Donald Trump has already faced accusations that he's trying to personally profit from the presidency, raising all kinds of questions about corruption and government ethics. It may help explain why the White House is a little sensitive in response to questions about just how much more money Trump will have as a result of the Republican tax plan.
The president has made repeated attempts to tell the public the GOP proposal will hurt him. "This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me," Trump said in Missouri a few weeks ago. "This is not good for me.... I think my accountants are going crazy right now."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed the same line yesterday. While she conceded that the president's business, which he's refused to divest from, "could benefit," Sanders claimed more than once that Trump is likely to face a tax hike.
REPORTER: The president has said that this tax bill is going to cost him 'a fortune.' It's actually not the case. How does he figure this is going to cost him a lot of money?SANDERS: Look, we expect that it likely will -- certainly on the personal side -- could cost the president a lot of money.
When a reporter noted that the president "stands to benefit" from pass-through deductions, a top-rate tax reduction, an expanded estate-tax exception, Sanders responded by changing the subject.
Later in the same briefing, the press secretary nevertheless added that the president "will likely take a big hit" from the Republican proposal.
This is admittedly a difficult question to answer definitively because Trump World refuses to release the president's secret tax returns for reasons no one in the White House can explain. But NBC News, the Washington Post, and others have published detailed fact-check pieces in recent weeks, each of which suggest Trump is going to end up with more money in his pocket thanks to the legislation he'll soon sign.
In fact, late changes to the GOP plan will almost certainly further benefit the president's personal finances. Forbes magazine ran a piece this week making the case that an 11th-hour change to benefit those with pass-through real-estate holdings will likely give Trump additional millions.
Why should you care? In part because the president and his team appear to be brazenly lying about a policy that will soon become the White House's first meaningful accomplishment. The details are also emblematic of the fact that while the Republican tax plan offers little -- and in some cases, less than nothing -- to those households with the least, our wealthy celebrity president stands to benefit quite a bit.
In a Vox piece yesterday on the "wholesale looting of America," Matt Yglesias added, "A businessman president who promised -- repeatedly -- that he would not personally benefit from his own tax proposals is poised to sign into law a bill that's full of provisions that benefit him and his family."
That matters, whether the White House pretends otherwise or not.