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Key Takeaways and Reaction to the NYT Report on Trump’s Tax Returns

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  • A bombshell report from The New York Times detailed 18 years’ worth of information regarding President Donald Trump’s federal income taxes. 
  • In both 2016 and 2017, Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes each year, according to the report. 
  • Among other claims, it also alleges that for 11 of the years between 2000 and 2018, Trump paid no federal income taxes because he reported losing more money than he made at many of his signature businesses.
  • Trump has since dismissed the report as “fake news,” arguing, “I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits.” 

NYT Releases Data from Trump Tax Returns

The New York Times published a bombshell report on Sunday, which outlines decades of information relating to President Donald Trump’s federal income taxes.

Trump’s tax records have been fiercely sought after for years, dating back to when he refused to release them as a presidential candidate in 2016.

According to The Times, which claims to have obtained Trump’s tax records dating from 2000 to 2018, Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016. The next year, his first in office, he paid another $750 in federal taxes.

Even more significantly, in 11 of those 18 years, The Times alleges that Trump paid no federal income taxes at all.

As for how he was able to do that, it was largely because he reported losing much more money than he made at many of his signature businesses.

For example, The Times reported that Trump made $427 million from “The Apprentice,” as well as licensing and endorsements deals associated with his name. Trump then invested much of that money in a collection of businesses, mainly golf courses that steadily became money holes.

In fact, since 2000, Trump has reported losses of more than $315 million at his golf courses, losses of $55 million between 2016 and 2018 at his D.C. hotel, and losses of $134 million at Trump Corporation since 2000.

“The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public,” The Times reports. “His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes.

“Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.”

“Consulting Fees” Paid to Ivanka Trump

The Times reported that the filings showed a laundry list of business expense write-offs, including more than $70,000 paid to style Trump’s hair during “The Apprentice.”

Notably, Trump entities also wrote off at least $95,000 that was paid out to a hair and makeup artist of his daughter, Ivanka Trump. The media outlet added that Mr. Trump wrote off expenses like meals and fuel associated with the aircraft he used “to shuttle him among his various homes and properties.”

Among other claims, between 2010 and 2018, Trump wrote off around $26 million in unexplained “consulting fees” as business expenses.

While The Times notes that there’s no evidence Trump engaged in bribes or kickbacks to middlemen, it also notes that Trump may have reduced the amount of his income that could be taxed by treating a family member as a consultant.

The Times believes that that family member was Ivanka. That’s because in 2017, Ivanka reported receiving nearly $750,000 from a consulting company she co-owned — the exact amount the Trump Organization also claimed as tax deductions for hotel projects in Vancouver and Hawaii.

The big kicker is that Ivanka is also an executive officer of the Trump companies that led those projects — “Meaning she appears to have been treated as a consultant on the same hotel deals that she helped manage as part of her job at her father’s business.” 

The Times added that if the payments to Ivanka were compensation for work, it’s unclear why Trump would do it in this form “other than to reduce his own tax liability.”

The “consulting fees” also raise another possibility: that this could have been a method for Trump to transfer assets to his children while avoiding a gift tax.

There, The Times points back to a 2018 Times investigation which discovered that Trump’s father had “employed a number of legally dubious schemes decades ago to evade gift taxes on millions of dollars he transferred to his children.”

The Times also pointed to a situation where a person directly involved in developing two Trump Towers in Istanbul said that there was never any consultant or other third party in Turkey paid by the Trump Organization. That’s despite The Times’ finding that Trump’s records “show regular deductions for consulting fees over seven years totaling $2 million.”

Trump’s Foreign Investments

The Times reported that they were “able to take the fullest measure to date of the president’s income from overseas, where he holds ultimate sway over American diplomacy.”

The outlet goes on to note that Trump said he wouldn’t pursue new foreign business deals when he took office in 2017, but during his first two years in office, his revenue from abroad was $73 million.

While much of that money was from his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland, some came from licensing deals in countries with authoritarian-leaning leaders or thorny geopolitics — for example, $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey,” the outlet reported. 

Notably, The Times explicitly stated that the documents it obtained did not “reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.”

How Much Trump Owes

According to The Times, Trump is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million, with most of that due within the next four years.

“Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president,” the outlet reported. 

On top of that, Trump reportedly has $100 million due in 2022 for a mortgage on the commercial space in the New York Trump Tower. Up to 2018, he had only paid interest on the loan but not the loan itself. 

