His $1.5 trillion stocking stuffer
Donald Trump said the “giant tax cut” that Republicans in Congress are trying to wrap up “will be the greatest Christmas present that a lot of people have ever received.”
But delivery is not yet guaranteed, nor is a holiday cheer from a skeptical public for a bill bursting with sugar plums for the wealthy and corporations.
Trump needs 51 of the 52 GOP senators to vote yes. At least two — Marco Rubio of Florida and Bob Corker of Tennessee — are not on board. Two others — John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of Mississippi — are sidelined for now with health problems. Vice President Mike Pence is delaying a trip to the Mideast. He could be needed as a tiebreaker.
The emerging bill isn’t quite as bad as it could have been for New York taxpayers who itemize deductions. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said the latest version would have a downsized deduction for state and local property, sales and income taxes — only up to $10,000.
Not good enough, said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). “This change really adds nothing to SALT relief for most constituents who are homeowners,” he said. See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.
Leaving guard down on Russia
Trump is enduringly hostile to evidence that Russia interfered in the election and could do so again — so much so that officials bury the details in written intelligence briefings rather than say it out loud for fear it will set him off, The Washington Post reports.
“The president obviously feels ... that the idea that he’s been put into office by Vladimir Putin is pretty insulting,” a senior administration official told the Post.
“If you say ‘Russian interference,’ to him, it’s all about him,” said a senior Republican strategist who has spoken about it with Trump confidants. “He judges everything as about him.”
As a result, the government’s response to a national security threat has been impaired. Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, the Post writes, Trump has sought to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat.
Putin stands up for Trump
Putin stood up for Trump at a Moscow news conference Thursday, saying that Americans who try to “undermine his legitimacy” are “inflicting damage to the country’s domestic political situation” and “showing a lack of respect to voters who cast their ballots for him.”
Putin credited Trump with “serious achievements” since taking office in generating economic confidence — “look at how the markets have grown.” Of allegations of Russian collusion to help Trump get elected, Putin said, “All of this has been invented by people who oppose President Trump.”
King: Bannon-bashing a hit
Long Island’s King said he has gotten a lot of feedback from White House aides after his CNN takedown of Steve Bannon as looking “like some disheveled drunk who wandered onto the political stage.”
“They say, keep it up, let him have it,” said King, who blamed Bannon for leading Republicans to defeat in the Alabama Senate race by backing Roy Moore.
Bannon was scheduled to headline a fundraiser Thursday night for Long Island’s other Republican House member, Lee Zeldin. The location was kept secret to keep protesters and the news media away. See Matthew Chayes’ story for Newsday.
Omarosa: More to the story
Omarosa Manigault Newman — the former “Apprentice” star — said she’s leaving the White House with some not-so-fond memories and hinted of plans for a book with a story “the world will want to hear.”
She insisted to ABC News that she resigned and wasn’t fired, but alluded to clashes with other Trump aides. She said they were jealous of her access to the president.
“I have my story to tell,” Newsman said. “As the only African-American woman in this White House; as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people,” she said.
What else is happening
- The Senate intelligence committee may issue bipartisan recommendations early next year on protecting future elections from foreign tampering while it keeps investigating whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia, The Associated Press reported.
- House oversight committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) rebuffed Democratic demands that the panel investigate sexual misconduct claims against Trump. He passed their request to the Justice Department.
- Trump’s once-overwhelming support among viewers who trust Fox News most is eroding, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from a recent Suffolk University poll. In March, 86% of them viewed Trump favorably. That dipped to 58% in the latest survey.
- The religious right is unhappy that Trump has renominated lesbian activist Chai Feldblum for a third term on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Newsweek reports.
- An Ivanka Trump-branded store is opening in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, selling handbags, jewelry and candles.