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Destiny

Trump 39: The Return of the Wall

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Tired
Destiny

Continued from here:

 

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AmazonGrace

Russian archives released a video 

 

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fraurosena

When they are so desperate to keep those tax returns a secret, you just know there's something damning in there.

The plan to keep Trump’s taxes hidden

Quote

The new House Democratic majority is widely expected to test one of Donald Trump’s ultimate red lines by demanding the president’s personal tax returns — and the Trump administration has been gearing up for months to fight back hard.

Trump's Treasury Department is readying plans to drag the expected Democratic request for Trump’s past tax filings, which he has closely guarded, into a quagmire of arcane legal arguments.

At the same time, officials plan to publicly cast the request as an overtly partisan exercise. The two-pronged plan was developed by a handful of top political appointees and lawyers inside the department — with the ultimate goal of keeping the president’s past returns private, according to four people familiar with the administration’s approach.

The strategy will hinge on an argument that overtly political Democrats will inevitably leak Trump’s tax information — a felony in and of itself — if the IRS hands over the documents. So because Democrats can’t be trusted to keep the documents private, they shouldn’t get them in the first place, officials will insist. Treasury officials have been waiting since early January for a top Democrat to make the request.

The battle between Treasury and the Democrats could plunge the country into yet another norm-breaking moment for the Trump presidency — with the fight stretching on for months and well into the 2020 campaign.

“What happens if the Treasury secretary just doesn’t answer or sends back a note saying we refuse to do what you are saying?” said George Yin, a former chief of staff on the House Joint Committee on Taxation, one of the three congressional committees involved in major tax issues on Capitol Hill. “To my knowledge, that has never happened. … We are essentially in uncharted territory if he refuses.”

A Treasury Department spokeswoman would only say: “Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin will review any request with the Treasury General Counsel for legality.”

The situation is unprecedented because presidential candidates typically release their tax information during campaigns. But as he has often done, Trump bucked the tradition in 2016, citing an ongoing IRS audit. The refusal sparked feverish speculation among liberals about what he might be hiding in his tax returns.

The potential fight would usher into the political arena two of Washington’s most reluctant protagonists.

Mnuchin is viewed inside the administration as one of the president’s most loyal aides, but not the savviest political operator or liaison to Congress. The White House largely kept him off the Hill during the final weeks of discussions about the tax reform package after he irritated some House Republicans during a previous debt ceiling negotiation.

And Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, the Democratic chair of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, is far more interested in discussing the taxation of retirement savings, or the tax portions of Obamacare, than he is in playing prosecutor to land Trump’s tax returns, according to four former top congressional aides familiar with Neal’s working style.

“The Democratic leadership and the president will demand political theater on this, and that component is out of character for Mnuchin,” said one Republican close to the administration. “He will have to make sure he is articulating his points to keep Republicans in line on the Hill and keep the president supportive. That is not his natural skill set.”

The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment.

Democrats’ legal standing to request Trump’s tax returns is fairly unambiguous, according to several tax attorneys, but it does come with a few key caveats.

“From the standpoint of the law, it could not be more straightforward or clear. That is the easy part,” added Yin, who now works as a professor of law and taxation at the University of Virginia.

The Internal Revenue Code gives the three congressional committees responsible for taxes the ability to request the returns of any individual or business. Often, the Senate Finance Committee or House Ways and Means Committee will request returns during an investigation to check a certain deduction, or type of spending — without anyone ever knowing the committees accessed them.

But whatever the members or staffers find must remain private — and that’s where the request of Trump’s returns becomes potentially tricky for Democrats. A related section within the Internal Revenue Code says any federal employee who leaks tax information is committing a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

“We are worried about leaks,” said one source familiar with the administration’s strategy. “Once we share it with any member of Congress, we assume it becomes a public document.”

If the House Ways and Means Committee does want to make Trump’s tax returns public, then it will need to vote to do so as a committee before taking a full vote in the House — an endeavor that also could take weeks.

Neal, who has been in the House since 1988, has yet to ask the Treasury Department in writing for Trump’s tax returns, angering the more liberal members of his caucus who say they won the midterm elections by promising greater oversight of the Trump administration. Neal does not have any specific time frame for requesting the tax returns, but he does intend to do it, said a Democratic congressional aide.

Last week, Neal told CNN that he was moving “quite judiciously.”

“This is the beginning of a court case. I think the idea here is to avoid the emotion of the moment and make sure that the product stands up under critical analysis,” Neal said.

At the Treasury Department, a small, trusted team of top officials have been working on the potential response to the Democratic request, including the general counsel for both Treasury and the IRS, as well as the legislative affairs team.

