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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Two Republican congressmen who recently interacted with President Donald Trump are placing themselves in self-quarantine because of potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Reps. Doug Collins of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida have said publicly that they came into contact with a person at the conservative conference CPAC who has since tested positive for the virus.

“This afternoon, I was notified by CPAC that they discovered a photo of myself and the patient who has tested positive for coronavirus,” said Collins in a statement. “While I feel completely healthy and I am not experiencing any symptoms, I have decided to self-quarantine at my home for the remainder of the 14-day period out of an abundance of caution. I will follow the recommendations of the House Physician and my office will provide updates as appropriate.”

The Florida congressman made a similar announcement on Twitter:

Reporters quickly pointed out that the president has recently come into contact with both Collins and Gaetz.

The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein noted:

Gaetz, meanwhile, was seen by the White House press pool boarding Air Force One to travel with the president on Monday.

Bloomberg’s Justin Sink also reported that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who placed himself under quarantine on Sunday night for the same reason, also met at the White House on Thursday. He said that White House “officials have stressed that Trump has been religious about hand washing and other precautions.”

There’s no reason to believe that Gaetz, Cruz, or Collins passed the virus to Trump, since it has not been confirmed that any of them contracted it in the first place. But the totality of the contacts shows how easily such an outbreak could spread and can even impact top officials in the federal government. In Iran, where the outbreak has spiraled out of control, two officials have already died from the infection.

Trump, too, attended CPAC, though it has not been reported that he interacted with the person since diagnosed with the virus. But the Washington Post reported:

Trump was photographed shaking hands with Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, who confirmed that he had been in direct contact with the infected man during the Conservative Political Action Conference last month.

Gaetz was the subject of criticism after he wore a gas mask to congressional proceedings last week as lawmakers passed funding to fight the outbreak. Gaetz voted to approve the measure, even while voicing ridiculous concerns about paying for the funds:

Now his office is trying to say that he wore the mask not to mock the seriousness of the disease but to demonstrate “his concern … on the House Floor.”

However, there was no sign at the time that he was taking the issue seriously. And if he was, wearing a gas mask is the last thing he should have done. Officials have urged the public not to wear face masks unless they are themselves infected, and Gaetz’s actions could have muddled the message. And when he spoke to TMZ about the matter, he was clearly in a jocular mood:

When asked by TMZ where he got the gas mask from, Gaetz remained coy.

“I gotta keep that confidential…Top secret. You don’t wanna know what underground lair I pulled this from. It’s not made in China though,” he said.

The congressman said he doesn’t expect President Trump to follow his lead and get himself a matching gas mask, mostly “based on what it does to the hair.”

Just before entering the office building and finishing the impromptu interview, Gaetz decided against advising spring break travelers to cancel their planned trips to Florida.

“In my experience, the things that you consume on spring break will typically kill the coronavirus.”

A Week That Was Disastrous For Trump, Miraculous For Biden

Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he was elected president, according to a blockbuster report published by the New York Times on Sunday.

The Times report also found that Trump is millions of dollars in debt, incurred through a series of failed business ventures — a fact that runs counter to Trump's self-made image as a successful businessman. Trump has also used his financial failings to avoid paying taxes, the report found.

The president has resisted revealing his financial information since the start of his first presidential campaign, despite promising otherwise. "I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary," Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in 2015. Yet for five years, the president has failed to produce the documents.The president paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, and paid another $750 in 2017, according to the report. And in 2014, Trump paid zero dollars in taxes.

Conservatives including Trump often suggest that undocumented immigrants take advantages of government services without contributing their fair share. Throughout his first term, Trump has repeatedly cast blame on immigrants and suggested they post an economic burden to U.S. taxpayers.

"Our current immigration system costs America's taxpayers many billions of dollars a year," Trump claimed in 2017 during his first presidential address to Congress.

That claim does not hold up to scrutiny. In reality, undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes every year. In 1996, the Internal Revenue Service created a program for non-citizens who work in the U.S. to report their income. Non-citizens who do not have a Social Security Number — including undocumented immigrants — are able to file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. According to the IRS, 4.4 million people paid taxes using an ITIN in 2015, totaling $23.6 billion in tax revenue.

This raises the question: why would undocumented immigrants pay U.S. taxes if they are unauthorized to live in the country? Immigrants often choose to pay taxes in order to demonstrate "good moral character" when applying for legal residence or citizenship, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Undocumented immigrants who fail to pay their taxes risk deportation.

"Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, paid an estimated $328 billion in state, federal, and local taxes in 2014 alone," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School, told the American Independent Foundation. "It is outrageous that the average undocumented immigrant in the United States pays more in federal income taxes than the President did in 2016."

This contrast is especially ironic given Trump's tendency to deride unauthorized immigrants as irresponsible lawbreakers. Trump has a tendency to respond to criticism with projection — when accused, he accuses others of the same thing.

"Yes, undocumented immigrants are helping fund the very system that detain and deport us," journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who is undocumented, tweeted in 2019.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.