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“Trump’s Not Running For Vice President”: Trump’s New Line; Tax Returns From Thee, Not From Me

About four years ago at this time, Mitt Romney ran into a bit of trouble. He insisted on keeping his tax returns hidden, which was a problem made more acute when the Republican asked potential running mates to turn over their returns from the previous 10 years.

Apparently, Team Romney believed a thorough examination of a national candidate’s record meant a close review of tax materials – even while Romney said American voters couldn’t make a comparable examination of his own record.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Candidates hoping to earn a spot as Donald Trump’s running mate are reportedly expected to submit their tax returns to the campaign, even though the presumptive GOP nominee has said he has no immediate plans to make his own taxes public.

NBC’s Katy Tur reported Wednesday that all vice presidential hopefuls would be required to submit their returns as a standard part of the vetting process.

When NBC’s Katy Tur asked a Trump campaign source about the apparent hypocrisy, the source responded, “Trump’s not running for vice president.”

That’s cute, I suppose, but it only reinforces the absurdity of the candidate’s posture. The idea that disclosure and transparency requirements should be tougher for a vice presidential candidate than a presidential candidate is tough to defend.

Making matters worse, with each passing day, new questions arise about Trump’s finances. USA Today reported this morning that a fresh analysis found Trump’s businesses “have been involved in at least 100 lawsuits and other disputes related to unpaid taxes or how much tax his businesses owe.”

Trump’s companies have been engaged in battles over taxes almost every year from the late 1980s until as recently as March, the analysis of court cases, property records, and other documents across the country shows. At least five Trump companies were issued warrants totaling more than $13,000 for late or unpaid taxes in New York state just since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015, according to state records.

This spring, as Trump flew to campaign rallies around the country aboard his trademark private jet, the state of New York filed a tax warrant to try to collect $8,578 in unpaid taxes from the Trump-owned company that owns the Boeing 757. The company has since paid that tax bill.

It makes it that much more difficult for the candidate and his team to suggest his tax documents are a meaningless distraction.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign, meanwhile, released a new video yesterday, hoping to maintain interest in the story, and speculating about the kinds of things Trump may be hiding while keeping his tax returns under wraps.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 19, 2016

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Vice Presidential Nominee, Tax Returns | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Promoting Videos In Which Hillary Clinton Is Killed”: NRA’s Ted Nugent Sparks Yet Another Ugly Controversy

About four years ago at this time, Ted Nugent, a musician, reality-show personality, and National Rifle Association board member, was doing his best to help Mitt Romney get elected. Appearing at the NRA’s national convention, Nugent said, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either dead or in jail by this time next year…. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions?”

He went on to say, “It isn’t the enemy that ruined America. It’s good people who bent over and let the enemy in. If the coyote’s in your living room pissing on your couch, it’s not the coyote’s fault. It’s your fault for not shooting him.”

The comments, not surprisingly, generated a Secret Service investigation.

Four years later, Nugent has a new target, but he appears to have learned very little. Media Matters noted this week:

National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who will deliver a speech at the NRA’s annual meeting this month, shared a fake video that depicts Hillary Clinton being graphically murdered by Bernie Sanders with a handgun during a presidential debate.

In a May 10 post on his Facebook page, Nugent shared a video with the descriptions “Bernie Sanders destroys Hillary Clinton in debate on Vermont gun laws” and “Bernie Sanders absolutely killed Hillary over this issue.”

The video takes footage from a recent debate between Clinton and Sanders, but it’s manipulated to show Sanders shooting Clinton in the chest – complete with an animated blood spurt.

Just to be clear, Nugent does not appear to have created the video, but he helped disseminated it through social media, and he endorsed it with his own poorly written message: “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!”

All of this comes nearly nine years after Nugent, commenting on Clinton’s first presidential campaign, delivered an on-stage rant in which he pointed to his gun and said, “Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”

I can appreciate why it’s tempting to ignore Nugent’s nonsense. As entertainers in the public eye go, we’re talking about a guy who hasn’t had a hit single since the Carter administration, so it’s safe to say his cultural relevance has faded into obscurity.