To round it off, confidential records show that starting in 2010, Trump “claimed, and received, an income tax refund totaling $72.9 million.” That’s the sum total of all the federal income tax he had paid for 2005 through 2008, plus interest.

That refund is actually already the subject of a long-standing and widely-known IRS audit, but if Trump is ultimately forced to pay back this refund, he’ll also be forced to return that money with interest and possible penalties. That could ultimately cost him $100 million.

Trump Responds to Bombshell Report

Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, told The Times that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and requested to see documents in question. 

The Times reported that when they declined his request in order to protect their sources, Garten “took direct issue only with the amount of taxes Mr. Trump had paid.”

“Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” Garten said. 

In response to that statement, The Times noted that Garten seemed to conflate “personal taxes” with other federal taxes Trump paid for his household employees. It added that Garten claimed Trump paid some of what he owed with tax credits, but it argued that was a mischaracterization of how those credits work.

As for Trump himself, in response to a reporter at a press conference, Trump dismissed the report as “fake news.”

“No,” Trump said on Sunday. “Actually, I paid tax. But — and you’ll see that as soon as my tax returns — it’s under audit. They’ve been under audit for a long time. The IRS does not treat me well.” 

“But they’re under audit. And when they’re not, I would be proud to show you. But that’s just fake news.” 

When asked if he could give people an idea of how much he was actually paying, he said, “Yeah, basically — well, first of all, I’ve paid a lot, and I paid a lot of state income taxes, too. The New York State charges a lot, and I paid a lot of money in state.” 

On Twitter Monday morning, Trump again called the report fake news and added, “I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits.” 

“Also, if you look at the extraordinary assets owned by me, which the Fake News hasn’t, I am extremely under leveraged – I have very little debt compared to the value of assets.”

He then said he may release those financial statements, which he called “very IMPRESSIVE.”

Critics of the President

Soon after The Times article, Joe Biden’s campaign tweeted an ad that showed how much tax American workers like teachers and firefighters pay compared to the $750 Trump allegedly paid.

It is “the latest reminder how clear the choice is here in this race between Park Avenue and Scranton,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, said. “You have in Donald Trump, a President who spends his time thinking about how he can work his way out of paying taxes, of meeting the obligation that every other working person in this country meets every year.”

Many others, including celebrities and politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), echoed that point.

“Trump’s tax returns tell us that he’s either a very bad businessman or a tax cheat—likely both,” Sanders tweeted. “But more importantly, it shows how the wealthy, unlike most Americans, are able to avoid paying taxes.” 

Others also argued that Trump’s debts made him a threat to national security, with a Bloomberg columnist writing in a heavily circulated opinion piece: “Due to his indebtedness, his reliance on income from overseas and his refusal to authentically distance himself from his hodgepodge of business, Trump represents a profound national security threat – a threat that will only escalate if he’s re-elected.” 

Defense of the President

Others, particularly supporters of the president, condemned The Times for reporting the story, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).

“Well, I don’t know how accurate the story is. The New York Times didn’t release any of the underlying documents,” the senator said in an interview with The View.

“Apparently somebody illegally gave them a copy of something, some tax return documents. I don’t think it’s an issue that frankly impacts a whole lot of Americans.”

“But the point is I don’t know if it’s accurate or not. I don’t think it’s an issue that frankly impacts a whole lot of Americans.” 

Conservative commentator Candace Owens also reiterated that point on Twitter.

“It’s time for our Department of Justice to begin looking into the New York Times,” she wrote.  “I don’t care what you think of Trump— if government officials are turning over an individual’s federal documents in an effort to sway an election—it is a federal crime of epic proportions.”

Others claim the story was intentionally dropped two days before the first debate between Trump and Biden, which is set for Tuesday.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Axios) (Associated Press)

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Supreme Court Rules High School Football Coach Can Pray on Field

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All of our rights are “hanging in the balance,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a dissenting opinion.


Court’s Conservatives Break With 60 Years of History

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a former high school football coach who lost his job after he refused to stop praying on the field at the end of games.

Joseph Kennedy, who was hired at Bremerton High School in Washington State in 2008, kneeled at the 50-yard line after games for years and prayed. He was often joined by some of his players, as well as others from the opposing team.

