During a White House news briefing held immediately after the House passed the Republican tax cut bill on Tuesday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was peppered with questions about why the White House won’t be straightforward about how the bill directly benefits President Trump and his family.
Trump has publicly proclaimed that the bill is “not good” for him, but that’s a lie. Repealing the alternative minimum tax, estate tax, and providing tax breaks for “pass-through” corporations like the ones used by the Trump Organization will provide billions of dollars in tax savings for the Trump family — not to mention a last-minute provision included in the final version of the bill that benefits real estate developers.
While there’s no doubt that Trump and his family will benefit personally from the tax bill, it’s impossible to know exactly how much Trump stands to gain because he refuses to follow precedent and release his tax returns. On Tuesday, Sanders exploited the ambiguity created by Trump’s lack of transparency to sow doubt about whether the president will benefit at all.
At the beginning of the briefing, Sanders was asked how Trump can possibly say the bill will hurt him, given that every analysis shows it will be hugely beneficial for wealthy people in general and Trump in particular.
Sanders replied that “it likely will, certainly on the personal side, could cost him a lot of money,” but quickly added that “the president’s focus hasn’t necessarily at all been on himself.” (Since pass-through owners pay business taxes on their personal returns, it’s unclear what distinction Sanders is even trying to draw.)
Later, Sanders acknowledged that while Trump “could” benefit from the Republican tax plan, there are other provisions she didn’t specifically mention that will cause him to take “a big hit.”
“Look, I said that in some ways, particularly on the personal side, the president will likely take a big hit, but on the business side he could benefit,” she said.
The topic came up again during the last question Sanders fielded during the briefing. Asked if she is willing to at least acknowledge that Trump wasn’t telling the truth when he said the bill “would cost him a fortune,” Sanders demurred.
“On the personal side this actually could impact the president in a large way,” she said. “I’m not sure if he’s done a side-by-side but I know that there are a number of provisions that would negatively impact the president personally, and so we contend that those comments are still very consistent.”
Beyond specific provisions that we know will benefit Trump — like repealing the estate tax and the AMT — the tax cut bill’s benefits are generally skewed toward wealthy people like Trump, who claims to be a multi-billionaire. A nonpartisan analysis of the final version of the bill found that 82 percent of its benefits accrue to the richest one percent of the population over time.
But Trump continues to pretend that he doesn’t stand to gain. In a tweet posted following the House vote, he thanked House Republicans “who voted in favor of cutting your taxes!”