Andrew Yang is going a step further — pushing a plan for “universal basic income.” And to demonstrate what he’s talking about, the entrepreneur from New York City and uber-longshot for the Democratic presidential nomination is personally giving away money to families in Iowa and New Hampshire, the states that vote first and second in the presidential caucus and primary calendar.
“It would help people improve their health, nutrition, pay off some debts and bills that have been hanging over them, reduce their stress levels,” Yang told Fox News in an interview, describing what he’s dubbed a “freedom dividend.”
The grand plan would involve the government giving $12,000 a year to each adult American — the kind of guaranteed income scheme that’s been tested recently in Finland, as well as California.
The plan, like his candidacy, is a longshot. But, thematically, it dovetails with such sweeping government aid ideas as those contained in the newly unveiled Green New Deal and other proposals on Capitol Hill.
Yang said his plan would be paid for by a value-added tax, known as a VAT. He’s estimated a 10 percent VAT would raise some $700-800 billion. And to publicize the push, Yang is giving $1,000 per month this year out of his own pocket to a family in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Giving money to potential voters in two crucial early voting states could raise some eyebrows, legally speaking. But Yang said he checked with the Federal Election Commission before going ahead with his plan.
“I talked to the FEC and they said as long as it’s my personal funds, and it’s a personal gift with no strings attached, they have no issues,” he said.
He added that he’s “optimistic” the families receiving his personal cash payments this year “will come out for me, but I have no expectations and certainly no obligations.”
The New Hampshire recipients, the Fassi family from Goffstown, were selected out of a pool of dozens of Granite State applicants. They started receiving the monthly $1,000 payments in January. The campaign says a family in Iowa will be chosen soon through a similar contest.
Experts at the Campaign Legal Center – a nonpartisan organization that works to reduce the influence of money in politics – told Fox News that the distribution of personal funds is not something that campaign finance laws cover.
They added that they didn’t believe what Yang was doing would be unlawful, since the money being given away came with no strings attached, and should not be considered a form of bribery.
Yang was the CEO of the test-prep education company Manhattan GMAT. In 2011, he launched Venture for America, a New York City-headquartered organization that trains entrepreneurs.
Yang argued that automation is increasingly displacing the country’s workforce and that a cash payment will be needed for people to afford to live through the automation evolution.
“People see what’s happening in their communities. People see that stores are closing. Thirty percent of Americans malls are going to close in the next four years and working in retail is still the most common job in the economy. So you don’t need robots walking the streets of New Hampshire to understand that our economy’s evolving in unprecedented ways,” he said.
And he claimed that his message is resonating in Iowa and New Hampshire with some people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
“A lot of Trump voters have come up to me and said ‘I voted for Donald Trump and I’m going to vote for you because you’re not a Washington insider.’ Someone actually said to me ‘you’re what I thought I was getting when I voted for Donald Trump,’” he explained.
Speaking to a small gathering of activists and voters at a café in Somersworth, Yang joked that if the president had a nickname for him, it could be “comrade Yang.”
Politically, Yang’s proposal is one of many that Republicans would be eager to trash as modern-day socialism. After last week’s unveiling of the Green New Deal, the Republican National Committee panned it as a “socialist wish list” that would cost trillions and kill jobs.
But Yang claimed that what he’s proposing is “very, very different from socialism when the government actually nationalizes the means of production.”
Yang declared his candidacy for the White House nearly a year ago, though has been overshadowed by an already-crowded field of senators and other famous politicians. Yet he argued the big field offers a silver lining:
“Because every time someone comes in, people look around and see who’s in the field. People are still looking for options. And the bigger the field, the more fragmented it is, the better it is for us.”
McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump’s a Russian asset
McCabe has said in the past that the FBI had a good reason to open up a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was working with Russia and a possible national security threat.
The former official was on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” when he was asked if he believes Trump may still be a Russian asset. He said he’s “anxious” to see the conclusion of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation.
He was also asked if he believes Trump is fit to serve and said it is not up to him to make the determination.
