Trump Insists Tariffs Will Make Our Country ‘Much Richer’: ‘Only Fools Would Disagree’

On Saturday, President Donald Trump praised his tariff plan and insisted, “steelworkers are working again, and big dollars are flowing into our Treasury.”

“Tariffs are working far better than anyone ever anticipated,” Trump tweeted out. “China market has dropped 27% in last 4 months, and they are talking to us. Our market is stronger than ever, and will go up dramatically when these horrible Trade Deals are successfully renegotiated. America First.”

Then in the first follow-up tweet, he added: “Tariffs have had a tremendous positive impact on our Steel Industry. Plants are opening all over the U.S., Steelworkers are working again, and big dollars are flowing into our Treasury. Other countries use Tariffs against, but when we use them, foolish people scream!”

He was not done yet.

A few minutes later, he tweeted again, writing, ” Tariffs will make our country much richer than it is today. Only fools would disagree. We are using them to negotiate fair trade deals and, if countries are still unwilling to negotiate, they will pay us vast sums of money in the form of Tariffs. We win either way.”

Trump then concluded: “China, which is for the first time doing poorly against us, is spending a fortune on ads and P.R. trying to convince and scare our politicians to fight me on Tariffs- because they are really hurting their economy. Likewise other countries. We are Winning, but must be strong!”

[Mediaite]

Kellyanne Conway Slams Journalists With ‘Seven-Figure Contracts’ Who ‘Yuk It Up’ on Late Night TV

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway took some shots at the media over their coverage of her boss, President Donald Trump.

Appearing on The Ingraham Angle Thursday night, Conway began by defending Trump supporters as they were “looked down upon” by folks like Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama, invoking their past rhetoric dismissing Middle America as “deplorables” and those who “cling” to God and guns.

“I’m not sure if they care anymore,” Conway told Laura Ingraham. “I speak to these people all the time. You know what they care about? They care they have a president who respects and takes action daily for the military, for the veterans, and for them.”

She then blasted the press for their reaction to the hostile rhetoric coming from the White House.

“A lot of these journalists have very expensive seven-figure contracts, go on late night TV where they can yuk it up with somebody equally situated, where they can just laugh all day long, particularly about the women in the Trump administration,” Conway continued. “And then they can go and give speeches — I mean, they speak for free every single day, and have a country doesn’t want to listen to them. And then somebody pays them a lot of money to give speeches, so they are raking it in.”

Conway added that Trump’s assertion that “nobody has been better for the media than him” is correct, citing the revenues and “popularity” of some of these journalists.

[Mediaite]

Trump Administration Mulls a Unilateral Tax Cut for the Rich

The Trump administration is considering bypassing Congress to grant a $100 billion tax cut mainly to the wealthy, a legally tenuous maneuver that would cut capital gains taxation and fulfill a long-held ambition of many investors and conservatives.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in an interview on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Argentina this month that his department was studying whether it could use its regulatory powers to allow Americans to account for inflation in determining capital gains tax liabilities. The Treasury Department could change the definition of “cost” for calculating capital gains, allowing taxpayers to adjust the initial value of an asset, such as a home or a share of stock, for inflation when it sells.

“If it can’t get done through a legislation process, we will look at what tools at Treasury we have to do it on our own and we’ll consider that,” Mr. Mnuchin said, emphasizing that he had not concluded whether the Treasury Department had the authority to act alone. “We are studying that internally, and we are also studying the economic costs and the impact on growth.”

Currently, capital gains taxes are determined by subtracting the original price of an asset from the price at which it was sold and taxing the difference, usually at 20 percent. If a high earner spent $100,000 on stock in 1980, then sold it for $1 million today, she would owe taxes on $900,000. But if her original purchase price was adjusted for inflation, it would be about $300,000, reducing her taxable “gain” to $700,000. That would save the investor $40,000.

The move would face a near-certain court challenge. It could also reinforce a liberal critique of Republican tax policy at a time when Republicans are struggling to sell middle-class voters on the benefits of the tax cuts that President Trump signed into law late last year.

