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Here’s why a Dem victory in Wisconsin last night was a big deal

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WASHINGTON — A state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin followed a familiar pattern we’ve seen over the past year in other contests during the Trump Era: Democrats are way overperforming from 2016 and even before that.

“Rebecca Dallet trounced Michael Screnock on Tuesday for a seat on the state Supreme Court, shrinking the court’s conservative majority and giving Democrats a jolt of energy heading into the fall election,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. “It marked the first time in 23 years that a liberal candidate who wasn’t an incumbent won a seat on the high court.”

 Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet Scott Bauer / AP file

Dallet beat Screnock statewide by 12 points out of about 1 million votes cast, 56 percent to 44 percent. Remember, in 2016, Trump won Wisconsin 47 percent to 46 percent. And in 2012, Obama won it by 7 points, 53 percent to 46 percent.

And here are the results from some key counties:

Brown (Green Bay)

2012: Mitt Romney 50 percent, Barack Obama 49 percent

2016: Trump 52 percent, Clinton 41 percent

2018: Dallet 55 percent, Screnock 45 percent

Dane (Madison)

2012: Obama 71 percent, Romney 28 percent

2016: Clinton 70 percent, Trump 23 percent

2018: Dallet 81 percent, Screnock 19 percent

Eau Claire

2012: Obama 56 percent, Romney 42 percent

2016: Clinton 50 percent, Trump 42 percent

2018: Dallet 64 percent, Screnock 36 percent

Kenosha

2012: Obama 56 percent, Romney 43 percent

2016: Trump 47 percent, Clinton 47 percent

2018: Dallet 57 percent, Screnock 43 percent

Milwaukee

2012: Obama 68 percent, Romney 32 percent

2016: Clinton 66 percent, Trump 29 percent

2018: Dallet 66 percent, Screnock 34 percent

Waukesha (outside of Milwaukee)

2012: Romney 67 percent, Obama 32 percent

2016: Trump 60 percent, Clinton 33 percent

2018: Screnock 64 percent, Dallet 36 percent

Bottom line: Dallet’s margins were about equal to Democrats’ 2012/2016 performance in the urban areas, and they were significantly better in more rural counties. (Just as an aide, but with the teacher rebellions in Oklahoma and West Virginia, is there something going on in rural America that Team Trump is missing?)

“This is freaking code RED,”said MSNBC GOP analyst Charlie Sykes, who hails from Wisconsin.

GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who’s up for re-election in 2018, tweeted:

Begun the trade war has

The Star Wars reference here is intentional – this U.S.-vs.-China battle over tariffs is straight out of the George Lucas prequels.Bloomberg News: “China said it would levy an additional 25 percent tariff on imports of 106 U.S. products including soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft, in response to proposed American duties on its high-tech goods.”

CNBC adds that, as of 7:00 am ET this morning, Dow Jones futures had dropped more than 500 points due to worries about this standoff over tariffs.

We agree with the take from Bloomberg’s morning “Balance of Power” newsletter: This is a standoff that both sides – Trump and China – think they can win. “Trump sees China’s economy as fragile and is betting that Xi will force through reforms before risking instability, according to Scott Kennedy, a China scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Xi, on the other hand, doesn’t think Trump can endure much political pain or equity market losses, and will likely take a quick deal.”

This morning, Trump tweeted:

So in other words: Yes, we’re in a trade war…

WaPo: What Mueller has told Trump’s team so far

Turning to the Mueller investigation, last night’s Washington Post scoop contained two big pieces of news: 1) Mueller is investigating President Trump but doesn’t consider him a target AT THIS TIME, and 2) Mueller is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office, including potential obstruction of justice.

“In private negotiations in early March about a possible presidential interview, Mueller described Trump as a subject of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges,” the Post reports. “Mueller reiterated the need to interview Trump — both to understand whether he had any corrupt intent to thwart the Russia investigation and to complete this portion of his probe, the people said.”

More: “The president and some of his allies seized on the special counsel’s words as an assurance that Trump’s risk of criminal jeopardy is low. Other advisers, however, noted that subjects of investigations can easily become indicted targets — and expressed concern that the special prosecutor was baiting Trump into an interview that could put the president in legal peril.”

Trump says no one has been tougher than he has on Russia. His outgoing national security adviser appears to disagree

At his news conference with Baltic leaders yesterday, President Trump declared, “No one has been tougher on Russia than I have.”

But check out these words from outgoing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who said the U.S. could be doing much more against Russia: “For too long, some nations have looked the other way in the face of these threats. Russia brazenly, and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs,” McMaster said in a speech to the Atlantic Council, per Politico.

