- In a series of tweets Tuesday, President Trump said he is halting all negotiations on the coronavirus stimulus package until after the election, adding, “immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill.”
- He also said he instructed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to focus on approving his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
- The move prompted outrage from many Democrats who argued that Trump was acting in his own self-interest, not America’s, by holding the stimulus package hostage and bribing people to vote for him.
- Some Republicans also condemned the move, but others defended it, saying Democrats had only provided unworkable proposals and refused to negotiate.
- Hours later, Trump appeared to backtrack and urged Congress to immediately approve another round of stimulus checks as well as billions of dollars for both airline payroll support and the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.
Trump Ends Stimulus Talks
President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he was ending all negotiations on another coronavirus relief stimulus package until after the election.
Trump declared the decision in a series of tweets where he accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) of “not negotiating in good faith” and said he was rejecting her requests.
“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” he wrote.
The president went on to say that he asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell instead to “focus full time on approving my outstanding nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.”
“Our Economy is doing very well,” he added. “The Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment also coming back in record numbers. We are leading the World in Economic Recovery, and THE BEST IS YET TO COME!”
Following that announcement, many people took to Twitter to condemn the president, arguing he was holding the stimulus package hostage and that he was essentially bribing Americans to vote for him.
Many politicians also echoed the claim that Trump was simply doing this to benefit himself, including Pelosi, who has been one of the main politicians leading the stimulus negotiations.
“Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colors: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress,” she said in a statement. “He refuses to put money in workers’ pockets, unless his name is printed on the check.”
Democratic nominee Joe Biden also hit on similar points in a statement on his campaign page.
“Make no mistake: if you are out of work, if your business is closed, if your child’s school is shut down, if you are seeing layoffs in your community, Donald Trump decided today that none of that — none of it — matters to him,” the former vice president said before going on to condemn Trump for ending the negotiations so the Senate could focus on jamming through his Supreme Court nominee.
The president telling the Senate to focus on the controversial near-election nomination rather than providing Americans with much-needed assistance also sparked anger among many.
“In the middle of the worst pandemic in a century, Trump won’t help people get the relief they need – but he will ram through an illegitimate Supreme Court nominee to rip away Americans’ health care,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.) tweeted. “So much for the art of the deal. This is despicable.”
Questionable Strategy and Republican Response
Politics divisions aside, many people also wondered what strategic purpose Trump’s announcement served, and why the president would see any benefit in refusing to give American’s economic support less than a month before the election.
“Wait, so Trump not only rejects stimulus funds that would probably have helped his re-election chances, but *also* does so in a way to make sure that he personally will take blame for it?” pollster and FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver said in a tweet.
“The timing of Trump’s sudden move perplexed Republicans since there was little downside politically to allowing the talks to continue to play out,” CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju tweeted. “Now, they fear, that Trump’s decision will make it easier for Democrats to pit the blame squarely on the WH.”
To that point, a small handful of Republicans have spoken out against Trump for ending negotiations. In a statement, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) called the move “a huge mistake.” Rep. John Katko (R-Ny.) also explicitly tweeted that he disagreed with the president.
“With lives at stake, we cannot afford to stop negotiations on a relief package,” he continued. “The Problem Solvers Caucus has a proposal that both sides agreed on and can bring negotiators back to the table. I strongly urge the President to rethink this move.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc.), a staunch ally of the president, also chimed in. While he did not directly criticize Trump, he did reiterate Katko’s remarks encouraging his Republican colleagues and the president to look at that same bipartisan package.
“Time to come together to help America deal with COVID as we move toward a vaccine,” he added.
Of course, on the other side, there were also plenty of Republicans who defended the move, including key leaders, like McConnell, who said he agreed with Trump’s decision when asked by reporters Tuesday.
“I think his view was that they were not going to produce a result and we needed to concentrate on what’s achievable,” he added.
Other Republicans also echoed Trump’s remarks, arguing that Pelosi’s deal was unworkable.
“Just look at Pelosi’s last offer to see how unserious she is,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a tweet, calling the proposal “a leftist wish list.”
Trump Reverses Course
However, following the backlash — as well as a significant stock market dip — Trump appeared to reverse course. Just hours after saying he was ending all stimulus talks, he called on Congress to pass key elements of the package.
“The House & Senate should IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business,” he tweeted. “Both of these will be fully paid for with unused funds from the Cares Act. Have this money. I will sign now!”
“If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY,” he said in another tweet shortly after. “I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening, Nancy?”
Those late-night proclamations confused many. In an attempt to clear up the discourse, Wednesday morning, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows went on Fox News. There, he explained that the negotiations on a stimulus package were indeed dead but also added that he and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were in talks about smaller bills.
“The secretary and I have been talking about what we could do with stand-alone bills to help airlines, small businesses and the American people, with stimulus checks,” he said. “So, hopefully, we can convince Speaker Pelosi to do something on a stand-alone basis.”
