Last week, The New York Times followed up its 2018 report about Donald Trump inheriting $400 million from his father largely through highly questionable, possibly illegal tax schemes with the news that the “very successful” businessman had lost more than $1 billion between 1985 and 1994. Specifically, according to the team that won a Pulitzer for its coverage of Trump’s finances, the former real-estate developer frittered away a whopping $1.17 billion in a decade, “more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer,” and such a massive sum “that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years.” If anyone still believed Trump to be a successful businessman, that’s the sort of data point you’d think would cause them to re-evaluate. But apparently, not so much!
According to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll, 54 percent of voters believe Trump “has been successful in business,” compared to 36 percent who think he’s been unsuccessful, and 10 percent who have no opinion. Broken down by party lines, a whopping 85 percent of Republican voters think Trump has kicked ass in the private sector—despite the 10 figures’ worth of losses, the bankruptcies, and the words “Trump Steaks . . . exclusively sold through The Sharper Image,” while a mere 10 percent of Republican voters view him as unsuccessful. (On the flip side, 61 percent of Democratic voters say he’s been unsuccessful.) Reminded about the Times report in a subsequent question, 74 percent of Republicans still clung to the belief that Trump was somewhat to very successful in business.
Of course, this isn’t the only area in which Trump supporters have been happy to buy his obvious lies. Elsewhere, many seemingly believe that he’s the same height and weight as Tim Tebow, and a full two inches taller than Barack Obama, glaring evidence to the contrary. They also seem to believe he’s as rich as he says he is, that his tax cut was all about the middle class and cost him “a fortune,” and that he can’t release his tax returns because he’s under audit.
To be fair, Trump’s rank-and-file believers have good company in high places. After the Times reported he lost $1 billion, the clapping seals at Fox & Friends remarked, “If anything, you read this and you’re like ‘wow, it’s pretty impressive, all the things that he’s done in his life. It’s beyond what most of us could ever achieve.”
If you would like to receive the Levin Report in your inbox daily, click here to subscribe.
Team Trump not interested in online extremism going anywhere, thank you very much
More than a dozen allies, along with tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, all signed a pledge, but the U.S. government decided it couldn’t get on board with such an initiative:
The United States on Wednesday broke with 18 governments and top American tech firms by declining to endorse a New Zealand-led response to the live-streamed shootings at two Christchurch mosques, saying free-speech concerns prevented the White House from formally signing onto the largest campaign to date targeting extremism online.
The “Christchurch Call,” unveiled at an international gathering in Paris, commits foreign countries and tech giants to be more vigilant about the spread of hate on social media. It reflects heightened global frustrations with the inability of Facebook, Google, and Twitter to restrain hateful posts, photos, and videos that have spawned real-world violence. . . . The call is named after the New Zealand city where a shooter killed 51 people in a March attack broadcast on Facebook and posted afterward on other social-media sites. Facebook, Google, and Twitter struggled to take down copies of the violent video as fast as it spread on the Web, prompting an international backlash from regulators who felt malicious actors had evaded Silicon Valley’s defenses too easily. Before the attack, the shooter also posted a hate-filled manifesto that included references to previous mass killings.
Last year, the shooter who opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh posted anti-Semitic screeds online, and neo-Nazis used Facebook to organize before their deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, after which Trump famously commented that there were “very fine people” on “both sides” of the clash.
It’s almost as though you have to be careful about effectively banning abortion
Least of all because the people propping up your economy might have a problem with it:
Gov. Brian Kemp postponed an annual trip to Los Angeles to promote Georgia’s film industry on Tuesday as a growing number of movie executives and celebrities criticized his decision to sign the anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill into law. Abortion-rights activists had threatened to protest the May 22 event, and Georgia film executives were worried that tepid turnout and no-shows from studio chiefs could do lasting damage to the state’s moviemaking business. The delay is the latest sign of how quickly the fallout over House Bill 481, which outlaws most abortions as early as six weeks, has rocked Georgia’s film industry since the Republican signed it into law a week ago.
Several film production companies have vowed not to shoot anything in Georgia, and dozens of actors including Alec Baldwin, Don Cheadle, and Sean Penn signed a protest letter saying they won’t work in Georgia because of the law. Georgia has become one of the leading locations for movie and TV productions thanks to a lucrative incentives signed into law in 2005 that allows film companies to earn tax credits for up to 30 percent of what they spend here.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 455 productions were shot in Georgia during the fiscal year 2018, with an estimated economic impact of $9.5 billion. Oops!
Trump is going to take the next six months to decide if he should introduce yet more job-killing tariffs
Tariff Man just needs some time to chew things over:
Trump plans to hold off on imposing steep tariffs on imported autos while the U.S. pursues agreements with key trading partners, industry sources told A.F.P. Wednesday. Trump has threatened to impose 25 percent punitive duties on autos—a possibility that has worried the European Union and Japan in particular, as well as Mexico and Canada. Facing a deadline to announce a decision by Saturday on whether to implement the tariffs based on national-security concerns, the sources said Trump would hold off as negotiations proceed.
New tariffs risk exploding already-tense trade relations with Washington’s major trading partners, who are angry about punitive duties on steel and aluminum imposed last year. . . .German carmakers are especially concerned about the tariff threat, but Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared a truce in July 2018 in order to pursue negotiations.
In related news, very few people are enthused by the president’s plan to provide farmers with another multi-billion-dollar bailout in order to make up for the damage done by his trade war with China:
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a leading member of the Senate Finance Committee, is warning that President Trump’s plan to provide $15 billion in assistance to farmers hurt by the escalating trade war with China is “very bad policy.” “It’s a very bad policy,” he told a group of reporters in his office. “Think about what we’re doing. We’re inviting this retaliation that denies our farmers—the most productive farmers on the planet—the opportunity to sell their products overseas and then we say, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll have taxpayers send you some checks and make it O.K.’ That’s a very bad approach.”
This, of course, would be the second farm bailout Trump’s trade war has necessitated. The first one clocked in at a cool $12 billion and still didn’t stop farm income from plummeting $11.8 billion.
Trump Boys Blame Zika, Gun Violence for “Severely Underperforming” Hotels (the Hive)
Barr asks Pelosi outside the Capitol, “Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?” (The Washington Post
Trump Companies Were in the Red. He’s Reaped the Rewards Since (Bloomberg)
German authorities raid 14 banks in offshore tax-fraud probe (Financial Times)
WeWork Posts $264 Million Quarterly Loss, as It Expands Globally (Bloomberg)
Donald Trump is short-circuiting the electronics industry (The Verge)
The never-before-told story of the Navy plane that drew a giant penis in the sky (Washington Post)
Pig leads pursuers on foot chase across lanes of West Virginia highway (U.P.I.)
More Great Stories from Vanity Fair
— Inside the Zuckerberg–Winklevoss conference-room showdown
— How Michael Cohen spent his final days before prison
— Was this former Trump adviser scamming elderly MAGA voters?
— How Bono’s investment partner got busted in the college-admissions scandal
— If impeaching Trump is too tricky, is Barr a softer target for the Democrats?
Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hive newsletter and never miss a story.