White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dodged questions about how Republicans’ tax bill would benefit the richest Americans, including President Donald Trump himself.
Trump stands to gain from a variety of provisions in the bill, including its lowered top tax rate, doubled estate tax exemption and rate cut for pass through businesses.
The carried interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers to earn fees at a much lower tax rate than normal income, is something “the President promised again and again and again to close,” Fox News’ John Roberts said during a press briefing Tuesday. “Why did the President not insist on getting rid of that?” he asked.
“Look, the President was focused and he laid out what his four biggest principles were, that he wanted to make sure we are part of any piece of legislation,” Sanders responded. “We feel that the piece of legislation, where it is now, certainly answered and addressed that. That has been our focus all along, and what we’ve continued to talk about consistently here and every time we’ve talked about taxes.”
“The President has said that this tax bill is going to cost him a fortune, it’s actually not the case,” ABC News’ Cecilia Vega said. “How does he figure this is going to cost him a lot of money?”
“Look, we expect that it likely will, certainly on the personal side, could cost the President a lot of money,” Sanders said, making a claim for which the White House has offered no evidence, including releasing the President’s tax returns.
“Again, the President’s focus hasn’t necessarily been at all on himself,” she added.
Vega pressed: “But he stands to benefit from pass through deductions, top rate tax deduction, estate tax exemption has doubled, he’s going to make money on that?”
“Again, this is a tax plan that we hope benefits all Americans,” Sanders said. “Priority number one is middle class Americans. That has been this administration’s focus. We feel like that is certainly addressed.”
Later, a reporter returned to Roberts’ question: “How is keeping the carried interest loophole, or at least a portion of it, good for the middle class?”
Sanders didn’t answer.
“Look, the big priorities we had, I’ll go back, were ‘make it easy,’ ‘make it fair,’ ‘win again,’ and ‘bring it home.’ We feel like this tax legislation certainly does that.”
When a reporter pressed later on Vega’s line of question — that Sanders didn’t “disagree” that Trump will benefit — the press secretary let slip some acknowledgement that he would.
“I said that in some ways, particularly on the personal side, the President will likely take a big hit,” she said. “But on the business hit he could benefit, but the biggest focus for this White House has been to make sure all Americans are better off today after this tax package passes than they were beforehand.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta tried once more as the briefing ended.
“The President did say that this tax cut bill would cost him a fortune. That was false, right?”
“No, because on the personal side this actually could impact the President in a large way,” Sanders replied.