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How Mike Pence explains Donald Trump's $1 billion loss

Mike Pence defended Tuesday Donald Trump's reported 1995 loss of nearly $1 billion, saying his running mate "brilliantly" used American tax laws after some "tough times."

The GOP vice presidential nominee Pence initially dodged a question about Trump's taxes to slam Hillary Clinton's tax plan during the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Virginia. The Indiana governor then said Trump has "created tens of thousands of jobs" even if he may have paid minimal income taxes.

Republican candidate for Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia on October 4, 2016.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Republican candidate for Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia on October 4, 2016.

A New York Times report over the weekend showed Trump reported a $916 million net operating loss in 1995, which could have shielded him from income taxes for years. The Clinton campaign has used the report to attack Trump's business acumen, a key point of appeal for the developer, though Trump surrogates have used words like "genius" to describe his use of the tax system.

Pence claimed that Trump will eventually release his tax returns, following recent precedent for nominees, but repeated the Trump campaign line that he cannot because he is under audit. However, there is no legal precedent for that.

Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton's running mate, seized on Trump's comment in the first presidential debate that not paying taxes made him "smart." Kaine rhetorically asked if it is not smart to pay for the military and teachers through taxes.

Pence fired back by asking if Kaine uses all of the tax deductions available to him.