However, while speaking to reporters, a spokesperson for Pelosi said that Mnuchin asked about a standalone airline bill in a call with the Speaker this morning. In that call, Pelosi reminded the secretary that Democrats had tried to push through an airline payroll bill on the House floor via unanimous consent last week, but Republicans blocked it.
As for the other measures Trump mentioned in his tweets, while Pelosi and Democrats have supported them, it seems unlikely that they will agree to this. In general, they have rejected piecemeal stimulus legislation in pieces because they believe smaller bills will not do enough to help the pandemic economy.
Regardless of the uncertain path forward, Trump’s push to pass certain parts of the package did seem to revive the stock market, which quickly rebounded Wednesday morning. However, the stock market’s optimism is not something that is shared by everyone.
In fact, just hours before Trump tweeted that he was ending negotiations and asserted that the economy was doing well, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell painted a grim picture of where the economy is headed in incredibly unusual remarks
In his comments, Powell urged Congress and the White House to approve more stimulus packages and warned hem that failure to do so could result in dire consequences.
“Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” he said. “Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy and holding back wage growth. By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller.”
Despite that dire warning, Trump still claimed that the stimulus package was not needed because the economy was doing well, and the stock market and jobs were coming back at record levels.
But many experts — including some of Trump’s own advisors — have said the economy is not doing well and unless more money is injected into it, the economy is at risk of stalling or even backsliding.
Even beyond that, it is simply false that the stock market — which does not reflect the health of the economy — is at record levels. Similarly, regarding Trump’s job claims, while unemployment has gone down since its peak in April, it is still at 7.9%, and the country has recovered barely half of the jobs lost in March and April.
At the same time, many are worried that the job losses the country has seen are permanent and that given the predictions from experts about coronavirus spikes this fall and winter, Americans can expect more closures and slowdowns.
With the election edging nearer and nearer, Trump and his allies have firmly centered the economy as a key issue, now more than ever. The question now is will it come back to bite him?
According to a New York Times-Siena College poll from last month, 72% of voters supported a stimulus. That includes a majority of Republicans, but as for how Americans struggling in the pandemic economy will respond on Election Day, that is yet to be seen.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Politico) (The Washington Post)
Feds Investigate Classified Files Found in Biden’s Former Office
The documents reportedly include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom
What Was in the Files?
President Biden’s legal team discovered about 10 classified files in his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington D.C., the White House revealed Monday.
The Department of Justice has concluded an initial inquiry into the matter and will determine whether to open a criminal investigation.
According to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, they include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
A source also told CBS News the batch did not contain nuclear secrets and had been contained in a folder in a box with other unclassified papers.
The documents are reportedly from Biden’s time as vice president, but it remains unclear what level of classification they are and how they ended up in his office.
Biden kept an office in the. Penn Biden Center, a think tank about a mile from the White House, between 2017 and 2020, when he was elected president.
On Nov. 2, his lawyers claim, they discovered the documents as they were clearing out the space to vacate it.
They immediately notified the National Archives, which retrieved the files the next morning, according to the White House.
What Happens Next?
Attorney General Merrick Garland must decide whether to open a criminal investigation into Biden’s alleged mishandling of the documents. To that end, he appointed John Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump appointee, to conduct an initial inquiry.
Garland reportedly picked him for the role despite him being in a different jurisdiction to avoid appearing partial.
Lausch has reportedly finished the initial part of his inquiry and provided a preliminary report to Garland.
If a criminal investigation is opened, Garland will likely appoint an independent special counsel to lead it.
The case mirrors a similar DoJ special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified materials and obstruction of efforts to properly retrieve them.
On Nov. 18, Garland appointed Jack Smith to investigate over 300 classified documents found at Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago.
Trump resisted multiple National Archives requests for the documents for months leading up to the FBI’s raid on his property, then handed over 15 boxes of files only for even more to be found still at Mar-a-Lago.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many houses of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters he will investigate the Biden files.
Republicans have been quick to pounce on the news and compare it to Trump’s classified files, but Democrats have pointed out differences in the small number of documents and Biden’s willingness to cooperate with the National Archives.
The White House has yet to explain why, if the files were first discovered six days before the midterm elections, the White House waited two months to reveal the news to the public.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (BBC)
Lawmakers Propose Bill to Protect Fertility Treatments Amid Post-Roe Threats
The move comes as a number of states are considering anti-abortion bills that could threaten or ban fertility treatments by redefining embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for IVF.
The Right To Build Families Act of 2022
A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would codify the right to use assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments into federal law.
The legislation, dubbed the Right To Build Families Act of 2022, was brought forward by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Il) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) alongside Rep. Susan Wild (D- Pa.). The measure would bar any limits on seeking or receiving IVF treatments and prohibit regulations on a person’s ability to retain their “reproductive genetic materials.”
The bill would also protect physicians who provide these reproductive services and allow the Justice Department to take civil action against any states that try to limit access to fertility treatments.
The lawmakers argue it is necessary to protect IVF because a number of states have been discussing and proposing legislation that could jeopardize or even ban access to the treatments in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal.
