Posts tagged with "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin"

Biden says he thinks Trump will try to delay the presidential election

April 27, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden said on April 23 that he believes President Donald Trump will try to delay November’s presidential election, CNN reports.

“Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Biden said at a virtual fundraiser, according to a pool report.

Biden has maintained the November election should not be postponed and has previously made similar comments.

However, were the president to try to switch dates on the American public, he would have to use sleight of hand: CNN has done its homework—and the cable news network says, “Trump cannot unilaterally change the date of the election in November, as it has been set into law by federal statute and Congress would have to OK such a move.”

That’s good news for Democrats, but it hasn’t stopped them from worrying that Trump will try to do so. In fact, voters had asked the previously large field of Democratic presidential candidates if they had concerns that Trump would try to delay the election.

And comedian and commentator Bill Maher has repeatedly said on his HBO show that he fears that Trump will refuse to leave office if he is defeated in November.

“Those are the incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings of a lost candidate who is out of touch with reality,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, said in a statement Friday. “President Trump has been clear that the election will happen on November 3rd.”

Fears over the coronavirus and its spread have increased concerns over how the election will be held safely, with new calls to expand access to voting and voting by mail. Biden said Congress needs to ensure that states have sufficient funding for expanded voting options during the pandemic.

He referenced the Wisconsin primary, which went ahead with in-person voting earlier this month after courts halted Democratic efforts to delay the primary and extend the deadline for ballots to be returned by mail. Wisconsin was the only one of 11 states with April primaries that moved forward with in-person voting, after the other 10 delayed their primaries or shifted to by-mail-only voting.

“Republicans were trying to force in-person voting no matter the health cost. We have to figure out how we are going to conduct a full and fair and safe election in November, and no one should have to risk their lives to cast a ballot,” Biden said Thursday.

“The idea you had all the governors and so many mayors — Republican and Democrat — asking the President and asking (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, ‘We need local funding for our local support, for the things we have to do,’ ” he said. “I think it’s absolutely mindless, mindless, that they are unwilling to do it. I don’t get it. I don’t get it.”

The former vice president also accused Trump of “already trying to undermine the election with false claims of voter fraud.”

Indeed, CNN reports, in recent weeks, Trump, who opposes expanding voting-by-mail options, has made false claims about voting-by-mail being “corrupt” and “dangerous,” even while states embrace it as a safe alternative during the pandemic.

Biden referenced a report by The Washington Post  saying that the Trump Administration was considering leveraging an emergency coronavirus loan from Congress, which needs to be approved by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to force changes at the U.S. Postal Service. The move could allow the administration to influence how much the agency charges for delivering packages and how it manages its finances, according to the Post.

What’s worse, it could affect the states’ ability to offer mail-in voting.

“Imagine threatening not to fund the post office,” Biden said. “Now what in God’s name is that about? Other than trying to let the word out that he’s going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote. That’s the only way he thinks he can possibly win.”

“You can be assured between (Trump) and the Russians there is going to be an attempt to interfere” in the election, Biden said.

Research contact: @CNN

Democrats block Senate coronavirus bill, calling it a bailout for corporations and Trump’s family

March 24, 2020

Who will benefit from the bills that the U.S. Congress is churning out to deal with COVID-19? Will it be everyday Americans and the healthcare heroes who are struggling to stem the pandemic; or big business—including what Senator Elizabeth Warren has characterized as a “slush fund for Donald Trump and his family”—and Wall Street?

According to a report by The Huffington Post, Democrats are raising serious concerns about the Senate’s massive emergency legislation aimed at propping up the economy and giving relief to workers hit hard by the growing coronavirus pandemic—saying it’s tilted too far in favor of Wall Street and big corporations.

The bill—said to offer at least $1 trillion to prop up an economy paralyzed by the virus—would represent the largest government response thus far to the crisis.

On Wednesday, March 18, lawmakers passed and President Donald Trump signed into law Democratic legislation that makes coronavirus testing free, expands unemployment insurance benefits and provides paid leave to some displaced workers.

Now, the HuffPost says, Democrats have leverage over the final shape of the bill because it will require 60 votes for passage and Republicans number 53 in the 100-seat Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) attempted to advance the bill on Sunday evening, emphasizing the need to move quickly to help those who have been laid off during the crisis. He said both sides had ample time to reach a deal on outstanding issues before a final vote on Monday.

