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On Tax Day, most withhold applause for Trump cuts

President Donald Trump Monday during a roundtable on

President Donald Trump Monday during a roundtable on the economy at a trucking and equipment dealership in Burnsville, Minn. Photo Credit: EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock / Craig Lassig

Not feeling it

Donald Trump hit the road on Monday, the deadline for 2018 income tax returns, to sell the virtues of the tax overhaul he rammed through Congress in the first year of his presidency. "We promised these tax cuts would be rocket fuel for the American economy and we were absolutely right," he said at a Minnesota trucking company.

Unfortunately for Trump and Republicans who want to run on the issue in 2020, multiple polls show a majority of Americans don’t think they personally got a tax cut at all, while only about one-fifth believe they did.

Independent analyses show that typically, most actually did pay less, Politico reports. But a reason many taxpayers aren't seeing dramatic boosts in their refunds now is because the government lowered withholding rates last year.

More accurate is the widespread belief that the biggest tax breaks went to the wealthy and corporations. Bloomberg News reports an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found the top 1 percent are projected to receive an average reduction of $62,000 for 2018, while the middle one-fifth of income earners got an average tax cut of $1,090. (Of course, how Trump fared will remain secret unless Democrats in Congress get their hands on his returns.)

There's also a divide between Trump country and the rest of the country. According to H&R Block data on its filers reported by CNN, the 10 states with the largest increase in refunds were all red, but the 10 states with the largest decrease in refunds were all blue, including New York.

But for some higher-income taxpayers in high-tax states who feared they would get soaked because of caps on state and local tax deductions, there was offsetting relief in lower overall rates. Also, fewer had to pay the alternative minimum tax. Newsday's Michael Gormley reports that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a strong critic of Trump's tax law, ran up against the cap, but his returns show he was taxed at 18.5 percent in 2018 for federal purposes, down from 19.6 percent the year before.

Perhaps Trump could make a stronger sale to the general public if he went door-knocking like Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin did in the Hamptons last summer, advising billionaires gathered at the home of developer Richard LeFrak on how to use the new tax law to save a fortune in capital gains taxes by investing in opportunity zones.

Countdown to Mueller time

The Justice Department announced it expects to make public and give to Congress a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on the Russia investigation on Thursday morning.

The release will come nearly a month after Mueller sent it to Attorney General William Barr, and as Congress will be in a recess overlapping with the Easter and Passover holidays. Trump's lawyers plan to issue a rebuttal. The president, on Twitter Monday, had his usual complaint: 

“The Mueller Report, which was written by 18 Angry Democrats who also happen to be Trump Haters (and Clinton Supporters), should have focused on the people who SPIED on my 2016 Campaign, and others who fabricated the whole Russia Hoax."

For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Migrant migraine? Cher the pain

Trump suggested Monday that he intends to go through with his threat to ship migrants to so-called sanctuary cities. There was no explanation or clarification from the White House or the Department of Homeland Security, which has questioned whether such a plan is feasible.

"Those Illegal Immigrants who can no longer be legally held (Congress must fix the laws and loopholes) will be, subject to Homeland Security, given to Sanctuary Cities and States!" Trump tweeted.

The Democratic chairs of three House committees launched an investigation into the plan, saying "it is shocking that the President and senior Administration officials are even considering manipulating release decisions for purely political reasons."

Trump praised a tweet by Cher questioning how Los Angeles could absorb more migrants when it "isn't taking care of its own" — the homeless and people in poverty. "I finally agree with @Cher!" Trump tweeted. The diva and outspoken liberal is known for her scathing anti-Trump tweets and comments, some of them unprintable here.

Janison: Myths of sanctuary cities

The phrase "sanctuary cities" is misleading, suggesting immigrants to the United States without papers can move to New York City, San Francisco or Los Angeles and assume the rights of citizens, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

What those places have done is raise the procedural bars that ICE must clear for cooperation — for example, to grab persons without documentation in local custody. It hasn't shut down ICE enforcement. 

One rationale is that it's better for everyone if immigrants lacking legal status can go to the police without fear it will get them deported, as a former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, once explained: “If we didn’t allow illegals to report crimes, a lot of criminals would have gone free because they’re the ones who had the information."

A harrumph from Trump

Trump was sounding just a tad jealous when he complained on Twitter about a CBS "60 Minutes" segment on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Such a 'puff piece' on Nancy Pelosi by @60minutes, yet her leadership has passed no meaningful Legislation," Trump wrote in a tweet. Pelosi tweeted back: "Thanks for watching! We will continue to do our work #ForThePeople."

Trump followed up with a swipe at Pelosi, who has called on the president to desist from his 9/11-themed attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). "She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!" Trump said of Omar. The New York Times writes the episode is a return to a past Trump theme of stirring up fear of Muslims.

Toweringly infernal

As a self-styled expert on so many subjects, Trump has plenty of opinions on how to fight fires, whether in the California forests or the capital of France. So while the blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris raged out of control, Trump tweeted this unsolicited advice: "Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!"

The French Civil Security agency tweeted a response to Trump's suggestion in English: "All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral."

Former President Barack Obama's statement was relatively normal: "Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost — but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can."

What else is happening:

  • Trump also had advice for Boeing on the future of its troubled 737 Max airliner. "If I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?”
  • Trump's re-election campaign raised more than $30 million in the first fundraising quarter of 2019. He has enormous financial head start over the crowded field of Democrats jockeying to run against him next years, CNN reports.
  • Bernie Sanders released tax returns showing he earned $1 million-plus in 2016 and 2017, largely due to sales of his 2016 book, "Our Revolution."
  • James Murdoch, the son of conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, donated $2,800 to Democrat Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, CNN reported. James doesn't share the politics of his father or his brother, Lachlan, who runs Fox News.
  • Michele Bachmann, a former tea party Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, said of Trump: “He is highly biblical and we will in all likelihood never see a more godly, biblical president again in our lifetime." 
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld announced an extremely long-shot challenge to Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination. “It is time to return to the principles of Lincoln — equality, dignity and opportunity for all,” Weld said.
  • Trump announced via tweet Monday that he will award Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom after his Sunday win at the Masters "because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE."
  • The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has opened an investigation into ethics complaints against the agency’s newly installed secretary, former lobbyist David Bernhardt, who was confirmed last week, The New York Times reported.

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