TPM News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth.

The legislation, which the GOP aims to muscle through Congress next week, would lower taxes on the richest Americans. Benefits for most other taxpayers would be smaller, but Trump attempted to sell the bill as a “Christmas present” for middle-class Americans in part because it would trigger job growth.

“It’ll be fantastic for the middle-income people and for jobs, most of all,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn before traveling to Camp David for the weekend. “And I will say that because of what we’ve done with regulation and other things our economy is doing fantastically well, but it has another big step to go and it can’t take that step unless we do the tax bill.”

No stranger to hyperbole, Trump also predicted the legislation would cause the economy to soar beyond its current 3 percent rate of growth.

“I think we could go to 4, 5 or even 6 percent, ultimately,” the president said. “We are back. We are really going to start to rock.”

Many economists believe that attaining consistent 4 or 5 percent annual growth would be challenging. The nation last topped 5 percent growth in 1984.
The Republican plan is the widest-ranging reshaping of the tax code in three decades and is expected to add to the nation’s $20 trillion debt. The tax cuts are projected to add $1.46 trillion over a decade.

Under the bill, today’s 35 percent rate on corporations would fall to 21 percent, the crown jewel of the measure for many Republicans. Trump and GOP leaders had set 20 percent as their goal but added a point to free money for other tax cuts that won over wavering lawmakers in final talks.
___

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

Read More →

GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore still has no intention of conceding the race to Democrat Doug Jones after Tuesday’s election.

The Associated Press reports that Moore sent out an email on Friday to his supporters telling them that “this battle is NOT OVER!” and asked them for contributions to his “election integrity fund.” The former judge said his campaign is planning to send “numerous reported cases of voter fraud” to Alabama’s secretary of state, John Merrill.

However, Merrill has already expressed skepticism about Moore’s chances of a surprise victory.

“I know a lot of people would say it’s never over until it’s over, but the margin of victory for Doug Jones at this time looks like a difficult amount of votes to overcome as the remaining votes out that are there to be counted next week begin to be considered at the local level,” the state secretary told CNN on Wednesday.

Moore released a video the day after the election declaring that he wasn’t giving up, arguing that yet-uncounted provisional and military ballots could swing the race in his favor.

Several other Republican leaders have called for Moore to give it up, including President Donald Trump.

Trump, who heartily endorsed Moore during the race, said Friday that the former judge should “certainly” concede to Jones. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said during a Fox interview that it was time to accept that Moore had lost.

Senator-elect Doug Jones said he understands “the frustration a little bit,” but “look, it’s time to move on.”

Read More →

The Trump administration has prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using words like “science-based,” “diversity,” and “transgender” in their official documents for next year’s budget, according to the Washington Post.

Senior CDC budget leader Alison Kelly met with the agency’s policy analysts on Thursday to announce the order. Other forbidden words include “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “fetus,” and “evidence-based.”

The administration suggested alternatives to some of the words. For example, officials can say “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes” instead of saying a recommendation is “science-based” or “evidence-based.” Other words seem banned outright, with no alternatives offered.

Kelly reportedly did not explain the reason for the new restrictions, saying she was just passing along the information.

An unnamed CDC analyst told the Post that everyone’s reaction was “incredulous,” and noted that the move was highly unusual.

“In my experience, we’ve never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint,” said the analyst.

The forbidden words broadly encapsulate the Trump administration’s adverse stances on climate change and LGBT rights, and raises more questions about its approach on diversity.

President Donald Trump has long disregarded the scientific consensus on global warming, calling climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese while rolling back several Obama-era environment protection policies. EPA chief Scott Pruitt has also cast doubts about human impact on the environment, which a majority of scientists agree is the driving force in global warming.

The move also highlights the administration’s attitude toward the LGBT community, particularly transgender people. Trump unsuccessfully attempted to ban all trans soldiers from joining the U.S military, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a 2014 guidance by former AG Eric Holder that argued trans people were protected from workplace discrimination.

The Post notes that the Department of Health and Human services has removed information on LGBT people on its website and dropped questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in several surveys.

The administration’s push to prevent the CDC from discussing “diversity” comes amid Omarosa Manigault Newman’s highly-publicized resignation from her post as White House senior official. Omarosa told ABC News that it was “very, very challenging” being the only black woman in the mostly-white senior staff, many of whom “had never worked with minorities, didn’t know how to interact with them.”

Read More →

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are painting a pessimistic view of the country and President Donald Trump as 2017 comes to a close.

That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey shows less than a quarter of Americans think Trump has made good on the pledges he made to voters.

