OurWeek in Politics (May 6, 2019-May 13, 2019)

Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:

1. President Trump’s Tax Returns Leaked, Revealing Decade of Business Losses

According to tax documents leaked this week, President Donald Trump lost over 1 billion between 1985 and 1994, calling into question the claim that he is a “brilliant businessman.”

President Donald Trump’s tax filings from 1985 to 1994 show that he had accumulated more than a billion dollars in business losses over the course of a decade, according to newly revealed tax information obtained by the New York Times on May 8. In the 10 years covered, Trump racked up nearly $1.2 billion in core business losses, according to the New York Times’ analysis of the President’s federal income tax information from those years. The loss paints what the New York Times called a bleak picture of Trump’s businesses, which he has always touted as successful. The New York Times’ analysis of the tax information includes how President Donald Trump was already deep in financial trouble in 1987 when he published his infamous book “The Art of the Deal,” a bestseller that focused on his business career as a so-called self-made billionaire. In 1985, his core businesses reported a loss of more than $46 million and carried over a $5.6 million loss from earlier years. President Trump has long blamed his first round of business reversals and bankruptcies on the 1990-93 Recession, but the New York Times analysis shows that his fortune was already on its way down much earlier.

The tax results also show that President Donald Trump appears to have lost more money during that decade than nearly any other individual taxpayer. His core businesses reportedly lost over $250 million each year in 1990 and 1991, which the New York Times said is more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in its sampling of high-income earners for those years. Notably, the investigation reveals that the president did not pay federal income taxes for eight out of the ten years analyzed. The analysis notes that President Donald Trump at one time tried to delay his collapse by playing the role of a corporate raider, in which he would acquire company shares with borrowed money, publicly announce he was contemplating a takeover and then quietly sell his shares on the resulting stock price bump.

Overall, the revelation of information shows that President Donald Trump is not the “brilliant businessperson” that he had long claimed to be. Charles Harder, one of President Trump’s financial attorneys said that the tax information was false without citing any errors and reportedly told the newspaper on May 8 that IRS transcripts “are notoriously inaccurate.” The Trump administration continued to refuse to release his federal tax returns this week, with the Treasury Department announcing on May 7 that it will not comply with House Democrats’ request for the President’s tax returns, openly defying federal law. The New York Senate is on the verge of passing a bill that would allow Congress to view Trump’s state tax returns, which are expected to have much of the same information as his federal returns.

Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee working to get President Donald Trump’s tax returns, said in response to the report that the President’s “entire tenure is built upon the most colossal fraud in American political history.” “As these records make clear, Trump was perhaps the worst businessman in the world. His entire campaign was a lie,” Pascrell said in a statement. “He did not pay taxes for years and lost over one billion dollars, how is that possible? How did he keep getting more money and where on earth was it all going? We need to know now.” Congressman Pascrell also stressed that Congress must still see Trump’s actual tax returns and that the IRS is legally obligated to hand them over. “We now have another part of the truth,” Pascrell said. “We need a lot more.”

2. US Deploys Aircraft Carrier to Persian Gulf Amid Steadily Increasing Tensions with Iran

The Trump Administration ordered the deployment of several US aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf, increasing the chances for war with Iran.

On May 6, it was announced that the Trump administration is sending an aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf ahead of schedule and warning that Iran and its allies are showing “troubling and escalatory” indications of a possible attack on American forces in the region. Exactly what prompted the action was unclear, but it marked a further step in sharply rising tensions between the Trump administration and the Iranian government. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or regular Iranian forces,” National Security Advisor John Bolton said. Neither Bolton nor other officials would provide any details about the supposed threat, which comes as the Trump administration wages a campaign of intensifying pressure against Iran and nearly a year after it withdrew from an Obama-era nuclear deal with Tehran.

With its “maximum pressure campaign,” President Donald Trump is trying to get Iran to halt activities (that many consider to be humanitarian at their core) such as supporting Shi’a socio-political groups opposed to the ideologies of Zionism and Wahhabism. “Our objective is to get the Islamic Republic of Iran to behave like a normal nation,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to Finland. “When they do that, we will welcome them back.” Secretary Pompeo said the actions undertaken by the US have been in the works for a while. The request for the accelerated move came over the weekend from the military’s US Central Command after reviewing various intelligence reports for some time, according to the US official.

Since he assumed office in early 2017, President Donald Trump has advocated a hardline policy against Iran (at the urging of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States) with the ultimate goal of bringing about the collapse of the current Iranian government and paving the way for the reinstallation of the Pahlavi monarchy. Last month, President Trump announced the US would no longer exempt any countries from US sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil, a decision that primarily affects countries such as China, India, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Greece, France, Germany, and Ireland. The US also recently designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group, the first ever for an entire division of another government. Moreover, President Trump withdrew from the Obama administration’s landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018 and, in the months that followed, reimposed punishing sanctions including those targeting Iran’s oil, shipping, manufacturing, and banking sectors.

