Speaking to reporters at the White House on Thursday, President Trump took an overt shot at New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's proposed 70 percent marginal tax rate on the wealthy, saying that the self-described Democratic socialist's plan would bring Venezuela's economic distress to the United States.
Trump's comment came a day after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro broke diplomatic ties with the U.S, as tens of thousands of marched the streets to protest the socialist leader's rule.
"We’re looking at Venezuela, it’s a very sad situation," Trump told reporters. "That was the richest state in all of that area, that's a big beautiful area, and by far the richest -- and now it's one of the poorest places in the world. That's what socialism gets you, when they want to raise your taxes to 70 percent."
He added: "You know, it's interesting, I've been watching our opponents -- our future opponents talk about 70 percent. No. 1, they can't do it for 70 percent, it's got to be probably twice that number. But, maybe more importantly what happens is you really have to study what's happened to Venezuela. It's a very, very sad situation."
The U.S. and other nations on Wednesday took the highly unusual step of recognizing Juan Guaido, the opposition head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, as the interim president of Venezuela. Maduro, elected last year in a vote widely seen as fraudulent, still controls the military and security services and has support among at least a portion of the public. He's given no sign that he intends to step down.
On Thursday, 16 of the 34 nations in the Organization of American States recognized Guaido at an emergency session. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged members to oppose the "illegitimate" Maduro and pledged to make $20 million available for humanitarian assistance to the country.
Ocasio-Cortez, in an interview Monday with “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," defended her tax proposal, saying it would only be imposed on the “10 millionth and one dollar” earned and beyond.
“So after you make $10 million in one year, your dollars after that start to get progressively taxed at a much higher rate. And really, what that is … at what level are we just living in excess?” she asked. “What kind of a society do we want to live in? … Do we want to have these folks with helipads in the same city, in the same society as people who are working 80-hour weeks and can’t feed their kids?”
The progressive firebrand first floated the 70 percent marginal rate in a recent interview with “60 Minutes.”
But the White House has frequently sought to cast the 29-year-old Cortez as a distraction. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, in a wide-ranging interview on Fox News' "Hannity" on Tuesday, derided Cortez in the wake of her suggestion that the world may end in 12 years due to climate change.
"I don't think we're going to listen to [Ocasio-Cortez] on much of anything -- particularly not on matters we're gonna leave in the hands of a much, much higher authority -- and certainly, not listen to the freshman congresswoman on when the world may end," Sanders said.
And asked last week outside the White House for his response to Ocasio-Cortez's claim that there is "no question" he's a racist, Trump responded simply: "Who cares?"
Separately, Trump sounded conciliatory notes on a variety of topics. He suggested that if Democrats offer a "prorated down payment" on his proposed border wall, he might support reopening the government without securing the full $5.7 billion he has long requested for the wall.
"If they come to a reasonable agreement, I would support that," Trump told reporters, referring to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The president also said it was "very reasonable" for House Speaaker Nancy Pelosi to block his planned State of the Union address in the House of Representatives until the end of the shutdown, even after conservatives said her concerns about the security of the event were illegitimate and Trump later responded by grounding Pelosi's planned overseas trip to Afghanistan.
And Trump suggested Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had erred earlier in the day, when he said furloughed federal government workers should have no problems getting loans to cover their expenses amid the ongoing partial federal government shutdown.
“The obligations that they would undertake — say borrowing from a bank or credit union — are in effect federally guaranteed,” Ross said. “So the 30 days of pay that people will be out — there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads from the financial institutions doing that.”
"Perhaps he should have said it differently," Trump said, referring to Ross' comments.
The president added, referring to out-of-work federal employees: “Local people know who they are, when they go for groceries and everything else. And I think what Wilbur was probably trying to say is that they will work along.”
Trump asserted that banks are also “working along” to alleviate shutdown-related woes.
“If you have mortgages, the mortgagees, the folks collecting the interest and all of those things, they work along," Trump said. "And that’s what happens in a time like this."
Fox News' Joseph A. Wulfsohn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.