“At a time when the deficit is out of control, wages are flat and the wealthiest are doing better than ever, to give the top 1 percent another advantage is an outrage and shows the Republicans’ true colors,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “Furthermore, Mr. Mnuchin thinks he can do it on his own, but everyone knows this must be done by legislation.”

Capital gains taxes are overwhelmingly paid by high earners, and they were untouched in the $1.5 trillion tax law that Mr. Trump signed last year. Independent analyses suggest that more than 97 percent of the benefits of indexing capital gains for inflation would go to the top 10 percent of income earners in America. Nearly two-thirds of the benefits would go to the super wealthy — the top 0.1 percent of American income earners.

Making the change by fiat would be a bold use of executive power — one that President George Bush’s administration considered and rejected in 1992, after concluding that the Treasury Department did not have the power to make the change on its own. Larry Kudlow, the chairman of the National Economic Council, has long advocated it.

Conservative advocates for the plan say that even if it is challenged in court, it could still goose the economy by unleashing a wave of asset sales. “No matter what the courts do, you’ll get the main economic benefit the day, the month after Treasury does this,” said Ryan Ellis, a tax lobbyist in Washington and former tax policy director at Americans for Tax Reform.

Liberal tax economists see little benefit in it beyond another boon to the already rich.

“It would just be a very generous addition to the tax cuts they’ve already handed to the very wealthy,” said Alexandra Thornton, senior director of tax policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, “and it would play into the hands of their tax advisers, who would be well positioned to take advantage of the loopholes that were opened by it.”

The decades-long push to change the taxation of investment income has spurred a legal debate over the original meaning of the word “cost” in the Revenue Act of 1918, and over the authority of the Treasury Department to interpret the word in regulations.

“I think we ought to look at not penalizing Americans for inflation,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the Republican chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, who said he would like to see the Treasury Department make the change through regulation.

Mr. Bush’s Treasury Department determined that redefining “cost” by regulatory fiat would be illegal — a conclusion buttressed by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which found that “cost” means the price that was paid for something.

But conservatives have disputed this conclusion. Pushing Mr. Trump to make the change, Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, has cited a 2002 Supreme Court decision in a case between Verizon Communications and the Federal Communications Commission that said regulators have leeway in defining “cost” to make the case that the Treasury Department can act alone.

“This would be in terms of its economic impact over the next several years, and long term, similar in size as the last tax cut,” Mr. Norquist said, suggesting that making the change would raise revenue for the government by creating new economic efficiencies and faster growth. “I think it’s going to happen and it’s going to be huge.”

He and others said last year’s tax cut would also pay for itself, but despite strong economic growth, corporate tax receipts have plunged and the deficit has soared.

According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, indexing capital gains to inflation would reduce government revenues by $102 billion over a decade, with 86 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent. A July report from the Congressional Research Service said that the additional debt incurred by indexing capital gains to inflation would most likely offset any stimulus that the smaller tax burden provided to the economy.

“It is unlikely, however, that a significant, or any, effect on economic growth would occur from a stand-alone indexing proposal,” the report said.

Michael Graetz, a tax law professor at Columbia University who worked in the Treasury Department’s tax policy office when the department determined that taxing capital gains could not be changed by regulation, said he still thought that the decision to change the law should fall to Congress.

He pointed out that the department would have to make decisions about what types of assets would be indexed and that it would essentially be picking winners and losers.

“There’s certainly no legal authority for Treasury to choose what assets to treat this way,” Mr. Graetz said.

Two law professors, Daniel J. Hemel of the University of Chicago and David Kamin of New York University, wrote in a paper last month that states, charities and other entities could sue the Treasury Department if it tried to make the change. Mr. Kamin said in an interview that the change would create opportunities for gaming the tax code, in part because other parts of the code, such as interest payments, would still be unadjusted for inflation.

