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Trump unilaterally

Trump says will unilaterally suspend payroll taxes if no deal on coronavirus aid – Reuters

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump vowed on Friday to act unilaterally to suspend payroll taxes for all Americans through the end of 2020 and possibly longer and extend supplemental unemployment benefits and other coronavirus aid if no deal can be reached with Democrats on a new spending bill.

“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” Trump told a news conference. He added that an executive order could be signed by the end of the week, without specifying whether he meant this week or next week.

Reporting by Jeff Mason, writing by David Lawder; Editing by Sandra Maler

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Banned' Trump

Trump banned TikTok and WeChat. Are video games next? – Los Angeles Times

President Trump’s two executive orders targeting Chinese companies went public just after 6 p.m. Pacific on Thursday.

The first went after TikTok, to no one’s surprise. The video app had been the subject of intensifying rhetoric from the Trump administration for weeks. The order declared that all U.S. entities would be banned from doing business with parent company ByteDance starting in 45 days — a deadline that may serve mostly to put a shot clock on Microsoft’s negotiations to buy TikTok.

The second order was a curveball. In a tangle of commas, it prohibited “any transaction that is related to WeChat,” a messaging app ubiquitous in China and used by more than a billion people around the world, with Tencent Holdings, WeChat’s parent company, “or any subsidiary of that entity.”

By 7 p.m., the gamers were freaking out.

Trump, tweeted Noah J. Nelson, “basically just declared war on gamers as a whole. I’m sure that will work out nicely for him.”

There’s a reading of this that means that @realDonaldTrump just declared war on League of Legends, Fortnite, and Valorant.

That he basically just declared war on gamers as a whole.

I’m sure that will work out nicely for him.

— Noah J. Nelson (@noahjnelson) August 7, 2020

In addition to WeChat, Tencent either owns or holds stakes in the largest video game companies in America. Los Angeles’ Riot Games, creator of “League of Legends,” is a fully owned subsidiary of Tencent, and the company owns 40% of Epic Games, which makes the wildly popular “Fortnite.” It also holds 5% stakes in gaming giants Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft, and ownership or investment stakes in a number of other game studios.

The bulk of the executive order focused on WeChat, laying out a case that the messaging app is a threat to national security.

“Like TikTok, WeChat automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users,” the order reads. “This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”

The order also says that WeChat tracks Chinese nationals visiting the United States, and censors messages and content that the Chinese government deems politically sensitive, as has been reported by NPR and researchers at the University of Toronto.

But the fuzzy phrasing seemed to leave the door open to banning business with any of Tencent’s video game companies. Even though TikTok had been dominating the headlines for weeks, Tencent quickly became a trending topic on Twitter, with panicked gamers predicting a mass uprising in response. The company said it was “reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding.”

A little after 8 p.m., White House officials offered some reassurance, clarifying that the order was meant to focus only on transactions specifically related to WeChat.

But administration officials have not gone into further detail since, and legal experts say that the ambiguous language — and the provision that the secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, has the power to define the transactions in question in the next 45 days — still leaves room for the government to go after the game studios.

“The language is atrocious,” said Bryan Sullivan, partner at Los Angeles law firm Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae, and is ambiguous enough that it could be applied to anybody who transacts business with any company related to Tencent if the secretary of Commerce decided to cast that wide of a net. “I’m sure that the administration would say it’s not meant to do that, but looking at the language of it, there’s definitely a legal argument that it could apply.”

Although a company is typically considered a subsidiary when a parent company holds more than 50% ownership, Sullivan noted that the executive order did not provide a concrete definition, so it could be used to pursue even the companies that Tencent has invested in, such as Snap, Spotify, Universal Music Group and the various video game studios.

“Do I think the secretary of Commerce is going to go to that level?” Sullivan said. “Probably not, but under this executive order he has the power to do that.”

Steven Blickensderfer, a tech and video game-focused attorney with Carlton Fields who also hosts a game-focused legal podcast, said the announcement caught him off guard.

“I was as surprised as everyone else at how broadly worded it was, in terms of what you could interpret it to cover,” he said.

Disentangling the Chinese and U.S. gaming markets, the world’s two largest, would be massively difficult, Blickensderfer added.

“Gaming is so closely tied with China,” he said. “This brought the trade war to the gaming industry and made it very real — even though this might be a false alarm, who’s to say that there won’t be another one right behind it?”

The confusion around the executive order targeting WeChat doesn’t end with its ambiguous language. The premise underlying both the TikTok and WeChat orders, according to some business and cybersecurity policy analysts, is based more on rhetoric than the specifics of how those apps function.

“At a high level, there are real cybersecurity, data privacy and information manipulation questions to ask about WeChat and Chinese apps in general,” said Justin Sherman, a fellow with the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council. “This is not about that — this has been an intensely politically driven process.”

Tencent’s ownership of American game studios has also given rise to genuine political and security concerns. Last year, Activision Blizzard stripped a professional video game player of his championship title after he spoke out in support of Hong Kong protesters, which many saw as a sop to its growing Chinese user base and Tencent’s investment stake. And a Times investigation found that a number of companies, including Riot Games, created time-tracking surveillance tools for Chinese players in response to a Chinese government initiative to reduce the time spent by children on video games.

Whatever the real security issues, Sherman said, a surprise executive order is a poor substitute for well-informed policy. If TikTok, WeChat or other Tencent companies’ data policies were a concern, Sherman said, federal lawmakers could “pass a strong federal privacy law so that no company can go collect absurd amounts of information about users” or “completely swing elections with microtargeted advertising.”

“Even if you like the ban on TikTok or WeChat,” Sherman said, “you should still care about the process by which these decisions are made.”

And the Trump administration’s unusual approach to regulating TikTok and WeChat, let alone the rest of Tencent’s holdings, could have ripple effects far beyond the Washington-Beijing relationship.

