Republicans slipped a last-minute gift into their tax scam. Guess who it’s for…. (More)

“This helps people who have held property for awhile, like Donald Trump”

David Sirota and Josh Keefe broke the story for the International Business Times:

Republican congressional leaders and real estate moguls could be personally enriched by a real-estate-related provision GOP lawmakers slipped into the final tax bill released Friday evening, according to experts interviewed by International Business Times. The legislative language was not part of previous versions of the bill and was added despite ongoing conflict-of-interest questions about the intertwining real estate interests and governmental responsibilities of President Donald Trump — the bill’s chief proponent.

The Trump organization and the Kushners (the family of Ivanka’s husband, Jared) have overseen vast real estate empires, and top GOP lawmakers writing the tax bill collectively have tens of millions of dollars of ownership stakes in real-estate-related LLCs. The new tax provision would specifically allow owners of large real estate holdings through LLCs to deduct a percentage of their “pass through” income from their taxes, according to experts. Although Trump, who became famous for his real estate holdings, has transitioned into branding in recent years, federal records show Trump has ownership stakes in myriad LLCs.

The new provision was not in the bill passed by the House or the Senate. Instead, it was inserted into the final bill during reconciliation negotiations between Republicans from both chambers. The provision, said experts, would offer a special tax cut to LLCs with few employees and large amounts of depreciable property assets, namely buildings: rent generating apartment and office buildings.

“This helps people who have held property for awhile, like Donald Trump,” David Kamin, an New York University law professor who served as a special assistant to the president for economic policy in the Obama administration, told IBT. “If you’ve got an LLC that’s a trade or business with a bunch of real estate holdings and few employees, [I] think you’re now golden. You get the deduction.”

It’s also a sweet deal for Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who was wavering on whether to support the GOP tax scam:

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on Sunday said the decision to include a provision in the Republican tax plan that would personally enrich some GOP lawmakers and President Donald Trump came from an effort to “cobble together the votes we need to get this bill passed.” Not exactly a moment of putting country over party.

In a Sunday appearance on ABC’s This Week, Cornyn, the Senate majority whip, was asked by journalist George Stephanopoulos about an International Business Times (IBT) report, which saw Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) – who was initially a “no” vote – switch to “yes” after a certain provision that would boost his real estate income was added to the tax bill.

But that may spike the bill entirely:

The Corker provision, which was not part of either the House or Senate tax bills, would allow the owners of large real estate holdings through LLCs to deduct a percentage of their “pass through” income from their taxes.

That violates one of the key norms for “conference committee” bills that reconcile House and Senate bills:

Usually these are bipartisan groups with members from both chambers, which comes with some rules: They’re not supposed to “change a provision on which both houses agree, nor may they add anything that is not in one version or the other,” according to the Congressional Research Service. But this complicating factor often gets overlooked, and there’s already a strong indication that Republicans are open to dropping in completely new provisions.

The reason for that norm is obvious enough. Conference committee bills typically go straight to the floor in each chamber, with no input from committees and no amendments. That’s fine if the changes simply split the difference between House and Senate versions, or delete a provision from one in exchange for deleting a provision from the other.

But if the conference committee add entirely new provisions – like the Trump-Corker pork – that’s a whole different story. It hasn’t been hashed out in the Senate Budget or House Ways and Means Committee, or scored by the Congressional Budget Office. In short, it’s exactly the kind of last-minute gimme that should not magically appear at this stage in the legislative process.

Alas, that’s a norm and not a strict rule, so Senate and House Republicans can decide it just doesn’t matter enough to derail their feeding frenzy.

In other news….

“No, I’m not”

The God-King dismissed rumors that he plans to fire special counsel Robert Mueller:

President Trump on Sunday sought to douse speculation that he may fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III amid an intensifying campaign by Trump allies to attack the wide-ranging Russia investigation as improper and politically motivated.

Returning to the White House from Camp David, Trump was asked Sunday whether he intended to fire Mueller. “No, I’m not,” he told journalists, insisting that there was “no collusion whatsoever” between his campaign and Russia.

I’ll put that in the same file with the his other iron-clad promises, that is: maybe he will and maybe he won’t.

CNN reports the God-King is convinced that Mueller will declare him innocent of any wrongdoing:

President Donald Trump is privately striking a less agitated tone on the Russia investigation, sources say, even insisting he’ll soon be cleared in writing. But his new approach has some allies worried he’s not taking the threat of the probe seriously enough.
[…]
Trump is boasting to friends and advisers that he expects Mueller to clear him of wrongdoing in the coming weeks, according to sources familiar with the conversations. The President seems so convinced of his impending exoneration that he is telling associates Mueller will soon write a letter clearing him that Trump can brandish to Washington and the world in a bid to finally emerge from the cloud of suspicion that has loomed over the first chapter of his presidency, the sources said.

This account of how Trump and his senior staffers are privately grappling with the Russia investigation is based on interviews over the past week with nearly three dozen White House officials, lawmakers, outside advisers, friends of the President and sources familiar with the Mueller probe. It depicts a president genuinely convinced of his innocence and advisers preparing for him to explode early next year if the probe doesn’t end as neatly as Trump expects.

Not surprisingly, his advisors appear to be seeing the situation more clearly. And yeah, expect an explosion when Mueller doesn’t transform into Sean Hannity and “write a letter clearing him that Trump can brandish to Washington and the world.”

And of course Fox News is calling it a coup:

Fox News host Jesse Watters suggested that the FBI investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election has maybe transformed into a “coup” against President Donald trump.[…]

“The investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign has been crooked from the jump,” Watters said on Saturday night. “But the scary part is we may now have proof the investigation was weaponized to destroy his presidency for partisan political purposes and to disenfranchise millions of American voters. Now, if that’s true, we have a coup on our hands in America.”

Those of us old enough to remember Watergate have heard this argument before. It wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now. But it plays well with the God-King’s supporters …

“Whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform”

the wingnuttiest of whom may soon find themselves booted off Twitter:

Twitter will begin enforcing new rules tomorrow that will suspend accounts affiliated with hate groups “on and off the platform” — a policy that could lead to a crack down on some alt-right users.

Initially announced in November, Twitter will also start penalizing accounts that include “hateful imagery and display names,” presumably including Nazi insignia, or those who “use [a] username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior.”

For Twitter, the two new restrictions are attempts to combat rampant harassment and abuse on the site. Users affiliated with the alt-right or neo-Nazi movements in particular have seized on the company’s notoriously lax oversight to stoke racial tensions, peddle false news reports and attack their critics, including Democrats. Earlier this year, they organized a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia with the aid of the platform.
[…]
To be sure, Twitter does not explicitly mention the alt-right or neo-Nazi groups in the rules it first previewed in November. Rather, its new policy more broadly seeks to outlaw “specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.”

Notably, though, Twitter has said it would be monitoring groups’ behavior outside of the website, as it makes its decision as to which users have run afoul of its new guidelines.

“You also may not affiliate with organizations that – whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform – use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes,” the policy says.

Apparently the white supremacists plan to move to alt-right-friendly social media like Gab. That should help the FBI know who to keep their eyes on … assuming the God-King lets the FBI monitor right-wing hate groups….

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Good day and good nuts