A framework for a second round of tax cuts, released by the Ways and Means Committee last week, did not address taxation of capital gains. It is highly unlikely that Congress will pass another tax bill this year because of the slim Republican majority in the Senate.

Democratic senators have written to Mr. Mnuchin, urging him to stand down.

“Treasury does not have the unilateral authority to take our tax code and expose it to widespread gamesmanship,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee. “Indexing capital gains under this regime is a boondoggle for the rich, plain and simple.”

A Treasury Department official wrote Mr. Wyden a two-paragraph reply this month. “We appreciate your taking the time to express the thoughts outlined in the letter,” it read. “We will take them under advisement.”

[The New York Times]

Trump Goes On Anti-Media Tweetstorm, Attacks Reporting He Says Puts Lives ‘At Risk’: ‘Very Unpatriotic!’

President Donald Trump is going on yet another Twitter tirade about the media, this time attacking certain reporting as “very unpatriotic!”

To recap: Trump tweeted this morning that he recently met with New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and talked about the “fake news.” Sulzberger shot back by saying he specifically told the President he’s concerned about his “dangerous” attacks on the media.

Well, um, he’s still doing it (not that he ever stopped).

And not only that, but Trump is now accusing reporters of putting lives at risk by reporting on “internal deliberations of our government”:

You will also notice that Trump, hours after revealing his meeting with Sulzberger, is back to attacking the Times again.

The Times report on this meeting features Sulzberger making one very serious point to the President:

Mr. Sulzberger recalled telling Mr. Trump at one point that newspapers had begun posting armed guards outside their offices because of a rise in threats against journalists. The president, he said, expressed surprise that they did not already have armed guards.

[Mediaite]

Trump Celebrates ‘Record’ Sales of Nonexistent Health Insurance Policies

As usual, President Donald Trump is either ignorant or lying about his own policies. This time, it’s so ridiculously obvious that correcting the record might sound fake.

During an event Thursday at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Trump was very excited to report that “incredible” numbers of people were signing up for association health plans, a form of coverage his administration is making easier to buy. He’s right about one thing: That truly is incredible, in that it’s the opposite of credible.

Trump didn’t use the term ”association health plans” in his remarks, but he did repeatedly praise Alexander Acosta, the secretary of labor, whose department published the regulations governing these policies last month, so it’s clear what Trump is referring to.

“I hear it’s like record business that they’re doing,” Trump said. “We just opened about two months ago, and I’m hearing that the numbers are incredible. Numbers of people that are getting really, really good health care instead of Obamacare, which is a disaster.”

To recap: zero people have actually enrolled in this insurance because it is literally impossible to do so until Sept. 1 at the earliest. And as for Obamacare being a “disaster,” its current problems have a lot to do with Trump himself.

Association health plans are policies that allow small companies in the same industry to band together to buy health benefits for their employees. These already existed before Trump, and before the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010.

President Barack Obama’s administration made them comply with the Affordable Care Act’s rules requiring health plans to provide a minimum, basic set of benefits (things like prescription drugs and maternity care) and limited how insurers could set prices based on the health status of the workers.

The Trump administration is changing that. These association health plans could evade the benefit rules and also charge premiums based on workers ages, occupations and places of business.

Association health plans may save some employees and employers money because they offer skimpier benefits, although those savings could be negated if an employee needs care not covered by her plan and has to pay out of pocket.

And these plans are designed to attract healthy consumers, so the more of them that leave the Affordable Care Act exchanges to join association health plans, the more costly the exchange customer base becomes and the higher premiums for those customers will be.

[Huffington Post]

Trump Touts U.S. Being ‘Back on Track’ With the EU After Meeting With Juncker: We ‘Love Each Other’

President Donald Trump said during a White House event today the U.S. will be working with the EU to address the current trade dispute, and tonight he touted how things are “back on track.”

Trump met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today and he’s tweeting that it was a big success:

Trump also shared a picture of himself and Juncker:

[Mediaite]

Reality

Trump claimed the EU promised to purchase more soybeans and that made it all worth it, but the EU doesn’t buy goods such as produce, individual European countries do.

