August 6, 2014

Corporate America is about to get a lot more international. Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are warning that big U.S. companies like Walgreens could begin fleeing overseas in droves to avoid paying taxes, according to The Washington Post. The tactic, known as "tax inversion," could cost the economy $20 billion in tax revenue over the next decade, says Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation.

Here's how it works: an American company buys a smaller foreign company, usually from Europe, where corporate tax rates are lower. The headquarters are technically moved to Europe and presto — the company no longer has to pay U.S. taxes on foreign profits that would normally have to be repatriated. The scheme has become much more popular, putting pressure on other U.S. companies to consider changing their address.

Washington dysfunction is partly to blame. Members of both parties, including President Obama, agree that the U.S. corporate tax rate — which at 35 percent is one of the highest in the industrialized world — should be lowered. But a big deal to reform the tax code is far beyond Congress' abilities. Instead, Democrats are proposing bills to limit inversions, which not-so-coincidentally makes for good politics as we head toward the 2014 midterms. Ryu Spaeth

4:24 a.m. ET

On Monday, President Trump teased parts of his big speech before Congress on Tuesday, including his plan to replace ObamaCare, Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show, lingering on the part where Trump insists that "nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."

"I can think of one guy — tall, big smile, used to sit in your chair," Colbert reminded Trump. "It's just that you didn't know, okay? That's like if I performed open-heart surgery tomorrow and said, 'Wow, nobody said it would be so wet in here.'" Trump warmed up for Tuesday's speech on Friday at CPAC, where he strongly denounced anonymous sources and leaks. Trump urged people to say any criticism they have of him to his face, and Colbert accepted the challenge.

Trump's war on leakers has trickled down to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who is apparently now spot-checking his staff's phones for evidence of unauthorized press contact. "He knows for a fact there's one guy in the White House who keeps sending out unhinged tweets at 3 a.m.," Colbert joked. "It's nuts. He's gotta find him."

One of Trump's tweets informed everyone that he will not be attending this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner, the first president to opt out of the tradition since Richard Nixon (Ronald Reagan missed the event in 1981, because he was in the hospital, having been shot). "That's disappointing, but it's not his fault," Colbert said of Trump skipping out. "That night he's already scheduled to be at the Kremlin Correspondents Dinner. He's double-booked." Really, he added, "it's too bad Trump's not going to go, because he I'm sure he would have given a hilarious speech. I mean, can you imagine? Well, you don't have to." He played a clip of Cartoon President Trump delivering his roast. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:42 a.m. ET

The Trump administration's war on the news media hit a new low on Friday when Press Secretary Sean Spicer excluded The New York Times, CNN, the Los Angels Times, and BuzzFeed from a press gaggle, Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show, though "BuzzFeed was excluded because Spicer didn't like the answer he got for 'Which Gilmore Girl are you?' Such a Lorelai." That followed President Trump's heated critique of the press at CPAC. "And the root of all this conflict is that Donald Trump calls any story he doesn't like 'fake news.'" That irritates the news media, but do you know who else finds it galling? Jon Stewart. He popped out from underneath Colbert's desk to say so.

"Jon, you miss it, don't you?" Colbert asked, after Stewart said he had dug a tunnel from his farm to Colbert's desk. "Yes, I miss it!" he said. "Stephen, I spend the whole day yelling about Trump to the animals." But Stewart was always as much a media critic as a political satirist. "Trump lies more in one press conference than CNN does in a year, and this is coming from a guy who, as you know, hates CNN," he reminded everyone. He insisted that Trump lies on purpose, explaining to a skeptical Colbert that we can know this "because he constantly says the phrase 'Believe me.' Nobody says 'Believe me' unless they are lying." He played a clip of Trump saying "Believe me" a very large number of times.

Then Stewart turned to the camera with some tough love for the press: "Hey media, so I heard Donald Trump broke up with you. Stings a little, doesn't it? Finally thought you'd met your match, a blabbermouth who's as thin-skinned and narcissistic as you are. Well, now it's over — good riddance, I say! Kick him to the curb! It is time to get your groove back, media, because let's face facts, you kind of let yourself go for these past few years." He continued in this vein for a while — criticism that, quite frankly, could also apply to late-night political comedy — then landed his final blow. "This breakup with Donald Trump has given you, the media, an amazing opportunity for self-reflection and improvement," Stewart said. Instead of griping about being excluded rom his press conferences, "take up a hobby — I recommend journalism." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:42 a.m. ET

A Cessna 310 aircraft with five people aboard crashed into two houses in Riverside, California, on Monday evening, not long after it took off from Riverside Municipal Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Three of the people died in the crash, including the pilot, and two survivors are in local hospitals, Riverside Fire Chief Michael Moore said at a press conference Monday night. There were no known victims in either house, he added, though fire and rescue workers will comb the wreckage again on Tuesday morning. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash as well.