The response will be one of the first major tests for Brian McGuire, a former chief of staff for Sen. Mitch McConnell who is now serving as Treasury’s new counselor to the secretary for legislative affairs. McGuire started his new job in January just as the Democrats regained control of the House. He’s been tasked with helping to respond to all congressional oversight inquiries.

The question of Trump’s tax returns is just one of many issues now dogging the Treasury Department. After being shuttered for 35 days as part of the partial government shutdown, the department is also contending with the start of tax filing season, greater scrutiny from a number of congressional committees and ongoing debates over sanctions. Just last week, Mnuchin announced sanctions against a state-held oil company in Venezuela during a briefing at the White House.

The only certainty now in the upcoming debate over Trump’s returns is that it will last for months — if not the remainder of the first term of his presidency.

“The statute is silent on the timing of releasing returns to the committees,” Yin added. “Depending on the nature of the request, some delay may be necessary to comply.”

 

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formergothardite

Someone just needs to leak them. There is something in there that is very, very damning, so damning that the GOP won't even be able to spin it and that is why they want to drag this on until 2020. 

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GreyhoundFan

From Dana Milbank: "Rejoice! The president is doing nothing."

Spoiler

Rejoice! The president is doing a lot of nothing.

A leak of internal White House schedules has caused a to-do over what President Trump is doing — or, rather, what he may not be doing. According to Axios, which received the leak of 51 daily schedules since the midterm elections, Trump has spent about 60 percent of his scheduled time in “Executive Time” — the period during which the president, often in his residence, watches TV, tweets, talks on the phone, has impromptu meetings and (very) occasionally reads something.

He spent 297 hours in Executive Time since Nov. 7, compared with 77 hours for policy planning, legislative strategy and making video recordings, combined. Though he has a seemingly endless tolerance for Executive Time, policy meetings tend to be allowed 45 minutes, and can be as brief as 15.

The director of Oval Office operations, Madeleine Westerhout, is deeply aggrieved, tweeting that the leak was a “disgraceful breach of trust” and insisting that Trump “is working harder for the American people than anyone in recent history.”

Indeed, it would not be easy to watch TV for seven hours a day (he had that much Executive Time the day after the election and again on Jan. 18). Sometimes the idleness is so taxing that Executive Time must be broken up — by an hour-long lunch break.

Westerhout needn’t be so defensive about the president’s loafing. The vast majority of Americans who are displeased with whatever it is he’s doing should be delighted to learn that he is not doing a lot of it. Given the harm and chaos caused by his actions, inaction is a welcome reprieve.

Among the many things the president is currently not doing is appointing people to work for the federal government. His administration could be the cast of a Broadway musical: an acting chief of staff, acting attorney general, acting defense secretary, acting interior secretary, acting budget director, acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency. An analysis done by The Post and the Partnership for Public Service finds that Trump has not troubled himself to nominate people for 150 of 705 key Senate-confirmed positions.

Nearly 60 percent of such positions are unfilled at the Justice, Labor and Interior departments — coincidentally the same proportion of the president’s day spent in Executive Time. But people are not needed in these position because the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, runs the entire government with the same sure-footedness that led him to outsource the United States’ Middle East policy to Saudi Arabia.

What Trump is actually doing during Executive Time should be obvious to anybody who looks at the man. He is performing his beauty regimen.

Katie Rogers of the New York Times just did an investigative deep-dive into Trump’s routine and reported, among other things: “A half-dozen current and former aides and people close to Mr. Trump say he has long been self-sufficient in matters of grooming.”

This is impressive, because his grooming is extensive: By Trump’s own account, shampooing with Head & Shoulders and then an hour of drying. Only then does the extensive combing and hair-spraying begin. In addition, there is the coloring of both hair and skin to whatever bad ombre of orange he desires. Self-tanning creams can take four to eight hours to do their magic before they can be washed off. That’s a lot of executive time.

It’s easy to see why a hypothetical presidential schedule that goes like this:

●8 a.m.: Hair washing (30 mins)

●8:30 a.m.: Hair drying (60 mins)

●9:30 a.m.: Hair combing and spraying (30 mins)

●10 a.m.: Skin oranging (4 hours)

●2 p.m.: Makeup application (30 mins)

Would sound better if presented like this:

●8 a.m.: Executive Time (4 hours)

●Noon: Lunch (1 hour)

●1 p.m.: Executive Time: (1½ hours).

Let us not, then, give the White House a hard time about the president’s leisurely schedule. The more time he is applying orange agents to himself, the less time he is doing harm to others.

