TrumpWatch, Day 337: Aides Block Trump’s End-of-Year News Conference

Donald Trump talks with journalists after signing tax change legislation into law in the Oval Office, December 22, 2017 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

Trump brags that tax changes also kill off ObamaCare

Developments on Day 337 of the Trump Administration:

See also Podcast: Congress Avoids US Government Shutdown (For Now)

Aides Feared Questions to Trump About Russia

White House aides block an end-of-year news conference by Donald Trump.

Trump signed his first major legislative achievement, a $1.5 trillion tax change, on Friday. He told advisors that he was eager to take questions to tout his accomplishments before leaving for his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

But staff argued against the session, worried that Trump would be beset by questions about the Trump-Russia investigation and other matters, according to “two White House officials”.

On Thursday and Friday, White House personnel were told to prepare for a news conference of some kind. On Friday morning, the White House finally said Trump would sign the tax bill in private. When reporters protested and said the pictures from a White House photographer would not be used, the press were hastily escorted into the Oval Office for the signing.

Trump seemed eager to answer questions, as Chief of Staff John Kelly and other aides tried to push reporters out of the office and get the President on the Marine One helicopter for the first stage of the trip to Mar-a-Lago.

Trump did get the chance to answer whether he had learned anything from the legislative process, whether he would travel to sell the tax package, and whether he wished he had started his congressional agenda with a $7 trillion infrastructure initiative. He replied by insisting a boast that he had used the tax changes to kill off ObamaCare, after the GOP failed to do so throughout the summer:

We’re going to get infrastructure. Infrastructure is the easiest of them all. We’re very well on our way. We have essentially repealed Obamacare. You know, the individual mandate was a very big factor in this bill, frankly. A lot of people don’t talk about it because the tax cut is so important.

Aides hastened their attempts to remove the press. As Trump continued to speak, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and other officials stood in front of his desk, all but blocking the view. Kelly finally cut off the event with “Helicopter is running out of gas,” referring to Marine One.

Government Analysis: Tax Cuts Will Cost $1 Trillion

Government analysts have knocked back the Trump Administration’s claim that a $1.5 trillion tax change package, signed by Donald Trump on Friday, will pay for itself through economic growth.

The Joint Committee on Taxation that, despite economic grouth, the bill would reduce federal revenue by $1.07 trillion over 10 years.

Before accounting for any growth, the cost of the measure is $1.46 trillion.

The Treasury Department has argued that the tax package, along with regulatory reform, infrastructure development, and welfare reform, would produce enough growth to pay for the tax cuts. That assertion has been widely criticized by tax experts.

McConnell Jabs at “Political Genius” Bannon

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has thrown another punch at hard-right activist Steve Bannon in the ongoing fight within the Republican Party.

In a year-end news conference, McConnell was asked about the campaign by Bannon — executive officer of the attack site Breitbart and former White House chief strategist — and his allies to challenge Republican incumbents in elections in 2018.

He responded with a reference to the defeat of Bannon-backed candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate special election earlier this month:
“Well, let me just say this: The political genius on display throwing away a seat in the reddest state in America is hard to ignore.”

Earlier this week, Vanity Fair published a profile of Bannon in which the activist reaffirmed his “#WAR” call against the Republican “establishment” and his confidants spoke of a Bannon run for the Presidency in 2020 if Donald Trump is out of office.

The GOP Falsehood Used in Repeal of Net Neutrality

Internal documents show that a core Republican talking point for the repeal of net neutrality battle was false.

The chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, summarized before voting for repeal, “On express orders from the previous White House, the FCC scrapped the tried-and-true, light touch regulation of the Internet and replaced it with heavy-handed micromanagement.”

But the documents establish that the FCC’s Inspector General, acting on orders from Congressional Republicans, investigated the claim of Barack Obama’s interference and found that it had no basis.

The findings were not made public before Thursday’s vote.

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