Gowdy challenges McCabe’s claim congressional leaders didn’t object to Russia counterintelligence probe
Former congressman and Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy disputed former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe’s claim Tuesday that congressional leaders didn’t object to the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation over President Trump’s Russia ties.
“The reason he’s doing it this way is that [Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.] and [former House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.] are not allowed to discuss anything that’s said in a ‘Gang of Eight’ meeting and McCabe knows that,” Gowdy said on “The Story with Martha MacCallum.” “So he can level the accusation and Devin and Paul cannot refute him.” Nunes chaired the House Intelligence Committee from 2015-19.
McCabe, in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday morning, said no members of the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders, including Nunes and Ryan, objected to the investigation.
“I told Congress what we had done,” McCabe told Savannah Guthrie.
“Did anyone object?” Guthrie asked.
“That’s the important part here, Savannah,” McCabe replied. “No one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts.”
Gowdy, formerly a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he believed McCabe wasn’t telling the truth and that Nunes and Ryan did not know about a second investigation.
“There were three investigations into a duly elected president. The Peter Strzok one from July of 2016 and then McCabe started a counterintelligence [probe] and if he’s telling the truth, started a criminal probe into the president of the United States,” Gowdy told Martha MacCallum.
“I listened to Devin and Paul quiz the [Justice Department] and the FBI for hours on multiple occasions about the one counterintelligence investigation, we all knew about it. I find it stunning that they would know about a second one and not say a single solitary word.”
Gowdy also addressed former FBI Director James Comey’s May 2017 firing and McCabe’s belief that the president was trying to shut down the Russia investigation.
“If thinking that Jim Comey is not a good FBI director is tantamount to being an agent of Russia then just list all the people that are agents of Russia. [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein…,” Gowdy said.
Fox News’ Martha MacCallum contributed to this report.
Trump, Giuliani deny president tried obstructing Michael Cohen investigation
President Trump’s attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, denied a New York Times report that Trump asked then-Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker whether U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, a presidential ally, could be put in charge of the investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Trump’s onetime personal attorney Michael Cohen.
“The president said today he had no such conversation with the acting AG, and I believe Mr. Whitaker issued a statement to the same effect,” Giuliani said in a statement late Tuesday. “The rest of the piece is just a regurgitation of previously refuted obstruction theories. They all fail as obstruction because as [Harvard Law] Professor [Alan] Dershowitz’s recent book and many other authorities make clear, all of the alleged actions were within the president’s sole discretion under Article II of the U.S. Constitution.”
The Times report said that Whitaker told Trump that he could not put Berman in charge of the Cohen investigation because he had already recused himself from that matter. The paper claimed that Trump “soured” on Whitaker and “complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.”
Trump denied the story at the White House Tuesday afternoon, referring to the Times report as “more fake news” and saying that he had a “very good” relationship with Whitaker, who was replaced last week by William Barr.
“I have a lot of respect for Mr. Whitaker. I think he’s done a great job,” Trump said. He said Whitaker was “a very fine man, and he should be given a lot of thanks by our nation.”
Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec referred to testimony Whitaker gave to the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month.
“Under oath to the House Judiciary Committee, then-Acting Attorney General Whitaker stated that ‘at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation,'” Kupec said. “Mr. Whitaker stands by his testimony.”
Berman was named acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in January 2018 by the AG at that time, Jeff Sessions. Berman was appointed to the position indefinitely by the panel’s judges three months later.
Prosecutors in the Southern District say Trump directed Cohen to make illegal hush-money payments to two women — adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — in order to keep them quiet about alleged sexual encounters with them dating back more than a decade and coming soon after he’d married his current wife, Melania. Cohen is scheduled to report to prison next month to begin a three-year sentence after pleading guilty this past August to campaign finance and other violations.
Cohen is also scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 28. His attorney, Lanny Davis, has said that Cohen also plans to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight Committee before the end of this month. In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying under oath to the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Fox News’ John Roberts and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.
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