The importance of keeping the president inactive was confirmed again in recent days by equities analyst Barry Ritholtz. He made two stock portfolios: one of companies Trump has touted (he calls this the Oligarch Index) and one of companies Trump has disparaged (the Drain the Swamp Index). Writing for Bloomberg, he reported that companies Trump disparaged gained 43 percent in 2017, more than twice the growth of the companies Trump praised.

And in 2018? Trump-touted companies fell 23 percent, while those he disfavored gained 6 percent — 12 points better than the S&P 500.

The president, it would seem, has a reverse Midas touch — yet another reason why he should have all the Executive Time he desires.

 

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fraurosena

Trump Once Said Power Was About Instilling Fear. In That Case, He Should Be Worried.

Quote

Richard M. Nixon once said, “People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday school, but it’s true.”

No president since has deployed fear quite like Donald J. Trump. Whether it is the prospect of a crime wave at the border with Mexico or nuclear war with North Korea, President Trump has persuaded his supporters that there is plenty to fear beyond fear itself.

In an interview as a presidential candidate in 2016 with the author Bob Woodward, Mr. Trump said, “Real power is — I don’t even want to use the word — fear.”

As president, he initially tried to intimidate some of the nation’s strongest allies, including Canada, Mexico, Britain, France and Germany, in trade talks. He demanded political loyalty from Republicans in Congress and drove several who bucked him from office, notably Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake. But as his presidency enters its third year, a less convenient truth is emerging: Few outside the Republican Party are afraid of him, and they may be less intimidated after the disastrous government shutdown.

But Mr. Trump has shown little inclination to modulate his style, and that carries risks. He could well face a challenge for the Republican nomination in 2020, and congressional Republicans from swing states could begin to distance themselves from him.

One of the clearest signals came last week when Republicans, backing an amendment offered by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, opposed the president’s call for withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria and Afghanistan as part of a Middle East policy bill. Only three Republicans voted against it.

“I believe the threats remain,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech last week. “ISIS and Al Qaeda have yet to be defeated, and American national security interests require continued commitment to our mission there.”

Mr. McConnell also counseled the president last week against declaring a national emergency to get a wall built on the southwestern border, even as Mr. Trump emphasized that he was reserving that option.

Even his supporters say the president, who uses the word “tough” as a favored expression of admiration, has not made a measurably effective transition from the world of private business to public office.

“It is a common trait among those who ran privately held corporations,” said Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary for George W. Bush and frequently defends Mr. Trump. “Their way is the only way. Their will gets it done. They’ve been successful against all odds, built something huge, and when they declare it so they expect everybody around them to make it so. That’s Donald Trump’s behavior, and that doesn’t always work in politics or in government.

“Politicians don’t operate the way he does,” Mr. Fleischer said. “Frankly, it’s put him at risk and put the Republican Party at risk, but it also allows him to take on China and do something of tremendous consequences that no politician would ever do. If Trump is successful, this will be a better country and a better world for it.”

Yet there is little evidence that President Xi Jinping of China, or any other foreign leader, is cowed.

And certainly not Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The president initially said he felt comfortable negotiating with Ms. Pelosi, but in interviews aired on Sunday, he sharpened his attacks on her and said her obstinacy on the border wall was damaging the country.

Mr. Trump has found that his lack of experience in politics and diplomacy, which require policy knowledge, team building and nuanced negotiating ability, has left him at a decided disadvantage despite his boasts about his deal-making prowess.

“He’s surrounded in these standoffs by people who have all those boxes checked,” said Timothy O’Brien, the author of “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald.” “Nancy Pelosi has been doing this for quite a while, Putin has been doing this for a quite a while, Xi has been doing this quite a while. They’ve all been running circles around him.”

“The next question is when does he really realize that for what it is, and I think the answer for that is he never will,” Mr. O’Brien said, “because it would admit either defeat or acknowledgment of his inadequacies, and he will just never do that.”

The government shutdown is just the latest and highest-profile example of Mr. Trump sounding assertive but gaining little, at least so far. American allies, diplomats said, have more a sense of resignation than fear in dealing with him. The list of threats from Mr. Trump is long, but the number of times he has followed through is exceedingly short.

“He is playing a role, and the role, much like on ‘The Apprentice,’ was of the strong, able character, but it’s a role,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “Every foreign leader and every practicing politician has taken a measure of him and understands the basics, that he responds to strength and there’s not a lot behind the facade.”

