Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that President Donald Trump escaped obstruction of justice charges only because of a Justice Department rule barring the indictment of a sitting president.
“I think there’s enough there that any other person who had engaged in those acts would certainly have been indicted,” Clinton said at a TIME magazine event in New York. “But because of the rule in the Justice Department that you can’t indict a sitting president, the whole matter of obstruction was very directly sent to the Congress.”
Clinton’s 2016 electoral defeat was once again thrust in the spotlight on Thursday after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report, which detailed the 22-month probe into Russian interference in the presidential election.
The report said the special counsel found evidence of Russian meddling in the election but said there was insufficient evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Mueller also did not take a stance on whether the president obstructed justice, citing a Watergate-era policy in the Justice Department not to indict a sitting president. Such action would leave the president with no legal recourse to clear his name or protections normally afforded to criminal defendants, according to the report.
“Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment when no charges can be brought,” the report says.
In his report, however, Mueller detailed 10 episodes where Trump tried to interfere with the Russia investigation. He also wrote that Congress has authority to conduct its own investigation of the president’s behavior.
Clinton on Tuesday called for the release of an unredacted version of Mueller’s report to allow lawmakers the information necessary to move forward with a thorough investigation.
In the days since the publication of the report, the question of whether to initiate impeachment proceedings has hung over Democrats. Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday rejected calls to immediately take the politically risky move of launching efforts to oust Trump.
Pelosi’s strategy earned the approval of Clinton, who said impeachment — a drastic move that Democratic leaders worry could cost their party the House in 2020 — should not be fueled by “partisan political purposes.”
“I think her argument was we want to show the American people we take our constitutional responsibilities seriously,” Clinton said.
Like Pelosi, she advocated for a “careful” approach, describing impeachment as something that should be undertaken “in a really serious, diligent way, based on evidence.”
That means giving Congress access to key information. Clinton said she thinks it’s “fully appropriate” for Congress to call upon former White House counsel Don McGahn, who emerged as a central figure in investigations after telling special counsel investigators Trump ordered him to fire Mueller. The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to McGahn on Monday demanding that he testify in public on May 21.
Clinton compared buzz about impeaching Trump to the two most recent congressional pushes to eject sitting U.S. presidents. Clinton had an inside look at both proceedings as the wife of Bill Clinton and as a young staff attorney on Richard Nixon’s impeachment proceedings in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
The failed efforts to oust her husband, initiated in 1998, were nothing but a partisan ploy, Clinton said — a stark contrast with the lengthy and in-depth investigation she described that led to Nixon’s resignation.
The comments from the TIME event marked Clinton’s first public remarks on the Mueller report since its release. The former candidate and secretary of state said she thinks Russian interference “certainly had an impact” on the 2016 election results, but said her priority now is to make sure similar foreign interference does not affect future elections.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) lashed out at the “deep state” Tuesday for excluding him and other senators from a briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
The briefing was limited to a select group of lawmakers, including leaders of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, Foreign Relations Committee and Intelligence Committee.
The meeting comes after bipartisan outrage that Haspel didn’t attend an administration briefing for senators last week on Khashoggi’s killing, which took place at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Turkey earlier this year.
Haspel was also sent to Capitol Hill as part of a bid to stave off a Senate vote on whether to pull U.S. support for Saudi-backed forces in Yemen.
Paul said that the exclusion of most senators was undemocratic and that Haspel should have testified before all senators.
“There are eight people in Congress who get briefings on intelligence,” Paul said. “That is not democracy. That is not democratic representation nor is it democratic oversight.
Paul added that he only heard about the meeting from media reports.
“I think the very definition of the deep state is when the intelligence communities withhold information from Congress,” he said.
As Washington prepared a last hero’s welcome for Sen. John McCain Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump left town.
The Air Force jet carrying the Republican senator’s casket lifted off for the nation’s capital with 200 Arizona National Guard soldiers and airmen on the tarmac paying silent tribute.
Twenty minutes later, a campaign fundraising email hit inboxes.
“The President has promised you he will travel ANYWHERE he needs to go to get real conservative fighters elected,” Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, wrote. “He’ll spend however much we need to win.”
Trump has embraced his outsider bona fides this week while the capital, Republicans and Democrats alike, comes together to pay tribute to a favorite son. The president wasn’t invited to participate in ceremonies for the Arizona Republican, so Thursday night he headed to a campaign rally and fundraiser in Evansville, Indiana. He didn’t mention McCain.