Moore had originally listed four fatalities, but reduced the death toll in a second news conference. He said the plane had been heading back to San Jose after a cheerleading competition at Disneyland. Traci Zamora who lives in the neighborhood, tells CNN that she "was inside the house and it shook our whole house like an earthquake," adding, "It is all so surreal." You can watch some of Moore's comments and see footage of the wreckage in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber

2:06 a.m. ET

Last Thursday, Bill O'Reilly had a man on his show whom he introduced as "Swedish defense and national security adviser" Nils Biltd. Biltd argued that Sweden was ignoring its immigration problem, disagreeing with O'Reilly's other guest, Swedish journalist Anne-Sofie Naslund of the Expressen newspaper, who said that Sweden was much safer and more harmonious than President Trump and Fox News made it sound. Sweden's small national security circle was confused by Bildt's presence in the debate, as nobody had ever heard of him.

The newspaper Dagens Nyheter did some digging and reported that the man calling himself Bildt had left Sweden in 1994, changed his name in 2003 from Nils Tolling — apparently to suggest a connection with former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt and his brother, Nils Biltd — and had earned a one-year prison sentence in Virginia in 2014 for a violent offense. (Bildt/Tolling disputed that last part, telling The Washington Post he never went to prison.)

O'Reilly addressed the kerfuffle on Monday's O'Reilly Factor, in his closing "Tip of the Day" segment, saying that "some left-wing people" had objected to Bildt's participation in his Sweden debate and Sweden's government had objected to O'Reilly's description of Bildt's qualifications. "We looked into the situation, and the criticism is valid," O'Reilly said. "It's valid." Bildt "does consulting work on terrorism," he added, and "to be fair, the information we gave you in the segment was accurate, but in hindsight a more relevant guest should have been used on the anti-immigrant side." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:12 a.m. ET

"President Trump will address Congress for the first time on Tuesday to discuss his agenda," Seth Meyers said on Monday's Late Night, "which could be difficult, since his agenda so far has consisted largely of complaints about the media." Trump previewed his big speech on Monday, he noted, "and as is customary for any Trump appearance, it was a little all over the place." In discussing his big infrastructure plan, for example, Trump talked about tiles in New York City's Lincoln Tunnel, and when he brought up replacing ObamaCare, he made a rather stunning admission. "Nobody knew health care could be so complicated?" Meyers said. "The only way that sentence could be more terrifying is if you heard it just as the anesthesia was kicking in."

"Then there's the question of what kind of tone we can expect from Trump's speech tomorrow," Meyers said. "Up to now, when Trump has discussed actual policy, he usually does so in bleak terms, as he did in his inaugural address." When asked about Trump's doom-and-gloom inaugural on Monday morning, former President George W. Bush laughed, then launched into an unexpected defense of a free press.

Meyers noted that Trump often ditches his press pool, as he did for dinner out at a Trump hotel on Saturday night, as recorded by a conservative journalist tipped off beforehand. That was mostly a setup to discuss the most salient details of the dinner. "Okay, he ordered a well-done steak and put ketchup on it, and he thinks SNL is filmed at 8:45," Meyers said. "We've officially elected everybody's grandpa." Then he brought it home: "Tomorrow's a huge opportunity for Trump. He has the chance to sell Americans on his agenda rather than whine about the free press, and he will have the weight of history on his shoulders." Meyers ended with some soaring words from W., circa 2000. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:21 a.m. ET

At a time when seemingly every aspect of American life breaks along fairly predictable partisan lines, there's something refreshingly quixotic about the fractured reaction to this photo of White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway kneeling on a couch in the Oval Office, after snapping a smartphone photo of President Trump and the leaders of black colleges and universities.

"I don't care how Kellyanne Conway sits on a sofa in the Oval office and can't imagine why it would bother people," tweeted New York's Jonathan Chait, a liberal. Amanda Carpenter, a conservative political operative, responded to a #CouchGate post from the The Reagan Battalion by rolling her eyes: "She was getting a picture, [people]. Calm down." Last Week Tonight writer Josh Gondelman quipped that he'd "only be able to get mad at the way Kellyanne Conway sits on a couch if it turns out she's hiding... Trump's tax returns under her."

On the other hand, Conway clearly had her shoes on the Oval Office couch, and some people viewed that as a sign of disrespect for the office, especially since there was no obvious reason she needed to be snapping a photo with her phone, or to snap it from the couch:

Several commentators recalled the conservative outrage when former President Barack Obama was photographed with his feet on his desk in the Oval Office, while others, like Rachel Vorona Cote at Jezebel, bristled at what she called Conway's "alternative decorum" and purported lack of respect for "the country’s most esteemed African American educators" gathered in the room. Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editorial page editor, was similarly unimpressed:

But hey, at least we've all stopped arguing about that white-and-gold dress. Peter Weber

February 27, 2017
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate on Monday evening confirmed Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary on a 72-27 vote. Ross has extensive business relationships around the world, and to comply with an ethics agreement he will divest from the private equity firm he founded in 2000, WL Ross & Co., and drop his position, though not his stake, in shipping company Diamond S. Shipping. Ross, worth about $2.9 billion, also vowed he will not act to benefit any company he has a financial interest in. The Senate has now confirmed 15 of Trump's 22 Cabinet-level picks. Next on the docket is Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) for interior secretary. Peter Weber

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