In recent months, Mr. Trump has had tense conversations with, among others, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and President Emmanuel Macron of France, who has felt trolled by Mr. Trump over the state of the French economy, people familiar with the conversations said.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has indicated to people that she does not consider Mr. Trump a serious person to talk with. His get-tough, tariff-driven approach to bringing China to heel has had mixed results at best, hurting some American industries and sending markets plunging. Even on one of the most prominent issues that has provoked his threats — the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico — Mr. Trump did not walk away with anything close to a windfall.

Instead, most trade experts said the revised trade accord included modest substantive changes that will benefit the United States, and others said the biggest difference may be symbolic: a change in the name, to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Congress has yet to vote on that pact.

But there is one place where Mr. Trump’s fear tactics have been an unqualified success: among Republicans. Mr. Trump has held an iron grip on the Republican base, making it difficult for fellow party members, who also rely on those core voters, to oppose him.

“There is no constituency within a party that is so dominated by one individual that is charting a course with the opposition unless you want to be a former lawmaker,” said Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist who is close to Mr. McConnell.

Other presidents have held out the fear of recrimination from the Oval Office to get their way, but they did not use Mr. Trump’s blunt instruments alone.

Lyndon B. Johnson was known for his lean-in, hardball persuasion, but unlike Mr. Trump, Johnson entered a negotiation with an idea of what his opponents wanted and found a way to get it for them, in exchange for getting what he wanted. Even Nixon later acknowledged that he did not really believe fear was a successful prime motivator.

“Nixon said that, but he didn’t believe it and he didn’t practice it,” said Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian and author of the recent best seller “Presidents of War.” “He actually spent decades building relationships in Washington, with his party leaders, with Democrats, and around the world. So yes, there were certainly elements of fear in all those relationships, but he knew you needed both the carrot and the stick.

“Mr. Trump, given his background as a deal-making real estate developer with close relationships with politicians, might have been expected to do the same in Washington. But among Democrats, he has done the opposite.

“It’s almost as if he only has one tool in his toolbox,” Mr. Beschloss said.

From the article:

 “It’s almost as if he only has one tool in his toolbox,” Mr. Beschloss said.

Yep. And it's not a sharp one either.

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GreyhoundFan

"Can Trump turn it around?"

Spoiler

I have written many Spoiler Alerts columns with some variation of the sentence “Donald Trump did not have a good week.” This past one seems to have been particularly bad, however — the kind of week when you lose your car keys, get reprimanded at work and find out your child is a truant.

After backing down to the Democrats and agreeing to a continuing resolution without a border wall, the president has never looked weaker. Both the GOP-controlled Senate and his own intelligence chiefs rebuked him last week, and as my Monkey Cage colleagues noted, “Trump is failing to build support for his policies, within his own team and with Congress.”

Trump’s relations with Congress seem pretty fraught. Senators are growing concerned about the dearth of Trump appointees and the surfeit of acting secretaries running Cabinet departments. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has warned Trump that declaring a national emergency would split his caucus in the Senate, likely leading to majorities of both houses of Congress rejecting Trump’s premise of a state of emergency.

It is not just his intelligence chiefs and senior GOP members of Congress who have been busy rebuking Trump. Staffers in both the White House and in the intelligence community have also been busy providing damaging leaks against the president. Someone at the White House leaked the president’s daily schedules for three months to Axios’s Alexi McCammond and Jonathan Swan. The schedules show that “Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time over the past 3 months in unstructured ‘Executive Time.'" The White House, while unhappy about the bad optics, seems far more concerned that someone ostensibly loyal to the president actually leaked it.

Just a day earlier, Time’s John Walcott got high-ranking intelligence officials to tell him what it’s like to brief the president. It’s not a flattering picture at all: “The officials, who include analysts who prepare Trump’s briefs and the briefers themselves, describe futile attempts to keep his attention by using visual aids, confining some briefing points to two or three sentences, and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible.” Perhaps most disturbing, “Two intelligence officers even reported that they have been warned to avoid giving the President intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public.”

These stories are doubly damaging. They paint a very unfavorable portrait of the president. More importantly, however, is that the staffers who interact most frequently with Trump also feel no compunction whatsoever in blabbing these kinds of unfavorable details to the press.

It is unsurprising that my Post colleagues Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Toluse Olorunnipa report that the mood at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is super-grim:

Trump dealt himself a political defeat with the 35-day partial government shutdown. He has secured no funding to construct a border wall and is preparing to declare a national emergency to fulfill his campaign promise. He is again at odds with the nation’s intelligence chiefs and some senators in his own party. The Russia investigation, which has ensnared several of the president’s allies, appears to be nearing its conclusion. New congressional oversight investigations will start soon. And the race to defeat him at the ballot box has kicked off in earnest. . . .