Among Republicans, just half say Trump has kept his promises, which included vows to overhaul his predecessor’s health care law, withdraw the U.S. from a nuclear accord with Iran and invest millions in new projects to fix the nation’s aging infrastructure. None of those steps have been taken.

Just three in 10 Americans said the U.S. is heading in the right direction, and 52 percent said the country is worse off since Trump became president.

Read More →

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration is blocking two pregnant teens in the country illegally and being held in federal custody from obtaining abortions, the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday, a repeat of the situation that led to a high-profile court fight earlier this year.

Both girls arrived in the country as unaccompanied minors and are being held in federal shelters, the ACLU said, though it didn’t say where. The ACLU earlier this year represented a pregnant teen in the same circumstances in Texas, helping her obtain an abortion following a lawsuit.

On Friday evening, the ACLU filed court papers updating the lawsuit filed in that earlier case to include the two additional teens, saying the facts of their cases are similar. The ACLU is asking a federal judge to order the government not to interfere with or obstruct the girls’ access to abortions.

“Both minors have asked their respective doctors and their shelters for an abortion, but to date,” the government has “not allowed them to access abortion,” the ACLU wrote.

The judge overseeing the case has set a hearing for Monday. The same judge previously ruled in favor of the ACLU’s first plaintiff, referred to as Jane Doe.

Lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for sheltering children who illegally enter the country unaccompanied by a parent, have said the department has a policy of “refusing to facilitate” abortions.

On Friday, HHS’ Administration for Children and Families said, “The minors in this case — who entered the country illegally— have the option to voluntarily depart to their home country or find a suitable sponsor. If they choose not to exercise these options, HHS does not believe we are required to facilitate the abortion.”

In court paperwork, the ACLU refers to the two new teens as Jane Roe and Jane Poe. It says 17-year-old Jane Roe learned in late November that she was pregnant during a medical examination while she was in federal custody. She decided to have an abortion but has not been allowed to, the ACLU wrote. The teen wanted to end her pregnancy by taking medication that essentially causes a miscarriage, but because of the government’s “obstruction she is now past the point in pregnancy where she can have a medication abortion,” the ACLU wrote. She is about 10 weeks pregnant, a court document says.

Court filings contain less information about the circumstances of the second teen, Jane Poe, who is also said to have “discussed her pregnancy options with a physician, and decided to have an abortion” but has not been able to have one, the ACLU wrote. The lawsuit says she “is quickly approaching the limit for abortion in the state where she is being detained.”

The ACLU’s earlier case involving Jane Doe concerned a 17-year-old who entered the U.S. illegally in September and was being held in a federal facility in Texas. She learned there that she was pregnant and obtained a state court order permitting her to have an abortion.

Federal officials refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others could take her to get the procedure. She was ultimately able to obtain an abortion after federal courts sided with her, but the Trump administration has accused ACLU lawyers of misleading the government during the case. The Trump administration says ACLU attorneys’ actions deprived administration lawyers of the chance to ask the Supreme Court to block the procedure, at least temporarily.

Read More →

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans working to execute their first major legislative achievement of Donald Trump’s presidency appear to have secured the votes to pass a massive tax overhaul that Trump hoped to present to the American people for Christmas.

“This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening,” House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told rank-and-file members in a conference call Friday. “Most critics out there didn’t think it could happen. … And now we’re on the doorstep of something truly historic.”

It’s the widest-ranging reshaping of the tax code in three decades and is expected to add to the nation’s $20 trillion debt. The tax cuts are projected to add $1.46 trillion over a decade. The GOP plans to muscle it through Congress next week before its year-end break.

Under the bill, today’s 35 percent rate on corporations would fall to 21 percent, the crown jewel of the measure for many Republicans. Trump and GOP leaders had set 20 percent as their goal but added a point to free money for other tax cuts that won over wavering lawmakers in final talks.

The legislation would lower taxes on the richest Americans. Benefits for most other taxpayers would be smaller.

The bill would repeal an important part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — the requirement that all Americans have health insurance or face a penalty — as the GOP looks to unravel a law it failed to repeal and replace this past summer.

Only on Friday did Republicans cement the needed support for the overhaul, securing endorsements from wavering senators.

Marco Rubio of Florida relented in his high-profile opposition after negotiators expanded the tax credit that parents can claim for their children. He said he would vote for the measure next week.

Rubio had been holding out for a bigger child credit for low-income families. After he got it, he tweeted that the change was “a solid step toward broader reforms which are both Pro-Growth and Pro-Worker.”

