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Sunday Politics: Taxes And The Trump Dossier


House Republicans are expected to release their long-awaited bill this week to overhaul the tax code. After failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, The stakes couldn't be higher for President Trump and the GOP. To talk about what to expect and the week in politics, we're joined by national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hey, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: A big week for taxes. What are we going to find out? What's the big reveal?

LIASSON: We're going to find out a lot - whose taxes are going up or down? We've already seen the National Association of Home Builders, a big lobby, come out in opposition to the bill because they are expecting the mortgage interest deduction to be cut. We're going to see what income levels are going to benefit, what incomes the Republicans consider to be middle class. They are very intent on selling this bill as a middle-class tax bill, tax cut. How much will the plan increase the deficit? - how Republicans plan to pay for it. Are they going to kill the state and local tax deduction? Are they going to lower the annual cap on 401(k) contributions? There is a lot to find out this week.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, indeed. A lot there that's going to impact all of us. Where is President Trump on all this?

LIASSON: Well, there's no doubt that President Trump is much more involved in this push for tax cuts than he was for the Obamacare replace-and-repeal bill. It's a much more professional rollout. The president has been making speeches. He's been traveling the country. It's still not clear, however, where President Trump is on some of the policy details. He tweeted, for instance, that there would be no changes to 401(k) contributions. That's a very popular retirement plan. But later, he seemed to back off of that statement.

But, interestingly, Republicans are kind of ignoring what the president is saying on the details. They're assuming that he will sign whatever they send him. But that aside, every Republican and the White House feels they have to pass some kind of tax cut. There's a tremendous urgency around this, even desperation, to get something done, especially after failing with health care, if for no other reason that they want to go home to voters with something. They don't want to go home next year empty-handed. So the Republicans are a majority party. But they have yet to prove that they're a governing party. And this tax cut bill is a chance to do it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, Mara - urgency, desperation. Tax cuts are an issue that traditionally unifies Republicans. And I feel like I'm saying this a lot, but they don't seem very unified.

LIASSON: That's true. This past week, you heard Senator Jeff Flake talking about how the president undermines democratic values, Bob Corker saying his divisive behavior debases the country. You had those speeches from John McCain and George W. Bush. But the bottom line is that the only people who seem to be willing to speak publicly to criticize the president are people who aren't running for re-election. And any Republican who wants to run in a Republican primary where Trump supporters make up the vast majority of the base are not willing to speak out against the president. So I would say this week, for all that disunity, President Trump consolidated his hold on the Republican Party without necessarily expanding it. You see those generic ballot questions on polls. Would you rather have a Republican or Democrat representing you in Congress? The advantage for Democrats in that crucial barometer is getting bigger.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Finally, the White House has been spending a lot of time this week talking about the infamous Trump dossier and new information that they say shows Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia. Sort this out for us.

LIASSON: Well, this is very confusing. This is about that infamous dossier that included some information about alleged ties between Donald Trump and Russians. It turns out it was funded in part by the Democratic National Committee. Now the president and his allies are arguing that, somehow, this proves Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia. There's a big effort to push that storyline. This fits with the president's strategy of accusing his opponents of whatever he's accused of. Remember that famous line in the debate, I'm not a puppet. You're the puppet. And I think that the political purpose is clear - undermine the investigation of Bob Mueller, who might be getting ready to have some more activity, even if the logic of the charges is not so clear.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.