The challenges mount at a moment when Trump is as unchecked and isolated as ever. Inside the White House, aides describe a chaotic, freewheeling atmosphere reminiscent of the early weeks of Trump’s presidency.

Power has consolidated around presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior adviser who is functioning as a de facto White House chief of staff. With counterweights like ousted chief of staff John F. Kelly gone, some advisers say the West Wing has the feel of the 26th floor of Trump Tower, where an unrestrained Trump had absolute control over his family business and was free to follow his impulses.

Any time Kushner is running the show, there should be serious doubts about it playing out well for the Trump White House.

That said, it is worth asking whether Trump can use the State of the Union to turn things around. There are some arguments in Trump’s favor. After all, the economy continues to look pretty good, which should help buoy his numbers. The speech could jump-start an effort to at least pretend to be bipartisan. Senior administration officials have signaled that Trump will make some solid bipartisan gestures in his speech, such as a theme of “choosing greatness” that will include a “policy agenda both parties can rally behind.”

Trump himself told reporters, “I really think it’s going to be a speech that’s going to cover a lot of territory, but part of it’s going to be unity.” Plans to halt HIV transmission by 2030 would fall into the bipartisan category, echoing George W. Bush’s SOTU promises that eventually led to the creation of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Another reason this could work is the continuing, aching need by some in the press to treat Trump’s performance at moments like these as evidence that he is growing into the presidency. This is not about political bias; this is about the human impulse to see the world return to something approaching normality after years of upheaval. Remember, it was after Trump’s 2017 address to Congress that CNN’s Van Jones declared it to be the moment when he became president. Even as recently as George H.W. Bush’s funeral, in December 2018, some reporters declared that Trump was growing more disciplined at the job.

On Monday, the New York Times’s Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman pointed to the SOTU as a rare example of Trump acting like a conventional president. He was practicing his speech multiple times, “because it is one instance where he usually sticks to it,” they wrote. “For all of the president’s fabled norm-busting, there are aspects of the conventional presidency that appeal to him, none more so than standing in the hallowed halls of Congress, with all eyes on him speaking to the nation.”

Combine a good, bipartisan speech with the inevitable dead-cat bounce Trump will get in the polls from the government reopening, and one can see the narrative of a rebounding Trump come into focus.

That said, one has to squint pretty hard. Karni and Haberman also report that “White House officials have . . . conceded that immigration will be a major theme of the night, and that the speech-writing process has been directed by Mr. Miller, his hard-right adviser.” Any time senior policy adviser Stephen Miller is involved with the speechifying, the results have rarely been bipartisan in nature.

More importantly, however, is that Trump might not even have this move in his arsenal. As Michael Tackett and Maggie Haberman noted in the New York Times, Trump’s principal gambit as president has been to intimidate his bargaining partners, to little avail in most cases. They quote presidential historian Michael Beschloss as saying, “It’s almost as if he only has one tool in his toolbox.”

My hunch, which appears to be backed up by data, is that Trump’s gestures toward bipartisanship fall flat. His speech will nonetheless trigger a small uptick in his approval numbers, as Republicans dispirited by the shutdown find enough to rally behind. The bump will not last, as Trump inevitably declares a state of emergency or the government shuts down again. And the hard-working staff here Spoiler Alerts will be back to talking about Trump’s very bad weeks.

 

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fraurosena
30 minutes ago, GreyhoundFan said:

My hunch, which appears to be backed up by data, is that Trump’s gestures toward bipartisanship fall flat. His speech will nonetheless trigger a small uptick in his approval numbers, as Republicans dispirited by the shutdown find enough to rally behind.

I'm not so sure there will be an uptick in his approval numbers, small or not. You guys know how I feel about polls, in that they could never truly be representative of what the whole nation thinks. But even if you look at the skewed results of polls, the amount of respondents who approve of the presidunce has been slinking, slowly but surely. The shutdown did him no favors in that regard whatsoever, and with a new one looming ahead, it hasn't left the minds of the people at all. Every time he says the word "wall" it is equated with "shutdown". And with vampire Miller writing the speech, it's a given that it will be peppered with "we need a wall, we got to have a wall, we must have a wall, wall, wall" cementing the "shutdown" antipathy in the minds of those listening.

If anything, those numbers will be going further down.

Is it perverse of me that I'm in gleeful anticipation of the SOTU speech by the way?

How much will he slur his words this time? How many gaffs and mispronunciations will he make? Will he sound really drugged up? Will he say such outrageous things that Nancy Pelosi slams down her gavel and firmly says that she won't have that kind of disrespect in the House, and decisively request him leave? (oh, Rufus, it's a long shot, but I'm really hoping for that one). Will the Dems boo him? Refuse to applaud? How pained and saintly will Pence try to look, having to sit next to a woman without Mother present?

