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Ivanka Trump touts small-business 'optimism' in Mt. Lebanon appearance with Saccone

| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 4:09 p.m.
Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump talks to Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump talks to Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump speaks during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump speaks during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Yong Saccone, wife of Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone, takes a photo during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Yong Saccone, wife of Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone, takes a photo during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone listens during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone listens during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Association (right), talks as she sits next to presidential adviser Ivanka Trump during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Association (right), talks as she sits next to presidential adviser Ivanka Trump during a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump leads a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Seated next to Trump are Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone and Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Association.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump leads a small-business roundtable discussion at Potomac Mineral Group in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Seated next to Trump are Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone and Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Association.

Presidential adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump joined small-business owners and a handful of Pennsylvania Republicans — including special election candidate Rick Saccone — in Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday to tout "optimism" under the Trump administration.

"Obviously there is some good regulation ... protecting our natural resources and environment," Trump said, emphasizing her father's orders to eliminate two federal regulations for every new one passed. "But there is a lot coming from Washington that creates barriers."

The roughly hourlong roundtable discussion was held in a small, glass-walled conference room at Potomac Mineral Partners, a firm that helps buy and sell mineral rights. Discussion centered on cutting taxes and regulations while encouraging job training and small-business expansion.

To the left of Trump sat Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and current administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. To her right was Saccone, a state representative from Elizabeth Township. He is the GOP nominee to face Democrat Conor Lamb in the March 13 special election to replace former Congressman Tim Murphy.

Also participating was State Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair.

"Our region's going through a transformation that's all about tech and energy," Maher said. "People think of those businesses and they think of the giants — but the jobs, the family-sustaining jobs, are in the smaller, ancillary businesses."

Corina Diehl of Diehl Auto­motive talked about how the paperwork for buying a car can rival the paperwork for buying a house and said regulations and permits have slowed her plans to build a body shop. Saccone mentioned how regulations surrounding Commercial Drivers Licenses can make it hard for people to get jobs as truck drivers.

McMahon and Trump said the administration's priorities remained cutting federal regulation and encouraging states to do the same.

Susan Castriota, who designs microwave-safe glass cookware and lids, said she had to get the glass for her products from overseas because the companies that used to make it in the United States had all shut down or moved out. She was worried President Trump might harm her business if he increases tariffs on imports.

Ivanka Trump responded that more manufacturing could return to this country under her father's policies, though perhaps not the more low-tech industries.

"Some of it is coming back, especially high-tech manufacturing," she said. "Low-tech manufacturing is much less likely to come back."

In addition to Diehl and Castriota, small businesses were represented by Bridgeville-based plastic surgeon Lori Cherup and Mt. Lebanon financial adviser Chris McMahon.

The administration also is promoting its tax cut package as a boon to small business. The cuts Trump signed included a 20 percent deduction on "pass-through income," or business income that is counted and taxed at the individual income-tax rate. Many small-business owners count their business earnings as pass-through income, but so can doctors, lawyers, accountants and wealthy real-estate investors.

A small crowd of protesters formed outside the Washington Road office building where the roundtable was held, holding signs protesting Ivanka and the Trump administration as a whole.

"Ivanka is complicit by being silent about what's happening in the White House," said Mt. Lebanon resident Lynda Park, 52, pointing to the example of two high-level staffers who resigned amid accusations of domestic abuse and questions about how long higher-ups knew about them.

"At the same time, she's here about supporting small business in the U.S., when all her fashion line is produced outside the U.S.," Park said.

Though it wasn't billed as a Saccone campaign event, he spoke afterward about wanting to support Trump's policies if elected. Saccone said he'd be "a good wingman" for Trump.

"I'll do whatever he needs me to do to implement the programs he's getting out," he said.

Tuesday was the third time Saccone appeared alongside a Trump administration official, having gotten the president's endorsement on Twitter and a brief mention at a Jan. 18 stop Trump made to extol his tax plan at H&K Equipment in North Fayette. Vice President Mike Pence attended a Saccone fundraiser Feb. 2 in Bethel Park, and Trump is scheduled to visit Ambridge Area High School in Beaver County on Feb. 21.

Saccone's presence at the event drew a response from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, which put out a statement slamming Ivanka Trump for making products overseas and Saccone for supporting big businesses and hoping they'd support his campaign.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, msantoni@tribweb.com or via Twitter @msantoni.

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