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After Cohen raid, Trump flirts with a point of no return

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Where is Trump’s head on Syria and China?

What’s also serious is that Trump’s reaction to the FBI raid on Cohen is coming as the president is considering a military response to Syria’s chemical weapons, and as China appears to have provided Trump an exit ramp on tariffs.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans on Tuesday to open up the Chinese economy, including lowering tariffs for autos and other products and enforcing the legal intellectual property of foreign firms,” CNBC says.

Trump made at least four inaccurate characterizations or flat-out misstatements in his comments about the FBI’s raid on Michael Cohen

TRUMP CLAIM #1: “So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys — a good man.”

THE FACTS: According to the New York Times, which first reported this story, FBI agents had a search warrant when they raided Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s office. Cohen’s attorney also acknowledges the search warrant, saying: “[T]he U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients.”

TRUMP CLAIM #2: “They found no collusion whatsoever with Russia. The reason they found it is there was no collusion at all. No collusion.”

THE FACTS: While Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have argued there was no collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign, Democrats on the committee don’t agree. And neither do Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The issue of collusion is still open, that we continue to investigate both intelligence and witnesses, and that we’re not in a position where we will come to any type of temporary finding on that until we’ve completed the process,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr, R-N.C, said back in October 2017.

TRUMP CLAIM#3: “Democrats all — or just about all — either Democrats or a couple of Republicans that worked for President Obama, they’re not looking at the other side.”

THE FACTS: While members of Mueller’s team have donated to Democrats, Robert Mueller — who served under George W. Bush and Barack Obama — is a Republican. So is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation and was appointed to his position by Trump. And so is the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, who was appointed to his position by Trump and who donated money to Trump’s 2016 campaign. (Fired former FBI Director James Comey is also a Republican.)

TRUMP CLAIM #4: “And the other side is where there are crimes, and those crimes are obvious. Lies, under oath, all over the place. Emails that are knocked out, that are acid-washed and deleted. Nobody has ever seen — 33,000 emails are deleted after getting a subpoena for Congress, and nobody bothers looking at that.”

THE FACTS: In July 2016, then-FBI Director said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges against Hillary Clinton as a result of the FBI’s investigation into Clintons’ emails. “In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts,” he said. “All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s big day — or at least what was supposed to be his big day

Given all of the focus on Trump and Michael Cohen, who’s the luckiest guy in Washington right now? Answer: Mark Zuckerberg, who is set to testify today on Capitol Hill.

NBC News: “Zuckerberg, 33, will testify before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees on Tuesday in a session that is expected to last several hours. On Wednesday, he’ll face more questions from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The billionaire CEO, who is wildly protective of his own privacy and rarely gives interviews, will come face to face with lawmakers, many of whom are former prosecutors and likely eager to be seen on camera being tough on Facebook.”

Make no mistake: Zuckerberg’s hearing, which begins at 2:15 pm ET, will still get wall-to-wall coverage. But it doesn’t start as the day’s biggest story.

Update on Trump’s Great Economic Experiment

CBO projects deficits as far as the eye can see: “The federal government’s annual budget deficit is set to widen significantly in the next few years, and is expected to top $1 trillion in 2020 despite healthy economic growth, according to new projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released Monday. The national debt, which has exceeded $21 trillion, will soar to more than $33 trillion in 2028, according to the budget office,” per the New York Times.

More: “The tax overhaul, which includes permanent tax cuts for corporations and temporary ones for individuals, will increase the size of the economy by an average of 0.7 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the budget office. But that added economic growth does not come close to paying for the tax overhaul, which the budget office said would add more than $1.8 trillion to deficits over that period, from lost tax revenue and higher interest payments.”

The president’s Panama hotel

“A blatant mingling of Trump’s business and government interests”: Yesterday, we listed some of the ethical lines that President Trump and figures in his administration have appeared to cross, including the fact that the president continues to promote his businesses. And now we need to add this AP story to the list:

“U.S. President Donald Trump’s company appealed directly to Panama’s president to intervene in its fight over control of a luxury hotel, even invoking a treaty between the two countries, in what ethics experts say was a blatant mingling of Trump’s business and government interests,” the AP writes. “That appeal in a letter last month from lawyers for the Trump Organization to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela was apparently unsuccessful — an emergency arbitrator days later declined to reinstate the Trump management team to the waterfront hotel in Panama City. But it provides hard proof of exactly the kind of conflict experts feared when Trump refused to divest from a sprawling empire that includes hotels, golf courses, licensing deals and other interests in more than 20 countries.”

“Even if Trump was not directly involved in the dispute, his company’s citation of the treaty and its appeal to Varela “implicitly traded on President Trump’s name and power,” said University of Minnesota political governance expert Lawrence Jacobs.”

Cordray releases his first TV ad in Ohio’s gubernatorial contest

NBC’s Shaquille Brewster reports that Democrat Richard Cordray is up with his first TV ad in the race for Ohio governor, and the spot features Barack Obama touting Cordray and his work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

A little additional context from us: As we saw in the 2016 Hillary-vs.-Bernie race, Obama has become an issue in this Ohio primary that’s shaping up as a battle between Cordray and Dennis Kucinich – especially given that Kucinich said in 2011 that Obama’s U.S. military intervention vs. Libya was an impeachable offense.

Rundown on the 2018 midterms

In case you missed them, here are some of the recent midterm developments that we’ve chronicled on our “Rundown” blog: Democrats blasted Republican Rick Scott’s entry into Florida’s Senate race with digital ads… In Arizona, Dem Kyrsten Sinema released her first TV ad… Sen. Bob Corker has endorsed Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee’s Senate race… And former Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., transferred $100,000 from his campaign account to the NRCC, per NBC’s Jon Allen.

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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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