Never stop thanks giving
You have to give Donald Trump credit. That’s his rule.
We saw that again last week after three college athletes — arrested in China for shoplifting — got quick tickets home after the president put in a word with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump?” he tweeted impatiently.
They thanked him. “You’re welcome,” typed Trump.
That seemed to be the end of it until ESPN interviewed LaVar Ball — the dad of one of the players — whose self-promoting antics in making himself a celebrity and cashing in have been likened to Trump’s. Ball belittled the president’s role and called the theft charges “a big deal out of nothing.”
Baited, Trump stewed anew on Twitter: “LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!” A follow-up tweet concluded: “Very ungrateful!”
Those turkeys expecting a presidential pardon Tuesday should take careful notes.
Even with public details sparse, the president instantly politicized an attack on two border agents in Texas, one of whom has died, by tweeting: " We will, and must, build the Wall!"
Curiously Trump, who pledged to "bring to justice those responsible," did not use the name of the agent killed on Route 10 in Van Horn, which is Rogelio Martinez, who was 36. Other public officials did so.
Maybe it was just the nature of the incident. Agent Martinez, who'd been on the job since 2013, wasn't famous like LaVar Ball or NFL player Marshawn Lynch, both of whom Trump criticized personally Sunday in separate tweets.
Mandate repeal not mandatory
Trump has been pushing the idea of tacking on to the tax-cut bill a repeal of Obamacare’s mandate requiring most people to have health insurance. But he’s not wedded to it, budget director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday.
“If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of a tax bill . . . that’s great,” Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we’re OK with taking it out.”
The plan by Senate Republicans to include the repeal has met with some resistance from within their ranks. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Janison: Grand illusion?
Critics of the tax code rewrites advancing in Congress say that the populism the Trump administration and Republicans are espousing looks counterfeit, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
The Joint Committee on Taxation — Congress’ official nonpartisan budget analysts — reported that the pending Senate bill would give large tax cuts to millionaires, while raising levies on American families earning $10,000 to $70,000 over 10 years.
As for Trump, one tax expert’s guesstimate is that the president and his heirs could save more than $1 billion over the next decade to come, under the House version.
Lock it up
Trump has refused to release his tax returns, and the Internal Revenue Service is taking an additional step to make sure none of its staffers do any unauthorized snooping: it’s building a safe.
Retiring IRS commissioner John Koskinen told Politico: “It’s in a locked cabinet in a locked room that nobody’s in. You’ll need a key to the room and the cabinet to get it. We’re in the process of turning that cabinet into a safe. We keep all the returns from every president in there.”
Doing less for Moore
Trump is keeping silent on the sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. One White House official said on the Sunday talk shows that there’s a message in the muteness.
“Obviously . . . if he did not believe that the women’s accusations were credible, he would be down campaigning for Roy Moore. He has not done that,” legislative affairs director Marc Short said on ABC’s “This Week.” But Trump also had questions about allegations that were “38 years old” and virtually unprovable, Short said.
Mulvaney, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said the president “doesn’t know who to believe.”
It’s up to the voters of Alabama to decide, they both said.
Mar-a-Lago’s Trumpist transition
Trump may notice a different kind of crowd in the ballrooms of Mar-a-Lago when he visits his Palm Beach resort this week for the first time since April, The Washington Post reports.
Many of the charity groups that used to organize galas there, such as the Red Cross, are gone. The exodus spiked after Trump’s comments on the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Filling the void are Trump’s political allies. Televangelist Pat Robertson started a gala just so he could hold it there.
The center of Palm Beach’s traditional social scene has shifted to a rival club, the Breakers, which Trump once mocked for getting his “leftovers.”
Graveyard for new elephant rule?
After putting on hold a decision to relax a ban on importing elephant-hunting trophies from Africa, Trump tweeted he will decide next week. It sounds like he is leaning toward leaving the prohibition on the pachyderm parts in place.
He tweeted that he “will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”
If Trump sides against the big-game hunters, it would be consistent with past views. When sons Donald Jr. and Eric were called out by Cher in 2012 after posing with their kills, Trump tweeted: “Old story, one of which I publicly disapproved. My sons love hunting, I don’t.”
What else is happening:
- Special Counsel Robert Mueller has requested a wide array of documents from the Justice Department, including e-mails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Session's recusal from the Russia probe.
- Despite hopeful talk to the contrary from inside the White House, a number of experts say Mueller's probe is just starting to gain steam.
- Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a key Republican holdout on the tax bill, wants the Obamacare mandate repeal taken out and says it needs to “skew more of the relief to middle-income taxes.”
- Palestinian officials threatened to suspend all communication with the U.S. if the Trump administration follows through on plans to close their diplomatic office in Washington.
- Sean Spicer, the former Trump press secretary, is unhappy that Washington super-agent Bob Barnett didn’t land him a lucrative TV commentator gig, BuzzFeed reports. He’s got a new agent.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he had no idea that a photo taken by The Associated Press of him and his wife posing with a sheet of newly printed money would go “public.” As for the couple being likened to James Bond villains, Mnuchin said, “I guess I should take that as a compliment.”
- Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the Trump-LaVar Ball feud: “Two people seeking attention and they’re both getting it. I’m sure both guys are really happy.”