Nugent is, however, a board member of the NRA – a group Senate Republicans believe should have veto power over Supreme Court nominees – and he remains a prominent partisan activist in right-wing circles. Indeed, let’s not forget that in 2012, Mitt Romney actively sought, and eventually earned, Nugent’s personal endorsement after a private discussion between the two men.

This year, Nugent is a high-profile Trump supporter – who also happens to be promoting videos in which Hillary Clinton is killed.

At least the Secret Service knows how to reach him if agents have any questions.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, National Rifle Association, Ted Nugent, Trump Supporters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Did He Pay Anything At All?”: Donald Trump Says He Won’t Release Tax Returns

Months after he said he would release his tax returns, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has decided that the American public doesn’t need to see how much (or little) he has paid in taxes until after the November elections, marking a shift in the vague promises he previously made to release the records to the public.

He solidified his position in an interview published by the Associated Press today, in which he said that “there’s nothing to learn from them.” Trump has also claimed that he is in the process of being audited by the IRS, and that releasing his returns for the year under audit would be imprudent, despite the agency confirming that being audited doesn’t legally interfere at all with the ability to release one’s tax records.

As far back as October 2015, Trump promised to release his tax documents. “I’m not going to say it, but at some point I’ll release it,” he said at the time. In that same interview, he also said, “I pay as little as possible, I’m very proud to tell you.”

In January, Trump said again that he would release his taxes soon. “We’re working on that now. I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” he said. Months later, they still haven’t been released.

Then again on May 8, just days before his announcement that he wouldn’t release his returns, he said, “Sure. If the auditors finish. I’ll do it as fast as the auditors finish.You don’t learn much from tax returns. But I would love to give the tax returns. But I can’t do it until I’m finished with the audit.”

But how little does Trump actually pay in taxes? David Cay Johnston, who spent three decades covering Trump as he moved from one business venture to another, noted that in 1978 and 1979 the businessman had paid exactly $0 in taxes.

He further explained how wealthy Americans like Trump use the tax code to their advantage, writing:

It’s all about tax rules that require you to depreciate, or reduce, the value of buildings over time, even if the market value of the structures is going up. If your depreciation is greater than your traditional income from work and businesses, Congress lets you report negative income. If these paper losses are just a dollar more than traditional income, it wipes out your income taxes for the year.

If Trump’s returns show he has paid no income taxes in some years, that could be a reason he has not yet released details.

Congress says most Americans can deduct no more than $25,000 of real estate depreciation against their income. But if you work two days a week managing real estate and own enough that the depreciation exceeds your salary and other income, Congress lets you live income-tax-free. And for as long as you keep buying buildings and depreciating them, the tax does not come due.

There are numerous reasons why Trump wouldn’t want to release his taxes. First, he has amassed his fortune partly by using tax loopholes that allowed him to effectively pay no income tax for years — possibly up to the present day. More recently, he changed his tune, saying, “I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more.” America should be thankful Trump wants to pay more than… whatever he’s currently paying. It could be nothing at all.

Second, the tax returns could show that he has far less money than he claims. This possibility was seized upon by anti-Trump Republicans who have tried to coerce Trump into releasing his returns. During the opening shots of the fight against the racist billionaire’s takeover of the party, Mitt Romney raised the possibility, saying, “Either he’s not anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is, or he hasn’t been paying the kind of taxes we would expect him to pay.”

There is evidence to back up Romney’s claim. Forbes calculated Trump’s worth to be $4.5 billion at most. “Trump has filed statements claiming he’s worth at least $10 billion or, as he put in a press release, TEN BILLION DOLLARS (capitalization his). After interviewing more than 80 sources and devoting unprecedented resources to valuing a single fortune, we’re going with a figure less than half that–$4.5 billion, albeit still the highest figure we’ve ever had for him.”

Even harder to explain is the jump in Trump’s cash-on-hand. The National Review wrote that his organization showed documentation for cash and cash equivalents of $307 million in 2014. This year, that number jumped up to $793 million, sans documentation, making it difficult to believe that he actually has that much money. “I’m running for President,” said Trump in an interview with Forbes. “I’m worth much more than you have me down [for]. I don’t look good, to be honest. I mean, I look better if I’m worth $10 billion than if I’m worth $4 billion.”

