First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
WASHINGTON — So now we have a good idea why President Trump won't release his tax returns.
Because every time we've gotten a hint of what they look like, they paint a damning picture — both of his record as a businessman and his tax practices.
On Tuesday night, the New York Times revealed that, according to official IRS tax transcripts, Trump reported losing more than $1 billion in losses from 1985 to 1994.
The money graf in the piece: "In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners."
Of course, that's not the only story we know about Trump's taxes.
In October, those same New York Times reporters wrote that Trump "participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents."
Last month, in fact, Trump's sister stepped down from her job as a federal judge, ending an investigation into whether "she violated judicial conduct rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings."
And during the 2016 campaign, the Times got its hands on Trump's 1995 tax return, in which he declared a $916 million LOSS.
That deduction was so substantial, the Times said, "it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years."
So last night's story is a big one. But let's not forget about the other New York Times blockbuster reports on Trump's taxes.
They don't paint a pretty picture.
And they help explain why Trump doesn't want the public to see his most current tax records.
This morning, Trump responded to last night's story with a pair of tweets:
By the way, in the 2000 presidential race, Trump spent a lot of time criticizing Bill Bradley.
Why? Bradley helped write that 1986 tax-reform law that changed these write-off schemes.
DOJ threatens House Dems if they vote to hold Barr in contempt
As NBC's Mike Memoli puts it, the Trump Justice Department is throwing down the gauntlet
If House Democrats vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt, DOJ writes, Barr will recommend asserting executive privilege over the Mueller report and its underlying documents.
The Washington Post adds that the move all but assures Barr will be held in contempt of Congress.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler responded with this message, per Memoli: "In the middle of good faith negotiations ... [DOJ] abruptly announced that it would instead ask President Trump to invoke executive privilege on all of the materials subject to our subpoena. This is, of course, not how executive privilege works."
But as James Fallows asks, "How can you possibly assert Executive Privilege over something that is not simply in Congress's hands but *on sale in book stores*?"
2020 Vision: Climate soars to the top of the Dem issue list
NBC's Alex Seitz-Wald writes that climate change "has recently shot to the top of polls of issues that Democratic voters care about in the presidential primary."
"That's a big shift from the last presidential election in 2016, when climate change did not get a single question during the debates between Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump."
Our most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed the top issues among Democratic respondents this way:
- Health care: 36 percent of Dem respondents said was their No. 1 issue.
- Climate change: 20 percent.
- Jobs and the economy: 12 percent.
On the campaign trail today
Beto O'Rourke campaigns in both Iowa and Minnesota… Amy Klobuchar participates in a town hall on Fox News… Joe Biden raises money in Los Angeles… And speaking at the Machinist Union legislative conference in DC are Kirsten Gillibrand (9:30 am ET), John Delaney (9:45 am ET), Tim Ryan (10:00 am ET), Seth Moulton (10:30 am ET) and Bernie Sanders (11:00 am ET).
Data Download: The number of the day is … $1 million
That's the amount (at least) that Kamala Harris has raised in minority-majority ZIP codes, more than twice the amount raised in the same areas by her next-closest competitor, Beto O'Rourke.
That's according to an NBC analysis by Jonathan Allen, Lauren Egan and Jeremia Kimelman.
Tweet of the day
The Lid: Thinking outside the Fox
Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we took a deep dive into the effect Fox News viewership has on public opinion.
ICYMI: New clips you shouldn't miss
Iran says it will stop complying with some parts of the Iranian nuclear deal.
Don't miss this headline from Reuters: "Trump fixer Cohen says he helped Falwell handle racy photos"
The Trump campaign is not happy with "dishonest fundraising groups" after a damning report about a group run by former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie.
And our own Andrea Mitchell accepted the 2019 Freedom of the Press Award last night. In her remarks, she said "We are not the enemies of the people. We are not fake news. Those slogans are meant to isolate us from the public - to diminish our credibility and undercut our effectiveness."
Trump agenda: Constitutional clash
Here's the latest from Jonathan Allen on the constitutional clash between Trump and House Democrats.
Steve Mnuchinspoke to Trump fundraisers just a day after blocking Democrats' demand to see Trump's tax returns.
The trade war could upend the economic status quo heading into 2020.
It's the first anniversary of the "Be Best" campaign.
2020: Inslee talks climate change
Jay Inslee was on TV with one of us(!) yesterday to talk about the connection between climate change and health care.
Kamala Harris has a new bill to help public defenders.
POLITICO reports on how Joe Biden is tapping into his deep network.
And Bidensays Trump uses immigration "to demonize people."