EU officials confirmed the Trump/Juncker agreement is nothing more than a political pledge by the EU not to do anything that affects the market conditions responsible for European countries buying more beans.

We alienated friends, trashed our reliability in front of the world, made us all pay more with his taxes on us, cost American jobs, all so soybean farmers could sell a few more barrels they were already going to sell to the EU anyway.

Got it.

Trump-Created European Trade Crisis Averted by Fake Deal

Last night, the Trump administration announced with maximum fanfare that the trade war with the European Union was over. “This was a big day for free and fair trade!,” tweeted an excited President Trump. For all the hype and surprisingly credulous press the announcement attracted, it amounts to little more than a face-saving truce. If you’re looking for any details as to how this will work, too bad, they don’t exist.

The trade “deal” follows the script of the ballyhooed North Korean nuclear “deal” from last month. The cycle begins with bellicose Trumpian threats designed to increase American leverage. This leads to negotiations, which produce an impossibly ambitious and thoroughly vague “solution” that allows Trump to boast that he has averted a crisis of his own making.

In North Korea’s case, the “agreement” involves a nonverifiable promise to denuclearize the Korean peninsula at some future date. The trade “deal” is a promise to eliminate tariffs between the United States and the European Union. In theory, it would be possible to eliminate all tariffs between the E.U. and the U.S., but the process would take many years to complete — the European Union has 28 member states, all of which have internal political dynamics and constituent business interests to navigate.

In the meantime, the practical meaning of Trump’s deal is that both sides will halt the cycle of retaliatory tariffs. Despite Trump’s belief that his methods had produced valuable leverage for his own position, the spat had imposed acute pain on his own constituents — especially farmers, who have suffered dire costs from retaliatory tariffs. The president had taken to pleading with his supporters to stop complaining and let him sue for peace:

He was begging his allies to stop complaining about the tariffs. Like a dog!

Trump’s campaign adviser Stephen Moore told the Washington Post yesterday, “The one thing I do know about Trump is that he’s not going to back down.” Characteristically, the one thing Moore knows turned out to be completely false.

But it is easy to see how Trump plans to turn this shambolic retreat into another famous victory. Begin with the assumption that the European Union has been screwing the Great Companies of the United States with one-sided and very, very unfair tariffs for decades. (This is not true.) Then proceed to the assumption that Trump has produced a deal to eliminate all these tariffs. (Completely unrealistic.) By stacking the two fantasies atop each other, you arrive at a reality in which Trump has made a Great Deal to make Americans win again.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/trump-created-european-trade-crisis-averted-by-fake-deal.html

White House Omits Critical Question From Trump-Putin Press Conference Video

A White House transcript and video of President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s July 16 press conference in Helsinki are missing a critical question from a reporter.

During the press conference, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason asked Putin the question: “Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”

As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said Tuesday, the White House video of the event omitted the first part of Mason’s question. Only the second part — about directing officials to help Trump — was included.

The Russian leader responded, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

“What the White House has disappeared from the official U.S. government record of that meeting … is President Putin answering in the affirmative when asked if he wanted Trump to win the election,” Maddow said.

The Atlantic was first to point out this discrepancy, noting last week that neither the White House transcript of the exchange nor its livestream of the press conference included Mason’s full question to Putin. The White House didn’t immediately provide an explanation for this, The Atlantic said.

As the outlet noted at the time, Putin’s response to Mason’s query had already been ambiguous, as it was unclear whether he was answering the first or second part of the question when he said, “Yes, I did.”

The Reuters reporter told The Atlantic, however, that he believed Putin had likely been responding to the first part of the question — the very part the White House has omitted.

“You could interpret [Putin’s response] to mean he’s answering ‘yes’ to both,” Mason said. ”[But] looking at it critically, he spent a good chunk of that press conference, just like President Trump did, denying any collusion. So I think it’s likely that when he said ‘Yes, I did,’ that he was just responding to the first part of my question and perhaps didn’t hear the second part.”