In 2015, the school asked him not to pray if it interfered with his duties or involved students.

Shortly after, Kennedy was placed on paid administrative leave, and after a school official recommended that his contract not be renewed for the 2016 season he did not reapply for the position.

Kennedy sued the school, eventually appealing the case to the Supreme Court.

The justices voted 6 to 3, with the liberal justices dissenting.

“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse republic — whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field, and whether they manifest through the spoken word or a bowed head,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.

“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance,” he added.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion.

“Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection,” she said.

“In doing so, the court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing states to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.”

The defense in the case argued that the public nature of Kennedy’s prayers put pressure on students to join him, and that he was acting in his capacity as a public employee, not a private citizen.

Kennedy’s lawyers contended that such an all-encompassing definition of his job duties denied him his right to self-expression on school grounds.

“This is just so awesome,” Kennedy said in a statement following the decision. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys … I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”

Religious Liberty or Separation of Church and State?

Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court decided that the government cannot organize or promote prayer in public schools, and it has since generally abided by that jurisprudence.

But the court led by Chief Justice John Roberts has been increasingly protective of religious expression, especially after the confirmation of three conservative Trump-appointed judges.

Reactions to the ruling were mostly split between liberals who saw the separation of church and state being dissolved and conservatives who hailed it as a victory for religious liberty.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the Bremerton school district, said in a statement that the ruling “gutted decades of established law that protected students’ religious freedom.”

“If Coach Kennedy were named Coach Akbar and he had brought a prayer blanket to the 50 yard line to pray after a game,” one Twitter user said, “I’ve got a 401(k) that says this illegitimate, Christofascist SCOTUS rules 6-3 against him.”

“The people defending former Coach Kennedy’s right to kneel on the field after the game to pray – are the ones condemning Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel on the field to protest police brutality against Black Americans,” another user wrote.

Others, like Republican Congressmember Ronny Jackson and former Secretary of State for the Trump administration Mike Pompeo, celebrated the ruling for protecting religious freedom and upholding what they called the right to pray.

“I am excited to build on this victory and continue securing our inalienable right to religious freedom,” Pompeo wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Fox News)

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Rep. Schiff Urges DOJ to Investigate Trump for Election Crimes: “There’s Enough Evidence”

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“When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate,” the congressman said.


Schiff Says DOJ Should Launch Inquiry

Rep. Adam Schiff (R-Ca.) told Rogue Rocket that he believes there is “certainly […] enough evidence for the Justice Department to open an investigation” into possible election crimes committed by former President Donald Trump.

Schiff, who took the lead in questioning witnesses testifying before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection on Tuesday, said that it will be up to the DOJ to determine whether “they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt” of criminal activity, but added that an investigation must first be launched.

“Donald Trump should be treated like any other citizen,” the congressman said, noting that a federal judge in California has already ruled that Trump and his allies “likely” engaged in multiple federal criminal acts. “When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate.”

“One of the concerns I have is it’s a year and a half since these events. And while […] there’s an investigation going on in Fulton County by the district attorney, I don’t see a federal grand jury convened in Atlanta looking into this, and I think it’s fair to ask why,” Schiff continued, referencing the ongoing inquiry into Trump’s attempts to overturn the election in Georgia.

“Normally, the Justice Department doesn’t wait for Congress to go first. They pursue evidence and they have the subpoena power. They’re often much more agile than the Congress. And I think it’s important that it not just be the lower-level people who broke into the Capitol that day and committed those acts of violence who are under the microscope,” he continued. “I think anyone who engaged in criminal activity trying to overturn the election where there’s evidence that they may have engaged in criminal acts should be investigated.”

Schiff Takes Aim at DOJ’s Handling of Committee Subpoenas

Schiff also expressed frustration with how the DOJ has handled referrals the committee has made for former Trump officials who have refused to comply with subpoenas to testify before the panel.

“We have referred four people for criminal prosecution who have obstructed our investigation. The Justice Department has only moved forward with two of them,” he stated. “That’s not as powerful an incentive as we would like. The law requires the Justice Department to present these cases to the grand jury when we refer them, and by only referring half of them, it sends a very mixed message about whether congressional subpoenas need to be complied with.”

As far as why the congressman thought the DOJ has chosen to operate in this manner in regards to the Jan. 6 panel’s investigation, he said he believes “the leadership of the department is being very cautious.” 

