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First Read: It's Getting Harder for Trump to Avoid Releasing His Taxes

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the National Guard Association of the United States, Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Evan Vucci / AP

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

It’s getting harder and harder for Trump to avoid releasing his tax returns

With less than eight weeks until Election Day, it looks like Donald Trump will be successful in not releasing his tax returns, becoming the first presidential nominee we can remember not doing so. But it’s becoming harder and harder for him to avoid releasing them. First is the news that New York’s Democratic attorney general has launched an inquiry into the Trump Foundation (the Trump campaign has called in a “left-wing hit job”). Second was the Washington Post’s investigative piece noting that most of the Trump Foundation money comes from other people’s money; that Trump passes the money to other charities and takes credit for it; and that he has used that money to buy himself a gift. ("One candidate's family foundation has saved countless lives around the world,” President Obama said on the campaign trail yesterday. “The other candidate's foundation took money other people gave to his charity and then bought a six-foot-tall painting of himself.") And third is a new Newsweek article detailing how Trump’s international business ties could become a significant conflict of interest if he becomes president. Any conventional politician would be feeling the heat here; of course, Trump isn’t your conventional politician. But every day that goes by with Trump not releasing his taxes suggests that there is something to all of these stories.

Clinton returns to campaign trail on Thursday

Yesterday afternoon, the Clinton campaign announced that Hillary Clinton would be returning to the trail -- after being sidelined with pneumonia the last few days. The former secretary of state will deliver remarks in Greensboro, NC (which, by the way, lost hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament due to the state’s anti-LGBT law).

A Party (Still) Divided

As Donald Trump gains ground in the polls, it’s noteworthy that GOP party elites still aren’t on board. Here’s the New York Times on when Mr. Pence came to Washington yesterday: “An otherwise friendly morning meeting with House Republicans turned awkward when Mr. Pence was pressed by Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska about Mr. Trump’s difficulties with women, said two House Republicans who relayed the conversation... Mr. Pence faced resistance again when he met privately with Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, neither of whom has endorsed Mr. Trump. Mr. Lee pressed the governor on his reluctance to denounce Mr. Duke and the so-called alt-right movement more explicitly, stressing ‘that Republicans must identify David Duke’s racism as deplorable,’ according to Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Mr. Lee... Calling Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, ‘a thug and a butcher,’ Mr. McCain said Mr. Trump’s embrace of the autocratic ruler was unacceptable, according to a Republican official present who also insisted on anonymity.” So here’s the story: Despite arguably the best two- or three-week stretch for the Trump campaign, congressional Republicans were beating up Pence. What happens when the worm turns?

Obama legacy watch

Want to know why President Obama’s approval ratings are above 50%? Here’s a good explanation: “Americans last year reaped the largest economic gains in nearly a generation as poverty fell, health insurance coverage spread and incomes rose sharply for households on every rung of the economic ladder, ending years of stagnation,” the Times says. “The median household’s income in 2015 was $56,500, up 5.2 percent from the previous year — the largest single-year increase since record-keeping began in 1967, the Census Bureau said on Tuesday. The share of Americans living in poverty also posted the sharpest decline in decades.”

Trump says Clinton doesn’t have a child-care plan. That’s not true

Campaigning in Pennsylvania yesterday with his daughter Ivanka by his side, Trump highlighted his plan to allow Americans to deduct their child-care expenses from their federal taxes. But he also said this, per NBC’s Ali Vitali: “[Hillary Clinton] has no child-care plan.” But that is just not true. Clinton rolled out hers in the spring of 2015 -- before Trump even announced his presidential bid. NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell compares the two plans.

Paid Family Leave

  • Trump: Trump doesn't offer leave for fathers, but his maternity leave plan would guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave in the form of unemployment insurance, which is capped at a percentage of income in many states.
  • Clinton: Clinton's plan guarantees 12 weeks of paid family leave - for mothers and fathers with at least two-thirds of their salary. It would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Cost of Child Care

  • Trump: Working parents - and parents who stay home to care for children - can deduct the costs on their taxes via the Earned Income Tax Credit. The campaign estimates that middle class families could receive a $1,200 tax break.
  • Clinton: She wants to cap child care costs at ten percent of a family's income. To do that, she'd rely on tax cuts or state block grants for the government to subsidize costs exceeding ten percent.

Powell calls Trump “a national disgrace” and “international pariah”

NBC News: “Former Secretary of State Colin Powell blasted Donald Trump as a ‘national disgrace’ and ‘international pariah’ in a personal email exchange that was leaked online by hackers. Powell, a retired 4-star general and a Republican, confirmed the authenticity of the emails to NBC News. ‘The hackers have a lot more,’ he added. The contents of the emails were first reported by Buzzfeed News. It said the messages had been obtained by the website which MSNBC reported is rumored to have ties to Russian intelligence services.” Another email, per Buzzfeed, has Powell calling Benghazi "a stupid witch hunt." The Intercept has yet another email with Powell criticizing Clinton. “Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.” What didn’t Powell unload on? Talk about throwing around some truth shade…

On the trail

Donald Trump holds a rally in Canton, OH at 7:00 pm ET… Mike Pence hits Dumore, PA at 7:00 pm ET… Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife in Nevada… And Chelsea Clinton stumps in North Carolina and Virginia.

Countdown to first presidential debate: 12 days

Countdown to VP debate: 20 days

Countdown to second presidential debate: 25 days

Countdown to third presidential debate: 35 days

Countdown to Election Day: 55 days