Supporters at the raucous rally didn’t seem to mind that Trump had been snubbed by the McCain family; thousands were lined up around the Ford Center in Evansville hours before Trump even left Washington, according to media reports.
“This whole idea the world should stop for John McCain’s funeral is just a disconnect between the Republican Party and the president’s priorities — including keeping the House and avoiding impeachment — and the D.C. echo chamber,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide who was working for the campaign when the then-candidate took early shots at McCain’s military service.
“It’s not like he did this on Monday,” after McCain died Saturday, Nunberg said. “The world is not going to stop for all eight days that this is going on. It’s ridiculous.”
Republicans close to the White House, however, admit Trump is in a tough spot while Washington mourns McCain. He wasn’t welcome at the remembrances, and his campaign events for Thursday and Friday have been on the books for weeks. Ultimately, whatever Trump does over the next two days, as McCain lies in state at the U.S. Capitol and is buried in Annapolis, Maryland, will come down to how the president feels at the time, they said.
For now, supporters say Trump is being as respectful as the moment requires.
“The flags have been lowered to half-staff, he’s respecting the requests of the family,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said. “I don’t think anybody in the base notices or cares.”
Still, the moods in Washington and Trumpland were markedly different Thursday night.
It was twilight when Trump’s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met Cindy McCain as she disembarked from Air Force Two. A military honor guard took possession of her husband’s remains. A flag covered his casket.
Minutes later, Trump took the stage at the arena in Evansville, where he dismissed the media as “dishonest” and “terrible” people and invited businessman Mike Braun, the Republican challenging Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly in November, onstage.
“It’s not very classy, quite frankly. Of all times, right now holding a political rally and doing a fundraiser just doesn’t seem appropriate,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. “How classy it would have appeared to have canceled this in light of the national mourning and celebration of the life of John McCain.”
“The president, I think, would do better to have stayed put, doing his job quietly, keeping out of the limelight,” Rozell said. “This is McCain’s family time.”
The 11,000-seat area in Indiana was filled to capacity when Trump launched into familiar attacks on the media, revisited his electoral college victory in 2016 and compared his popularity to President Abraham Lincoln’s.
He railed against the “scum” of immigrant gangs that “infest” American communities and fell back on his favorite foil, 2016 Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. “Lock her up!” the crowd chanted.
For Trump’s critics, the night’s events confirmed their distaste for his behavior.
“This is a petty, small, narcissistic man desperate to drag the spotlight back onto him and away from a moment where the memory of John McCain’s service to this country and his example could be something we’re all talking about as a nation,” Republican strategist Rick Wilson said before the rally.
“The people that love Donald Trump hate everyone who isn’t named Donald Trump. They’re going to support him and revel in this,” Wilson said. “His supporters will continue to look at this as the greatest thing ever, and everyone else will look at it with a combination of dismay and disgust.”
Chris Cadelago and Rebecca Morin contributed to this report.
Before I called Bernie Sanders, I lit a candle in my living room and put on some gospel music. I wanted to center myself for what I knew would be an emotional phone call.
I had promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested. I’d had my suspicions from the moment I walked in the door of the DNC a month or so earlier, based on the leaked emails. But who knew if some of them might have been forged? I needed to have solid proof, and so did Bernie.
So I followed the money. My predecessor, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had not been the most active chair in fundraising at a time when President Barack Obama’s neglect had left the party in significant debt. As Hillary’s campaign gained momentum, she resolved the party’s debt and put it on a starvation diet. It had become dependent on her campaign for survival, for which she expected to wield control of its operations.
Debbie was not a good manager. She hadn’t been very interested in controlling the party—she let Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired so she didn’t have to inform the party officers how bad the situation was. How much control Brooklyn had and for how long was still something I had been trying to uncover for the last few weeks.
By September 7, the day I called Bernie, I had found my proof and it broke my heart.
The Saturday morning after the convention in July, I called Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign. He wasted no words. He told me the Democratic Party was broke and $2 million in debt.
“What?” I screamed. “I am an officer of the party and they’ve been telling us everything is fine and they were raising money with no problems.”
That wasn’t true, he said. Officials from Hillary’s campaign had taken a look at the DNC’s books. Obama left the party $24 million in debt—$15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign—and had been paying that off very slowly. Obama’s campaign was not scheduled to pay it off until 2016. Hillary for America (the campaign) and the Hillary Victory Fund (its joint fundraising vehicle with the DNC) had taken care of 80 percent of the remaining debt in 2016, about $10 million, and had placed the party on an allowance.