“I think that they want to make sure that the department avoids controversy if possible, doesn’t do anything that could even be perceived as being political,” Schiff continued. “And while I appreciate that sentiment […] at the same time, the rule of law has to be applied equally to everyone. If you’re so averse, […] it means that you’re giving effectively a pass or immunity to people who may have broken the law. That, too, is a political decision, and I think it’s the wrong decision.”

On the Note of Democracy

Schiff emphasized the importance of the American people working together to protect democracy in the fallout of the insurrection.

“I really think it’s going to require a national movement of people to step up to preserve our democracy. This is not something that I think Congress can do alone. We’re going to try to protect those institutions, but Republicans are fighting this tooth and nail,” he asserted. “It’s difficult to get through a Senate where Mitch McConnell can filibuster things.”

“We don’t have the luxury of despair when it comes to what we’re seeing around us. We have the obligation to do what generations did before us, and that is defend our democracy,” the congressman continued. “We had to go to war in World War II to defend our democracy from the threat of fascism. You know, we’re not called upon to make those kinds of sacrifices. We see the bravery of people in Ukraine putting their lives on the line to defend their country, their sovereignty, their democracy. Thank God we’re not asked to do that.”

“So what we have to do is, by comparison, so much easier. But it does require us to step up, to be involved, to rally around local elections officials who are doing their jobs, who are facing death threats, and to protect them and to push back against efforts around the country to pass laws to make it easier for big liars to overturn future elections.” 

“We are not passengers in all of this, unable to affect the course of our country. We can, you know, grab the rudder and steer this country in the direction that we want.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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Senate Passes Bill to Help Veterans Suffering From Burn Pit Exposure

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For Biden, who believes his son Beau may have died from brain cancer caused by burn pits, the issue is personal.


Veterans to Get Better Healthcare

The Senate voted 84-14 Thursday to pass a bill that would widely expand healthcare resources and benefits to veterans who were exposed to burn pits while deployed overseas.

Until about 2010, the Defense Department used burn pits to dispose of trash from military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations, dumping things like plastics, rubber, chemical mixtures, and medical waste into pits and burning them with jet fuel.

Numerous studies and reports have demonstrated a link between exposure to the toxic fumes emitted by the pits and health problems such as respiratory ailments and rare cancers. The DoD has estimated that nearly 3.5 million veterans may have inhaled enough smoke to suffer from related health problems.

For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs resisted calls to recognize the link between exposure and illness, arguing it had not been scientifically proven and depriving many veterans of disability benefits and medical reimbursements.

Over the past year, however, the VA relented, awarding presumptive benefit status to veterans exposed to burn pits, but it only applied to those who were diagnosed with asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis within 10 years of their service.

The latest bill would add 23 conditions to the list of what the VA covers, including hypertension. It also calls for investments in VA health care facilities, claims processing, and the VA workforce, while strengthening federal research on toxic exposure.

The bill will travel to the House of Representatives next, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to push it through quickly. Then it will arrive at the White House for final approval.

An Emotional Cause for Many

Ahead of a House vote on an earlier version of the bill in March, comedian John Stewart publically slammed Congress for taking so long to act.

“They’re all going to say the same thing. ‘We want to do it. We want to support the veterans. But we want to do it the right way. We want to be responsible,’” he said. “You know what would have been nice? If they had been responsible 20 years ago and hadn’t spent trillions of dollars on overseas adventures.”

“They could have been responsible in the seventies when they banned this kind of thing in the United States,” he continued. “You want to do it here? Let’s dig a giant fucking pit, 10 acres long, and burn everything in Washington with jet fuel. And then let me know how long they want to wait before they think it’s going to cause some health problems.”

For President Biden, the issue is personal. He has said he believes burn pits may have caused the brain cancer that killed his son Beau in 2015.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer applauded the fact the long-awaited benefits could soon arrive for those impacted.

“The callousness of forcing veterans who got sick as they were fighting for us because of exposure to these toxins to have to fight for years in the VA to get the benefits they deserved — Well, that will soon be over. Praise God,” he said during a speech on Thursday.

A 2020 member survey by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 86% of respondents were exposed to burn pits or other toxins.

Although burn pits have largely been scaled down, the DoD has not officially banned them, and at least nine were still in operation in April 2019.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Military Times) (Politico)

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