Dems Threaten to Fine Mnuchin & Co. $25,000 a Day Until They Cough Up Trump’s Tax Returns – Vanity Fair

By Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

Last November, the day after Democrats flipped 29 Republican seats to take control of the House, Donald Trump had a televised meltdown, likely inspired by the fact that the results of the election meant he could no longer rely on a G.O.P. majority to do his bidding, or protect him from subpoenas related to deeply corrupt, if not criminal acts. Threatening to retaliate if lawmakers came after him, Trump told reporters, “They have nothing. Zero. You know why? Because there is nothing . . . they can play that game, but we can play it better.“ (For the people in the cheap seats he later tweeted, “Two can play that game!”) Fast-forward six months, and Trump has indeed used the full weight of the executive branch to stonewall investigations into various aspects of his life and presidency. Both his treasury secretary and his attorney general have refused to comply with requests to turn over his tax returns and the full Mueller report, and his lawyers are busy suing the financial institutions that have been subpoenaed to turn over his financial records. To be clear, in the case of Trump’s tax returns, Steven Mnuchin is literally breaking the law in rebuffing Congress’s request. And while he may not be hauled off to prison, he and his fellow Trump groupies might be forced to pay some not-insignificant fines until they cooperate.

In an interview with Axios on Friday, Representative Adam Schiff told Mike Allen, “Much as I like the visual of [throwing people in jail], I think it’s far more practical to consider levying individual fines on the person—not the office—until they comply. You could fine someone $25,000 a day until they comply. You can do that. We’re looking through the history and studying the law to make sure we’re on solid ground.” As ABC News notes, Congress hasn’t attempted to enforce subpoenas through “inherent contempt power” in almost 100 years, but, per Schiff, the current situation may force them to “consider any remedy.” Obviously, $25,000 a day is chump change for a former foreclosure tycoon whose hobbies include posing with money, but for others, it adds up!

On the other hand, it’s not clear that Mnuchin & Co. would actually pay the fine, given their pointed contempt for Congress/the law. At which point, some wonder, “does Congress really jail a Cabinet secretary until he pays?” The odds seem low, though higher than zero. Last month, before Mnuchin officially decided to sacrifice his last shred of dignity, legal experts told Roll Call that failure to comply with a congressional subpoena could indeed lead to jail time. “To me the person who’s most vulnerable to this is Mnuchin because, of course, the statute directs Mnuchin to do something,” said George K. Yin, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation. “So if he doesn’t comply then he’s the one in violation . . . The statute is very clear . . . he might not care if he gets fired, but I think he would care if he gets sent to jail.”

Speaking of which!

A House committee issued subpoenas Friday ordering Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig to turn over President Trump’s tax returns by next Friday at 5 p.m., according to copies of the subpoenas provided by the committee. House Ways and Means Chair Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) authorized the subpoenas following months of disagreements with the Trump administration over whether federal law allows Congress to obtain the records.

“The IRS is under a mandatory obligation to provide the information requested,” the subpoenas state. “The IRS has had more than four weeks to comply with the Committee’s straightforward request. Therefore, please see the enclosed subpoena.”

The Treasury has not issued a comment at this time, so stay tuned to find out if Mnuchin decides to turn over the information or start writing checks.

If you would like to receive the Levin Report in your inbox daily, click here to subscribe.

Uber had a less-than-great day

And, shockingly, it had nothing to do with Travis Kalanick. Per The New York Times:

The ride-hailing giant’s first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange began with a drop from its initial public offering price of $45, and its stock closed [at $41.57,], down 7.6 percent. By the end of Friday, Uber’s market capitalization, accounting for stock options and restricted stock, stood at $76.5 billion—barely above the $76 billion that private investors pegged it at in August.

Its stock tumble, which was highly unusual for what are typically carefully calibrated offerings, immediately raised questions about investor appetite for other money-losing tech start-ups that are poised to list their shares. It also pointed to miscalculations by the Wall Street banks that had taken Uber public and signified a disappointment for Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive, who was hired partly to steer the company through a successful I.P.O.

Few firms of Uber’s stature have stumbled so badly out of the gate as a public company. Other well-known tech brands, from Facebook to Snap to Alibaba to Lyft, all rose on their initial trades. Since 2000, only 18 companies valued at more than $1 billion and listing on American exchanges had opened below their I.P.O. price. On average, stocks have jumped—or “popped,” in Wall Street parlance—41 percent on their first day of trading over the past 24 years, according to Dealogic.

