TrumpWatch, Day 223: Trump’s Vague Tax Announcement

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Photo: Tom Brenner/New York Times

Trump’s rhetoric unlikely to turn into legislation for months, if at all


Developments on Day 223 of the Trump Administration:

Trying to regain the political initiatives after a summer of legislative failure, the expanding Trump-Russia investigations, and controversial remarks over white supremacy, Donald Trump presents a general declaration of tax proposals.

Speaking in Missouri, Trump put out sweeping promises of helping all in the US with the “biggest ever” tax reduction and rhetoric about “loopholes and complexity that primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans and special interests”.

But the only substantive proposal was a slashing of corporate tax from 35% to 15%, accompanied by claims of trimming of individual income tax rates.

The Administration has not even drafted legislation after months negotiations with GOP legislators. White House officials have said that development and passage of the bill is up to Congress, while Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, who once said the tax changes would be in place by August, has acknowledged that Trump’s promise of quick action may not yield a result by year’s end.

Trump tried to cloak the general proposals as “our once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver real tax reform for everyday hard-working Americans. Lower taxes on American business means higher wages for American workers.”

But many economists have evaluated that large corporate tax cuts will do relatively little to boost wages or create jobs, with the benefits going to corporate profits and the wealthiest Americans who own the most corporate stock.

US corporations are already sitting on nearly $2 trillion in cash. Michael Linden, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute noted, “Corporate profits are at record highs….Reducing their tax burden would have absolutely no effect on workers.”

Trump did not explain how he would put through the tax cuts without a significant increase in the Federal budget deficit. He claimed that the proposals, with the scrapping of deductions, would affect him — “I’m speaking against myself when I do this, I have to tell you” — but did not touch on the sensitive issue of why he has not released his tax returns, either before or after his election.

Even his limited specifics are unlikely to turn into reality. Administration officials are reportedly envisaging a lesser reduction of corporate tax rates to 20% or even 25%. They are considering the maintenance of the top income tax rate at 39.6%, rather than dropping it to 35%.

But Trump could rest on an announcement of a 3% increase in GDP — falsely claiming that the figure had never been achieved by the Obama Administration, when in fact there were several periods of growth of 3 to 5.2% — with the assertion, “I happen to be one who thinks it can go much higher.”

And he found space to attack political opponents, calling on the crowd to reject Missouri’s Democratic Senator Clare McCaskill if she did not back the Administration: “She must do this for you. And if she doesn’t do it for you, you have to vote her out office.”


Russian-American Lobbyist Testifies to Grand Jury About Trump Tower Meeting

A grand jury has heard testimony from Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin about a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Kremlin-linked envoys and Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Convened by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the grand jury met Akhmetshin in secret.

Mueller and his team appear to be focusing on the meeting, arranged by Trump Jr. with brokers for Trump-connected Azerbaijani-Russian billionaire Agas Agalarov, as a marker for contacts between Trump advisors and Russian officials throughout the 2016 campaign. A report last week also indicated Mueller is considering whether Donald Trump Sr. dictated his son’s initial, false statement about the encounter with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Akhmetshin, and Agalarov’s financial representative Irakly Kaveladze.

Trump Jr.’s statement said the meeting was only about “adoptions”, but his e-mails arranging the meeting confirmed it was about a Russian offer to hand over material damaging to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Mueller Links With New York Attorney General to Investigate Manafort

Special Counsel Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in the investigation of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his financial transactions

“Several people familiar with the matter” confirmed the cooperation. The approach could put pressure on Manafort to cooperate in the Trump-Russia investigation, as the President does not have pardon power over state crimes.

One source said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering.

No decision has been made on where or whether to file charges. “Nothing is imminent,” said “a person familiar with the case”.

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