“We need to be careful here from a diplomacy standpoint,” said Theresa Payton, former White House chief information officer and now chief executive of Fortalice Solutions, a cybersecurity consulting firm. “What we don’t want to do is actually create a chilling effect. The rest of the world is watching,” and might reach the conclusion that simply operating in the U.S. presents the risk that their business might be shut down or forced to sell on a tight deadline whenever they come under scrutiny.

“Forty-five days to hammer out a deal and make the regulator sitting at the table happy in the best of times is hard. I can’t even imagine,” Payton added. Microsoft is exploring buying TikTok, but no mention has been made of forcing a sale of WeChat or other Tencent properties to an American company, since the company had barely entered the discussion before the executive orders were published Thursday.

Without knowing how the secretary of Commerce will define the terms of the executive order, it remains impossible to predict whether Tencent’s holdings beyond WeChat will be affected — perhaps because the drafters of the executive order hadn’t even thought through the implications of what they were writing, one business analyst said.

“It is possible that the tiny part of the American government that’s obsessing on this issue doesn’t even know” that Riot Games and other gaming and technology companies are owned by Tencent, said Mike Vorhaus, a video game industry consultant. “I expect there to be a lot of lawsuits.”

Times staff writer Todd Martens contributed to this report.

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embraces Trump

Trump embraces jobs report signaling slowdown | TheHill – The Hill

The White House is trying to capitalize on the latest jobs numbers, arguing they point to a strong economic recovery under President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is ‘bedrock foundation of my life’ after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE even as millions remain out of work and states grapple with increases in coronavirus infections.

The figures released by the Labor Department on Friday exceeded Wall Street’s expectations, registering 1.8 million jobs gained during July and a drop in the unemployment rate to 10.2 percent at a time when southern and western states were forced to pause or roll back their reopening plans.

But the data nevertheless points to an economic slowdown, challenging the White House’s bullish predictions for a speedy V-shaped recovery. The figures also come amid collapsed talks between the Trump administration and Democratic leaders on a coronavirus relief package, which economists say is desperately needed to prevent a deeper recession.

“This is not a rocket ship,” said Martha Gimbel, senior manager of economic research at Schmidt Futures. “It’s really unclear if the economy is going to achieve escape velocity before the lack of government spending crashes down or before … we have to shut down again, which is a total possibility.”

White House economic adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE, who did the rounds on cable news Friday morning, declared that the numbers evidenced a “self-sustaining recovery” and predicted that the United States would see unemployment head into the single digits in the fall months.

“The worries that some partial shutdowns or some pausing shutdowns would wreck the jobs numbers did not pan out. I think that shows signs of strength,” Kudlow said on Fox Business.

July’s job gains were far less than the 2.7 million recovered in May and the 4.8 million regained in June, bearing out predictions that rising coronavirus cases would weaken the economy.

Meanwhile, last month’s unemployment rate was reminiscent of the depths of the Great Recession, when the joblessness peaked at 10 percent in October 2009. As recently as February, it was 3.5 percent.

Economic analysts say that despite the jobs report, there remains a need for additional fiscal stimulus. Many point to an extension of the expanded unemployment benefits and additional aid to states as necessary steps to shepherd the economy through recovery until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus.

“This jobs number doesn’t change the undeniable need for additional federal support,” said Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at investment bank Compass Point Research & Trading. 

Many conservatives, however, disagree.

Stephen MooreStephen MooreTrump considering executive order to reinstate enhanced unemployment benefits Trump says he’s considering executive action to suspend evictions, payroll tax On The Money: Democratic leaders report ‘some progress’ in stimulus talks | Prosecutors hint at probe into ‘possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization’ MORE, a conservative economist and informal adviser to Trump, argued that the data shows that a multitrillion-dollar stimulus package is unnecessary because the economy is not in the “free fall” it was earlier this year.

“It was a good number, not a great number,” Moore said on Friday.

Trump is now preparing for potential executive actions to enact economic measures absent a last-minute deal on Capitol Hill with Democrats.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE, one of Trump’s top two negotiators, told reporters following Friday’s meeting with Democrats that he and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE would recommend Trump move forward with some executive orders over the weekend related to enhanced unemployment benefits, rental foreclosures and student loans. Trump is also weighing an executive order to defer the payroll tax.

“Despite the fact that we had a very good jobs number this morning, there are still too many people that are out of work at no fault of their own because of this coronavirus,” Mnuchin said.

The economy has been a central focus of Trump’s pitch for reelection. The pandemic has forced business closures and wreaked havoc on the economy, forcing Trump to alter his message to voters.

The president and his campaign have focused on the strength of the U.S. economy prior to the coronavirus and sought to make the case that his policies on trade and deregulation would enable a swift rebound.

In a speech in Ohio on Thursday, Trump gave a broad outline of what his second-term economic agenda would look like, such as bringing back jobs and supply chains from overseas.

“We closed it up; we saved millions of lives. But now we’re opening, and it looks like I was right about the ‘V,’ because you’re seeing the kind of numbers that are coming in, and they’re coming in strong,” Trump told the crowd at a Whirlpool plant in Clyde, Ohio, on Thursday afternoon.

Trump, who is at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., celebrated Friday’s jobs numbers in a pair of tweets and later Friday evening touted them as exceeding expectations during an impromptu press conference. The president staged impromptu press appearances to tout the record increases in jobs from May and June, when states embarked on reopening plans that many public health officials considered too fast and too soon.

Trump has leaned into his economic agenda more recently as polls show him trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says his faith is ‘bedrock foundation of my life’ after Trump claim Biden clarifies comments comparing African American and Latino communities Kanye West may have missed deadline to get on Wisconsin ballot by minutes: report MORE nationally and in battleground states. The same surveys tend to show that while Trump is the preferred candidate on handling the economy, Biden leads on other issues like race relations and the coronavirus.