“The three-star Army general added that Russian President Vladimir Putin believes he is ‘winning’ through the county’s ‘hybrid warfare,’ which ‘combines political, economic, informational, and cyber assaults against sovereign nations.’ But, he argued, the U.S. and its allies will prevail. ‘We will triumph over new threats, including those posed by Russia’s increased aggression around the world,’ he said.”



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Boris Johnson told 'up your game' and 'listen to shop floor' in fishing row

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A FORMER Brexit Party MEP has called on Boris Johnson to “up your game” to help British fishermen amid claims post-Brexit trade barriers had left some within the industry struggling to survive.

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Biden calls for ‘peace and calm’ in wake of Daunte Wright shooting in Minnesota

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President Joe Biden on Monday called for “peace and calm” in the wake of the”tragic” fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright in Minnesota.

“I haven’t called Daunte Wright’s family, but my prayers are with the family. It’s really a tragic thing that happened,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office of Wright’s death Sunday. “The question is, was it an accident? Was it intentional? That remains to be determined by a full-blown investigation,” he said, describing the body-camera footage of the shooting as “fairly graphic.”

Wright, 20, was shot after he was pulled over in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center for allegedly having an air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said he believes, based on the body camera footage, that the officer who shot Wright mistakenly believed she was firing a taser and not her gun.

The shooting took place about 14 miles north of where George Floyd was killed last year, as former police officer Derek Chauvin is standing trial for Floyd’s murder. Floyd’s death set off a wave of protests across the country last year, some of which led to rioting and looting.

Biden called for any protests to Wright’s shooting to remain “peaceful,” echoing a plea from Wright’s mother.

“There is absolutely no justification, none, for looting, no justification for violence. Peaceful protests, understandable, and the fact is that, you know, we do know, that the anger, pain, and trauma that exists in the Black community in that environment is real, it’s serious, and it’s consequential. But it will not justify violence and/or looting,” he said.

“And we should listen to Daunte’s mom, who is calling for peace and calm,” he said.

Asked if he’d deploy federal resources to help keep the peace if necessary, Biden noted that he’d already done so because of the Chauvin trial.

“There are already federal resources,” Biden said. “There will not be a lack of help and support from the federal government if the local authorities believe it’s needed.”

Emma Thorne contributed.

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Trump-era tax change emerges as wedge issue in Democrats’ infrastructure debate

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Dissent whether to reinstate unlimited state and local tax deductions has emerged as a critical wedge in Democrats’ path to advancing President Joe Biden’s sweeping infrastructure plan.

Unlike most of former President Donald Trump’s policies, which the Biden administration has aimed to largely undo, the institution of the so-called SALT caps by Congress in 2017 has received support among elements of the Democratic Party — not least of all from the president himself.

Progressive groups have maintained the deduction predominantly benefits the wealthy, and the White House has signaled it wants to keep them because they can help pay for the infrastructure plan. Calls to reverse the caps, and restore the unlimited deduction, however, have emanated from a growing number of moderate Democrats predominantly from the Northeast and California — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — where property-owning residents of those high-tax states stand to benefit from the relief on their federal taxes.

The debate puts Biden, who campaigned on reversing most of Trump’s tax moves, including the SALT caps, in the unusual spot of siding against reversing a Trump policy.

Democratic strategists and lawmakers say the battle should come as no surprise: Trump set up this very fight to occur when he included the controversial caps on SALT deductions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The measure has, as intended, divided Democrats into a wealthier, establishment camp that favored the uncapped deductions, and a more populist and progressive wing that outspokenly supports higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for social programs and reduce income inequality.

“Democrats haven’t shown that they’re all in this together. And Mr. Biden doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room here,” said Glenn Totten, a veteran Democratic strategist.

“For now, all this debate does is make the job of Mitch McConnell and the Republicans easier because it frames it as a blue state versus red state issue,” he added. “Which was one of the intentions of the SALT caps in the first place.”

‘Not a revenue raiser’

The White House has repeatedly signaled that SALT caps are the rare policy issue from the Trump era that Biden supports.

During press briefings last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to multiple questions about the SALT issue by pointing out that undoing the caps “is not a revenue raiser,” even after it was pointed out to her by reporters that Democrats who support reversing the caps could easily sink an infrastructure bill.

Axios reported earlier this month that senior members of the administration felt that keeping the caps in place is “good policy” because they bring tens of billions of dollars in federal tax revenue.

A Biden administration spokesperson responded to questions from NBC News about the White House’s position on SALT by pointing to Psaki’s comments at recent briefings.

