If President Trump loses the November election to Joe Biden, there will be “an orderly transfer of power” in January, just as there has been “every four years since Washington was elected for a second term in 1792,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told “Fox News @ Night” in an exclusive interview Thursday.
President Trump’s declined to make a similar commitment at a White House news conference Wednesday after a reporter asked: “Win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferal of power after the election?”
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump answered. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
McConnell tweeted earlier Thursday: “The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.
McConnell later responded to criticism of his intention to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death last week of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, telling host Shannon Bream: “We can’t pick and choose when big decisions are foisted upon us by things that we didn’t anticipate, like the untimely death of Justice Ginsburg, who, by the way, had a spectacular career and was an inspiration to millions of Americans.
President Trump visited Wilmington, N.C., on Wednesday and urged supporters to try to vote in person after sending in a mail-in ballot — actions that would be both illegal and disruptive.
Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images
Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images
President Trump visited Wilmington, N.C., on Wednesday and urged supporters to try to vote in person after sending in a mail-in ballot — actions that would be both illegal and disruptive.
Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images
Updated at 1 p.m. ET
President Trump, who has frequently criticized mail-in voting, on Wednesday took his attacks on the process a step further, telling supporters in North Carolina they should go to polls even after voting by mail to “make sure it counted.”
Voting twice would be a felony under North Carolina law — as is inducing someone to vote twice — warned Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, who issued a statement Thursday morning.
“The State Board has a dedicated investigations team that investigates allegations of double voting, which are referred to prosecutors when warranted,” said Bell.
The warning came after Trump told a group of supporters in Wilmington, N.C., airport: “If you get the unsolicited ballots, send it in, and then go — make sure it counted. And if it doesn’t tabulate, you vote. You just vote. And then if they tabulate it very late, which they shouldn’t be doing, they’ll see you voted, and so it won’t count. So, send it in early, and then go and vote. And if it’s not tabulated — you vote. And the vote is going to count,” Trump said.
On Thursday, White House spokesman Judd Deere, in a statement, denied that Trump was urging people to vote twice and said the news media was taking his remarks out of context.
“No one has fought harder for an election system that is fair and free from fraud and abuse than President Trump. This idea that he is encouraging people to vote twice is yet another example of the media taking him out of context,” Deere said.
In a subsequent interview with WCET Television, Trump was asked about his confidence in the state’s absentee voting system. “They’ll go out and they’ll vote and they’re going to have to go and check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way because if it tabulates then they won’t be able to do that. So, let them send it in and let them go vote and if their system’s as good as they say it is they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote so that’s the way it is.”
Amber McReynolds, who heads the National Vote At Home Institute and was a director of elections in Denver, said there are safeguards in place in most states to prevent the kind of action Trump was advocating.
When voters sign the envelope containing their ballot, “it’s very much the same as you checking in to a polling place on a poll book,” she says. “You’re essentially checking yourself off the list by turning that envelope in.”
McReynolds says if voters “show up in person and you’ve requested a mail ballot, you’re going to be given a provisional ballot because they need to confirm that your mail ballot has not been received,” she says.
Trump has frequently criticized mail-in voting, alleging without evidence that it is rife with fraud. A record number of voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail in the coming presidential election because of concerns relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a series of tweets Thursday, Trump further confused the issue, urging people who vote by mail to then go to polling places to see whether their votes had been counted.
Based on the massive number of Unsolicited & Solicited Ballots that will be sent to potential Voters for the upcoming 2020 Election, & in order for you to MAKE SURE YOUR VOTE COUNTS & IS COUNTED, SIGN & MAIL IN your Ballot as EARLY as possible. On Election Day, or Early Voting,..
….after you Vote, which it should not, that Ballot will not be used or counted in that your vote has already been cast & tabulated. YOU ARE NOW ASSURED THAT YOUR PRECIOUS VOTE HAS BEEN COUNTED, it hasn’t been “lost, thrown out, or in any way destroyed”. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!
But Bell, of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said voters should not go to polling places to check if their ballot has been counted.
“The State Board office strongly discourages people from showing up at the polls on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot was counted,” she said. “That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19.”
During the muggy last weeks of June 2019, Keith Raniere, the leader of the self-help organization NXIVM, sat in a downtown Brooklyn courthouse, owlish face peeking out from beneath a halo of pewter hair, looking like an overgrown prep-school boy in a jewel-toned crewneck, as prosecutors recounted a litany of his alleged crimes and peccadilloes, each more depraved and debauched than the last.
Raniere, they alleged, coerced a bevy of bright, ambitious women, including a former WB star and the daughter of an actress from Dynasty, into sending him photos of their vulvas and having his initials branded into their montes pubis while reciting the words, “Master, please brand me, it would be an honor.” They alleged he was obsessed with BDSM and lesbianism and lesbian BDSM. And they alleged that before he was arrested and charged with, among other things, sex trafficking and racketeering, he had reconvened some of his devoted female followers in Mexico for a group blow job.