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the only Republican to vote against the Senate version earlier this month, made the surprise announcement that he would back the legislation. Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has repeatedly warned that the nation’s growing debt is the most serious threat to national security.

“I realize this is a bet on our country’s enterprising spirit, and that is a bet I am willing to make,” Corker said.

The White House said Trump “looks forward to fulfilling the promise he made to the American people to give them a tax cut by the end of the year.”

The bill embodies a long-standing Republican philosophy that a substantial tax break for businesses will trigger economic growth and job creation for Americans in a trickle-down economy.

Skeptical Democrats are likely to oppose the legislation unanimously.
“Under this bill, the working class, middle class and upper middle class get skewered while the rich and wealthy corporations make out like bandits,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “It is just the opposite of what America needs, and Republicans will rue the day they pass this.”

The bill would drop today’s 39.6 percent top rate on individuals to 37 percent. The standard deduction — used by around two-thirds of households — would be nearly doubled, to $24,000 for married couples.

The $1,000-per-child tax deduction would grow to $2,000, with up to $1,400 available in IRS refunds for families who owe little or no taxes. Parents would have to provide children’s Social Security numbers to receive the child tax credit, a measure intended to deny the credit to people who are in the U.S. illegally.

Those who itemize would lose some deductions. The deduction that millions use in connection with state and local income, property and sales taxes would be capped at $10,000. That’s especially important to residents of high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey and California. Deductions for medical expenses that lawmakers once considered eliminating would be retained.

The bill would allow homeowners to deduct interest only on the first $750,000 of a new mortgage, down from the current limit of $1 million.

People who inherit fortunes would get a big break. The bill would double the exemption, meaning the estate tax would apply only to the portion of an estate over $22 million for married couples.

Members of a House-Senate conference committee signed the final version of the legislation Friday, sending it to the two chambers for final passage next week. They have been working to blend the different versions passed by the two houses.
Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate, and two ailing GOP senators missed votes this past week.

John McCain of Arizona, who is 81, is at a Washington-area military hospital being treated for the side effects of brain cancer treatment, and 80-year-old Thad Cochran of Mississippi had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose earlier this week. GOP leaders are hopeful they will be available next week.

Read More →

I don’t want to be hyperbolic. I not only believe generally but think we have seen evidence of the resilience of our system and core institutions over recent months. But we can see a number of developments, building over recent weeks and accelerating in recent days, aimed at ending the Russia investigations.

I noted a short time ago that there’s increasing evidence and concern that House Republicans are moving quickly to shut down the House-side probes. That is probably in response to demands from the President, though it doesn’t seem they need much persuading. House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are pushing hard to fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Given that the FBI has a new Director and that McCabe was someone who might have been a logical candidate to become the new Director, it’s not surprising that he’d be replaced eventually with a new person. But these public demands from Trump defenders in the House look more like the purge of the FBI President Trump and his top defenders have been demanding.

Mike Flynn is now a cooperating witness for Bob Mueller. Mueller is expanding his investigation into President Trump’s banking history at Deutsche Bank, the data operation at Cambridge Analytica. We just learned yesterday about yet another email – this time directly to Trump’s personal assistant – from Rob Goldstone, offering to set up a meeting with Vladimir Putin. More and more is emerging and we have lots of indications that President Trump’s anger and desire to shut down the investigations is growing. The non-committal response to a question this morning about whether he would pardon Mike Flynn was one of many signs of that. That is Trump trying to show that he, not Bob Mueller or anyone else, has the power.

There’s one more piece of the puzzle. The President’s lawyer charged with managing interactions with the Mueller investigation – Ty Cobb – has been telling the President and White House staff for months that the Mueller probe is winding down and is likely to finish by the close of 2017 with Mueller issuing a report exonerating the President. I’ve yet to hear or read any legal observer who thought that made sense. But it was apparently believed by many or some in the White House. Most importantly, President Trump apparently believed or believes it. It may be the reason Trump has been relatively calm in respect to the probe, at least not seeking to fire Robert Mueller. Some think, not implausibly, that this is Cobb’s motivation, protecting his client from his most self-destructive impulses with a benign deception. Maybe Cobb has also deceived himself.

But it is the evening of December 15th. At some point, no matter how much you want to believe something, the evidence contradicting your belief can grow so great that your edifice of confidence crumbles. It can happen rapidly. Even in the Trumpian world of fictive realities, the nonsensical nature of Cobb’s assurances must be becoming clear. That dam of realization seems to have given way or is in the process of breaking. That’s perilous.