The Trump campaign quickly seized on Friday’s better-than-expected numbers and accused Biden of embracing tax hikes and environmental policies that would cause “job-killing regulations.”

“The fundamental choice for voters is between the fantastic record of President Trump, who built the world’s best economy once and is doing it again, and Joe Biden, whose economic record is terrible and whose plans for the future are ruinous,” said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh.

In his own statement, Biden focused on the 16 million Americans still unemployed and argued the U.S. is in a “a deeper economic hole than we should be because of Donald Trump’s historic failure to respond to the pandemic.”

Updated at 8:55 p.m.

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ready Trump

Trump ready sign executive orders on evictions, unemployment if Democrats don’t bend – New York Post

August 5, 2020 | 7:19pm | Updated August 6, 2020 | 6:25pm

President Trump is prepared to sign executive orders on Friday to revive a moratorium on evictions and the lapsed federal boost in unemployment insurance pay, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday.

“By Friday if we haven’t made significant progress and we’re just too far apart, the president is prepared to take an executive action on those two items,” Meadows said in a CNN interview. “The good news for your viewers is if Congress can’t get it done, the president of the United States will.”

Trump repeated the threat — but not the specific date — at a White House press briefing Wednesday night. The president said he was also considering reducing payroll taxes by executive order.

“The Democrats are primarily interested in a $1 trillion bailout of the poorly run states,” Trump said. “And we can’t go along with the bailout money. We’re not going to go along with it, especially since it’s not COVID-related.”

The federal eviction moratorium and a generous $600-a-week boost in unemployment pay expired last month. An estimated 23 million people could face eviction by October, and more than 30 million people are receiving unemployment benefits from states.

Talks on Capitol Hill are moving slowly.

Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are leading the Republican side of talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Schumer vowed Wednesday to “keep slogging through step by step, inch by inch.” Pelosi has urged Republicans to cave and pass a $3.4 trillion Democratic plan.

Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package last week that would give $1,200 stimulus checks to most people, shield companies from virus liability except in cases of gross negligence and misconduct, reduce a federal unemployment supplement to 70 percent of pre-pandemic pay and give schools $105 billion to reopen.

Democrats also support more stimulus checks, and the sides agree they want to continue the recently lapsed moratorium on evictions.

The Democrats, who hold the House of Representatives, largely oppose the GOP liability protection plan and want to continue at the same rate the expired $600 weekly supplement for unemployed people.

The Democratic plan, which passed the House in May, included almost $1 trillion for state and local governments. The Democratic package also would lower federal taxes for wealthy people in areas with higher state and local taxes, such as New York City.

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President Trump

President Trump flips on his longstanding attitude toward mail-in ballots – CBS This Morning


President Trump flips on his longstanding attitude toward mail-in ballots – YouTube








































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encourages Trump

Trump Encourages Mail Voting in Key Battleground Florida – Snopes.com

This article is republished here with permission from The Associated Press. This content is shared here because the topic may interest Snopes readers; it does not, however, represent the work of Snopes fact-checkers or editors.

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an abrupt reversal, President Donald Trump now is encouraging voters in the critical swing state of Florida to vote by mail after months of criticizing the practice, and only days after threatening to sue Nevada over a new vote-by-mail law.

His encouragement follows a surge in Democratic requests to vote for mail in Florida, a state that Trump almost certainly must win to secure a second term. Democrats currently have about 1.9 million Floridians signed up to vote by mail this November, almost 600,000 more than the Republicans’ 1.3 million, according to the Florida Secretary of State.

In 2016, both sides had about 1.3 million signed up before the general election.

“Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany rejected the notion that the president has changed his views. She said he supports absentee voting by mail for a reason, as opposed to states mailing out ballots to all voters regardless of whether they requested them. Most election officials say there is little effective difference between absentee voting and voting by mail.

Trump elaborated on why he supports voting by mail in Florida, but not elsewhere.

“They’ve been doing this over many years and they’ve made it really terrific,” Trump said.

“This took years to do,” he added. “This doesn’t take weeks or months. In the case of Nevada, they’re going to be voting in a matter of weeks. And you can’t do that.”

Yet Florida hardly has a history of flawless elections, most notably in 2000 when the state’s disputed vote count had to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, delivering the presidency to George W. Bush over Al Gore.

Trump cited a New York race as an example of what can go wrong, claiming no one could know the winner. In that race, a judge ruled Monday that about 1,000 disputed ballots should be counted. That will likely not affect the outcome since the incumbent, longtime Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney is leading her closest challenger by about 3,700 votes.

“I think they have to do the election over. That election is no good,” Trump said.

More voters during this year’s primary elections opted to vote by mail, and several states relaxed restrictions for voting absentee through the mail. Trump himself voted by mail in the Florida primary earlier this year.

Five states have relied on mail-in ballots since even before the coronavirus pandemic raised concerns about voting in person, but there is no evidence to support Trump’s assertion that voting by mail leads to widespread fraud.

Trump has gone so far as to suggest by tweet that the November election should be delayed “until people can properly, securely and safely vote.”

States that use mail-in votes exclusively say they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure that a hostile foreign actor doesn’t disrupt the vote. Election security experts say voter fraud is rare in all forms of balloting, including by mail.

With Florida’s large retirement population, voting by mail is expected to become a more popular option this November. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was asked Saturday if he had concerns about the option. “No, I’m not concerned about mail-in voting in Florida,” he said tersely.

Florida GOP officials welcomed Trump’s tweet.

“Thank you for the clarification Mr President! This is very helpful,” said Joe Gruters, the chair of Florida’s Republican Party. “Florida will deliver you the 29 electoral votes!”

Florida is considered a must-win state for Trump’s reelection prospects. Its presidential contests are usually close, with Trump winning by just 1.2 percentage points in 2016, and George W. Bush winning Florida by just 537 votes in 2000.