Edited by fraurosena

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Howl
3 hours ago, formergothardite said:

Someone just needs to leak them. There is something in there that is very, very damning, so damning that the GOP won't even be able to spin it and that is why they want to drag this on until 2020. 

My sense is that it's two things: 

  1. It's what's NOT on his tax return: no taxes paid on profits from ill gotten gains/laundered money.  Mueller's forensic accountants are deep into the rampant money laundering going on with Trump Tower properties, other Trump-affiliated real estate, Deutsche Bank loans and on and on
  2. It will show Trump's true financial status, and maybe, just maybe (!) he's not so very rich after all, which is death blow to a gas-bag businessman like Trump

Mueller also has testimony from two key people: fixer Michael Cohen and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.  Between those sources and what was found in Cohen's records, there's a pretty good record of Trump financial malfeasance.  

Snips from this 12.12.2018 Garett Graf article for Wired.com  9 TRUMPWORLD FIGURES WHO SHOULD FEAR MUELLER THE MOST  Still relevant. 

On Mueller building a bomb-proof case: 

Quote

Mueller famously sees the world in black and white, right versus wrong, and all of his investigations have Russia and Russian influence as their core focus. Thus far he’s stayed clear of anything that might appear gray.

about the FBI

Quote

...the FBI focuses on taking down entire, corrupt organizations: mafia families, drug cartels, terrorism rings. That’s its DNA, and why federal investigations take so long; they work step-by-step, from the bottom up, to dismantle the whole enterprise. There are increasing signs that the Trump Organization—the family business built around the Trump brand might be in its crosshairs.

It's a good time to remember how many people have committed crimes, but actually went to jail for perjury or cheating on taxes. 

 

 

Edited by Howl

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onekidanddone
7 minutes ago, Howl said:

My sense is that it's two things: 

  1. It's what's NOT on his tax return: no taxes paid on profits from ill gotten gains/laundered money.  Mueller's forensic accountants are deep into the rampant money laundering going on with Trump Tower properties, other Trump-affiliated real estate, Deutsche Bank loans and on and on
  2. It will show Trump's true financial status, and maybe, just maybe (!) he's not so very rich after all, which is death blow to a gas-bag businessman like Trump

Mueller also has testimony from two key people: fixer Michael Cohen and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.  Between those sources and what was found in Cohen's records, there's a pretty good record of Trump financial malfeasance.  

Snips from this 12.12.2018 Garett Graf article for Wired.com  9 TRUMPWORLD FIGURES WHO SHOULD FEAR MUELLER THE MOST  Still relevant. 

On Mueller building a bomb-proof case: 

about the FBI

 

 

It's a good time to remember how many people have committed crimes, but actually went to jail for perjury or cheating on taxes. 

 

 

Could be that there are simply no tax returns to uncover.  He just never bothered to submit them and has gotten away with all these years.

ETA: The more I think about it, it is most likely an Al Capone scenario  

Edited by onekidanddone

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formergothardite

I think that him not being anywhere close to being as rich as he claims is one reason he won't release them. It would be a crushing blow to his pride. He is super sensitive about any claims he isn't mega-wealthy. If it is shown to the world he has spent years lying about his wealth, that would be the ultimate humiliation to him. 

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Howl
21 minutes ago, fraurosena said:

I'm not so sure there will be an uptick in his approval numbers, small or not.

I was looking at footage of the Trumpettes lauding and applauding Roger Stone.  This was an event staged for the base, and I do mean staged.  Where do the Trumpettes come from? Are they true believers with a lot of discretionary cash and time on their hands? Are they paid? I think there is a LOT of staging to make it appear that there is YUGE support for Trump; Trump handlers and strategists are not about to leave that to chance. 

And those people rallying for Stone as he went into the courthouse? Were any of them paid?  Of course, they could just as easily have been QAnon wingnuts who think Stone is being treated unfairly; there doesn't seem to be a shortage of those. 

18 minutes ago, onekidanddone said:

ETA: The more I think about it, it is most likely an Al Capone scenario  

Thanks for this! I was trying to remember which mobster went to prison for tax evasion! Al's wiki: 

Quote

Capone was convicted on October 17, and was sentenced a week later to eleven years in federal prison, fined $50,000 plus $7,692 for court costs, and was held liable for $215,000 plus interest due on his back taxes. 

and there's this: Capone showed signs of syphilitic dementia early in his sentence and became increasingly debilitated before being released after eight years of incarceration. He served his time in Alcatraz.  Capone died of a stroke/heart attack at age 48. 