If I didn’t know about this, I assumed that none of the other officers knew about it, either. That was just Debbie’s way. In my experience she didn’t come to the officers of the DNC for advice and counsel. She seemed to make decisions on her own and let us know at the last minute what she had decided, as she had done when she told us about the hacking only minutes before the Washington Post broke the news.
On the phone Gary told me the DNC had needed a $2 million loan, which the campaign had arranged.
“No! That can’t be true!” I said. “The party cannot take out a loan without the unanimous agreement of all of the officers.”
“Gary, how did they do this without me knowing?” I asked. “I don’t know how Debbie relates to the officers,” Gary said. He described the party as fully under the control of Hillary’s campaign, which seemed to confirm the suspicions of the Bernie camp. The campaign had the DNC on life support, giving it money every month to meet its basic expenses, while the campaign was using the party as a fund-raising clearinghouse. Under FEC law, an individual can contribute a maximum of $2,700 directly to a presidential campaign. But the limits are much higher for contributions to state parties and a party’s national committee.
Individuals who had maxed out their $2,700 contribution limit to the campaign could write an additional check for $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund—that figure represented $10,000 to each of the 32 states’ parties who were part of the Victory Fund agreement—$320,000—and $33,400 to the DNC. The money would be deposited in the states first, and transferred to the DNC shortly after that. Money in the battleground states usually stayed in that state, but all the other states funneled that money directly to the DNC, which quickly transferred the money to Brooklyn.
“Wait,” I said. “That victory fund was supposed to be for whoever was the nominee, and the state party races. You’re telling me that Hillary has been controlling it since before she got the nomination?”
Gary said the campaign had to do it or the party would collapse.
“That was the deal that Robby struck with Debbie,” he explained, referring to campaign manager Robby Mook. “It was to sustain the DNC. We sent the party nearly $20 million from September until the convention, and more to prepare for the election.”
“What’s the burn rate, Gary?” I asked. “How much money do we need every month to fund the party?”
The burn rate was $3.5 million to $4 million a month, he said.
I gasped. I had a pretty good sense of the DNC’s operations after having served as interim chair five years earlier. Back then the monthly expenses were half that. What had happened? The party chair usually shrinks the staff between presidential election campaigns, but Debbie had chosen not to do that. She had stuck lots of consultants on the DNC payroll, and Obama’s consultants were being financed by the DNC, too.
When we hung up, I was livid. Not at Gary, but at this mess I had inherited. I knew that Debbie had outsourced a lot of the management of the party and had not been the greatest at fundraising. I would not be that kind of chair, even if I was only an interim chair. Did they think I would just be a surrogate for them, get on the road and rouse up the crowds? I was going to manage this party the best I could and try to make it better, even if Brooklyn did not like this. It would be weeks before I would fully understand the financial shenanigans that were keeping the party on life support.
Right around the time of the convention, the leaked emails revealed Hillary’s campaign was grabbing money from the state parties for its own purposes, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races. A Politicostory published on May 2, 2016, described the big fund-raising vehicle she had launched through the states the summer before, quoting a vow she had made to rebuild “the party from the ground up … when our state parties are strong, we win. That’s what will happen.”
Yet the states kept less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed from the extravagant fund-raisers Hillary’s campaign was holding, just as Gary had described to me when he and I talked in August. When the Politicostory described this arrangement as “essentially … money laundering” for the Clinton campaign, Hillary’s people were outraged at being accused of doing something shady. Bernie’s people were angry for their own reasons, saying this was part of a calculated strategy to throw the nomination to Hillary.
I wanted to believe Hillary, who made campaign finance reform part of her platform, but I had made this pledge to Bernie and did not want to disappoint him. I kept asking the party lawyers and the DNC staff to show me the agreements that the party had made for sharing the money they raised, but there was a lot of shuffling of feet and looking the other way.
When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.
The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.
I had been wondering why it was that I couldn’t write a press release without passing it by Brooklyn. Well, here was the answer.
When the party chooses the nominee, the custom is that the candidate’s team starts to exercise more control over the party. If the party has an incumbent candidate, as was the case with Clinton in 1996 or Obama in 2012, this kind of arrangement is seamless because the party already is under the control of the president. When you have an open contest without an incumbent and competitive primaries, the party comes under the candidate’s control only after the nominee is certain. When I was manager of Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, we started inserting our people into the DNC in June. This victory fund agreement, however, had been signed in August 2015, just four months after Hillary announced her candidacy and nearly a year before she officially had the nomination.