The Kremlin doesn’t have the exchange between Mason and the Russian president in its transcript of the event.

“At least the White House had the courtesy to leave in half of his question so you can get a misleading answer,” Maddow quipped. “The Russians just disappeared [Mason] altogether … They skip over that entire exchange.”

The Atlantic said last week that it was possible the White House’s omission was accidental. But Maddow challenged that suggestion on Tuesday, saying the administration has since had plenty of time to correct the error.

As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump points out, the omission may have been the result of a technical error.

At some point in the middle of that question, there’s a switch between the feed from the reporters and the feed from the translator. In the White House version of the video, you can hear the question being asked very faintly under the woman who is translating saying “president.”

If you’re wearing headphones, you can notice how the latter part of the question is suddenly audible in the right earpiece. At first, the right channel is only the translator. Mid-question, the reporter is suddenly heard in both left and right as the translator feed drops out. Notice, too, that Putin then picks up his earpiece — through which he can hear the translations — and puts it in his right ear.

[Huffington Post]

Trump Says ‘We Don’t Apologize For America’ a Week After Blaming U.S. For Bad Russia Relations

Today, President Donald Trump delivered a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, during which he told the largely military audience that unlike in the past, nobody is apologizing for America anymore.

“We don’t apologize for America anymore,” said the President to wild cheering. “We stand up for America. We stand up for the patriots who defend America.”

After a bit of applause, he added. “And we stand up for our national anthem.”

As CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out on Twitter, Trump delivered this applause line just a week after tweeting that America was responsible for bad relations with Russia, and saying to the world that “the United States has been foolish” in foreign policy.

[Mediaite]

Trump, citing politics, looking to revoke security clearances

President Donald Trump is considering stripping a half-dozen former national security officials of their security clearances, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday, calling their public commentary about the ongoing Russia probe inappropriate.

The list of former officials under consideration includes former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, according to Sanders.

“They’ve politicized and in some cases monetized their public service,” Sanders said during a press briefing. “Making baseless accusations of an improper relationship with Russia is inappropriate.”

Sanders would not say when the President would make the decision; she said only that the White House would provide updates when it had them.

The announcement came after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tweeted that he planned to speak with Trump about removing Brennan’s security clearance. Brennan declared last week that Trump’s performance following a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki was “nothing short of treasonous.”

A decision to strip a former official of a security clearance would prove a striking use of presidential power. Even Michael Flynn, Trump’s onetime national security adviser who was fired during the Obama administration, maintained his clearance when he was acting as a campaign surrogate for Trump, often leading “lock her up” chants at political rallies.

Sanders did little to mask the political nature of Trump’s threat, indicating the President was frustrated by the former officials’ criticism of him.

“When you have the highest level of security clearance, when you’re the person that holds the nation’s deepest, most sacred secrets at your hands and you go out and you make false accusations against the President on the United States, he says that’s something to be concerned with,” Sanders said.

“We’re exploring what those options are and what that looks like,” she said of the process for removing the officials clearances.

When they leave government, national security officials routinely maintain their security clearances, partly to consult with those who replace them about ongoing situations or issues.

Officials also use their clearances to obtain high-paying consulting positions in the private sector.

“I think this is just a very, very petty thing to do. And that’s about all I’ll say about it,” Clapper said on CNN in the immediate wake of Sanders’ announcement.

“There is a formal process for doing this,” he added. “But, you know, legally the President has that prerogative and he can suspend and revoke clearances as he sees fit. If he chooses to do it for political reasons, I think that’s a terrible precedent and it’s a really sad commentary and its an abuse of the system.”

Hayden indicated being stripped of his clearance would be of little consequence to his commentary.

“I don’t go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write,” he tweeted.

It is the President’s prerogative to revoke security clearances, a former senior intelligence official said on Monday, who added that instances of such an occurrence were rare.

Usually former senior officials retain clearances so their successors can consult with theem on a pro bono basis, the former official said.

[CNN]

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