabotage his own campaign by failing to release his taxes suggests there must be some really damaging information in there that he does not want people to see.

His handling of the issue in last night’s debate might have been the moment in which he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

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Erick Erickson

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