“IVF advocates in this country today are publicly telling us, ‘We need this kind of legislation to be able to protect this,’” Murray told HuffPost. “And here we are after the Dobbs decision where states are enacting laws and we have [anti-abortion] advocates who are now starting to talk, especially behind closed doors, about stopping the right for women and men to have IVF procedures done.”
Fertility Treatments Under Treat
The state-level efforts in question are being proposed by Republican lawmakers who wish to further limit abortions by redefining when life begins. Some of the proposals would define embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for those that are created through IVF, where an egg is fertilized by a sperm outside the body and then implanted in a uterus.
For example, a bill has already been pre-filed in Virginia for the 2023 legislative session that explicitly says life begins at fertilization and does not have any specific language that exempts embryos made through IVF.
Experts say these kinds of laws are concerning for a number of reasons. In the IVF process, it is typical to fertilize multiple eggs, but some are discarded. If a person becomes pregnant and does not want to keep the rest of their eggs. It is also normal that not all fertilized eggs will be viable, so physicians will get rid of those.
Sometimes doctors will also implant multiple fertilized eggs to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, but that can result in multiple eggs being fertilized. In order to prevent having multiple babies at once and improve the chance of a healthy pregnancy, people can get a fetal reduction and lower the number of fetuses.
All of those actions could become illegal under proposals that do not provide exemptions.
“In my case, I had five fertilized eggs, and we discarded three because they were not viable. That is now potentially manslaughter in some of these states,” said Duckworth, who had both of her daughters using IVF.
“I also have a fertilized egg that’s frozen. My husband and I haven’t decided what we will do with it, but the head of the Texas Right to Life organization that wrote the bounty law for Texas has come out and specifically said he’s going after IVF next, and he wants control of the embryos,” Duckworth added.
In a hearing after Roe was overturned, Murray also raised concerns about “whether parents and providers could be punished if an embryo doesn’t survive being thawed for implantation, or for disposing unused embryos.”
Experts have said that even if anti-abortion laws defining when life begins do provide exceptions, it would be contradictory and confusing, so providers would likely err on the side of caution and not provide services out of fear of prosecution.
“[Abortion bans] are forcing women to stay pregnant against their will and are, at the very same time, threatening Americans’ ability to build a family through services like IVF,” Murray said in a statement to Axios. “It’s hard to comprehend, and it’s just plain wrong.”
The federal legislation to combat these efforts faces an uphill battle. It is unlikely it will be passed in the last few days of lame duck session, and with control of Congress being handed to Republicans come January, movement in the lower chamber will be hard fought.
Duckworth, however, told Axios that she will keep introducing the legislation “until we can get it passed.”
Hundreds of Oath Keepers Claim to Be Current or Former DHS Employees
The revelation came just weeks after the militia’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
An Agency Crawling With Extremists
Over 300 members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group claim to be current or former employees at the Department of Homeland Security, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reported Monday.
The review appears to be the first significant public examination of the group’s leaked membership list to focus on the DHS.
The agencies implicated include Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service.
“I am currently a 20 year Special Agent with the United States Secret Service. I have been on President Clinton and President Bush’s protective detail. I was a member and instructor on the Presidential Protective Division’s Counter Assault Team (CAT),” one person on the list wrote.
POGO stated that the details he provided the Oath Keepers match those he made in a sworn affidavit filed in federal court.
The finding came just weeks after Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“Law enforcement agents who have associations with groups that seek to undermine democratic governance pose a heightened threat because they can compromise probes, misdirecting investigations or leaking confidential investigative information to those groups,” POGO said in its report.
In March, the DHS published an internal study finding that “the Department has significant gaps that have impeded its ability to comprehensively prevent, detect, and respond to potential threats related to domestic violent extremism within DHS.”
Some experts have suggested the DHS may be especially prone to extremist sentiments because of its role in policing immigration. In 2016, the ICE union officially endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump for president, making the first such endorsement in the agency’s history.
The U.S. Government has a White Supremacy Problem
Copious academic research and news reports have shown that far-right extremists have infiltrated local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
In May, a Reuters investigation found at least 15 self-identified law enforcement trainers and dozens of retired instructors listed in a database of Oath Keepers.
In 2019, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that almost 400 current or former law enforcement officials belonged to Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia Facebook groups.
The Pentagon has long struggled with its own extremism problem, which appears to have particularly festered in the wake of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nearly one in four active-duty service members said in a 2017 Military Times poll that they had observed white nationalism among the troops, and over 40% of non-white service members said the same.
The prevalence of racism in the armed forces is not surprising given that many of the top figures among right-wing extremist groups hailed from the military and those same groups are known to deliberately target disgruntled, returning veterans for recruitment.
Brandon Russell, the founder of the neo-Nazi group AtomWaffen, served in the military, as did George Lincoln Rockwell, commander of the American Nazi Party, Louis Beam, leader of the KKK, and Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nation.
In January, NPR reported that one in five people charged in federal or D.C. courts for their involvement in the Capitol insurrection were current or former military service members.