I had tried to search out any other evidence of internal corruption that would show that the DNC was rigging the system to throw the primary to Hillary, but I could not find any in party affairs or among the staff. I had gone department by department, investigating individual conduct for evidence of skewed decisions, and I was happy to see that I had found none. Then I found this agreement.
The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.
I had to keep my promise to Bernie. I was in agony as I dialed him. Keeping this secret was against everything that I stood for, all that I valued as a woman and as a public servant.
“Hello, senator. I’ve completed my review of the DNC and I did find the cancer,” I said. “But I will not kill the patient.”
I discussed the fundraising agreement that each of the candidates had signed. Bernie was familiar with it, but he and his staff ignored it. They had their own way of raising money through small donations. I described how Hillary’s campaign had taken it another step.
I told Bernie I had found Hillary’s Joint Fundraising Agreement. I explained that the cancer was that she had exerted this control of the party long before she became its nominee. Had I known this, I never would have accepted the interim chair position, but here we were with only weeks before the election.
Bernie took this stoically. He did not yell or express outrage. Instead he asked me what I thought Hillary’s chances were. The polls were unanimous in her winning but what, he wanted to know, was my own assessment?
I had to be frank with him. I did not trust the polls, I said. I told him I had visited states around the country and I found a lack of enthusiasm for her everywhere. I was concerned about the Obama coalition and about millennials.
I urged Bernie to work as hard as he could to bring his supporters into the fold with Hillary, and to campaign with all the heart and hope he could muster. He might find some of her positions too centrist, and her coziness with the financial elites distasteful, but he knew and I knew that the alternative was a person who would put the very future of the country in peril. I knew he heard me. I knew he agreed with me, but I never in my life had felt so tiny and powerless as I did making that call.
When I hung up the call to Bernie, I started to cry, not out of guilt, but out of anger. We would go forward. We had to.
(CNN)Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper have entertained the idea of forming a unity presidential ticket to run for the White House in 2020, a source involved the discussions tells CNN.
Under this scenario, Kasich, a Republican, and Hickenlooper, a Democrat, would run as independents with Kasich at the top of the ticket, said the source, who cautioned it has only been casually talked about.
“The idea of a joint ticket has been discussed, but not at an organizational or planning level,” said the source, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “What they are trying to show the country is that honorable people can disagree, but you can still problem solve together. It happens in businesses and it happens in families. Why can’t it happen in Washington?”
News of the discussions was first reported by Axios.
In early August, Hickenlooper didn’t lend much credence to rumblings of a unity ticket, telling Politico: “I don’t think Kasich would ever do that. … I don’t think it’s in the cards. But I do like the idea of working with him in some context at some point.”
Kasich and Hickenlooper are working together on major policy issues such as healthcare and immigration — a rare, bipartisan alliance at a time of deep seeded acrimony between the two political parties.
The next steps for the two governors will be more policy than politically focused.
“Watch on the policy front as they expand beyond healthcare and also include other governors into the coalition,” said the source.
CNN has reached out to both Kasich and Hickenlooper for comment.
CNN’s Miranda Green contributed to this report
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GOP Senator Marco Rubio of Florida blasted left-leaning media, Politico, which published an article commenting that he was tweeting “the most Republican part of the bible,” referring to his use of verses from the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament.
“Proverbs is the Republican part of the bible? I don’t think Solomon had yet joined the GOP when he wrote the first 29 chapters of Proverbs,” Rubio wrote, after an article in Politico said, “Each day, the Florida senator is quoting a verse from Proverbs, the GOP’s favorite part of the book.”
The article couldn’t stop Rubio from quoting Proverbs.
Hours after commenting on the Politico article, the senator’s tweet read, “Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well. Proverbs 10:19.”
The article quoted Rubio’s tweet from last month: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11.”
The author, Joel B. Baden, professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, wrote that the senator had been tweeting bible verses since May 16.
“He has tweeted a biblical verse almost every day since then. Almost all of them come from the Old Testament, and specifically the book of Proverbs,” Baden wrote, remarking that “Proverbs is probably the most Republican book of the entire Bible.”
The author said other Republicans also like to quote Proverbs, citing Ben Carson as an example.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Carson “compared himself favorably to the blustery style of then-candidate Donald Trump by quoting Proverbs 22:4: ‘By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.'”
Gerald Ford’s favorite Bible passage was Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust wholeheartedly in Yahweh [the Lord], put no faith in your own perception; in every course you take, have him in mind: He will see that your paths are smooth,” Baden added. “Ford repeated this when he served in the Navy during World War II, throughout his presidency and in his swearing-in.”
