- President Donald Trump announced that all travel and trade with Europe will be barred from entering the United States for 30 days starting Friday as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the United States.
- Trump also announced that he has instructed the Small Business Administration to provide loans to affected businesses and people.
- The Department of Homeland Security later clarified his comments by saying that trade will not be affected and this measure will only apply to foreign travelers.
Trump Bans U.S. Travel Between Europe
In an address from the Oval Office Wednesday night, President Donald Trump announced that all travel and trade between the United States and Europe would be suspended starting Friday.
Within an hour after his address, Trump and the Department of Homeland Security then had to walk back those claims with additional statements clarifying that the travel ban only applied to foreign travelers.
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” Trump originally said in his address. “There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.”
“Today, President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation, which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States,” the DHS clarified. “This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.”
Additionally, about an hour after his address, Trump announced on Twitter that the ban will not affect trade between the U.S. and any European country.
Notably, these travel restrictions will not be imposed on the United Kingdom.
This was also only the second time Trump has addressed the nation from the Oval Office, only implementing it once last year to speak on the 2018-2019 government shutdown.
Health Insurance and Warning to Older Americans
In his address, Trump continued by detailing a meeting between his administration and some of the nation’s top health insurance companies. He then said they have agreed to waive co-pays on coronavirus testing and cover treatment for those who have the virus.
Thursday, Trump’s comments were later again clarified by those health insurance providers, who said while they would cover testing, they have not agreed to cover far more costly treatment.
Trump also warned older Americans to be careful and avoid travel after advising nursing homes to suspend all non-medical visits.
In a warning to all Americans, Trump said people should brace for even more disruptions such as school closures and cancellations to more large gatherings. Later on Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for all public gatherings of more than 250 people to be canceled.
Trump also announced that he has instructed the Small Business Administration to provide loans in affected states and territories, also asking Congress for an additional $50 billion in assistance.
“To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief,” Trump said. “This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus. I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief.”
Other emergency actions include instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments for certain businesses and people affected by the virus, with Trump saying such a move would put $200 billion of liquidity back into the economy.
Regarding his push for Congress to pass payroll tax cuts, Trump once again doubled down on his calls for the government to provide relief to workers affected by the virus.
“This is not a financial crisis,” Trump said. “This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.”
Stocks Stop Trading
If that statement was meant to assuage investors, however, it did not work.
Following Trump’s address Wednesday night, Dow futures fell by 1,100.
Even before his address on Wednesday, stocks had already begun entering bear market territory, which occurs after those stocks drop 20% or more after recent highs.
Just six minutes after opening on Thursday, those drops were so big that investors stopped trading for about 15 minutes. That is the second time this week such an instance has happened. Outside of this week, stocks haven’t been temporarily halted since 1997.
For some context, however, those breaks meant to help investors slow down and think about their decision on where or not to invest in a stock.
Still, stocks for businesses in the travel industry plunged Thursday. Shares for cruise lines like Royal Caribbean shares dropped nearly 27% while Carnival was down 19%. Airlines such as United, Delta, and American all down more than 12%.
Other Reactions to Trump’s Oval Office Address
Thursday morning, the European Union condemned the Trump Administration’s travel suspension, saying the decision “was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
Others, including many analysts, argued that the suspension probably came a little too late, many pointing out that the coronavirus outbreak has already reached American soil and seen community transmission.
In a heated exchange with Ohio Governor John Kasich, CNN Anchor Don Lemon blasted Trump for sending mixed messages and providing the public with inaccurate information during his address.
“This has been going on long enough for them to get it straight,” Lemon said. “We need straight, accurate information for this president, and this administration we’re not getting it, and I don’t understand why you are tiptoeing around it. He came out, gave an address that happens very rarely, and he doesn’t get it right?!”
Kasich then fought back, saying the president had finally taken the coronavirus seriously, alluding to criticism that Trump has downplayed the threat of the virus by recently comparing it to the flu and using it as an opportunity to talk about the border wall.
House Dems Propose Paid Leave Legislation
After Trump’s address, House Democrats unveiled a sweeping coronavirus release package that consisted of a number of measures, including national paid sick leave program, free coronavirus testing, food security assistance, and expanded unemployment benefits.
Very notably, that proposal does not include a payroll tax cut. According to reports, both Democrats and Republicans rejected the proposal, arguing that payroll tax cuts do not help those hit the hardest and are largely aimed at helping the wealthy.
Thursday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the House is expected to vote on the legislation later in the day before leaving for a 10-day recess. According to reports, Pelosi is still hashing out the details with the Trump Administration, but not everyone is on board.
“The legislation that Speaker Pelosi introduced at 11pm last night—written by her staff and her staff alone—and plans to vote on just 12 hours later is not only completely partisan,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “It is unworkable.”
McConnell Slams House Bill, Senate Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus
Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Mitch McConnell slammed the House bill, calling it an “ideological wish list.”
I hope Senate Democrats will not block potential requests from our colleagues today to pass smaller, non-controversial pieces of legislation today,” he said.
While some Republican senators have expressed support for at least some parts of the bill, it’s unclear what the Senate will do. It may decide to consider the package or just propose one of its own.
Thursday morning, McConnell announced that the Senate will cancel its plans for the scheduled recess next week and will instead work through that.
To make matters worse, senators are now facing another problem that could complicate things even more. Wednesday night, Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) office confirmed that one of her staffers tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first case on Capitol Hill.
Cantwell later announced that she was closing her D.C. office to have it deep-cleaned. In response, other Senators closed their D.C. offices as well.
See what others are saying: (Politico) (Axios) (The Guardian)
Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG
AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.”
Lawsuit Filed Against Trump
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.
Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses.
“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,” a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed.
The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint.
Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief.
The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation.
“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media.
“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”
Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets
According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”
“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued.
Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time.
For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million.
Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million.
Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”
“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,” the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth.
The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday.
“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”
Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition.
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The Washington Post) (Reuters)
Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power
While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.
Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc
Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.
Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.
Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”
He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.
Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.
Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.
Continued Issues As Storm Rages On
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.
The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.
While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.
The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.
He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.
After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows
The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.
Largest Drop in Half a Century
The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.
From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.
In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.
The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.
Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.
Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.
According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.
But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.
Poverty Before COVID
Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.
They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.
It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.
The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.
They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.
Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.
The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.
Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.