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Trump, longing for a victory, pushes hard for new tax code

President Donald Trump takes the stage to speak

President Donald Trump takes the stage to speak about tax reform, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, at the Loren Cook Co. in Springfield, Mo. Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson

Tired of not winning

With polls showing his popularity in the dumps, Trump has opened a fight to overhaul the nation’s tax system, and is ready to blame Congress in general and Democrats in particular if it doesn’t happen, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

“They have to do it. It’s time. They have to do it,” Trump said at a factory in Springfield, Missouri.

Do what? Reduce the number of income tax brackets, closing the carried-interest loophole and lower the business tax rate to 15 percent. Trump called for “reducing the crushing tax burden on our companies and on our workers.”

Trump is leaving it to Congress to work out the details. Republicans have yet to coalesce around an approach, and an aggressive plan would require 60 votes in the Senate, meaning some Democrats would have to come aboard. In failing to pass an Obamacare repeal by themselves, Senate Republicans couldn’t muster 50.

But Trump offered no olive branch to Democrats. “The Dems are looking to obstruct tax cuts and tax reform, just like they obstructed so many other things,” he said.

Cohn of silence

Trump brought an entourage of advisers to Missouri and singled out an extensive number of them in the opening of his speech. “Anybody I forgot?” Trump asked.

Well, yeah. He didn’t mention Gary Cohn, his chief economic adviser. As it happens, Cohn last week delivered the strongest criticism from any administration official of Trump’s response to the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom said the president wasn’t trying to snub Cohn. “Staff is typically not called out in prepared remarks, only Cabinet members,” she said. But Trump has mentioned Cohn at past events.

The greatest empathy

Speaking of forgetting things, Trump seemed to have noticed criticism of his failure to clearly voice concern for the victims of Hurricane Harvey during his Tuesday trip to Texas.

He tweeted Wednesday morning: “After witnessing firsthand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!”

(He didn’t actually see it firsthand — his itinerary correctly kept him away from the flood-ravaged region to avoid logistical and security complications.)

From Missouri, addressing “the people of Houston and across Texas and Louisiana,” Trump said, “we are here with you today, we are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you every day single day after to restore, recover and rebuild.”

The take-away: Outsourced

In outsourcing details of his tax package to Republicans in Congress, Trump is giving himself the role of stoking public demand for a product still under development.

In a way, it’s akin to building consumer anticipation for a new smartphone that hasn’t been released. In bygone days, some called the technique selling a pig in a poke.

See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Reply to none

Vladimir Putin’s top spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed the Kremlin got an email from Trump’s company lawyer in January 2016 seeking help with a Trump Tower project in Moscow, but never replied because “it’s not our issue.”

Michael Cohen’s pitch was sent to the Kremlin press service’s general email address, which receives “thousands of messages,” Peskov said. The appeal on behalf of Trump’s business was made as Trump was campaigning and urging warmer relations with Russia.

Cohen is likely to be called to testify by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Politico reported.

Trump picks J-lister

Trump’s nominee to chair a Smithsonian think tank is GOP fundraiser Fred Malek, who gained notoriety for his role in President Richard Nixon’s 1971 attempt to purge Jewish officials at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Then a White House aide, Malek compiled a list of BLS staffers he believed were Jews at the behest of other aides to Nixon, who claimed a “Jewish cabal” at the agency was conspiring against him. In later years, Malek apologized for his actions.

Malek will lead the board of trustees of the Smithsonian’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

More heat on Manafort

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort and his financial transactions, according to Politico.

The federal and state probers are both looking into potential money laundering, the report said.

Another fireworks display

U.S., Japanese and South Korean warplanes carried out a show of force aimed at North Korea. The president tweeted of negotiations: "Talking is not the answer!"

This was in apparent response to Kim Jung-Un's sending a symbolic missile over Japan earlier in the week.

What else is happening:

  • A Fox News poll finds 56 percent of voters believe Trump is “tearing the country apart” while 33 percent say he’s “drawing the country together.”
  • Slightly more Americans agree than disagree with Trump’s move to raise U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll. But only 28 percent agree with his threat of a government shutdown to force Congress to pay for a Mexican border wall, while 61 percent disagree.
  • It’s unclear what exactly set off this Trump tweet, but he sounded hurt as well as angry: “After reading the false reporting and even ferocious anger in some dying magazines, it makes me wonder, WHY? All I want to do is #MAGA!”
  • Education secretary Betsy DeVos hired a former official of for-profit college DeVry University to run a unit that investigates for-profit college fraud, BuzzFeed reported. Last year, DeVry agreed to a $100 million settlement federal allegations it misled students about their chances of getting a job.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on MSNBC that former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio didn’t deserve a pardon from Trump because he didn’t show contrition over his conviction.
  • With the backing of Ivanka Trump, the White House is halting an Obama-era initiative requiring data from businesses on workers’ pay broken down by gender, race and ethnicity. Her statement said “the proposed policy would not yield the intended results.”

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