Nevada lawmakers have recently passed a bill that would add the state to a growing list of U.S. states mailing active voters ballots ahead of the November election.

The bill, which was passed Sunday, was signed into law Monday by Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat. Nevada joins seven states that plan on automatically sending voters mail ballots, including California and Vermont, which moved earlier this summer to adopt automatic mail ballot policies.

Trump called the bill’s passage “an illegal late night coup” in a tweet Monday morning. He accused Sisolak of exploiting COVID-19 to ensure votes in Nevada would favor Democrats.

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Never Trump

‘Never Trump’ Republicans team with progressives to convert the president’s religious base – POLITICO

“If there was ever a time when Republicans, especially people of faith can be moved, it’s probably now,” said Sarah Lenti, executive director at the Lincoln Project, which was co-founded by George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. “This is about doing the right thing for our country and that goes back to embracing Biblical principles, such as loving and caring for each other.”

Getting white evangelicals to peel away from Trump — much less to vote for Biden — is no easy feat. The political alliance between white evangelicals and Republican politicians dates back decades and has rarely shown signs of weakness during the president’s first term. Before this spring, the only time Trump’s most prominent conservative Christian supporters had publicly split with the president was over his push to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

But recently, segments of Trump’s Catholic and Protestant supporters have been distancing themselves from his response to the Covid-19 crisis. The Lincoln Project and VCG hope to capitalize on that waning confidence, which has extended to Trump’s ability to handle the worsening economic crisis, public health catastrophe and civil unrest.

They’re also hoping to pitch Biden as an attractive religious alternative to Trump. Biden, a Catholic, has portrayed himself as the unity candidate in an intensely fractured political landscape and rarely shies away from discussing his personal faith.

“For some people this will be a two-step process,” said Doug Pagitt, a progressive evangelical pastor who founded VCG. “The first part is letting go of the reflexive impulse they have to vote Republican, which is a hard thing to let go of. And then for some of those people, stepping all the way over to Biden is a big step.”

Pagitt launched VCG after the 2016 election to reach religious conservatives and other traditional faith voters, hoping to break the Republican strong-hold on the community. Now, Pagitt said, VCG and the Lincoln Project “want to make an offer” to lifelong Republican voters that encourages them to support Biden based on arguments that draw on their values and Christian identity.

“I respect the fact that many people feel they’ve been conservatives or Republicans their whole lives and to push them to vote for Biden, that’s like pushing them to abandon their identity. We don’t want to do that,” he said. “But for them to hear from the Lincoln Project, which is a bunch of Republicans saying they are going to vote for Joe Biden because of their faith, that can be powerful and convincing.”

Part of VCG’s plan is to forge personal connections with religious conservatives in crucial 2020 swing states. Soon they will launch a postcard campaign sending handwritten notes to religious voters asking them to lean deep into their faith for guidance this November. Though the postcards, which Pagitt described to POLITICO, will vary in style — one will include VCG’s sogan, “Faith, not fear. Hope, not hate. Love, not lies,” the other will feature the “love is patient, love is kind” passage from 1 Corinthians 13 — each will contain a personal note from another voter.

“It’s not a slick mailer, it’s a handwritten card saying, ‘Hey, I’m Doug from Minneapolis. I hope your faith is meaningful to you,’” Pagitt said.

The mailers are just one part of the duo’s targeted campaign. On Wednesday, the groups will host a virtual town hall with Pagitt, Lincoln Project co-founder and GOP strategist Rick Wilson, evangelical minister Rob Schenck, whose support for Biden marks the first time he’s supported a Democratic presidential contender since 1976, Society of Christian Ethics president David Gushee and journalist Amy Sullivan. They are also planning an onslaught of digital, radio and television ads aimed at “gettable” Republican voters, according to Lenti.

“If someone is a single-issue voter on abortion and they still think Republicans are better than Democrats on the issue, that’s probably not someone we’re going to get,” Pagitt said.

Ultimately, the two groups hope to move 4 to 5 percent of disaffected Republican voters in the six states they’re planning to target before Election Day. Since 2018, VCG has focused its efforts on identifying 50,000 persuadable voters in key swing states and working to convince them to vote against Trump.

According to Lenti, the Lincoln Project is also eyeing Texas and Iowa as two emerging battlegrounds that it could include in its efforts. Trump, who carried both states in 2016, has recently slipped in statewide polling against Biden, who began advertising in Texas in mid-July.

Recent polls on religious voters’ attitudes toward Trump show minor slippage in his support among white evangelicals, 81 percent of whom voted for him in 2016, and steady erosion to his appeal among white Catholics.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in June showed 72 percent of white evangelicals approved of Trump’s job as president, down five percentage points since January. Meanwhile, 75 percent said Biden would make a “poor” or “terrible” commander in chief. The same survey, however, found that 82 percent of white evangelicals plan to vote for Trump, meaning 10 percent of those who said they disapprove of Trump’s job performance still intend to cast their ballots for his reelection.

The Lincoln Project and VCG hope to change that in the three months remaining between now and Nov. 3, in addition to courting other key constituencies, such as veterans and seniors, whom polling suggests could be wary of handing Trump a second term.

“We basically want to flood the zone with information,” Lenti said. “Evangelicals and people of faith are just people, and so a lot of our ads are going to touch all people, not one particular constituency.”

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Atlanta Trump

Trump news – live: Atlanta mayor ‘disgusted’ by president’s comments about John Lewis, as White House rules out new lockdown – The Independent

The Independent employs reporters around the world to bring you truly independent journalism. To support us, please consider a contribution.

Donald Trump said US Covid-19 deaths were lower “than the world” in an interview with Axios on HBO overnight, as America’s death toll surpassed 155,000 and continued to be the world’s highest total.