President Trump also likes the idea of Proverbs, the author went on to say, quoting from a September 2015 interview on CBN. Trump claimed in that interview that some of his most appreciated verses were from Proverbs, however, he said his favorite verse in Proverbs was “never bend to envy,” which doesn’t appear in Proverbs or anywhere else in the Bible.
“There is surely nothing wrong with a politician turning to the Bible for spiritual, ethical and moral guidance,” Baden wrote. “The Bible is the foundational text of Western civilization, after all. But concentrating exclusively on the parts of it that affirm one’s own perspective is a form of confirmation bias.”
Baden suggested Rubio should read and tweet from Ecclesiastes or from Prophet’s such as Amos: “Because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of stone — but you shall not live in them” (Amos 5:11).
The author also quoted Leviticus 19:33–34, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself.”
When Rubio first started posting Bible verses to Twitter, there were some negative reactions, which Rubio described as a “Twitter freak out.” One political blogger called the Bible verses “oddly terrifying.”
I have a plan to dunk a basketball. First, I’ll grow a foot taller. Next, I’ll recapture the athleticism of my youth, so I can jump a lot higher. I didn’t say I had a serious plan—just a plan.
Today, the Trump administration released a plan to balance the federal budget over the next decade, and it’s no more plausible than my plan to become LeBron James. It does reveal the administration’s fiscal priorities, like deep cuts in spending on the less fortunate and the environment, no cuts to Medicare or Social Security retirement benefits, steady increases in spending on the military and the border, and an abiding faith in the restorative miracles of tax cuts for corporations and well-off families. But its claim to a balanced bottom line is based on a variety of heroic assumptions and hide-the-ball evasions, obscuring trillions of dollars’ worth of debt that it could pile onto America’s credit card.
Budget proposals always involve some guesswork into the unknowable, and administrations routinely massage numbers to their political advantage. But this proposal is unusually brazen in its defiance of basic math, and in its accounting discrepancies amounting to trillions-with-a-t rather than mere millions or billions. One maneuver in President Donald Trump’s budget arguably waves away an estimated $5.5 trillion in additions to the national debt from tax cuts, nearly $20,000 for every American alive today, enough to fund the Environmental Protection Agency at current spending levels for nearly 700 years. Trump critics in the budget-wonk world are pointing to another $2 trillion of red ink as a blatant math error—or, less charitably, as an Enron-style accounting fraud.
Numbers that huge tend to melt into abstraction. And the media will help downplay them by declaring the Trump budget dead on arrival in Congress, as if the fact that it won’t be rubber-stamped into law means that nothing in it matters. But a presidential budget is a detailed blueprint for governing—and in this case, the blueprint has a fair amount in common with blueprints offered by the Republicans who still control Congress. It matters for policy and it matters for politics.
It also matters that Trump’s numbers don’t add up. Whether or not you agree with the Tea Party philosophy behind the numbers, Trump and his hard-driving budget director, Mick Mulvaney, deserve credit for backing up their limited-government rhetoric by proposing $3.6 trillion in spending cuts, including politically courageous cuts in farm subsidies, rural development programs and other benefits geared toward Trump’s base. But they do not deserve credit for their aspirations to balance the budget, any more than I deserve credit for my aspirations to dunk. Budgets hinge on assumptions about taxes, spending and economic growth, and the Trump budget plays fast and loose with all three to try to achieve the illusion of balance, relying heavily on spectacular growth assumptions as well as vague and unrealistic promises to eliminate tax breaks and additional spending programs that go conveniently unnamed in the text. It proclaims that “we have borrowed from our children and their future for far too long,” but it is a blueprint for far more borrowing and far more debt.
Ultimately, the Trump budget reads like a corporate prospectus for a shady widget manufacturer who claims that cutting widget prices will spark a massive surge in widget sales, while also promising major cutbacks in ineffective widget salesmen and unnecessary widget costs. It doesn’t pencil out. And it’s worth understanding the main reasons it doesn’t pencil out, because soon Republicans in Congress will get to use their own pencils.
The Growth Spurt: Economic growth is as vital to balancing budgets as physical growth is to dunking basketballs. A booming economy means more tax revenue flowing into Washington, because workers have more income and corporations have more profits; and less federal spending flowing out of Washington, because fewer unemployed workers and poor families need the government safety net. “Economic growth,” Mulvaney recently said, “solves all our problems.”