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fraurosena
1 hour ago, Howl said:

My sense is that it's two things: 

  1. It's what's NOT on his tax return: no taxes paid on profits from ill gotten gains/laundered money.  Mueller's forensic accountants are deep into the rampant money laundering going on with Trump Tower properties, other Trump-affiliated real estate, Deutsche Bank loans and on and on
  2. It will show Trump's true financial status, and maybe, just maybe (!) he's not so very rich after all, which is death blow to a gas-bag businessman like Trump

There might also be a third thing. His tax returns would also show where (he says) his money flows to and from. He will have had to put something on those returns, and he might have thought it seemed innocuous, but it quite possibly reveals things he does not want known. Like who lent him which amount of money... and for what. 

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Depressed
formergothardite

There are probably a ton of reasons he doesn't want people to see his tax forms and I think the GOP know that whatever is in them will be very difficult for them to explain away. 

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thoughtful
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bad ombre

I see what Dana did there. :lol:

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fraurosena

But his SOTU will be unifying. Really. Just like that bridge over there that I'd like to sell you.

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GreyhoundFan

A little more about the tax returns: "We may finally see Trump’s tax returns, and Republicans are panicking"

Spoiler

Washington is terribly divided these days, but there is at least one thing everyone — the Trump administration, members of Congress from both parties, journalists, cabdrivers — clearly agrees on: If the public ever got to see President Trump’s tax returns, it would be utterly disastrous for him.

Though they haven’t done it yet, Democrats are planning to utilize a law allowing the House Ways and Means Committee to obtain any American’s tax returns to demand that the IRS turn them over. Once they have them, the committee can vote to release them to the entire House.

Terrified of that prospect, the administration is preparing to do everything in its power to keep it from happening, as Politico’s Nancy Cook reports:

The new House Democratic majority is widely expected to test one of Donald Trump’s ultimate red lines by demanding the president’s personal tax returns — and the Trump administration has been gearing up for months to fight back hard.

Trump's Treasury Department is readying plans to drag the expected Democratic request for Trump’s past tax filings, which he has closely guarded, into a quagmire of arcane legal arguments.

At the same time, officials intend to publicly cast the request as an nakedly partisan exercise. The two-pronged scheme was developed by a handful of top political appointees and lawyers inside the department — with the ultimate goal of keeping the president’s past returns private, according to four people familiar with the administration’s approach.

Legal experts make clear that the law is not ambiguous and the president can’t simply order the Treasury Department to keep his returns secret. So the administration’s plan seems to be to wage a PR battle while keeping the matter slogging through the courts for as long as possible — say, past November 2020.

While Trump’s refusal to release his returns — something nearly every major-party nominee and president has done for the past half-century — has been controversial since 2016, once Democrats demand the returns it will become an intense controversy playing out on television and the front pages of newspapers. That means that Republican officeholders will be forced to take a position, which they haven’t really had to do before. And they’ll be expected to defend the president’s refusal to allow the public to know where he’s getting money from, whom he owes money to, and how far his financial interests extend.

Trump himself began in 2016 by saying he couldn’t release the returns since he was being audited. This was a lie. The IRS doesn’t prevent you from releasing your returns if you’re being audited, and it’s not as though you have to keep something secret from the IRS, since it already has the returns.

Then once he took office, the White House stopped bothering to offer a rationale at all, responding to any question about the returns by saying that Trump won, so forget it. “The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care. They voted for him,” said Kellyanne Conway just after Trump took office, and that has remained their position ever since.

So imagine you're a Republican member of Congress. When this controversy becomes intense, you're going to have to answer two questions. The first is, should Trump release his returns? If they're going to be steadfastly loyal to Trump — which is the most important principle the GOP holds today — the answer they'll have to give is no. The second question is, why not?

And what will they say? Is there a reasonable answer to that question that you would be comfortable applying to any president of either party? Is any Republican able to say with a straight face that it's not in the public interest to know everything possible about the president's financial dealings? Would they have had the same answer if Hillary Clinton had refused to release her returns?

There is a dodge that Republicans can employ to those questions, and it's one I expect most of them will use: "That's up to the president. I'm more concerned with the vital issues facing the American people." In other words, please don't make me defend Trump.

But let’s be clear about one thing: There has never before in American history been a president for whom it was more important that his tax returns be opened to scrutiny.

Unlike previous presidents, Trump not only held on to his business interests after he took office, he has made clear that he expects everyone from members of his party to foreign governments to put money in his pocket by patronizing those businesses. He has an extraordinary record of creating grifts and swindles to separate the gullible and desperate from their money, from Trump University to the Trump Network to the Trump Institute. His foundation was revealed to be essentially a scam, and he was forced to shut it down.