The president also declined to compare deaths by population with other countries, telling Axios’s Jonathan Swan that ”you can’t do that”, while downplaying the recent deaths of 1,000 Americans a day during the public health crisis and defending his administration’s response to the pandemic.

In the interview, Mr Trump dismissed late Georgia congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis (“I don’t know him”) and repeated well wishes to alleged child sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN she was “disgusted” by the president’s remarks: “He doesn’t care anything about the history of this country. He doesn’t care anything about the future of this country. … He’s a narcissist and he is delusional.”

On Tuesday, the president reversed course on mail-in voting in Florida, a vital swing state, though absentee ballot procedures in other parts of the US are not substantially different, as he continues to argue that widespread mail-in ballots amid the pandemic will invite fraud, though no evidence suggests that is the case.

His press secretary Kayleigh McEnany railed against mass vote-by-mail efforts in other states, claiming they have been beset by “fraud, with delay, and that is what the president stands firmly against,” she said.

During a late press briefing on Tuesday, the president also dangerously suggested that a devastating series of explosions in Lebanon was an “attack” or a “bomb of some kind”, contradicting officials in Beirut who say several thousand tonnes of ammonium nitrate were improperly stored in a warehouse, triggering deadly blasts that have killed dozens of people and injured thousands of others.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump handed Microsoft a mid-September deadline to land a deal with TikTok in the US, after US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the president would soon “take action” over security concerns surrounding the Chinese video app.

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2020-08-04T07:51:44.580Z

Hello and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.


2020-08-04T08:36:00.593Z

Nevada governor signs mail-ballot legislation as Trump rages 

Governor Steve Sisolak signed Nevada’s new bill on mail-voting into law on Monday night, making Nevada the seventh state to send ballots to all registered voters for the 3 November election. 

That came some hours after Donald Trump complained that it was now “impossible” for Republicans to win in Nevada this November. 

“This bill will help prevent Nevadans from experiencing the long lines at polling locations they faced during the Primary election, which will protect their safety, safeguard their right to make their voices heard, and help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” tweeted Mr Sisolak . 

Mr Trump – who threatened to sue Nevada over the plans – has previously admitted that “Republicans would never be elected in this country again” if mail-voting took place across the US.

“We will be suing in Nevada. And that’s already been taken care of, we’ll probably file something tomorrow,” said Mr Trump during a White House briefing on Monday night.

Attorney Marc Elias, meanwhile, shared his thoughts on president Trump’s legal threat on Twitter:

Graig Graziosi has the latest on Nevada’s mail-ballot plans, here:


2020-08-04T08:47:37.633Z

New York primary elections are ‘a disgrace’, says president  

In another attack against mail-in ballots on Monday night, president Trump called on New York to re-do several close congressional primary races as the state struggles to count mail-in and absentee ballots more than a month after Election Day.


“Nobody’s ever seen anything like it. It’s a disgrace,” said Mr Trump. “They’re six weeks into it now — they have no clue what’s going on. … I think you’d probably have to take the Carolyn Maloney race and run it over again”. 

Griffin Connollly reports:  


2020-08-04T09:05:38.713Z

Trump dismisses Covid-19 death toll comparisons, says “you cant do that” 

The president avoided comparisons with other countries on Covid-19 on Monday night, telling Axios reporter Jonathan Swan that “you can’t do that”. 

Mr Trump – who has overseen the world’s highest coronavirus death toll – tried to make comparisons based on deaths as a proportion of case numbers. 

The excruciating interview comes less than a week after he lashed out at countries experiencing an uptick in coronavirus cases across the world,

“Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the US is really bad,” Axios’ reporter told the president. “Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc”

Mr Trump added that American coronavirus deaths were “lower than the world”: 


2020-08-04T09:27:20.350Z

Anti-Trump Republicans tease president over Covid-19 claims

In a tweet on Monday, the president claimed that the United States had “done MUCH better than most other Countries in dealing with the China Virus”.

Naturally, The Lincoln Project – an anti-Trump political action committee – pointed to new US cases compared to other countries, on Monday.  

That came as he blasted Dr Birx, the White House task force coordinator, for “pathetic” comments she provided in an interview this weekend.

As Graig Graziosi reports, Dr Birx had warned that Covid-19 was now “more widespread”: 


2020-08-04T09:41:46.640Z

Trump tells Axios: “I dont know John Lewis” 

More on that Axios on HBO interview, here, with president Trump complaining that the legendary civil rights leader John Lewis did not attend many of his presidency’s major events, including his 2017 inauguration. 

“I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration,” said Mr Trump. “I never met John Lewis, actually, I don’t believe.”

During a wide-ranging conversation, Axios interviewer Jonathan Swan asked Mr Trump how history would remember Lewis, who at the time was lying in state at the US Capitol.

The president declined to visit Lewis’s body last week, and was not in attendance at the late congressman’s funeral service on Friday. 

Andrew Naughtie reports: 


2020-08-04T10:12:21.426Z

US still wants to ban TikTok, say Chinese owners

The White House does not want to see TikTok sold in the US, but wants to see the app banned, says the Beijing-based technology company who owns the video app.

Citing misconceptions about the situation, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming said the United States’ goal was not to see TikTok’s US operations sold-off, but rather to ban the app. 


The internal staff letter, which was reported by Chinese media and confirmed by a source to Reuters, was sent only to ByteDance’s Chinese employees after news that ByteDance was in talks to sell parts of TikTok to Microsoft prompted online criticism of the firm and Mr Zhang.


Mr Trump had announced hours earlier that Microsoft, the US technology giant, had until 15 September to agree a deal with TikTok.

Alex Woodward reports:


2020-08-04T10:30:10.133Z

Trump on Ghislaine Maxwell: “I wish her well”

President Trump said again that he wished Maxwell well, after Axios’ reporter Jonathan Swan challenged him on his admission last week that he wished the ex-British socialite well.