So the Trump budget simply stipulates terrific economic growth. Specifically, it assumes the U.S. economy will expand an average of 3 percent per year over the next decade, more than 1 percentage point higher than the Congressional Budget Office assumes. And it uses that assumption to chop about $3 trillion off the 10-year deficit. “Everything is keyed to getting us back to 3 percent,” Mulvaney said Monday.
Terrific economic growth would be a terrific thing, and we should all hope for a recession-free decade of nonstop boom. But in the budgeting world, diverging that dramatically from the official forecasts is essentially cheating. President Barack Obama’s growth forecasts sometimes slightly overshot the CBO’s, but Trump’s gap with the CBO is nearly three times as large as Obama ever had in eight years. The U.S. economy hasn’t grown at a 3 percent rate for two consecutive years since 2000, which, not coincidentally, was when President Bill Clinton’s last budget balanced.
Trump aides say it makes sense to assume 3 percent growth, since it’s at the heart of the president’s promises to make America great again. Mulvaney calls it the guiding principle of Trumponomics, a rejection of the pessimistic notion that 2 percent is as good as it gets; he suggested yesterday that he probably should have assumed a more aggressive baseline of 3.5 percent or 4 percent growth, because 3 percent should merely be seen as normal. “Honestly, we have aspirations to do better,” one senior OMB official told me.
But 3 percent isn’t just something that will happen automatically, especially at a time when the population is aging, immigration is slowing and productivity is lagging. The Trump budget does not go into great detail justifying its growth assumptions, other than to suggest that rolling back onerous regulations and promoting domestic energy development will help the good times roll. It also suggests that one of the keys to the Trump boom will be tax reform, which happens to be the next area where its math gets fuzzy.
The Tax Dodge: So far, Trump has unveiled only a one-page summary of his tax reform principles, not tax reform legislation. Nevertheless, his budget “assumes deficit-neutral tax reform,” which is a bit like the old joke about the economist on a desert island who assumes a can opener. Trump’s tax reform principles, which he repeats on Page 13 of his budget, do not look deficit-neutral at all. Groups like the Tax Foundation, the Tax Policy Center and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have estimated that they would add between $4 trillion and $6 trillion to the debt.
That’s because Trump’s principles look like they’re more about tax cuts than real tax reform. His budget proposes lower individual tax rates, lower corporate tax rates, lower investment tax rates, an end to the alternative minimum tax, an end to the estate tax and other tax relief. Its only proposal to offset the cost of those tax cuts is a vague pledge to “eliminate most special interest tax breaks,” but it specifies that tax breaks for mortgage interest, charitable gifts and retirement savings wouldn’t be included, while failing to specify the tax breaks that would be included.
The implication is that the tax cuts would stimulate so much additional economic growth that they would pay for themselves, a supply-side economic theory that has not worked out in practice. President George W. Bush’s tax cuts helped turn Clinton’s surpluses into gaping deficits; the state of Kansas recently had a similar experience of sizable tax cuts creating sizable budget shortfalls. Even the conservative Tax Foundation calculated that the growth effects from Trump’s proposed tax cuts would recoup less than one-third of the lost revenues.
The senior OMB official told me those nonpartisan analysts are all jumping the gun, because the administration really does intend to propose tax increases large enough to offset the tax cuts it has already proposed. It just hasn’t decided which loopholes and deductions it wants to close, so it didn’t mention them in its budget. “What the budget is saying is that tax reform will be paid for,” the official said. “There’s a large conversation to be had about how we’re going to do it.”
But the Trump budget doesn’t just assume that tax reform will pay for itself; it also predicts that the economic growth produced by tax reform will help pay for the rest of his budget, an additional $2.1 trillion windfall.
Budget wonks have seized on this as a classic case of double-counting, presuming that the administration was already relying on that growth to make tax reform deficit-neutral in the first place. That would be like proposing to deposit a $20 bill that you’re not even sure is yours in two separate bank accounts, except with 11 extra zeroes at the end of the bill. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers called it “the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.”
Mulvaney ducked the issue Monday, suggesting that the administration doesn’t yet have enough details in its tax plans to provide more accurate accounting.But the other senior OMB official told me the double-counting accusations are wrong, because the budget assumes tax reform will be deficit-neutral without taking growth into account.
In that case, though, a Republican administration is counting on unspecified tax increases to convert a plan that independent analysts believe will cost about $5.5 trillion in its current form into a plan that will cost nothing at all, and would somehow end up producing $2 trillion worth of deficit reduction through growth. It’s conceivable, but it would be more plausible if the budget had disclosed even one of those potential tax increases. It would back up Mulvaney’s rhetoric about “how important it was and is to this president to try and bring some fiscal discipline.”