But Democrats unanimously blocked the measure over its provisions allowing the Trump administration to lend hundreds of billions of dollars to major industries like hotels, casinos, cruise lines, and oil and gas.

“We’re fiddling here, fiddling with the emotions of the American people, fiddling with the markets, fiddling with our health care,” a visibly frustrated McConnell said in a floor speech—followed by a press release—after the vote, accusing Democrats of partisan obstruction that threatened the economy.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), meanwhile, said his party opposed moving forward with the bill “because among other problems it includes huge bailouts without protections for people and workers and without accountability, and because it shortchanges our hospitals and health care workers who need our help.”

Schumer said he was hopeful changes could be made in ongoing discussions with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin but added that “we are not yet at that point.”

The high-stakes negotiations, which have been taking place all weekend, gained even more urgency on Sunday after Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. He is the first member of the Senate to contract the virus. Four other Republican senators, some of whom were in close proximity to Paul on Capitol Hill earlier this week, also were self-isolating and did not vote Sunday.

“Wall Street’s going to do just fine. They’ve always rebounded real well … let’s take care of the people we’re asking to take care of us if we need them,” Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, said in a floor speech.

Democrats are also unhappy with the portion of the bill aimed at helping distressed industries with at least $450 billion in loans. The massive fund would be controlled by the Treasury Department and could include bailouts to hotels, casinos, cruise lines, and the oil and gas industry. It includes virtually no restrictions on how the money would be distributed, allowing properties owned directly by President Donald Trump to receive a bailout, for example, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations.

Another provision in the bill Democrats oppose would allow Mnuchin to delay publicly releasing the names of businesses that receive a bailout, as well as the amounts of those loans, for six months.

“We’re not here to create a slush fund for Donald Trump and his family, or a slush fund for the Treasury Department to be able to hand out to their friends,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts.) told reporters. “We’re here to help workers, we’re here to help hospitals. And right now what the Republicans proposed does neither of those.” 

Research contact: @HuffPost

House Democrats file suit in federal court for President Trump’s tax returns

July 3, 2019

It has been nearly two months since Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), evaded Democrats’ request for President Trump’s tax returns—facetiously saying that the financial information could not be released in light of “serious issues” about whether their demand was proper.

A May subpoena from the panel also was treated as inconsequential.

As of July 2, Neal said he had no choice but to file suit in federal court in order to compel the Internal Revenue Service to turn over the records.

“In refusing to comply with the statute, Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people,” the lawsuit (Case No. 1:19-cv-1974)—filed against the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, Steven T. Mnuchin, and IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia— says.

Neal is seeking the President’s tax returns using an arcane IRS provision known as 6103, which allows the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request and obtain an individual’s tax information for a legitimate legislative purpose.

According to a report by Politico, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had a terse response to the suit.

“We will respond to this latest effort at presidential harassment in court,” he said.

And that may be sooner than he thinks: While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, Politico said that “some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.”

“They’re not unaware the administration is throwing up roadblocks at every conceivable opportunity and I think they understand that the system itself is under stress,” Kerry Kircher, who was the House’s general counsel from 2011 to 2016 and deputy counsel from 1996 to 2010, told the political news outlet, adding, “The judiciary is aware of the need for some expedition here, and that we can’t go through the usual processes where it takes a couple years for these cases to work themselves out.”

Neal asked the court for a speedy decision, reminding it that sessions of Congress only run two years.

“If this Court does not redress Defendants’ noncompliance quickly, the Committee will be unable to fulfill its essential role of overseeing the Executive Branch or to carry out its constitutional obligation to legislate,” the suit says.

Research contact: @politico

Tussle over taxes: Mnuchin says Treasury Department won’t release Trump’s returns

April 12, 2019

In a move that bowed to the president rather than American values, the Treasury Department refused to hand over the Donald Trump’s tax returns by the April 10 deadline that had been specified by the House Ways and Means Committee, NBC News reports.

On the one hand, the House committee asserted that § 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code clearly states that it is entitled to receive the tax returns.

