WASHINGTON – President Trump took aim at New York State on Monday morning, blaming its governor and attorney general for the National Rifle Association's woes and incorrectly saying the state "didn't even put up a fight" against a change in federal tax law that cost some middle- and upper-income New Yorkers big money.
"The NRA is under siege by Cuomo and the New York State A.G., who are illegally using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization, & others. It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, & get back to GREATNESS - FAST!" Trump said in a Twitter post.
The NRA is under siege by Cuomo and the New York State A.G., who are illegally using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization, & others. It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, & get back to GREATNESS - FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
Trump's tweet followed his speech Friday at the NRA's national convention, during which the group's internal divisions were laid bare. At the convention, NRA President Oliver North announced he would not seek a second term after losing an internal power struggle with longtime Executive Director Wayne LaPierre.
Also on Friday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James launched an investigation into whether the NRA deserves its tax-exempt status, following a campaign promise she made last July.
“I will use the constitutional power as an attorney general to regulate charities, that includes the NRA, to investigate their legitimacy,” James said at the time.
New York State has the authority to investigate the NRA because the gun-rights group is chartered in the state.
In addition, the NRA and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have been engaged in a feud for years, stemming in part from the SAFE Act gun legislation he pushed for and signed into law in January 2013.
Cuomo responded caustically to Trump's tweets.
"President Trump: Since December 2012 there have been 2,029 mass shootings in the United States. 74,600 Americans have died from gun violence since you were elected. You have done nothing but tweet about it," Cuomo said in a statement.
Cuomo has been waging a campaign against the NRA's "Carry Guard" insurance program, which offers coverage “to cover legal fees and liabilities arising from self-defense shootings.” The state launched an investigation into the program last year, and the NRA responded with a lawsuit.
The governor alluded to the "Carry Guard" conflict in his statement.
"The only thing illegal is the gun lobby's insurance scheme," Cuomo said. "Unlike you, President Trump, New York is not afraid to stand up to the NRA. I will continue to fight for the children of this state. As for the NRA, we'll remember them in our thoughts and prayers."
An independent audit of the NRA, obtained last year by the Center for Responsive Politics, showed that the NRA's revenue from members had plummeted by $56 million over two years, prompting multimillion-dollar deficits in both 2016 and 2017.
Nevertheless, Trump blamed the organization's woes on the Empire State – and in a follow-up tweet, suggested the NRA should leave New York.
"People are fleeing New York State because of high taxes and yes, even oppression of sorts. They didn’t even put up a fight against SALT - could have won. So much litigation. The NRA should leave and fight from the outside of this very difficult to deal with (unfair) State!" Trump tweeted.
....People are fleeing New York State because of high taxes and yes, even oppression of sorts. They didn’t even put up a fight against SALT - could have won. So much litigation. The NRA should leave and fight from the outside of this very difficult to deal with (unfair) State!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
That Trump tweet follows the release of Census Bureau population estimates that showed New York State's population dropping by 48,500, or 0.25 percent, between July 2017 and July 2018. It was the third consecutive year in which the Census Bureau estimated the state's population had fallen.
Trump's statement that the state "didn't even put up a fight against SALT" is untrue.
In 2017, Cuomo heavily pressed the state's congressional delegation to fight back against a Trump-backed tax-code overhaul that limited the deduction for state and local taxes to $10,000. And since Congress passed that change in the tax code in late 2017, Cuomo has continued the fight, visiting Washington repeatedly to press his case that the tax change is unfair.
Cuomo and other Democrats said that change would devastate high-tax states such as New York by prompting taxpayers to flee, and the curtailing of the so-called "SALT" deduction does seem to have had an impact on the state. The governor blames the change for a $2.3 billion drop in state revenues.
Trump told regional reporters in February that he was "open to talking about" changes to the SALT deduction.
“There are some people from New York who have been speaking to me about doing something about that, about changing things," Trump said. "It’s been severe on them."
Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow put an end to such talk in early April, though, saying: "I just don't expect to see tax reform opened up."