The Two-Penny Opera: The Trump budget isn’t really about fiscal discipline, but it does have real elements of spending discipline. It includes more than $600 billion worth of Medicaid cuts on top of the more than $800 billion of cuts in the Republican health care bill that just passed the House. It would eliminate rural housing loans, home heating aid for the poor, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and dozens of other line items. It would slash funding for climate science, foreign aid, medical research, Social Security disability and food stamps. It would boost spending for the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs for 2018, but it would cut the budget of every other Cabinet department.
Congress probably won’t embrace most of those cuts, but they’re specific proposals for cuts that would move the federal budget toward balance. That said, the largest chunk of Trump’s proposed spending reductions come from a non-specific and even less realistic “two-penny plan,” which would reduce nondefense discretionary spending by an additional 2 percent every year. That’s hard to fathom, because nondefense discretionary spending—which includes the FBI, the EPA, NASA and almost every other federal dollar that doesn’t go to the Pentagon or entitlements—is already at its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower years. Trump is proposing to cut it by about one-third over a decade, a total of $182 billion by 2027, while continuing to boost the parts of it (like border security) that he likes. He wants to start in 2018 by eliminating agencies like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers, but he wouldn’t be able to re-eliminate them in the out years; he’d have to find new targets for cuts.
The OMB official told me that his agency has already begun a review of the entire federal bureaucracy with an eye to eliminating inefficiencies, and that it expects to have a streamlining strategy in place by next year to follow through with the two-penny plan. But even many Republicans who hold the purse strings in Congress are unenthusiastic about slicing billions of dollars out of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control or the State Department.
“Give me a break,” one congressional Republican appropriator told me. “A lot of the discretionary spending is already squeezed. You can’t get blood from a stone.”
It is tempting to dismiss the Trump budget because so much of it seems unlikely to become law, but it’s still a revealing window into the administration’s priorities. And just because a budget is declared “dead on arrival” does not mean it won’t influence the budget that eventually emerges on Capitol Hill; Trump’s budget may envision larger cuts than Republican leaders want, but it reflects many of the priorities that House Speaker Paul Ryan has included in his budgets in the past. It ought to be taken seriously if not quite literally, to borrow the cliché about Trump.
It just shouldn’t be taken as evidence of fiscal rectitude or a deep aversion to debt, which isn’t really what Trump is about. It looks more like a plan to cut taxes for the rich and spending on the poor, while covering up the effect on the debt by flagrantly violating Washington norms. And that’s exactly what Trump is about.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS!) (How can anyone stomach this pampas ass any further?)
Republican women are done with Trump
Tape of the GOP nominee boasting about sexual assault has officials deserting him in droves.
Republican women are abandoning Donald Trump in a historic repudiation of their party’s nominee, a devastating development for the GOP candidate’s chances one month before Election Day.
Trump’s lewd, sexually aggressive comments about women, revealed in a 2005 audio recording that became public Friday, have prompted large-scale defections, from female Republican senators to conservative activists in the swing states. That dynamic further jeopardizes his chances with women voters, including white, married voters who typically back Republicans. After nearly two years of listening to Trump denigrate women — including Fox News host Megyn Kelly, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Heidi Cruz and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado — Republican women have had enough.
A mass desertion by white, married women would effectively torpedo Trump’s chances of defeating Hillary Clinton. That demographic has been a core part of every Republican nominee’s constituency this century — Mitt Romney and John McCain won 53 percent of married women, and still lost the election — meaning that Trump, who struggles far more with party unity than previous nominees have, has even less room for error. But he is already losing badly with women overall, and Friday’s bombshell threatens to set him back further with women of all marital statuses.
High-profile Republican women over the weekend made clear that they have zero interest in helping Trump regain his footing, instead offering cover to other lawmakers looking to abandon Trump.
“I wanted to be able to support my party’s nominee, chosen by the people, because I feel strongly that we need a change in direction for our country,” said New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is in a competitive re-election fight in a key swing state. “However, I’m a mom and an American first, and I cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women.”
Ayotte will be writing in Trump running mate Mike Pence, she said. New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn backed her up, saying in a statement, “there will be no repercussions from the party directed at those who choose not to support Donald Trump.”
One particularly notable defection: Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who is perhaps Trump’s most prominent female defender in the Senate.
“The comments made by Mr. Trump were disgusting and totally unacceptable under any circumstance,” she tweeted. “It would be wise for him to step aside and allow Mike Pence to serve as our party’s nominee.”