Indeed, the law dictates: “Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary [of the Treasury]shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request….”

On the other hand, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), said that the Treasury was continuing to review Democrats’ request in light of “serious issues” about whether the request is proper.

Neal said in a brief statement only that he had received Mnuchin’s letter and that he was consulting with legal counsel, promising a response “in the coming days.”

In filing a formal request with the Treasury Department last week, Neal had said, “I am certain we are within our legitimate legislative, legal and oversight rights.”

Mnuchin said at a Ways and Means hearing last month that he would protect Trump’s privacy.

 His letter went further, according to NBC News, claiming, “”The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power.” Mnuchin said he was consulting with the Justice Department about the legality and constitutionality of Neal’s request.

Mnuchin said that “for the same reasons,” he intended to supervise the department’s review personally.

The president, himself, has insisted that his tax returns are under audit and cannot be released for that reasons. However, according to the network news outlet, tax experts have said that, even if he is under audit, there’s nothing to stop Trump from releasing his returns.

Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking Republican on Neal’s committee, welcomed Mnuchin’s letter, warning that the request “sets a dangerous precedent.”

“The tax code must not to be used for political fishing expeditions,” Brady said. “The Treasury Department is right to carefully review the privacy impact this request would have on every taxpayer.”

If the request continues to be denied, NBC News said, Democrats could consider legal action.

Separately, Democrats in New York, the president’s home state, introduced a bill in the legislature on Monday that would allow the state to release any state tax return requested by the three congressional committees. The bill would apply only to Trump’s state returns—not to the federal returns that Neal is seeking—but because the president’s businesses are based there, his New York returns are thought to be likely to include much of the same information.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Dems demand Trump tax returns from IRS—forcing Mnuchin to choose between fealty and duty

April 8, 2019

Although President Donald Trump claims that nobody’s interested in his tax returns—and that they are under audit anyway, so they cannot be released—House Democrats are through taking “no” for an answer—and last week, they set the stage for a major face-off with both the White House and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) formally requested President Trump’s personal and business tax returns on April 3, setting up what will likely become a protracted and high-profile legal battle between the administration and Congressional Democrats, The Hill reported.

Specifically, in a letter to the IRS, Neal requested Trump’s personal income taxes from 2013 to 2018, as well as the tax returns associated with eight of his business entities, and cited his oversight role to justify the request.

“Under the Internal Revenue Manual, individual income tax returns of a President are subject to mandatory examination, but this practice is IRS policy and not codified in the Federal tax laws,” Neal wrote in the letter, which was first obtained by CNN. “It is necessary for the committee to determine the scope of any such examination and whether it includes a review of underlying business activities required to be reported on the individual income tax return.”

Mnuchin—a loyal Trump insider—now “will have to balance his loyalty to Trump against a request that many experts say leaves him little wiggle room,” The Hill noted. As head of the department that comprises the IRS, Mnuchin will face pressure from Trump and congressional Republicans to push back on Democrats’ request.

“[The] request tests Mnuchin’s oath of office—whether Mnuchin will faithfully execute the laws of the United States, or whether Mnuchin will bend to the will of the president,” commented Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, who testified before Congress in February about the need to request Trump’s tax returns.

Trump — the first president in decades to not voluntarily disclose any of his returns—quickly indicated his disdain for the request. “Until such time as I’m not under audit I would not be inclined to do that,” he said  last Wednesday.

When asked on April 4 if he would direct the IRS to not disclose his returns, Trump said, “They’ll speak to my lawyers and they’ll speak to the attorney general.” 

As is to be expected, Republicans leaders are critical of the request. The top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), argued in a letter to Mnuchin on April 3 that the request is “an abuse of the tax-writing committees’ statutory authority,” and he said it weakens Americans’ right to have their personal information kept private, The Hill reported.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the next day that courts have ruled that congressional requests for information need to have legitimate legislative purposes, and that he believes the Democrats have fallen short on that front.

“They don’t have a purpose,” he said, according to The Hill. “All they have are a lot of excuses.”

Mnuchin said at a Ways and Means Committee hearing last month that the Treasury Department would “follow the law and we will protect the president as we would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights.”

The Treasury Department has not commented on the tax returns request since it has been issued.

