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Gary Cohn, the White House economic adviser and chair of the National Economic Council, repeatedly sidestepped questions Thursday on whether President Donald Trump’s recently released tax plan would benefit the president or his businesses.
Numerous elements proposed in the tax plan, such as the repeal of the alternative minimum tax and a lower pass-through business rate, could shrink Trump’s tax bill.
“How can you say this is not going to help him?” a reporter asked Cohn during the White House daily press briefing.
“What I think the American people is worried about is there own financial situation,” Cohn said, declining to address the question. “I think what they’re concerned about is when they go to work every week and they get their paycheck at the end of the wee how much do they get to keep?”
Trump could stand to save a lot of money from the plan, based on a review of the president’s 2005 tax returns, portions of which leaked earlier this year. A repeal of the alternative minimum tax alone would have saved him $31 million that year.
Cohn was asked if it would be better for Trump to release his tax returns so people would know just how much financial benefit Trump would receive from the plan.
“Like I said, what we’re trying to do here at the White House is to increase the lifestyle of American citizens,” Cohn said.
A reporter tried a third time to nail down an answer from Cohn. For a third time, the former Goldman Sachs COO dodged.
“This tax plan, as it stands now, appears that it will benefit the president and his family. Why not just be candid about that?” the reporter asked.
“Look, I’ve told you it will benefit the middle class. American tax payers care about what they take home, they care about what they have to spend,” Cohn said.
Cohn then attempted to address two ways critics say Trump could benefit.
Cohn talked about the estate tax, arguing that the National Federation of International Business and the Farm Bureau were the two biggest proponents of its repeal. He also said wealthy families used trusts and other methods to dodge the estate tax, but he did not mention Trump.
Secondly, Cohn addressed the potential repeal of the alternative minimum tax, saying that most of the money paid into the AMT was due to the elimination of the state and local tax deduction. Since scrapping the state and local tax deduction is already included into the tax plan, Cohn said it was a moot point.