White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern found himself in a fiery exchange with CNN anchor Poppy Harlow on Monday as he repeatedly attempted to deflect from the New York Times’ bombshell report on President Trump’s decades-long tax evasion.
When pressed on the Times’ damning report — which reveals that the President largely avoided paying taxes over the past 15 years prior to his first year in the White House (when he paid a mere $750 in federal income taxes) and is under audit by the IRS as he sits in hundreds of million of dollars in debt — during an interview on CNN, Morgenstern echoed Trump’s dismissal of the report by calling it “completely false” and insisting that the President paid “quite a lot” in taxes.
After Harlow told Morgenstern that she’s asking him specifically about Trump’s federal income taxes and the absence of his tax returns, Morgenstern turned his ire toward the Times for declining to share the documents obtained for its report.
Harlow brought up that Trump and his attorneys have access to his tax returns before pointing out the significant discrepancies in how much the President has paid in federal income taxes, according to the Times report, compared to average Americans.
Morgenstern went on to launch an unfounded allegation that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign collaborated with the Times on its report as part of a smear campaign against Trump.
“So the New York Times reported basically the same thing four years ago on the eve of the debate,” Morgenstern said. “The Democrats had ads up and running within minutes of this coming out, which means that it’s probably a coordinated political smear.”
Morgenstern then brought up Hunter Biden — a deflection tactic commonly used among the Trump administration and Republicans.
Harlow pushed back, telling Morgenstern that she “absolutely should not” be asking the President’s spokesperson about “someone that is not germane to this” and is not running for President.
The CNN anchor urged Morgenstern to answer her questions regarding the Times’ report, but he once again defaulted to accusing the Times of colluding with Democrats in a hit job against Trump.
“We know that he donates his salary to the government even when he doesn’t have to,” Morgenstern said. “That’s a million and a half dollars in taxes he didn’t even have to pay, but this is a story that is another version of it from four years ago on the eve of the debate. Coordinated with the Democrats as a political hit.”
Harlow shut down Morgenstern again, saying that “these are remarkable reporters from The New York Times that went through 20 years of documents” and that it’s not OK to baselessly accuse reporters of colluding with the Democratic Party.
After the CNN anchor urged Morgenstern to stop attacking the press and that the President can put the controversy that has ensued over the Times’ report to rest if he would just release his tax records himself, Morgenstern griped that the “press can attack” Trump, but “he cannot defend himself.”
Harlow replied that she hopes Trump comes on CNN because “the easiest defense would be for him to lay out his records as every modern president has done since the 1970s.”
Watch the exchange below:
I asked White House Deputy Press Secretary @Bmorgenstern45 for some clarity this morning. “What is true? How much did the President pay in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017?”
And then I asked again.
And Again. pic.twitter.com/Y94Q2T5ARh
— Poppy Harlow (@PoppyHarlowCNN) September 28, 2020