Maxwell denies charges that she provided Jeffrey Epstein – her former partner and a convicted sex offender – with underage girls to abuse. 

Mr Trump said last week at the White House: “I have met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach and they lived in Palm Beach, but I wish her well. 

“Mr President, Ghislaine Maxwell has been arrested on allegations of child sex trafficking,” said Axios’ reporter. “Why would you wish such a person well?”

He responded: “I’d wish a lot of people well”.


2020-08-04T10:35:34.960Z

Investigation into bank fraud is ‘continuation of witch hunt’, says president

Mr Trump dismissed a Manhattan prosecutor’s bank fraud investigation into his businesses as “just a continuation of the witch hunt”, and that Democrats and intelligence holdovers from the Obama administration have been after him for years.


“They failed with Mueller, they failed with everything. They failed with Congress. They failed at every stage of the game,” Mr Trump said at a press conference on Monday. “This has been going on for three and a half, four years, even before I got in”.

Griffin Connolly has the latest:


2020-08-04T10:50:14.130Z

Trump complains US had no coronavirus tests before coronavirus

In another apparent attack on Barack Obama’s administration, Mr Trump claimed in an interview with Axios that “when I took over we didn’t even have a test [for Covid-19]”

“We didn’t have a test because there was no test”, added Mr Trump.

“Of course”, said Axios’ reporter Jonathan Swan. “Why would you have a test? The virus didn’t exist?”

When the pandemic started in March, Mr Trump appeared to blame the Obama administration and said: “we were given a — a set of circumstances, and we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time”. 


2020-08-04T11:12:50.020Z

Trump emails supporters with advice on mask wearing

The president – who denied international comparisons on coronavirus during his interview with Axios on Monday night – suggested that the United States was performing better than other countries during the pandemic.

But as deaths surpassed 155,000 on Monday, he appealed to his own supporters with an email encouraging them to wear masks to stop Covid-19 spreading, reports CNN. 

“I don’t love wearing them either. Masks may be good, they may be just okay, or they may be great,” said Mr Trump in the email, whilst suggesting that masks would “help us get back to our American way of life”. 

The advice to his own supporters comes amid concerns about poll numbers showing him trailing Democrat Joe Biden, who Mr Trump previously mocked for wearing a face covering during the pandemic. 

Andrew Naughtie reports on the president’s comments on Covid-19: 


2020-08-04T11:25:18.233Z

Joe Biden says Trump comments on mail ballots are “bald-faced lies” 


The Democrat used an online campaign event on Monday to bemoan president Trump’s unsubstantiated attacks on mail-ballots, whilst claiming the incumbent would do everything in his power to “argue this election is fraudulent.”


“He suggested we should postpone the election, full of just bald-faced lies about how mail-in votes were fraud, and how it was so terrible,” said Mr Biden. “Well look, he’s calling out any effort to exploit this pandemic for political purposes. It distracts from his complete failure”.


Meanwhile, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said the president was “rightfully calling attention to the clear fact” that universal mail-in voting creates “nightmare election scenarios”.


“Joe Biden and the radical left are fearmongering as they capitalise on the coronavirus crisis in an effort to scare voters into staying home on Election Day,” claimed Mr Murtaugh.


Arguments over mail ballots and in-person voting come despite the United States enduring the world’s highest coronavirus death toll, an economic slowdown, and nationwide protests against police violence and racism.

 

Reuters


2020-08-04T11:39:56.000Z

Could baseless attacks on mail-ballots lower Republican turnout in November?

Senior Trump advisers, including RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, have warned the president that his broad rhetoric is complicating Republican turnout efforts.

Ms McDaniel and Justin Clark, Mr Trump’s deputy campaign manager, have repeatedly encouraged the president to promote the use of absentee ballots – but that is being drowned-out by the president’s blanket attacks on all types of mail voting.


GOP officials around the country said more clarity from the president would help voters. “I think that is the distinction he is trying to draw,” said Alabama’s secretary of state John Merrill. “I would hope that he would be more specific in his explanation so people understand what the difference is.”

Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey report:


2020-08-04T11:59:44.000Z

‘May karma find you’, says widow to Trump and non-mask wearers

The family of a Texas man who recently died of Covid-19 have published an obituary blaming his death on “politicians who did not take this pandemic seriously” and people who refuse to wear masks.

The obituary, which went viral on social media after it was published in a local newspaper last week, said 80-year-old David W. Nagy had “suffered greatly from the ravages of Covid-19”.

He died in hospital on 22 July, with his family not allowed to attend his bedside because of the risk of transmission, according to the paper.

It comes as Mr Trump emails supporters with advice to wear face coverings for the first time, after months of ignoring the recommendation.

Andrew Naughtie reports:


2020-08-04T12:15:44.000Z

Trump ‘has no idea what TikTok is’, says Seth Meyers

The comedian and NBC host told viewers on Monday night that Mr Trump’s possible ban on TikTok was a distraction amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The president could be focusing on any of that,” said Mr Meyers about coronavirus. “But instead, he’s decided to bring the full power of the presidency to bear on this.”

“I’m almost certain Trump has no idea what TikTok is. I’m betting TikTok was one of the answers he wrote on his cognitive test,” joked Mr Meyers.

Annabel Nugent has the latest:


2020-08-04T12:31:12.000Z

Congressional primaries taking place in five US states


Primary elections for Congress are taking place across five states, with outcomes in Kansas, Michigan, Arizona, Missouri and Washington setting the stage for November’s elections to the House of Representatives and Senate – and ultimately who holds the power in Washington. 

Two candidates from the edges of the Republican and Democratic parties, Kansas’ Kris Kobach and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, are among those on Tuesday’s ballots. 

The election’s are also set to test whether or not voters for each party will steer to the right or left, or stay closer to the political centre.