Perhaps most incredibly, an extensively documented investigation revealed four months ago that Trump and his family planned and executed an absolutely massive tax fraud scheme during the 1990s that defrauded the federal government of hundreds of millions of dollars. Were it not for the statute of limitations, he would probably be facing prosecution for it.

The things in Trump's past are appalling enough, but it's his current debts and business interests that we really need to understand. Trump himself obviously can't be relied on to inform us of any conflicts of interest he might have; just look at how often he lied about Russia, claiming to have no business interests there when in fact during the campaign he was pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow that could have netted him hundreds of millions of dollars.

Republicans are as aware of all this as Democrats are. They know who the president is. If they actually believed that Trump's returns would show him to be a man of unimpeachable integrity who had committed no wrongdoing, they'd be perfectly happy to have the public see them. But we all know that's not what the returns will show.

So they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with saying it isn’t really their concern. When we have a president as corrupt as this one, it’s all of our concern. And we need to find out exactly what he has been up to.

 

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WiseGirl

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Howl
Quote

Jennifer Jacobs✔@JenniferJJacobs    Breaking: Just four of Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago — the four he took in February/March 2017 — cost $13.6 million, the US Government Accountability Office says.

So, adding up all of Trump's trips to his summer and winter golf courses along with associated costs (Coast Guard! Secret Service! renting golf carts from Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster) and that amount would just about pay for the Wall.  

Also, speaking of taxes, middle class people are starting to do their taxes and have realized that they and their fellow MAGA voters have been screwed with the new Republican Tax Bill. 

WTF! I was expecting to get a $3000 refund as usual and now I OWE the IRS $3000

ETA:  May all fj-ers doing taxes all get a refund! 

Edited by Howl

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fraurosena

Trump Org is so screwed. 

New York federal prosecutors seek interviews with Trump Organization executives

Quote

Federal prosecutors in New York have requested interviews in recent weeks with executives at the Trump Organization, according to people familiar with the matter, signaling a growing potential threat to President Donald Trump and those in his orbit from criminal investigations by the Manhattan US Attorney's office.

Trump and his legal team have long harbored concerns that investigations by New York federal prosecutors -- which could last throughout his presidency -- may ultimately pose more danger to him, his family and his allies than the inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to people close to Trump. Prosecutors' recent interest in executives at Trump's family company may intensify those fears.

The specific inquiry or topics of interest by prosecutors in any interviews with Trump Organization executives wasn't immediately clear. The sources were not authorized to speak on the record. A spokesperson for the company didn't respond to a request for comment.

New York federal prosecutors in recent months have undertaken at least two investigations into Trump-related entities. The first one, which CNN has reported stemmed from the office's case against Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is examining possible campaign-finance violations by executives at the Trump Organization during the company's effort to reimburse Cohen for hush-money payments he made or orchestrated to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump. Trump has denied those affairs.

In the Cohen probe, one Trump Organization executive, chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors to provide information concerning Cohen, CNN has reported.

The second investigation concerns the Trump inaugural committee and possible financial abuses related to the more than $100 million in donations raised for his inauguration, CNN has reported.

On Monday, prosecutors issued a sweeping subpoena to the committee, requesting documents related to virtually every donor or donation, attendee at a committee event, piece of paperwork related to the legal requirements attached to donations and even "the possibility of" donations made by foreign nationals.

The subpoena, a copy of which was reviewed by CNN, also disclosed that prosecutors are investigating an array of potential crimes, including conspiracy against the US, false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, inaugural committee disclosure violations, and violations of laws prohibiting contributions by foreign nations and contributions in the name of another person, also known as straw donors.

A spokeswoman for the committee said Monday that it would cooperate with the inquiry. Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani said Tuesday that Trump "had little to no involvement in the inaugural committee."

While prosecutors in New York haven't charged any Trump-linked officials aside from Cohen, who pleaded guilty in August and is set to begin his prison sentence in March, they have undertaken various investigative steps in addition to the subpoena.

Prosecutors have questioned at least two former Trump campaign officials, according to people familiar with the matter. One official who was questioned last summer was asked about coordination between the Trump Organization and the campaign, one of these people said.

Investigators asked this official how the Trump Organization was structured and which accounts were used to pay campaign staffers and other campaign-related bills, this person said.

Despite the flurry of recent activity from the Manhattan US Attorney's office, however, it's not clear that any of its ongoing inquiries will result in charges. The investigation into possible campaign-finance violations at the company appears to be in its final stages, according to one person involved in it.

 

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