Trump's Taxes, Ryancare Revolt, Jihadist Visas?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trump's Taxes

Here's some "breaking news" thanks to crack investigative reporting by MSNBC: Donald Trump is a rich man who paid a lot of money in taxes.

Last night, Rachel Maddow informed America that Trump reported $150 million in income and paid $38 million in taxes twelve years ago. We know this because someone leaked two pages of Trump's 2005 tax return to David Cay Johnston, a reporter who writes about economics and tax issues.

This "news" debunks a major left-wing smear against Trump during last year's campaign -- that he exploited the tax code to avoid paying taxes for nearly two decades. During one of last year's presidential debates, Hillary Clinton suggested that Trump would not release his tax returns because "he doesn't want the American people . . . to know that he's paid nothing in federal taxes."

Maddow and MSNBC just inadvertently proved Hillary Clinton wrong! Plus there are serious questions as to whether the left-wing anchor and her network committed a crime in the process.

According to one report, "The unauthorized release or publishing of federal tax returns is a criminal offense, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in jail." The media may have a First Amendment defense, but if the leak came from the IRS, someone should be on their way to jail.

Did Brits Spy On Trump?

Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano offers an interesting twist in the controversy regarding alleged deep state surveillance of Donald Trump. On Fox & Friends yesterday, Napolitano suggested that the British may have done it.

"Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command," Judge Napolitano said. "He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI, and he didn't use the Department of Justice."

The judge suggested that Obama may have relied on a British intelligence unit known as the UK Government Communications Headquarters, which reportedly has access to NSA databases. "There's no American fingerprints on this," Napolitano said.

Not surprisingly, British intelligence officials are denying Judge Napolitano's claims that they spied on Trump.

Adding to the speculation is renewed scrutiny of press reports that Admiral Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, met with Donald Trump days after the election "without notifying superiors." Those "superiors" then demanded that President Obama fire Admiral Rogers. He did not, and Rogers continues to serve as NSA director.

Ryancare Revolt

A consensus is fast emerging that Speaker Paul Ryan's health care reform bill will be changed due to pressure from conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus. The White House said yesterday that it was continuing to negotiate key elements in order to "get the strongest bill through the House."

Whatever happens in the House, there will be tremendous pressure in the Senate, where we have only a two-vote margin, to compromise the bill.

Meanwhile, there is another debate simmering among conservatives. Because of the limits of the reconciliation process, some of the necessary changes conservatives want to make to Obamacare can't be done even if we have all 52 votes. That has some conservatives wondering why they are stuck with the reconciliation rules.

There is nothing sacrosanct about the Senate's rules. They can be changed. Harry Reid proved that. And no one doubts that liberal senators would not hesitate to change the rules if it served their interests. Harry Reid proved that, too. But several Republican senators would likely oppose any effort to change the rules.

If the GOP fails to pass any significant Obamacare legislation, then smaller bills may be considered one at a time, with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price rolling back regulations over the next four to eight years. That lack of certainty would create tremendous chaos in the health insurance market, as well as the ballot box.

Jihadist Visas?

Federal courts in at least two states today are hearing challenges to President Trump's revised executive order that temporarily suspends the refugee program and immigration from six countries. Regardless of what happens, the Trump Administration needs to seriously examine the R-1 visa program.

Some fear the program, a special visa for religious workers allowing them to remain in the United States for five years, is a loophole for religious extremists.

Adnan Khan, former president of the Council of Pakistan American Affairs, warns, "People have come in and tried to come in with this visa to preach their hardline and dangerous views, and then encourage [the] vulnerable to travel back with them where they are further brainwashed and can potentially be used to harm the U.S.A."

A review conducted during the Bush Administration found that the R-1 program had a fraud rate of 30%. And while there has been some increased oversight of the program in recent years, Fox News reports that "there are no quotas for the R-1 visa" and "Statistics regarding countries or religions that have received the visa are not documented."

About all we do know is that the Obama Administration issued more than 23,000 R-1 visas in its last four years.

Happy Birthday, Ruth!

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is celebrating her 84th birthday today. This August she will celebrate her 24th anniversary of service on the Supreme Court.

Just a few weeks before that, on July 23rd, Justice Anthony Kennedy will celebrate his 81st birthday. And Justice Stephen Breyer will turn 79 on August 15th.

Next week, I will be attending the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch, whom President Trump nominated to fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia. If confirmed, Gorsuch would be the youngest member of the high court.

If he were to celebrate his 84th birthday on the Supreme Court, as Justice Ginsburg is doing today, he will have served 35 years as a justice. That would be quite a legacy for President Trump.

And with two or three more appointments, President Trump could fundamentally transform the court and our country.