For clarity, I don’t think Mueller will be fired. But I believe the groundwork is being laid to do so. I believe there’s an effort afoot to try. It is also entirely possible Trump will fire Mueller, especially if he can get a clean bill of health from one of the House committees which he can brandish as a justification. That will trigger a grave crisis. Keep an eye on the escalating attacks on Mueller, the increasing drive to close down the congressional investigations.

Read More →

In court filings Friday, attorneys for Rick Gates indicated that they had not come to a bail deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, but were seeking a federal judge’s approval anyway to be released from home confinement.

In bail package proposal offered to the judge, Gates is putting up $5.8 million in assets, according to his lawyers. The court documents contained many redactions obscuring the financial details of the proposed bail package and the identities of the two people serving as Gates’ bail guarantors.

Read More →

WASHINGTON (AP) — The sweeping Republican tax overhaul would cut rates for corporations and the wealthy while offering modest reductions for the middle class.

The bill, according to a summary Friday, would set seven tax brackets, lowering the top rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent.

It would expand the child tax credit, preserve the adoption tax credit and allow Americans to deduct some medical expenses. It would eliminate the requirement that Americans buy health insurance under Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Republicans were unveiling the bill later in the day and plan to vote next week after securing the support of two key senators — Marco Rubio of Florida and Bob Corker of Tennessee.

The final version of the GOP tax bill would provide a $2,000 per child tax credit to families making up to $400,000 a year.

That doubles the child tax credit from the current maximum of $1,000 and makes it available to a greater number of middle- and upper-bracket families.

The credit was a top priority of GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who won a late-stage concession that would make up to $1,400 of the credit available as a tax refund to lower- and middle-income families with relatively small tax bills.

It would begin to phase out for families earning above $400,000. That’s down from $500,000 in the original Senate measure, which passed earlier this month.

 

Read More →

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior Trump administration officials outlined their view Friday that Jerusalem’s Western Wall ultimately will be declared a part of Israel, in another declaration sure to enflame passions among Palestinians and others in the Middle East.

Although they said the ultimate borders of the holy city must be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the officials — speaking ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to the region — essentially ruled out any scenario that didn’t maintain Israeli control over the holiest ground in Judaism. The issue is sensitive because the wall is beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders and abuts some of the Islamic world’s most revered sites.

“We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel. But as the president said, the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement,” a senior administration official said. Another official later added by email, “We note that we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn’t include the Western Wall.”

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the vice president’s upcoming trip.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, reacted indignantly to the comments.

“We will not accept any changes on the borders of east Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967,” Abu Rdeneh told The Associated Press. “This statement proves once again that this American administration is outside the peace process. The continuation of this American policy, whether the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or moving the American embassy, or such statements, by which the United States decides unilaterally on the issues of the final status negotiations, are a violation of international law and strengthen the Israeli occupation. For us, this is unacceptable. We totally reject it. And we totally denounce it.”

Pence plans to visit the Western Wall next week. The administration officials said he would be accompanied by a rabbi to preserve the spiritual nature of his planned visit to the hallowed wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. The officials said Pence’s Wednesday visit would be conducted in a similar manner to when President Donald Trump visited in May.

Jerusalem’s status has been a central issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump’s announcement last week declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital shook up decades of U.S. foreign policy and countered an international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Pence plans to depart for the Middle East on Tuesday after presiding over the Senate’s vote on a sweeping tax overhaul. The vice president will meet Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo and then travel to Israel. Pence’s two-plus days in Israel will include meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a speech at the Knesset and a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has sparked protests in the Middle East, and Abbas pulled out of a planned meeting with Pence. Abbas had originally been scheduled to host Pence, a devout Christian, in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.

A third senior administration official noted the reaction to the Jerusalem decision and “a lot of the emotions that have been displayed on that.” The official said Pence’s trip is viewed as part of “the ending of that chapter and the beginning of what I would say the next chapter.”

Trump officials said Pence would reinforce Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, but the administration also understands the Palestinians may need a cooling-off period.

Israel captured the Old City, home to important Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious sites, along with the rest of east Jerusalem in the 1967 war. The U.S. has never recognized Israeli sovereignty over territory occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem. For this reason, U.S. officials have refused to say explicitly that the wall is part of Israel.

The Western Wall, a retaining wall from the biblical Jewish Temple, is considered the holiest site where Jews can pray. Israel controls the wall and treats it like Israeli territory, routinely holding solemn state ceremonies there.

It is widely assumed that Israel would retain control over the site under a potential peace deal. But complicating any deal is the adjacent hilltop site revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and Jews as the Temple Mount. The compound is home to Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and is where the Jewish Temple once stood. It is considered the holiest site in Judaism.

Read More →

LiveWire