Mr Kobach previously advised Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign on immigration, whilst Ms Tlaib became one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress in 2018.

She has not endorsed the party’s more moderate presumptive nominee, Joe Biden.

Reuters


2020-08-04T12:49:12.000Z

New video of George Floyd arrest emerges

Bodycam video from Thomas Lane, one of the four Minneapolis police officers who were involved in the arrest of George Floyd in May, shows the fired officer approaching Floyd as he sat in his car.


Floyd, who becomes visibly distressed, can be seen begging for his life, and says: “Mr. Officer, please don’t shoot me. Please man”.

The emergence of new video comes as Portland experienced its 66th night of protests over systemic racism and police violence, following Floyd’s death in police custody.

Lane face charges of aiding and abetting both second degree murder and manslaughter.

Matt Mathers has the latest:


2020-08-04T13:13:38.986Z

Trump campaign concerned about convention backdrop

Mr Trump’s advisers are still pushing for some version of the Republican national convention to go on, say reports, after events in Florida and North Carolina were cancelled amid the pandemic.

Annie Karnie explains why Trump insiders want the president to pick a historic location as the backdrop for his renomination speech, here:


2020-08-04T13:28:51.150Z

Eric Trump complains Biden doesn’t do interviews

The president’s 36-year-old son has hit-back at critics mocking Donald Trump after his interview with Axios.

Although, instead of defending his father’s comments, Eric Trump has complained that Joe Biden was “dodging interviews”.

Here’s a highlight from that Axios interview, in case you missed it earlier:


2020-08-04T13:52:21.420Z

LA mayor adds to speculation around Biden’s VP pick

Los Angeles’ mayor Eric Garcetti says the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee will select a running mate who will provide the same relationship he had with Barack Obama. 

And that, according to the Democratic mayor, includes “amazing women” who have all passed a vetting process. 

Mr Biden is expected to take two more weeks to name his vice presidential candidate, after originally suggesting he would make a decision in the first week of August. 

Here’s mayor Garcetti’s interview with MSNBC on Tuesday morning:

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Trump’s Axios interview on HBO was a disaster – Vox.com

President Donald Trump’s interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios began with him telling a dizzying string of lies about his coronavirus response and the state of the pandemic in the country. It ended with Trump making the death of civil rights leader John Lewis about himself. It didn’t go any better in between.

For the second time in a month, Trump’s attempt to sit down for an interview with a journalist willing to challenge him ended in disaster. Over the course of 37 minutes, Swan repeatedly exposed Trump’s inability to respond to the most basic of follow-up questions.

Trump’s difficulty with push-back is often concealed when he answers questions beside a loud helicopter or in the friendly confines of Sean Hannity’s show. But the Swan interview, which came out just two weeks after Trump’s similarly disastrous performance on Chris Wallace’s show, highlighted the degree to which Trump is unable to defend his record in the face of even mildly challenging questions.

Trump’s coronavirus comments continue to be an embarrassment

Perhaps the most terrifying part of the interview came early on when Swan peppered Trump with a string of questions about why he isn’t doing more to fight the coronavirus and why the virus has hit the US so much harder than other comparable countries.

Asked how he can say the pandemic is under control when roughly 1,000 Americans are dying from Covid-19 each day, Trump said, remarkably, that “it is what it is.”

“They are dying. That’s true. It is what it is. … It’s under control as much as you can control it.”

On the topic of America’s struggles with coronavirus testing, including long wait times for test results that render testing almost worthless, Trump resorted to making stuff up.

“There are those that say you can test too much. You know that?” Trump said at one point.

“Who says that?” Swan responded.

“Read the manuals. Read the books,” answered Trump.

“What books?” Swan challenged, but no answer was forthcoming. Instead, Trump said that “when I took over we didn’t even have a test” — as if the Obama administration was supposed to develop a test for a virus that didn’t exist until nearly three years after Trump’s inauguration.

A few minutes later, just as he did on Wallace’s show, Trump waved around pieces of paper with charts and graphs in an unconvincing effort to make it seem as though the US coronavirus death toll of more than 150,000 isn’t as bad as it seems.

“Right here, the United States is lowest in … numerous categories … ah, we’re lower than the world,” Trump stammered, which prompted Swan to respond, incredulously, “lower than the world? In what?”

“Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases,” Swan continued. “I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the US is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc. … Look at South Korea: 50 million population, 300 deaths.”

Trump responded by suggesting South Korea is faking its numbers. But when Swan challenged him on that point, Trump quickly changed the topic back to his pieces of paper.

“Here’s one right here. You take the number of cases. No, look. We’re last. Meaning we’re first,” Trump said.

“I mean, 1,000 Americans die a day,” Swan responded. “If hospital rates were going down and deaths were going down, I’d say terrific, you deserve to be praised for testing. But they’re all going up!

Watch the exchange:

In the minutes that followed, Trump failed to explain the contradiction between his claims about being a voracious consumer of intelligence reports and that he was never informed about intelligence that Russia was offering bounties for US troops in Afghanistan that was reportedly in said briefs. “I read a lot. I comprehend extraordinarily well. Probably better than anybody you’ve interviewed in a long time,” the president claimed.

He also revealed total confusion about the difference between absentee and mail-in voting, struggled to explain why he recently extended his well-wishes to accused sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell (“Yeah, I wish her well. I’d wish you well, I’d wish a lot of people well. Good luck.”), and dismissed video footage of federal law enforcement officials using a baton to beat a Navy veteran who was protesting in Portland.

Trump tells #AxiosOnHBO that he stands by his comments wishing alleged child sex trafficker and Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell well.

“I wish her well. I’d wish you well. I’d wish a lot of people well.” pic.twitter.com/1MRxyqzCLk

— Axios (@axios) August 4, 2020

“I think that actually, antifa should be investigated, not the law enforcement,” Trump said.

