Feb 28, 2017

Trump not expected to endorse border adjustment tax tonight

Evan Vucci / AP

Unless something radically changes at the last minute — and the team is still working on the speech — President Trump won't specifically endorse the border adjustment tax in his address tonight.

Sources familiar with the planning say there'll be no dramatic revelation about tax reform. Trump is expected to outline broad principles but leave the door open to supporting or opposing it in the future.

Why this matters: Trump's team is divided on border adjustment. The nationalist wing of the White House — led by Steve Bannon — supports the plan to raise $1 trillion by hiking taxes on imports. Officials closer to corporate America, including top economic advisor Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, are said to be deeply skeptical. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the only way major tax reform will get done is if border adjustment is part of it to pay for massive tax cuts.

Update: A source sent us the talking points the White House sent to Capitol Hill to preview the speech. Here's the one that relates to border adjustment:

  • We must have fair trade for our workers – foreign countries can no longer be allowed to tax our exports while shipping goods into our country for free.

If Trump uses language similar to this it's enough to signal openness to the concept without outright endorsing it. It's language that could just as easily apply to outright tariffs.

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