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Trump Orders Stimulus Package Negotiations to Stop Until After Election

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  • 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!”

Backlash 

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. 

Economic Concerns

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)

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Voters in 4 States Received Emails Threatening Them To “Vote for Trump or Else!”

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  • Democratic voters in Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania received threatening emails telling them to vote for Trump or else the Proud Boys would “come after” them. 
  • The email came from a domain associated with the Proud Boys, but the group denied that it had any involvement and said that the website in question was no longer in use because it had been dropped by Google Cloud services.
  • According to The Washington Post, when the hosting service dropped the domain, it left it unsecured, meaning anyone online could take control of it.
  • Multiple outlets that reviewed the emails also reported that the messages did not come from the email address listed, but rather from foreign internet servers.

Threatening Emails

Registered Democrats in four different states — including three hotly contested swing states — were sent threatening emails Tuesday from an address that appeared to be affiliated with the far-right group the Proud Boys. The message warned recipients that if they did not vote for President Donald Trump, the group would “come after” them.

According to a screenshot of the email obtained by CBS News, the subject line of the message reads “Vote for Trump or else!”

“We are in possession of all your information (email, address, telephone… everything),” the body of the email said. The sender went on to claim they know the recipient of the email is a Democrat because they “gained access into the entire voting infrastructure.” 

Source: CBS News

“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the email continued. “Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you.”

Outlets that obtained copies of the email also reported that it concluded with the home address of the recipients they were sent to. Currently, voters in Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania have reported receiving the threatening messages.

It remains unclear how many went out in total, but it does appear that most of them were sent to people in Florida and Alaska. In Alaska, local news outlets reported that the emails went out to over a dozen people. In Florida, a University of Florida spokesperson said that they knew of at least 183 Floridians who got the messages.

Officials in both states also announced that they have launched investigations, and the FBI was also looking into the matter.

Proud Boys Deny Involvement

While the sender’s address is listed info@officialproudboys.com, a domain associated with the Proud Boys, the group’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, immediately denied that they had any involvement.

“We don’t send emails. This is someone spoofing our emails and website,” he told reporters. “We have spoken to the FBI and are working with them. I hope whoever did this is arrested for voter intimidation and for maliciously impersonating our group.”

Tarrio also told The Washington Post that the group has been in the process of migrating from officialproudboys.com to another site. In fact, they said officialproudboys.com has not been used for weeks because that domain was recently dropped by a hosting company that uses Google Cloud services after concerns were raised about the group.

According to The Post, when the hosting service dropped the domain, it appeared to just be left unsecured, and thus “allowing anyone on the Internet to take control of it and use it to send out the menacing messages.”

Numerous outlets that reviewed the emails also said that they did not come from the email address that was displayed, but rather from foreign internet servers. According to CBS, the metadata from the emails they analyzed showed that the messages originated from IP addresses connected to servers in Estonian, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

While experts noted that the IP addresses do not necessarily mean that the senders were based in those countries because they could have routed the emails from almost anywhere, some cybersecurity experts have pointed to the possibility of foreign interference to sow chaos in the election.

“We’re 2 weeks from the last day to vote! This is also the perfect time for adversaries to create chaos by spreading bogus claims or overstating activity,” Chris Krebs, the director of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency tweeting, noting that his office was aware of the emails.

“Ballot secrecy is guaranteed by law in all states,” he continued. “These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CBS News) (The New York Times)

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Exxon Clarifies That Quid Pro Quo Call With Trump “Never Happened”

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  • During a rally Monday, President Trump said he would outraise Biden in campaign donations if he asked corporations to donate money to his campaign in return for granting political favors.
  • He used an example of asking the CEO of Exxon to give his campaign $25 million in exchange for permits and licenses. 
  • The scenario the president described is a federal crime punishable by prison time, and in a statement shortly after, Exxon said that the call “never happened.”
  • Trump clarified that he would not ask for those donations because it would make him “compromised” and implied soliciting money from large companies would compel him to grant them political favors in return because he is “loyal.”
  • Many still condemned the president, arguing that even if it was a hypothetical, the kind of quid pro quo he detailed is almost exactly what he was impeached for, and given his track record, some believe it is possible that this is something he would do again.  

Exxon Refutes Call

After President Donald Trump told a crowd of rallygoers Monday that he could, in theory, call up the CEO of Exxon Mobil and ask him to donate to his campaign in exchange for political favors, the energy giant clarified that no such call had taken place.

“We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO,” the company said in a tweet. “And just so we’re all clear, it never happened.” 

While speaking to the crowd in Prescott, Arizona, Trump addressed the fact that he is currently being handily out-raised by former Vice President Joe Biden by claiming that he would be “the greatest fund-raiser in history” if he collected bribes from companies in exchange for political favors.

“All I have to do is call up the head of every Wall Street firm, the head of every major company, the head of every major energy company. ‘Do me a favor, send $10 million for my campaign,’” Trump said, adding that he could not take the money because it would make him “totally compromised.”

“Because when they call me, you know, you’re a loyal person, and what happens is hey, you know, you’ll do things that are a lot more money,” he added, before going on to provide an example.

“So I call some guy, the head of Exxon. I call the head of Exxon, I don’t know, you know. I’ll use a company,” the president said. “‘Hi, how are you doing? How’s energy coming? when are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh? Okay.’ But I call the head of Exxon, I say, ‘You know, I’d love you to send me $25 million dollars for the campaign.’ ‘Absolutely, sir, why didn’t you ask?’” 