Trump’s race relations remarks pour fuel on the fire

But perhaps Trump’s most tone-deaf remarks were reserved for the end when Swan asked him a string of questions about racial inequalities and his reaction to the death of John Lewis.

Presented with a statistic that succinctly illustrates systemic racism in the country — “Why do you think Black men are two and half times more likely to be killed by police than white men?” Swan asked — Trump dodged with an equivalency.

“I do know this: that police have killed many white people also,” he said.

After Trump claimed he’s done “more for the Black community than anybody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, whether you like it or not,” Swan asked him: “You believe you did more than Lyndon Johnson, who passed the Civil Rights Act?”

“How has it worked out?” Trump responded. “If you take a look at what Lyndon Johnson did. How has it worked out?”

The interview closed with what should’ve been a softball — “How do you think history will remember John Lewis?” Swan asked. But instead of paying lip service to Lewis’s record as a Civil Rights icon, Trump denigrated him for the pettiest of reasons.

“I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration,” Trump said.

“Taking your relationship with him out of it, do you find his story impressive, what he’s done for this country?” Swan followed up.

“He was a person that devoted a lot of energy and a lot of heart to civil rights. But there were many others also,” Trump demurred.

Swan: Do you find John Lewis impressive?

Trump: I can’t say one way or the other… but, no, he didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my SOTU speeches, and that’s ok… And again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have.

pic.twitter.com/TEESiVQQk0

— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) August 4, 2020

The interview was recorded last Tuesday and aired Monday evening on Axios’s HBO show. In a sign of how it went, Trump — who regularly promotes softball interviews he does with the Hannitys of the world in the hope of getting as many people as possible to tune in — didn’t mention it on Twitter or elsewhere.


Support Vox’s explanatory journalism

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Trump weighs executive action as negotiations progress on next coronavirus stimulus package – USA TODAY

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Talks on a huge coronavirus relief measure resumed on Saturday in Washington. Negotiators on both sides said that the talks were “productive” and would continue on Monday. (Aug. 1)

AP Domestic

WASHINGTON – The president on Monday said he was weighing executive action as Congress and the White House struggle to break the impasse over another emergency relief package to counter the coronavirus’ impact on U.S. families and the economy.

Negotiators on Monday signaled they’d made progress hashing out differences between Republican and Democratic proposals for the next stimulus package, though a deal remains far out out of reach and millions of unemployed Americans remain in financial limbo after a $600 weekly unemployment benefit expired on Friday. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Congress’ top Democrats, met again Monday with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for several hours, where they examined the competing proposals and went through specific dollar amounts in various areas in the two bills. 

“It was productive, we’re moving down the track,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters after the meeting in her Capitol Hill office. “But we still have our differences. We’re trying to have a clearer understanding of what the needs are.”

Mnuchin said both sides were “a little bit” closer to a deal but Meadows noted that they were still far apart. 

It was the latest meeting between the four, who worked last week and through the weekend to discuss any potential middle ground between the Democrats’ $3 trillion bill and a $1 trillion Republican proposal.

What each side wants: $1,200 checks? Money for schools? Breaking down what Republicans and Democrats want in the coronavirus stimulus plan

More: Congress leaves town without a coronavirus stimulus deal, allowing $600 unemployment benefit to end

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The US recently topped 4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and now has reached another unenviable milestone.

USA TODAY

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Monday floated the possibility of taking unilateral action if a deal could not be made with Democrats, claiming he has the power to step in and curtail Congress should there be a need. The president specifically noted the moratorium on housing evictions that recently expired.

“A lot of people are going to be evicted but I’m going to stop it because I’ll do it myself if I have to,” Trump said at the White House. “I have a lot of powers with respect to executive orders and we’re looking at that very seriously right now.”

Later Monday, Trump also said he was examining executive action on a payroll tax cut, something he has repeatedly demanded be part of various coronavirus legislation but has been met with blunt rejection from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. It is not clear whether Trump has the power to make such a move, and it would likely be challenged legally.

“I can do that also through an executive order so we’ll be talking about that but we’re having a very good discussion with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,” the president said at a press conference Monday evening.

He noted the hurdles and his opposition to Democrats wanting to send more funds to state and local governments that have had their budgets decimated due to the pandemic. 

 “The problem is they want to do bailouts of their various Democrat-run states and cities,” Trump said. “We don’t think that’s fair.”

Here’s what Democrats propose: House passes $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan, faces pushback in Republican-led Senate

The GOP plan: Mitch McConnell unveils $1 trillion pandemic aid package to criticisms from Republicans and Democrats

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As the talks continue on Capitol Hill, big divisions remain on the $600 boost to unemployment, which Democrats want to extend until at least January and Republicans have argued is too high and disincentivizes Americans from going back to work. The bonus bolsters state benefits that average nationally about $370 a week.

There are also differences on a host of items, from funds for state and local governments and the post office, areas important to Democrats, and liability insurance for businesses, something Republicans have said is a requirement in any next bill. 

The Senate this week is set to take action on the expired boosted unemployment benefit but it’s unclear whether any measure will pass as Democrats have dug in their heels against a piecemeal approach to passing additional funds to counter the pandemic. Senate Republicans last week attempted to pass a one-week extension on the $600 benefit but Democrats blocked the proposal, arguing it would still lead to lapses in funds getting to families and stressed for Republicans to work with them on a long-term solution. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., assailed Democrats Monday in a Senate floor speech, arguing it is “time for the Democratic leadership to get serious about making law for the American people.”

“The Speaker of the House and the Democratic Leader are continuing to say our way or the highway with the massive wish-list for left-wing lobbyists they slapped together a few weeks ago and called a coronavirus bill,” he said. “These are not the tactics that would build a bipartisan result. These are not the tactics that will get more cash in Americans’ pockets, more help to the unemployed, and more assistance for schools to re-open.”

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