Trump’s obstruction has not only served his purposes, but that of his likely rival, Hillary Clinton. During the Democratic debate in Brooklyn last month, she responded to a question about her speech transcripts with a criticism of other presidential candidates, namely Trump, who didn’t release their tax returns.

“There are certain expectations when you run for president,” said Clinton. “This is a new one but I will tell you this, there is a longstanding expectation that everybody running release their tax returns.”

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, Tax Returns | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Can A Party Divided Against Itself Still Stand?”: For Trump, Unity Is An Unnecessary Luxury

As Donald Trump made the transition from Republican presidential frontrunner to presumptive Republican presidential nominee, one of the more common words in GOP circles has been “unity.” As in, “How in the world will the party achieve anything resembling ‘unity’ with this nativist demagogue at the top of the Republican ticket?”

For his part, Trump has said, on multiple occasions, that he can and will bring the party together. Yesterday on ABC, however, the Republican candidate, no doubt aware of the broader circumstances, suggested that unifying the party may be an overrated goal.

“Does [the party] have to be unified? I’m very different than everybody else, perhaps, that’s ever run for office. I actually don’t think so,” Trump told George Stephanopoulos in an interview that will air Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.” […]

“I think it would be better if it were unified, I think it would be – there would be something good about it. But I don’t think it actually has to be unified in the traditional sense,” Trump said.

It’s an unexpected posture, borne of conditions outside of Trump’s control. Less than a week after wrapping up the nomination, the Republican candidate has stopped looking for ways to bring the party together and started looking for ways to justify intra-party strife as a tolerable inconvenience – not because Trump wants to, but because so many in the party are repulsed by his candidacy.

The New York Times added over the weekend, “Since a landslide victory in Indiana made him the presumptive Republican nominee, Mr. Trump has faced a shunning from party leaders that is unprecedented in modern politics. Mr. Trump has struggled to make peace with senior lawmakers and political donors whom he denounced during the Republican primaries, and upon whose largess he must now rely.”

In a fitting twist, Republicans are divided over the nature of their divisions. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, became one of the most notable GOP Trump endorsers Friday, despite Trump’s condemnation of the Bush/Cheney administration’s handling of 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

Cheney probably wasn’t thrilled about extending his support, but he’s a Republican, Trump’s the presumptive Republican nominee, and apparently that’s the end of the discussion. For the former vice president, partisan considerations are, for all intents and purposes, the only consideration. (The fact that Trump is a cheerleader for torture probably helped tilt the scales for Cheney.)

But the former vice president’s announcement was striking in part because so many other national Republican leaders are moving in the exact opposite direction.

Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have both said they will stay out of the 2016 race and withhold their official support from their party’s nominee. Jeb Bush, a former Trump rival, signed a pledge last year promising to support the GOP’s 2016 candidate, but he’s since decided to break that promise and oppose Trump.

I haven’t yet seen a comprehensive list of every notable Republican officeholder who has vowed to withhold support for Trump, but as best as I can tell, the list would include at least three sitting governors (Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, Illinois’ Bruce Rauner, and Maryland’s Larry Hogan), three sitting U.S. senators (South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, Nevada’s Dean Heller), and 10 or so U.S. House members. If we include former officials, the list grows much longer.

And then, of course, there’s 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who’s vowed to oppose Trump, and his former running mate, current House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said Thursday he’s not yet ready to decide either way. Many more in the GOP have offered grudging support along the lines of, “I’ll back my party’s nominee, but let’s not call it an ‘endorsement,’ and for the love of God, please don’t make me say his name out loud.”

It’s tempting to look for some kind of modern parallel for a dynamic like this, but there really isn’t one. The only thing that comes close was when far-right Southern “Dixiecrats,” outraged by Democratic support for civil rights, broke off in 1948 and 1968, en route to becoming Republicans.

Those examples probably don’t offer much of a parallel here – or at least GOP officials have to hope not.

The more immediate question, of course, is whether a party divided against itself can stand. According to Trump, unity is an unnecessary luxury, though if you’re thinking this sounds like wishful thinking, you’re not alone. Given the presumptive Republican nominee’s unpopularity, Trump has very little margin for error, and having a sizable chunk of his party express contempt for his campaign poses an existential electoral risk. Winning primaries in a divided party is vastly easier than what Trump will face in November.

