First Thing election special: Trump did pay taxes – in China

The president paid almost $200,000 in taxes in China, where he maintains a previously unreported bank account. Plus, America’s 100,000 extra pandemic deaths

Donald Trump with China’s Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in 2017




Donald Trump with China’s Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in 2017.
Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

Good morning,

The New York Times recently revealed that Donald Trump paid no personal income tax to the IRS in 10 of the 15 years before he won the presidency. But the newspaper has now revealed that from 2013 to 2015 he paid almost $200,000 in taxes to China, where he still maintains a bank account and spent years pursuing business deals – a potentially major conflict of interest for a president who has fought both of his election campaigns on a promise to stand up to Beijing.

  • A Trump Organization lawyer told the New York Times that the Chinese bank account was opened “in order to pay the local taxes”, adding: “No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialized and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive.”

Trump demanded Barr investigate the Bidens, and ‘fast’

Joe and Hunter Biden in 2010.


Joe and Hunter Biden in 2010. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

In a Tuesday phone interview with his favourite morning show, Fox & Friends, Trump demanded his attorney general, Bill Barr, launch a brazenly political investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden “before the election” in less than two weeks’ time. The president insisted that a New York Post story of dubious provenance regarding Hunter’s links to a Ukrainian energy firm was evidence of “major corruption”, saying: “We’ve got to get the attorney general to act. He’s got to act, and he’s got to act fast.”

Meanwhile, a Russian analyst who was unmasked by congressional Republicans as the main source for the Steele dossier on Trump’s links to Russia – and was then publicly accused by the president of being a “Russian spy” – tells Luke Harding he is in hiding and “afraid for his life” as a result of the president’s smears.

  • Trump reportedly cut short a pre-election interview with Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes on Tuesday, and then tweeted a threat to post footage of the “FAKE and BIASED” exchange to Twitter before it is broadcast on CBS.

  • How did Don Jr become his father’s political heir apparent? By retweeting conspiracy theories, delivering fiery populist speeches and “owning the libs”, writes David Smith:


Don Jr, whose father worried about naming his son after himself in case he turned out to be a “loser”, is adept at throwing red meat to the base, sometimes with greater discipline and precision than his father.

Could a President Biden still save the Iran nuclear deal?

John Kerry and Javad Zarif in Vienna in 2016


John Kerry, then secretary of state, meets Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, in Vienna in 2016. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/AFP/Getty Images

Joe Biden was part of the Obama administration that forged the Iran nuclear deal, and he has promised to rejoin it if he wins the White House in November. But, as Patrick Wintour reports, the Iranian government is facing its own electoral challenge from hardliners who oppose any engagement with the west, which may leave a Biden administration with only a narrow window in which to revive diplomatic relations with Tehran.

  • The Trump administration’s annual human rights assessment has omitted or altered vital information about issues including torture, reproductive rights and persecution based on sexuality in countries around the world, diminishing the value of what was previously considered a “gold standard” of objective information.

The justice department made a big threat to big tech

Google’s offices in New York.


Google’s offices in New York. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In a case reportedly rushed through by Barr during what may be the dying days of the Trump administration, the US justice department has sued Google, accusing it of abusing its position to maintain an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising.

As Kari Paul explains, the federal antitrust lawsuit poses the biggest legal threat yet to a titan of big tech, and follows other investigations of Silicon Valley’s monopolistic behaviour by state attorneys general, the FTC and the house judiciary committee. However, at least one legal expert says the DoJ’s decision to file suit so soon before a potential change of presidential administration “could be detrimental” to the case.

In other election news …

Melania Trump is canceling a rare joint campaign appearance with her husband due to a ‘lingering cough’.


Melania Trump is canceling a rare joint campaign appearance with her husband due to a ‘lingering cough’. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Stat of the day

Trump claimed on Tuesday that the US was “crushing the coronavirus”, despite the latest nationwide surge in cases. In fact, the CDC has found that 300,000 excess deaths were recorded in the US this year, only a third of which are accounted for by the official Covid-19 death toll.

The extra 100,000 deaths may be a mixture of unrecorded coronavirus cases and fatalities indirectly related to the pandemic, such as people who could not access treatment for other serious conditions because hospitals were overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.

View from the right

Twitter’s decision to block the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story shows that censorship in America has not disappeared, argues Matthew Schmitz – instead, it has been outsourced to big tech.


The Post Office no longer screens our mail for obscene material, and the local librarian is unlikely to ban books. But a system of private corporations controls what Americans can read and see. This system is less obedient to small-town values and religiosity than it is to the Chinese Communist party and the woke ascendancy.

Don’t miss this

An anonymous grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case has claimed – after a judge ruled they could speak publicly – that jurors were never offered homicide charges to consider against the police officers who shot dead Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, in her Louisville apartment during a botched narcotics raid. The juror’s account of the proceedings runs contrary to that given by the Kentucky attorney general, Daniel Cameron.

Last Thing: AOC knows how to play the game

AOC’s Among Us stream attracted the third-highest viewership in Twitch history.


AOC’s Among Us stream attracted the third-highest viewership in Twitch history. Photograph: Brian Snyder/AFP/Getty Images

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been playing the popular game Among Us and broadcasting it live on Twitch for as many as 400,000 viewers, one of the most-watched Twitch streams ever. Patrick Lum explains why a politician would be busy playing video games two weeks before the election.

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