Beyond making him “compromised,” the situation that the president described is also illegal. Under federal law, soliciting for donations in exchange for a favor or advantage — like a specific policy outcome or permits and licenses — is punishable by fines, removal from office, and up to 15 years in prison.

Response

Trump’s remarks quickly began trending on Twitter, with many users condemning him. Despite the fact that the example the president provided appeared to be entirely hypothetical, some people still found it alarming, especially because he did not outright acknowledge it was illegal.

Some noted that the scenario he described almost exactly the kind of quid pro quo that Trump was impeached for after he withheld aid from Ukraine in order to coerce the country’s president to dig up political dirt on Biden.

“It’s basically what he was impeached for: trading presidential act for political favor,” one user wrote. “Just substitute ‘Exxon’ for ‘Ukraine.’ ‘Exxon, I need you to do me a favor, though.’” 

Other users also pointed out that Trump repeatedly defended himself during the impeachment proceedings by claiming his actions did not constitute a quid pro quo. If he believed he did not commit any wrongdoing, they argued, it is possible that he would engage in this kind of behavior again.

“If he was willing to do this with Ukraine, I have no doubt he’s done it with US corporations,” one user wrote.

Some also cast doubt on the fact that it was a hypothetical at all.

“Trumps the kind of guy who jokes about doing something illegal but says ‘I’m just kidding’ but he’s actually done it,” one person tweeted. “He made the old Exxon CEO the Secretary of State. How much has Exxon given Trump & how has the Trump administration helped them w/ regulations.” 

It is true that the oil and gas industry has been a large contributor to Trump, who has spent his time in office denying scientific facts about climate change and rolling back decades of environmental regulations.

According to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics, Trump and outside groups associated with him have raised nearly $13 million from people at oil-and-gas companies in this election cycle.

Not only is that nearly 13 times the $976,000 the industry has donated to Biden, it is also more than people in the industry have given Republicans in all of the last three presidential races.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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AOC Will Play “Among Us” With Pokimane and Others To “Get Out the Vote”

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  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked if anyone wanted to play “Among Us” with her on Twitch in an effort to encourage voting.
  • She’s already publicly agreed to play with Pokimane, Hasan Pike, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, but no other players have been confirmed yet.
  • Internet stars who showed interest included James Charles, Gus Johnson, Jacksepticeye, Dr Lupo, and several others.
  • The congresswoman has created a Twitch channel in preparation for the stream, which she said could happen Tuesday night.
  • AOC isn’t the only Democrat using video games to reach young voters. The Biden-Harris campaign has made headlines for releasing 2020 yard signs and creating its own headquarters in “Animal Crossing.”


AOC Issues a Call for “Among Us” Players

Internet stars are jumping at the chance to stream a game of “Among Us” with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Twitch this week.

“Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?” the Democratic congresswoman from New York tweeted out Monday.

I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun,” she added before asking, “Who would you want to watch in a game together? ⬇️”

“Among Us” is a multiplayer murder mystery game that was released in 2018, but it recently became wildly popular thanks to various streamers and people trying to have fun with friends in this age of social distancing. 

While many streamers were quick to reply to AOC’s question, one of the biggest names catching attention was Pokimane, who has over 6 million Twitch followers.

“It’d be an honor,” she tweeted back.

“Let’s do it!” Ocasio-Cortez replied, saying she’ll set up her account and get equipment together.

Other Creators Show Interest

Aside from Pokimane, AOC also publicly agreed to play with streamer and political commentator Hasan Piker, as well as Rep. Ilhan Omar. 

It’s unclear how many people she’s looking to bring together, but a game of “Among Us” can have up to 10 players.

Other huge creators throwing their names into the hat include James Charles, Gus Johnson, Jacksepticeye, Lazarbeam, and Dr Lupo.

However, as of now, no other players have been publicly confirmed. AOC set up her Twitch channel last night, which already has nearly 200,000 followers.

She said she spent time setting up mods and doing run-throughs but plans to go live sometime Tuesday night.

Democrats Using Video Games To Reach Young Voters

It will be interesting to see who participates and what kind of viewership this event brings in. Many agree that the steam could prove to be a smart way to reach younger Americans before the election, a base AOC is especially good at communicating with.

Although she admittedly hasn’t played this particular game before, video games aren’t exactly outside her realm of interests. In fact, she previously opened up about loving to play “League of Legends.” 

Ocasio-Cortez is also far from the only Democrat-leaning into video games as a way to reach young voters. The Biden-Harris campaign has taken a similar approach with the “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

Biden-Harris Yard Signs in “Animal Crossing”

Last month, they released official yard signs through the game, and just this month, the campaign launched Joe Biden’s virtual headquarters– an entire island where users could connect with his campaign, 

A field office in Biden’s HQ

According to Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden-Harris campaign: “The island includes plenty of ice cream, trains, aviators, chucks, swag, and more weaved throughout the entire island — but there are also features that encourage players to organize and mobilize.”

For example, it included ads for the DNC’s “I Will Vote” website as well as an election day checklist, among other features. Biden’s character even walks across the island so players can take virtual selfies with him.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Verge) (CNET)

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