3. Trump Administrations Proposed Peace Plan for Israel-Palestinian Conflict Revealed

The Trump Administration’s proposed plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was released this week.

The main points of President Donald Trump’s much-derided plan for the Middle East, the so-called “deal of the century,” were leaked by a Hebrew-language news outlet in Israel on May 8. Israel Hayom published the main points of the deal from a leaked document circulated by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The main points of the agreement were put together by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has extensive ties to both Saudi Arabia and Israel and proposed by the Trump administration.

The agreement would involve a tripartite treaty to be signed between Israel, the PLO, and Hamas, and a Palestinian state will be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Additionally, the settlement blocs in the West Bank (which are illegal under international law) would form part of Israel, and Israel and Palestine would share Jerusalem with Israel maintaining general control. The Palestinians living in Jerusalem would be citizens of the Palestinian state but Israel would remain in charge of the municipality and therefore the land. The newly formed Palestinian state would pay taxes to the Israeli municipality in order to be in charge of education in the city for Palestinians. The status quo at the holy sites will remain and Jewish Israelis will not be allowed to buy Palestinian houses and vice versa. Egypt will offer the new Palestinian state land to build an airport, factories and for agriculture which will service the Gaza Strip.

The US, EU, and Gulf states would fund and sponsor the deal for five years to establish the Palestinian state, the leaked document claims. The proposed Palestinian state would not be allowed to form an army but could maintain a police force. Instead, a defense agreement will be signed between Israel and Palestine in which Israel would defend the new state from any foreign attacks. Upon signing the agreement, Hamas would have to disarm and its leaders would be compensated and paid salaries by Arab states while a government is established. If Hamas or any Palestinian bodies refuse this deal, the US will cancel all of its financial support to the Palestinians and pressure other countries to do the same. On the other hand, if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signs the deal but Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not agree to it, a war would be waged on the Gaza Strip with the full backing of the US. However, if Israel refuses the deal the US would cease its financial support. The US currently pays $3.8 billion a year to support Israel.

Overall, the international reaction to the Trump Administration’s proposed Middle East process has been mixed. Whereas the leadership of both Israel and Saudi Arabia have endorsed the plan and have pledged to work to implement it, the Palestinian leadership is likely to reject the proposal. Prior to the leaks, The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have already issued statements saying that such a plan would be rejected as it does not follow the previous international agreements that grant Palestinians a future state in pre-1967 borders. The news leaks make it more likely that the deal is doomed to fail before it is even released publically as most Palestinian factions would reject such terms that favor the Israeli side.

4. Trade War Between US and China Escalates

President Donald Trump escalated the ongoing US-China trade war this week by placing a 25% tariff on all Chinese imports to the US.

President Donald Trump escalated his trade war with China on May 10 to tax nearly all of China’s imports as punishment for what he said was Beijing’s attempt to “renegotiate” a trade deal. President Trump’s decision to proceed with the tariff increase came after a pivotal round of trade talks in Washington on May 9 failed to produce an agreement to forestall the higher levies. In his comments at the White House on May 9, Trump vacillated between threatening China and suggesting a deal could still happen. Trump said he had received a “beautiful letter” from President Xi Jinping of China and would probably speak to him by phone, but said he was more than happy to keep hitting Beijing with tariffs. “I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Trump said. “They’ll see what they can do, but our alternative is, is an excellent one,” Trump added, noting that American tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese products were bringing “billions” into the US government. China’s Ministry of Commerce said that the government “deeply regrets that it will have to take necessary countermeasures.” It did not specify what those countermeasures might be. “It is hoped that the US and Chinese sides will meet each other halfway and work together” to resolve their dispute, the statement added.

The renewed brinkmanship has plunged the world’s two largest economies back into a trade war that had seemed on the cusp of ending. The US and China were nearing a trade deal that would lift tariffs, open the Chinese market to American companies and strengthen China’s intellectual property protections. But discussions fell apart last weekend when China called for substantial changes to the negotiating text that both countries had been using as a blueprint for a sweeping trade pact. President Donald Trump, angered by what he viewed as an act of defiance, responded by threatening to raise existing tariffs to 25 percent and impose new ones on an additional $325 billion worth of products. China has said it is prepared to retaliate should those tariffs go into effect. “We were getting very close to a deal then they started to renegotiate the deal,” President Trump said. “We can’t have that.”

the author

Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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