It’s almost as though investors are less than enthused about companies that lose nearly $2 billion a year!

Of course Trump cheats at golf in the most blatant and obvious ways

Donald Trump has long been known to cheat at golf, so much so that an entire book about the subject, Commander in Cheat, was published in April. To promote the tome, author Rick Reilly sat down for an interview with Vox and, well, here’s another fun story for the cannon:

While Trump was meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, a club championship was held at Trump International, the course Trump built near Mar-a-Lago in Florida. So later on, Trump’s back on the course there with the Secret Service and the SWAT team guys and all that stuff. And he sees Ted Virtue, who was involved in the financing of the movie Green Book. I could never get Virtue to call me back on all this, but golf.com reported it and I heard it from two members of the club as well. They say Virtue was there playing with his son. Trump sees Ted on the ninth hole and decides to drive his cart over. He tells Ted: “Congrats on winning the club championship, but you didn’t really win it, because I was out of town.”

Ted tries to laugh it off, but Trump is dead serious. Trump says, “We’re gonna play these last six holes for the championship.” And Ted’s like, “Oh, well, I’m playing with my son, but thanks anyway.” But Trump says, “It’s O.K. Your son can play, too.” So what are you going to do? He’s the president. It’s his course. They end up playing.

Apparently, they get to a hole with a big pond in front of the green. Both Ted and his son hit the ball on the green, but Trump hits his in the water. By the time they get to the hole, though, Trump is lining up the son’s ball. Only now it’s his ball and the caddie has switched it. The son is like, “That’s my ball!” But Trump’s caddie goes, “No, this is the president’s ball; your ball went in the water.” Ted and his son look at each other confused, not sure if this is really happening. Trump makes that putt, and wins one up. Then, according to golf.com, he tells Virtue something like, “I’ll tell you what, we’ll be co-champions.” But the members tell me that when you look at the plaques on Trump’s locker there, it says: “2018 Men’s Club Champion.” No “co-” at all.

Trump’s big tax bill didn’t work out so well for one of its biggest fans

Nor for . . . the children of Gold Star families:

A revision to the [Kiddie Tax] in the big overhaul passed by Congress in 2017 is raising taxes on as many as 10,000 children of deceased service members who earn an average annual benefit of about $13,000, according to Department of Defense data provided by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS. It’s a nonprofit group for families who have lost service members that’s working to change the law. And the new rules reach well beyond military families. They can also raise taxes on children from lower-income families who receive income after a tragedy and pose a threat to millions of students receiving college financial aid. Congress passed the Kiddie Tax in 1986. Until then a parent could, say, give a child appreciated stock and the child could sell it, pay tax at lower rates, and use the proceeds to pay for college tuition or a Corvette.

To simplify, the 2017 overhaul switched the Kiddie Tax rate from the parents’ rate to trust tax rates. These kick in at a very low level of taxable income: for 2019, the top rate of 37 percent takes effect at just $12,751. The revision reduces complexity, and often the switch in rates makes little difference to high-earning families. But it can be disastrous for lower-earning families.

Without the 2017 change, Rebecca Headings’s son, [age six], would have owed tax on his $29,300 benefit at her rate, which was 12 percent for 2018. But with the switch to trust tax rates, his top rate rose to 37 percent and his total tax due was much higher.

Great work, everyone!

Elsewhere!

Trump Jacks Up Trade War with Job-Destroying Tariffs (the Hive)

Punch-Drunk Traders Stop Guessing as Trump Runs Markets Ragged (Bloomberg)

Inside SALT: The Mooch’s Hedge-Fund Festival Where MAGA Has-Beens Are Great Again (the Daily Beast)

“It Will End Badly”: Beware the Time Bomb in the Trump Economy (the Hive)

Elon Musk pokes fun at Jeff Bezos’s new moon-lander spacecraft with lewd tweet (CNBC)

Global Regulators Race to Curb Silicon Valley (W.S.J.)

Man holds 100 lit candles in his mouth for Guinness record (U.P.I.)

More Great Stories from Vanity Fair

— Inside the Zuckerberg–Winklevoss conference-room showdown

— How Michael Cohen spent his final days before prison

— Was this former Trump adviser scamming elderly MAGA voters?

— How Bono’s investment partner got busted in the college-admissions scandal

— If impeaching Trump is too tricky, is Barr a softer target for the Democrats?

Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hive newsletter and never miss a story.

Leave a Reply