Trump tax secret bared

Donald Trump paid $36.5 million in federal taxes on more than $153 million in reported income for 2005. So why has he been hiding that? The answer remains under wraps in the tax documents he has refused to make public.

The White House released the information Tuesday night to pre-empt a scoop by MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Journalist David Cay Johnston, who appeared on the show, said he received the two pages of Trump’s 1040 forms in the mail from a sender unknown.

What the summary form doesn’t tell is the story behind the big numbers — where did it all come from, who did he do business with and borrow money from — and what he did to take the best advantage of tax laws (which he’s bragged about, saying it shows “I’m smart.”) The forms do show $100 million in business losses used to reduce his tax bill.

The White House denounced the disclosure and broadcast of the forms as a violation of law. Early Wednesday, Trump predictably called it “fake news” even as speculation swirled that for all anyone knew he could have leaked it himself.

The revelation could reinvigorate pressure on Trump to release the returns — 74% of Americans in a January Washington Post-ABC News poll said he should. His refusal, on grounds his returns were under audit, didn’t keep him from getting elected.

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In October, the New York Times obtained 1995 state tax forms and deduced Trump reported $914 million in losses that could have been used to zero out his tax bills for 18 years. It didn’t — at least not for that long. Why didn’t he want Americans to know?

Obama still haunts him

At 7:02 a.m. Wednesday, the president tweeted on celebrity Snoop Dogg, who drew widespread criticism for appearing in a video “shooting” a clown dressed up as Trump.

“Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!”

Which of course is nonsense, which of course is par for the course. But it does reveal Trump appearing to fixate -- again -- on his predecessor, whose alleged “wiretapping” of Trump Tower still appears to be untrue.

Last-chance cure?

Donald Trump’s White House says there’s only one way to skin Obamacare, so Republicans had better get on board with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill.

“This is the only vehicle that seeks to achieve what people on our side have been talking about since 2010. This is it,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

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“If we don’t get this through, the goal of repealing Obamacare and instituting a system that will be patient-centered is going to be unbelievably difficult,” Spicer said.

Republicans seemed more divided Tuesday after the release of Congressional Budget Office projections on the impact of the proposed health-care overhaul, though not all for the same reasons.

GOP moderates worried about constituents among the tens of millions projected to lose coverage. “As written the plan leaves too many from my ... district uninsured,” tweeted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami-Dade County, Florida.

On the GOP right, complaints persisted that it did not do enough to remove government intervention from the health care system.

Mystery math

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While deriding the CBO’s estimate that 24 million Americans would lose health insurance by 2026, the White House hasn’t offered any alternative facts or math.

“That’s not something that OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] does,” Spicer said.

Spicer said the CBO didn’t factor in how the second and third phases would increase competition among insurers and drive premium prices down. A reporter asked how they can account for plans that do not yet exist in detail.

“That’s a question for the House to answer,” Spicer said.

See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

The take-away: CBO’s BO with GOP

It’s not surprising that Republicans would dispute the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates on the proposed GOP replacement for Obamacare, but some of the criticism seemed over the top.

“Corrupt” and “dishonest” were the epithets hurled by former House speaker and sometime Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich. As Newsday’s Dan Janison notes, the head of the nonpartisan number-crunching office was recommended in 2015 by Tom Price, then a Republican congressman from Georgia and now the secretary of Health and Human Services.

Trump’s empty desk syndrome

While Trump is trying to push an ambitious agenda on Capitol Hill, he has been slow to fill out a team to carry it out in the executive branch, Newsday’s Tom Brune reports.

The president still lags in filling important subcabinet posts amid reports his personnel office creates delays by vetting candidates to make sure it hires only loyalists.

“These subcabinet posts are essential for governing,” said Paul Light, professor of public service at New York University, because they “translate vision into action.”

Russia news coming?

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Tuesday that FBI Director James Comey promised to tell him Wednesday whether the FBI is investigating ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

The Rhode Island Democrat said that Comey made the promise in a March 2 meeting with him and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, Whitehouse said.

Wiretap yarn, reheated

Spicer said Tuesday that Trump is “extremely confident” that the Justice Department will produce evidence backing up his claim that his predecessor wiretapped him. But the press secretary also alluded to the redefined wiretap allegation he put out Monday, which includes broader possibilities of surveillance that touched on the campaign.

Trump is also confident, Spicer indicated, that he hasn’t being spied upon by a certain kitchen appliance. “There is pretty sound evidence that the microwave is not a sound way of surveilling someone.”

That idea — floated by Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway — “has been cleaned up,” Spicer said.

That Steve King thing

The White House offered a low-key disavowal of recent comments by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who tweeted that American culture cannot be restored “with somebody else’s babies — an allusion to immigrants — and said he’d like to see a “homogeneous” United States where “we look a lot the same.”

Said Spicer, “The president believes this is not a point of view that he shares. He believes that he’s a president for all Americans, and so I’ll leave it at that.

What else is happening

  • Gun makers are seeing declining sales and layoffs since the election because Trump’s election eased fears of firearms enthusiasts about tougher restrictions, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reports.
  • Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has cordial ties to billionaire Philip Anschutz, as the Times describes.

The Environmental Protection Agency may get deeper cuts than the 25% in Trump’s initial budget proposal, the news site Axios reports. Climate change programs would be gutted under the proposal. EPA chief Scott Pruitt is seeking to ease cuts for brownfields and Superfund cleanups.

White House counsel Don McGahn has assembled a team of elite lawyers for Trump administration efforts to roll back regulatory powers across the U.S. government, Time magazine reports.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has had some success pushing back against an initial proposal for a 37% budget cut in his department, Politico reports. A senior official said the White House is giving Tillerson more time for “a deeper analysis on foreign aid.”

The CIA has been granted secret new authority by Trump to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, changing an Obama policy that limited the agency’s role, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reported.

Trump administration lawyers are opposing conservative watchdog groups digging for still more Hillary Clinton State Department emails in court, The Washington Post reports. Complained Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch: “They’re taking the same position as the Obama administration on Clinton.”