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Trump changes tune on tax hikes for rich Americans

US-GOP-PRESIDENTIAL-CANDIDATE-DONALD-TRUMP-HOLDS-INDIANA-PRIMARY (File) Trump released a tax proposal last September that included broad tax breaks for businesses and households

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Sunday he is open to raising taxes on the rich, backing off his prior proposal to reduce taxes on all Americans and breaking with one of his party's core policies dating back to the 1990s.

"I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more," Trump told ABC's 'This Week'.

After effectively sealing the Republican nomination last week, Trump has used speeches and interviews to offer more details on his policy positions.

The billionaire real estate tycoon has said he would like to see an increase in the minimum wage, although on Sunday he told NBC's 'Meet the Press' he would prefer to see states take the lead on that front instead of the federal government.

"I don't know how people make it on $7.25 an hour," Trump said of the current federal minimum wage. "I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I'd rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide."

Trump's call for higher taxes on the wealthy is a break with Republican presidential nominees who have staunchly opposed tax hikes for almost three decades. Higher taxes have been anathema to many in the party since former president George H.W. Bush infuriated fellow Republicans by abandoning a pledge not to raise taxes and agreeing to an increase as part of a 1990 budget deal.

Democrats, including presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, have pressed for increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans for years.

Trump released a tax proposal last September that included broad tax breaks for businesses and households. He proposed reducing the highest income tax rate to 25 per cent from the current 39.6 per cent rate.

Pressed on the contradiction between his latest comments on taxes and the September tax plan, Trump said he viewed his original proposal as "a concept" and said he expected it would be changed following negotiations with Congress.

"By the time it gets negotiated, it's going to be a different plan," Trump told ABC. He emphasised in separate interviews with ABC and NBC's 'Meet the Press' that his priorities were lowering taxes on the middle class and businesses.

"The middle class has to be protected," Trump told NBC. The rich are "probably going to end up paying more," he said.

Deep divide

Republicans remain deeply divided over Trump's candidacy, though he has pledged to try to unite the party ahead of its convention in July. Prominent party leaders such as Paul Ryan, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, have distanced themselves from Trump over his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Ryan, who has been a leading voice for the Republican party on budget issues for years and is currently the House speaker, has proposed a series of budgets that would cut taxes across the board.

Trump also has called for new tariffs on Chinese and Mexican imports to the United States, a position that is at odds with the position on trade held by Ryan and many other pro-business Republicans.

Ryan, will who preside over the convention in Cleveland on July 18-21 where the party will formally nominate its candidate for the Nov. 8 presidential election, said last week he hoped to eventually support Trump. But he added, "I'm just not there right now."

Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona also is undecided about Trump. Flake said he wanted to see Trump revise some of his positions, including the proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.

"He's got to soften his position there," Flake said.

Underscoring the party's divisions, Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and a Trump supporter, criticised Ryan for failing to endorse Trump. The conservative populist firebrand said she would work to defeat Ryan in his Aug. 9 primary race against a conservative businessman.

Clinton said she hoped to take advantage of Republican reticence over Trump to draw the support of party defectors.

"I am asking people to come join this campaign," the former secretary of state told CBS. "And I've had a lot of outreach from Republicans in the last days who say that they are interested in talking about that."

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