Donald Trump, one of America’s best-known businessmen, spent Monday trying to clean up his comments about the economy.
Trump was under fire for comments on U.S. fiscal policy that were not only out of step with his party – but in some cases were a reversal of his own positions during the primary.
He sparked concerns last week, for instance, when he dubbed himself the “king of debt” in an interview on CNBC and said he would be open to renegotiating U.S. public debt by treating the interaction like a business deal.
But on CNN’s “New Day” Monday, Trump said he never meant to suggest he would want the U.S. to default on its debt. In fact, Trump said, the country would never face such a potential outcome because it can “print” money.
“People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt, and I mean, these people are crazy. This is the United States government,” Trump told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “First of all, you never have to default because you print the money.”
That did little to satisfy economic experts who view U.S. bonds as one of the safest investments in the world and are leery of any talk of default.
Trump also tried to walk back his comments on taxes. Appearing on the Sunday morning shows, Trump suggested the wealthiest Americans were likely to pay more taxes under his administration. The remarks raised eyebrows, both because they conflict with his past promise to slash taxes across the board, as well as the GOP’s broad support for tax breaks for all income brackets.
“From a practical standpoint, it’s going to get renegotiated,” the New York businessman said about his tax plan on ABC’s “This Week.” “And in my opinion, the taxes for the rich will go up somewhat.”
But during the “New Day” interview, he said he was referring to his willingness to consider changes to his own tax plan rather than the existing tax code. He insisted that wealthy Americans would ultimately pay a lower rate than what they are paying now.
“If I increase it on the wealthy, they’re still going to pay less than they pay now,” Trump told Cuomo.
Later in the day, Trump tweeted: “Any negotiated increase by Congress to my proposal would still be lower than current!”
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s campaign moved quickly to capitalize on the distraction.
On a call with reporters Monday afternoon, Clinton’s advisers dubbed Trump’s tax plan “the most risky, reckless and regressive tax proposal ever put forward by any major presidential candidate.”
“His tax plan proves that he is on the side of the wealthy and the big corporations and not the middle class and we fully intend to hold him to it,” said Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s policy adviser.
Trump clearly sought to move beyond the brouhaha Monday and pivot to the general election. Though the race is six months away, he appointed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as chairman of his transition team. That announcement came days after he hired Steven Mnuchin as the campaign’s national finance chairman – another key hire.