Kevin Brady is just looking out for the little guy.
By Alex Wong/Getty Images.
Donald Trump broke with many norms while running for president—for instance, candidates don’t usually boast that they could murder someone in broad daylight and not lose any voters; or accuse their opponent’s father of palling around with J.F.K.’s assassin; or tell Americans to check out a sex tape. In addition, you may recall, Trump refused to release his tax returns, claiming that a routine audit prevented him from doing so (fact-check: false), and promising, repeatedly, that the public could see them just as soon as the I.R.S. wrapped things up. Shortly after he took office, however, the White House began to shift its line from just as soon as the audit is over to no one cares about the president’s tax returns to um, obviously those things will never see the light of day. That Trump will not release documents that 1) presidential candidates have disclosed for 40 years, and 2) could answer a number of questions about where his loyalties lie and whether he’s a criminal took on extra meaning this week, given that on Monday Democrats announced they’ll go after the documents if midterms go their way, and on Tuesday The New York Times published a 14,000-word story alleging that Trump’s family has been evading—or outright dodging—taxes for decades, using schemes that experts say appear to have gone “well beyond what the law permits.”
Unsurprisingly, in the wake of the Times investigation, Democrats renewed their calls for transparency, with Representative Richard Neal telling The Wall Street Journal his party would use the authority of the Ways and Means Committee to commandeer a taxpayer’s records for confidential review—something that can be done without full approval from the House and Senate. And Republicans are having none of such talk. “This is dangerous,” an incensed Representative Kevin Brady tweeted Thursday. “Once Democrats abuse this law to make public @realDonaldTrump tax returns, what stops them from prying/making public YOUR tax returns for political reasons?” For good, fear monger-y measure, he concluded by hashtag-ing “#AbuseofPower” and “#EnemiesList.”
And, sure, Democrats could go after your tax returns for political reasons, but that would probably require you to be a sitting president who’s refused to release them on your own, and who’s been accused of “outright” tax fraud based on an investigation by The New York Times. If that describes you, you might have reason to worry! On the other hand, Congress has had this power for nearly 100 years and has not seen fit to “abuse” ordinary Americans with it it for political gain. One time it was used? In 1974, when Congress investigated Richard Nixon’s returns and determined that he was, in fact, a crook. But we’re sure that’s totally not what Brady & Co. are worried about here.
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Area C.E.O. has totally learned his lesson about not tweeting things that could get him in hot water
Just messing with you—of course he’s done nothing of the sort:
Ahead of the finalization of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that would have ended a months-long ordeal involving his botched attempt to take his company private, Tesla C.E.O. Elon Musk tweeted an insult about the government regulator.
A little more than 15 minutes after U.S. stocks ended trading [on] Thursday, Musk tweeted, “Just want to [sic] that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!”
The dig comes less than a week after the embattled technology billionaire pulled out of a settlement with the S.E.C., then was sued, and then agreed to a harsher settlement with the stock-market regulator over an August tweet about having the funding necessary to take his company private. That tweet, in which said he was considering taking Tesla private at a price of $420 a share, sent the stock rocketing. Later, it was revealed that Musk had no such funding sources in place and would not be taking the company off the public market.
As BuzzFeed News points out, the agreement with the S.E.C. includes a promise by Tesla to “put in place additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk’s communications,” though perhaps the soon-to-be former chairman was just getting one last unsupervised tweet in before the settlement is finalized.
Surprise: Lindsey Graham is a shameless worm on multiple fronts
Would it surprise you to hear that the senator from South Carolina—the one who put on a big, dramatic show about how unfair the Democrats are being by not confirming Brett Kavanaugh, after he blocked Merrick Garland for political reasons; and who wrote in his memoir that sexual assault survivors often repress their memories as a coping mechanism, but went on to defend Trump’s mockery of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford—also publicly praised the president’s tariffs while . . . privately helping companies avoid them?
“I’m very pleased and supportive of President Trump’s efforts to push back against China’s intellectual property theft, dumping, and other unfair trade practices,” Mr. Graham said in a news release in March, when the president announced a first wave of tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports. After Mr. Trump met in June with Republicans concerned over his trade policies, Mr. Graham released another statement. “Now is not the time to undercut President Trump’s ability to negotiate better trade deals,” he said. “I will not support any efforts that weaken his position.”
But behind the scenes, Mr. Graham has been working to help chemical and textile companies in his home state avoid the pain of Mr. Trump’s trade war. The senator has advocated on behalf of seven South Carolina companies that import products from China, writing letters urging the Trump administration to remove materials they rely on from a list of goods subject to Mr. Trump’s tariffs. Mr. Trump’s tariffs, Mr. Graham told the administration, could “economically harm consumers and stifle economic growth in South Carolina.”
In a statement, spokesman Kevin Bishop told the Times: “Only a fool would not know that Lindsey Graham fights tooth and nail for business in South Carolina. He takes great pride in standing up for working men and women in our state, and that’s never going to stop.” Just, y’know, not in a way that would make his highly temperamental golf buddy upset with him.
Mike Pence can’t believe China would hit the U.S. where it hurts
Something you may have noticed over the past 20 months is that the Trump administration is not super quick on the uptake. That might explain why the president, and now his vice president, has taken to claiming that Beijing‘s decision to impose retaliatory tariffs on goods affecting Trump voters is some kind of evidence of election meddling, rather than an obvious tactical response to Trump’s decision to impose levies on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, with daily threats for more. Per Politico:
Mike Pence on Thursday accused China of trying to undermine President Donald Trump through a variety of tactics, including targeted tariffs on Trump supporters and well-placed propaganda meant to exploit “wedge issues.”
“To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working; China wants a different American president,” Pence said during a speech at the Hudson Institute . . . He noted that tariffs Beijing has imposed in response to Trump’s initial tariffs on China “specifically targeted industries and states that would play an important role in the 2018 election.”
You know who else has imposed tariffs on politically important areas in response to the administration’s trade policies? Literally everyone, including American allies like the E.U. and Canada. Earth to the White House: it wouldn’t be very effective for countries to hit back with tariffs that no one gave a s–t about! Perhaps Marlon Bundo can explain it to you guys.
The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies (Bloomberg)
Danske Bank Under Criminal Investigation by U.S. Justice Department (W.S.J.)
Trump Adviser Kudlow Says President Not Trying to Exert Pressure on Fed (W.S.J.)
Dan Loeb demands access to records from Campbell Soup (Reuters)
Meet Morgan Stanley’s chief cartoonist (Alphaville)
Priyanka Chopra Is a Tech Investor, Too (N.Y.T.)
Drunk birds are causing havoc in a Minnesota town. Police say they’ll sober up soon. (Washington Post)
Cops: Man Stabbed Brother During Fight Over Who Ate “The Last Of The Ribs” (T.S.G.)