There’s a school of thought, of course, that says all of this strife will eventually pass. Emotions are still raw – the last contested primary was less than a week ago – and the argument goes that wayward Republicans will “come home” by the fall.

Maybe.

In a typical election cycle, this model would certainly apply, but this isn’t a normal year; Trump isn’t a normal candidate; and the scope and scale of the fissures in Republican politics are without modern precedent.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 9, 2016

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Farewell, Grand Old Party”: GOP Dug Its Own Grave And Dropped One Foot In When McCain Selected Sarah Palin

It wasn’t precisely an act of moral courage, but House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (Wis.) comment that he’s not ready to support presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump was at least . . . something.

Whether it’s a start or a finish remains to be revealed, but it would seem that we’re witnessing the beginning of the end. To wit: A Republican friend, who has abandoned her behind-the-scenes work of getting conservatives elected, called me recently to express her condolences. “I feel sorry for you,” she said, “because you (given your job) can’t ignore the collapse of Western civilization.”

Now a renegade from the nominating process, she is like so many others disillusioned by the Trump movement who’ve slipped the noose of politics in search of meaning beyond the Beltway. But Trump’s triumph, though most insiders thought it impossible, should have surprised no one. He was inevitable not because he was The One but because he’s a shrewd dealmaker with deep pockets and unencumbered by a moral compass. Both his platform and style were crafted to fit the findings of extensive polling he commissioned before announcing his run.

In other words, Trump didn’t write a book you loved; he wrote the book you said you’d love. If people were outraged about immigration, why then he’d build a wall. If they were upset about manufacturing jobs lost overseas, well fine, he’d kill the trade agreements.

Trump was never about principle but about winning, the latter of which he kept no secret. What this means, of course, is that his supporters have no idea whom they nominated. He simply paid to read their minds and then invented a drug that would light up the circuit boards corresponding to pleasure and reward.

“Believe me,” he crooned to the roaring crowed.

I’m not there right now,” said the speaker, blessing himself in the sign of the cross.

Poor Ryan — a man of conscience in an unconscionable time. He wants to support the Republican nominee, but, at the end of the day, he has to answer to a higher authority. Trump, the party’s standard bearer, isn’t bearing the standard, Ryan said.

But what Ryan expressed as the basis for a desired meeting of the minds isn’t about those standards, except the hope that Trump will behave better in the future. You know, act presidential and all that. Otherwise, Ryan is standing by the phone to hear that Trump will unify the party. How, pray tell? What would satisfy the Ryans of the party? For Trump to say, Hey, I was just kidding?

The problem, as with all relationships, is that certain words, once expressed, can’t be taken back. No amount of backtracking can erase memories of what Trump really thought and said in a particular moment. It isn’t only that his wildly conceived and frequently revised positions are at odds with those of leveler heads, but also Trump has embarrassed those who can still be embarrassed.

Among those with either the gumption or nothing to lose by expressing no-support for Trump are both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. Neither will endorse the Republican nominee. Laura Bush, a consistent voice of sanity, recently hinted at a “Women in the World” conference that she’d rather see Hillary Clinton as president than Trump.

This is utterly treasonous to most Republicans. Not only is Clinton a Clinton, notwithstanding her Rodham-ness, but also the next president likely will select up to four Supreme Court justices. Republicans magically think that at least Trump would pick good justices.

But upon what shred of fact or fiction do they base this assumption?

Still other Republicans are expressing disapproval by vowing not to attend the party convention in July. These include the last two GOP presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, though McCain is on record saying he’ll support Trump, which can be viewed as loyal or merely sad.

The “sads” have it.

McCain seemingly has forgiven Trump’s remark that he was a war hero only because he was captured. “I like people that weren’t captured,” said the anti-hero who managed to avoid service and once compared his navigation of the sexually risky 1960s to “sort of like the Vietnam era.”

This is the man who would become commander in chief.

Meanwhile, we’re told, the party that adopted Trump without really knowing him is suffering an identity crisis and facing a moment of truth.

Phooey. The GOP began digging its own grave years ago and dropped one foot in when McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. With Trump’s almost-certain nomination, the other foot has followed.

 

By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 6, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Trump Supporters | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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