Fiorina, once a target of Trump’s trash talk — “look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” he mocked during the primary — released a statement Saturday asking the Republican National Committee to replace Trump with Pence.
“Donald Trump does not represent me or my party,” she said. “I understand the responsibility of Republicans to support their nominee. Our nominee has weighty responsibilities as well. Donald Trump has manifestly failed in these responsibilities.”
In perhaps the most explosive moment to date in a campaign that has already been littered with shocking developments, an audio recording of a hot mic moment from 2005, first reported by the Washington Post, captures Trump bragging about groping women, without their consent.
“I don’t even wait,” he said. “And when you’re a star they let you do it…Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
In a sign of how toxic Republicans expect this remark to be in swing states, Rep. Barbara Comstock, who faces a competitive race in her moderate northern Virginia district, was among the first lawmakers to urge Trump to exit the race. But it’s not just Republican women from moderate states: Rep. Martha Roby, from deep-red Alabama, also called on Trump to get out of the race in a statement Saturday morning.
“Donald Trump’s behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president, and I won’t vote for him,” she tweeted.
And West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, whose state is a Trump stronghold, said, “the appropriate next step may be for him to reexamine his candidacy.” Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) was one of several members of the Utah delegation to call on Trump to exit the race. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) did the same.
Such high-profile Republican rebukes come as early and absentee voting has already gotten underway in some key states, making it all the more difficult for Trump to regain his footing.
“Yesterday made me even more sick,” said Heidi Wixom, a Republican activist in Nevada. “It was kind of like, ‘Oh great, we’ve got Bill Clinton all over again,’ except Bill Clinton had class, intelligence about working with policy, so we could overlook a lot of things. But with Trump, how do you overlook this when he’s already a buffoon to start with? He doesn’t have any redeeming qualities for me, he doesn’t.”
But for all of her concerns about Trump, before Friday’s development, she had been slowly starting to consider whether she could hold her nose and vote for him. No more.
“I was starting to say, OK, I’m looking more at party policy, looking at vice presidential candidates, looking at the realities of the Supreme Court nominees,” said Wixom, who is involved in the Mormon community, which has emerged as an anti-Trump bastion. “I was just starting to say, ‘OK, I think I can go for this man because of all of the above.’ But now I’m back to, wow, what do I do now? I really cannot stomach this.”
Across the country, it’s the same story with center-right women in Pennsylvania, who were, most recently, deeply troubled by Trump’s Twitter assaults—barely more than a week ago—on Machado, the Miss Universe winner who has emerged as a Trump critic. The audio only compounds their distaste for Trump.
“Obviously it does not play well with those people who have either not made their decisions, or maybe tentatively were supporting,” said Leslie Gromis Baker, a former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Corbett (R-Pa.) who lives in the Pittsburgh suburbs. “I think this would have a major impact on them. I’m not saying they’re going to support Hillary Clinton, but I think they’re going to have a very difficult time supporting Donald Trump.”
Kristen Mayock, who served as a Republican area chair for nearly a decade in the Philadelphia suburbs, told POLITICO last weekend that Trump “has made some statements that have been concerning for those of us who call ourselves feminists,” and added that he was struggling in Chester County, a key, usually Republican-leaning collar county, especially compared to Mitt Romney.
In an email Saturday, she made clear where her focus is: “Trump’s comments are simply indefensible,” said Mayock, who is based in Chester County, a typically Republican-leaning collar county of Philadelphia. “I am hopeful that our intelligent voters in the county recognize that we have some incredibly qualified and dedicated candidates running down ticket.”
Trump’s challenge in wealthier, well-educated places like Chester County is fueled by his longtime struggles with women, particularly college-educated women, including those who usually vote Republican. One high-ranking Republican official from the county remarked, “I would’ve thought 70 percent unfavorable is as bad as it can get. But this may bump it up a bit more.”
Alex Smith, the first female president of the College Republican National Committee, tweeted, “The Party of Lincoln is not a locker room, and there is no place for people who think it is. Definitely not with her, but not with him.”
A high-ranking New Hampshire Republican said that in her state, the Trump remarks are disastrous with women.
“This just confirms the concerns that those women had all along,” the source said. “It’s worse, but it’s not unsuspected. And it’s not just center-right women. In New Hampshire we really have to worry about independent voters, no one wins New Hampshire without the independent vote…I think this just confirms it for these people who have had concerns, it’s what they suspected all along.”
Said one conservative female operative: “I think every one of these comments he makes about women is disturbing enough, but the magnitude over a period is just too much.”
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.
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