Progressive groups and strategists have said they support the SALT caps because they do, in fact, make a large portion of high earners pay more in federal taxes, which can then be used to fund progressive programs.

“It’s necessary to tax the wealthy, which has become a widely popular position. It’s clear that needs to happen. That is one way to do it,” said Maura Quint, the executive director of Tax March, a progressive group that advocates for tax fairness.

But so far, those lawmakers who want to reverse this particular Trump policy aren’t budging.

Eight moderate House Democrats, mostly from the blue states where residents were hammered by Trump’s SALT caps, penned a letter earlier this month, saying they were a hard “no” on Biden’s plan if it didn’t include lifting them.

“We’re going to keep fighting until this is part of the bill. It’s as critical as a road or a bridge or a tunnel, which is why we are going to keep fighting for it until the end,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., who was one of the eight to sign the letter, said in an interview.

“The SALT deduction cap was designed to target blue states,” Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., who also signed the letter, said in an email. “We are being punished for running programs that help our citizens.”

Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., another signatory, told NBC News that, “If we don’t get it done now, we won’t get it done. I’m pushing for a full repeal.” He added, “No SALT, no deal,” repeating a mantra both he and Gottheimer have said recently.

Pelosi has said in recent days that she is a “big supporter” of and was “sympathetic” to removing the caps and that “hopefully we can get it into the bill.” Schumer, meanwhile, sponsored a bill earlier this year that would restore the SALT deduction.

That could end up being more than enough to push Biden, who had expressed support for repealing the caps during the presidential primary, to undo them and align with the moderates.

Democrats have a narrow majority in the House and must keep their defections to a minimum in order to pass a bill, unless they get Republican support. In the Senate, a host of other issues, including a robust debate over raising corporate taxes, promise to further complicate the plan’s future.

‘Retribution politics’ or tax the rich?

Prior to 2017, filers could deduct all of their state and local taxes against their federal taxes.

For taxpayers in high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California, the SALT deduction offered potentially enormous federal tax relief, because filers could write off the large amount of state and local taxes they were paying.

But the Trump administration, as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, instituted a $10,000 cap on that deduction, meaning filers who pay tens of thousands of dollars in state and local taxes now faced a very low ceiling to what they could deduct. As a result, the amount in federal taxes these filers owed went up significantly.

Proponents of keeping SALT caps, including progressives, have pointed to the fact that their removal would disproportionately benefit the wealthy. According to a 2020 Brookings Institution analysis, 96 percent of the benefits of a SALT cap repeal would help the top fifth of all taxpayers, and nearly 60 percent of the benefits would help the top 1 percent. Twenty-five percent of the benefits of a SALT cap repeal would benefit the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers, the analysis found.

Lawmakers in high-tax blue states have claimed Trump and Republicans included the measure to punish them. (New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called the policy “retribution politics, plain and simple.”)

“It’s impossible to deny that Republicans when they fashioned their tax bill, were quick to try to use wedge issues wherever possible,” Totten said.

What happens next?

The irony that Biden’s posture on a policy created by Trump could make or break an infrastructure package isn’t lost on strategists. Several said that regardless of that unusual intersection, Biden’s apparent support of keeping the SALT caps simply helps bolster the consistency he’s so far maintained in pitching progressive policies.

“It makes for some strange bedfellows,” Democratic strategist Joel Payne said.

Payne pointed out that, even though it was a Trump-era policy, SALT caps actually align with a progressive ”bottom-up approach” to the economy — one on which the Biden presidency has been consistent.

“The president is siding with the progressive position, which has been a consistent thread in all of his policy pronouncements so far, certainly with tax policy — that wealthy and the well-connected should pay more,” he said. “And that he could possibly dig in there represents a sea change in mainstream Democratic politics.”

In Payne’s estimation, Biden “is going to negotiate on this.”

The president is scheduled to meet Monday with Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate to talk about his infrastructure plan.

What future talks look like — possibilities include giving moderate Democrats what they seek; raising the caps instead of lifting them altogether; or promising that addressing the caps will come in a different bill, possibly Biden’s promised second infrastructure bill — is just the latest example of how Biden will have to work to keep the Democratic Party’s delicate coalition together while also keeping promises to undo many of his predecessor’s policies.

Some progressives are signaling they’re willing to cede some ground.

“Fundamentally, SALT isn’t necessarily the top issue,” said Quint, of Tax March, whose group just last year had been strongly opposed to efforts to repeal the caps. “We need to be looking at larger issues like increasing the corporate tax rate, looking at a wealth tax. The SALT cap is not an area for us to get lost in or divided over.”



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