“Secretary Mnuchin should have no involvement in responding to Chairman Neal’s request for President Trump’s tax returns,” Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said in a statement on April 4, adding, “Tax returns are held at the IRS and it is Commissioner [Charles] Rettig’s job to fulfill the agency’s legal obligations. If Secretary Mnuchin inserts himself that would be blatant political interference.”

Both Mnuchin and Rettig are scheduled to testify at congressional hearings this coming week, and lawmakers are likely to press them about their response to Democrats’ tax-return request. Democrats and supporters of the request say there’s no good reason for the administration to not comply.

Democrats also took issue with Trump’s comments about not providing his returns while under audit, arguing that the statute under which they requested the tax returns doesn’t leave the matter up to him.

“With all due respect to the president, we did not ask him for the tax returns, we asked the commissioner of the IRS,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a Ways and Means Committee member, told The Hill on Thursday.

Republican strategists predict that Mnuchin will get involved and that it will be an easy decision for him to reject Democrats’ request.

“You’ve never seen a Cabinet secretary at that level not fight for the administration,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told The Hill. He predicted that Mnuchin is likely to let the issue end up in the courts.

Research contact: @thehill

Under new U.S. tax code, average family’s refund is down by 8.4%

February 14, 2019

The first tax season under President Donald Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is under way—and early filers are saying “Where’s my refund?” according to an NBC News report.

While the White House promised in October 2017, while it was pushing for passage of the law, that the average family “would get a $4,000 raise,” now some taxpayers are discovering that the tax man giveth—but also taketh away. And that’s especially true as it pertains to their annual refund, the network news outlet says.

The average refund this year is down by 8.4%, to $1,865, for the week ending February 1, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service. At that time, the IRS said, the agency already had processed about 16  million returns—down from the 18 million it had received and processed at the same time last year.  That’s down 12.4% from the first week of last year’s tax season.

In a news release on February 8, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said “filing season has successfully launched with millions of tax returns having been filed.”

Early filers vented their frustrations on Twitter, using the hashtag #GOPTaxScam.

“Last year I was able to get $2700 on tax returns but all my deductions are gone this year and was a net-$350. Only saving grace was increased child tax credit which kept my refund in the positive,” wrote @dexternights.

Indeed, the plan, which Trump said would simplify the tax code, also got rid of many deductions that working class Americans relied on to lower their tax bills—among them, home equity loan interest, moving expenses;and certain job costs, including licensing and regulatory fees.

Research contact: @AlyssaNewcomb 

‘Fed’ up: Trump’s anger simmers as financial markets slump

December 27, 2018

President Donald Trump’s frustration with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin—one of his longest-term Cabinet members—has ratcheted up. The president lashed out after financial markets suffered their worst Christmas Eve slump ever despite Mnuchin’s attempts to call major U.S. banks and calm Wall Street according to CNN.

That doesn’t bode well. Indeed, a source told CNN, Mnuchin could be in “serious jeopardy” with Trump.

Nevertheless, the cable news outlet said, the president vouched for Mnuchin publicly on Christmas Day—shifting blame for the market volatility to the Federal Reserve, instead.

“Yes, I do,” Trump said on December 25, when asked whether he had confidence in Mnuchin. “Very talented, very smart person.”

But the source painted a different picture of Mnuchin’s standing behind the scenes. “Mnuchin is under the gun,” the source told CNN.

The Treasury secretary left Washington for a Christmas holiday in Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas, just as the federal government shut down over the weekend—while Trump canceled his own planned trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and remained n the White House (ergo, his tweet, “I’m all alone”) over the holiday, absorbing a flood of negative news about the markets.

Trump could meet with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in January, a person familiar with the matter told CNN on December 26. Trump has fumed at Powell for raising interest rates, which Trump believes is driving the stock market lower—and has even inquired whether it would be legal to fire him.  Some of the President’s aides believe a face-to-face meeting could help ease tensions and allow the two men to discuss the underlying economy.

Nothing has been formally scheduled. The Wall Street Journal first reported the discussions about the meeting.

At the same time in Washington, Mnuchin aides have been scrambling to find economic data to help their boss calm Trump down, but Trump was said to be unhappy with what Mnuchin was telling him, this source said.

Research contact: @Acosta