October, 2016

Trump Used Legally Dubious Method to Avoid Taxes

Donald Trump “proudly acknowledges he did not pay a dime in federal income taxes for years on end. He insists he merely exploited tax loopholes legally available to any billionaire — loopholes he says Hillary Clinton failed to close during her years in the United States Senate,” the New York Times reports.

“But newly obtained documents show that in the early 1990s, as he scrambled to stave off financial ruin, Mr. Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income by using a tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would likely declare it improper if he were audited.”

“Thanks to this one maneuver — which was later outlawed by Congress — Mr. Trump potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes. It is impossible to know for sure because Mr. Trump has declined to release his tax returns, or even a summary of his returns, breaking a practice followed by every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate for more than four decades.”

Trump Companies Destroyed Emails In Defiance of Courts

“Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.”

“This behavior is of particular import given Trump’s frequent condemnations of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, for having deleted more than 30,000 emails from a server she used during her time as secretary of state.”

FBI Now Investigating Ex-Trump Campaign Manager

The FBI has been conducting a preliminary inquiry into Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s foreign business connections, law enforcement and intelligence sources told NBC News Monday.

“Word of the inquiry, which has not blossomed into a full-blown criminal investigation, comes just days after FBI Director James Comey’s disclosure that his agency is examining a new batch of emails connected to an aide to Hillary Clinton. And it comes a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid criticized Comey’s revelation and asserted that Comey possesses ‘explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government.'”

GOP Senator Jokes About Shooting Clinton

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) privately mused over the weekend that gun owners may want to put a “bullseye” on Hillary Clinton, CNN reports.

The North Carolina Republican, locked in a tight race for reelection, quipped that as he walked into a gun shop “nothing made me feel better” than seeing a magazine about rifles “with a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front of it.”

Clinton’s National Lead Remains Steady

A new NBC News-Survey Monkey poll finds Hillary Clinton holds a 6-point lead over Donald Trump, 47% to 41%, “virtually unchanged since last week, even after FBI Director James Comey announced the discovery of emails that could be ‘pertinent’ to the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server.”

“When asked about the FBI’s announcement, 55% of likely voters think it is an important issue, while 44% say it is more of a distraction to the campaign.”

Comey Cited Election Timing for Not Naming Russians

“FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out,” a former FBI official tells CNBC.

“The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.”

Political Journalism Needs New Rules After Trump

Marc Ambinder: “Here’s a tried-and-true creed, straight from Journalism 101: Journalists should never take sides. But how do you not take sides when one of those sides is so clearly wrong?”

“Another: Journalists should not characterize political candidates as liars. But what happens when political candidates base their entire campaigns on very persuasive lies?”

“Science journalists no longer cover anthropogenic climate change as an issue that’s subject to dispute. (What to do about it surely is; the fact of it is not.) Reporters on the criminal justice beat recognize, as a fact, that the system is institutionally biased against black people. Women in sports journalism take sexism as a fact.”

“But political journalists will be tempted to cover the coming fight about Obamacare as if the Republicans have put forth a serious solution to its problems. That’s not true. Republicans want to get rid of the entire program and replace it with something else they haven’t fully explained. In the context of the real world, that solution is a nothingburger. It is not real. It should be treated as not-real.”

Latest Unpaid Trump Vendor Is His Own Pollster

“Over the years, Donald Trump or his businesses have been accused of stiffing carpenters, dishwashers and lawyers, leaving a trail of lawsuits and grudges in his wake. Now he is in a billing dispute with one of his own campaign aides,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Trump’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission indicates that his campaign has disputed a bill for $766,756 from a vendor, the well-regarded Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio.”

The Comey Effect

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “As of this writing (Monday afternoon), Clinton leads in every national poll now except for the controversial University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times panel, a survey that has had a pronounced Republican lean the entire cycle. Some of the national polls, though, are very close. Her leads in Rust Belt states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin appear durable, although Trump’s team is arguing that it can put these states into play. We agree that a potential path to victory for Trump might include one or more of these states, but at this point there’s precious little indication from polling that he can win them: Clinton has led every post-convention poll in each state included in the RealClearPolitics average.”

“However, the potential outcomes in some of the most competitive states on the Electoral College map are now more uncertain. These developments, along with recent polling data, precipitate ratings shifts in Arizona, Florida, and Ohio. We are moving all three from Leans Democratic to Toss-up.”

Who Thinks the System Is Rigged Now?

Rick Klein: “The Clinton campaign responded to the unusual letter from FBI Director James Comey by unloading on the messenger with an argument that carries troubling implications. The Clinton campaign is suggesting that political motivations were behind Comey’s move… Eric Holder and nearly 100 former Justice Department officials wrote a letter calling Comey out from their perspective.”

“Then there’s Harry Reid, unleashing the sort of campaign tactic he brought in 2012 when he said (falsely) on the Senate floor that Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes. The Senate minority leader wrote a letter to Comey saying he may have violated federal law with a ‘clear intent to aid one political party over another.’ Reid also did his best Roger Stone in writing that Comey is withholding ‘explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors and the Russian government.'”

“The Clinton camp may have had no choice this late than to go to war with Comey. But what shouldn’t be lost is this means the campaign of the Democratic nominee for president – the candidate who wasn’t complaining about a rigged election– is now asking voters to question whether the director of the FBI is trying to influence the election’s outcome.”

State Poll Roundup: Monday

Here are the latest state polls from the presidential race:

Georgia: Trump 49%, Clinton 42%, Johnson 3% (SurveyUSA)

New Hampshire: Trump 45%, Clinton 43%, Johnson 4% (Praecones Analytica)

Nevada: Trump 48%, Clinton 44%, Johnson 4% (Remington)

Colorado: Clinton 44%, Trump 45%, Johnson 4% (Remington)

Florida: Trump 48%, Clinton 44%, Johnson 2% (Remington)

Virginia: Clinton 48%, Trump 43%, Johnson 3% (Remington)

Ohio: Trump 48%, Clinton 43%, Johnson 3% (Remington)

Pennsylvania: Clinton 45%, Trump 43%, Johnson 3% (Remington)

North Carolina: Trump 47%, Clinton 45%, Johnson 2% (Remington)

Indiana: Trump 50%, Clinton 39%, Johnson 4% (Monmouth)