For this reason, the media referred to Raniere as a sex-cult leader, and NXIVM, the self-help organization he cofounded, as a sex cult; it also focused heavily on the high-profile names associated with the group, such as Smallville star Allison Mack, Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman, and Battlestar Galactica actor Nicki Clyne. This is not the tack taken by The Vow, the new HBO series co-directed by Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer. A sober, empathetic deep-dive into the group, The Vow stubbornly resists any efforts to be categorized as lurid or salacious, occasionally to its detriment (Variety referred to its extensive footage of self-help seminars and lectures as “for lack of a better word,boring“). And the filmmakers eschew all tabloid coverage of the group as a “sex cult.”
“One very funny comment that was recently made to me by a member was, ‘I was in this group for 20 years,’” says Noujaim. “‘Where was the sex?’”
In disputing this description, Noujaim is not entirely without bias: She has a personal connection to NXIVM. While attending a conference on Richard Branson’s Necker Island in 2008, she met Sara Bronfman, another heiress to the Seagram fortune and one of NXIVM’s most prominent members. (Bronfman’s sister Clare recently pleaded guilty to conspiring to conceal and harbor an undocumented immigrant for financial gain in connection with NXIVM.) Two years later, she took NXIVM’s flagship course, a 16-day intensive curriculum called Executive Success Program (ESP). “I was very moved by the classes and some of the people that I met there, because I think the commonality among them was that they believed they could change their lives and they could change the world with this ethical mission,” says Noujaim. “They all shared this idealism, which was refreshing.”
The Vow (or at least, the first seven episodes provided to media so far) largely focuses on the escape of two members: Mark Vicente, a longtime devotee and filmmaker; and Sarah Edmondson, the former head of the organization’s Vancouver center. Both came forward to the New York Times in 2017 about DOS, a secret society within NXIVM consisting of “masters” and “slaves” that starved and branded female members. Noujaim and Amer, who are married, had been friendly with Vicente and other NXIVM members; in 2017, they hosted a party at their house for some members, and were surprised when Vicente did not show up. He later told them he had left the group because his business partner, Sarah Edmondson, had told him about DOS, the secret, all-female society to which she belonged, and he was horrified by her account of being branded and learning that Raniere was at the top of the group. “He started to tell me he was having a crisis of faith,” Noujaim says.
Initially, the series began with the filmmakers focusing on Vicente, Edmondson, their spouses, and Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg, the mother of then-DOS member India. “At the beginning, we wanted to document what we were doing, because we were certain Clare [Bronfman] was going to sue us and we wanted to have everything on tape. It was self-protective,” says Edmondson. “And then it morphed into, ‘Wow, this is crazy, we need to document this.’” The series shows the former members of NXIVM struggling with whether to expose the group, and their ultimate decision to come forward to the New York Times in 2017, then to approach the federal government to intervene.
Raniere and several other key NXIVM members were arrested in Mexico in 2019, but so far, the episodes provided to media by HBO do not address this. Instead, they hopscotch from the early 1990s, when Raniere ran a multilevel marketing company called Consumers’ Byline and got his initial taste of power; to 2017, when Vicente and Edmondson were coming to terms with the role they played in NXIVM. This is an effective strategy, as The Vow, more than anything else, is focused on highlighting not the salacious details of what happened when people were drawn into Raniere’s web, but why they were in the first place, without drawing conclusions or making judgments. “Everybody who joined NXIVM, what they had in common is they dared to dream they could do something that can fundamentally change their lives,” Amer explains. “And that’s a beautiful dream. And I think that if we judge those who dare to dream, it says a lot more about us than it does about them.”
The first few episodes of the show make painstakingly — at times uncomfortably — clear why so many people would be drawn to Raniere’s teachings. The language of the ESP curriculum, while abstruse, contains echoes of scientific jargon, making it seem on the surface a lot more legitimate than woo-woo New Age pablum. The filmmakers also feature footage of NXIVM members raving about the effectiveness of the course, such as Marc Elliott, a member who says that Raniere and cofounder Nancy Salzman helped cure his Tourette’s syndrome. The series also tracks how Raniere laid the groundwork for his members to accept some of the more extremist aspects of his philosophies, such as the all-female organization JNESS and the all-male group Society of Protectors, which inculcated members to his more misogynistic beliefs.
Even DOS, with its dark veil of secrecy and its BDSM-influenced language and branding rituals, seemed relatively innocuous at first to many NXIVM members. It was presented as a network for powerful women to exert influence, something that appealed to Edmondson in the wake of Trump’s election. “I just felt there was stuff happening in the world that was scary for me, the shifting of power,” she explains. DOS was “presented as a way for us to have influence of good, and this would be the best way to, ironically, counter other abuses of power in the world, not seeing that this would be a massive abuse of power in itself.”
What NXIVM offered its members, and what is in short supply for the rest of the world right now, was a promise of community and belonging. Even though the organization has been officially dissolved, it also allegedly continues to this day, as the Albany Times-Union has reported that Raniere’s devoted followers have formed a splinter group, We Are As You, to dance outside the prison where he is being held. “Their belief is Keith is such a brilliant, misunderstood man that the rich and powerful people have planted evidence against the most honorable, noble man in the world,” says Edmondson. “[And] I know what that mindset is, because I used to have it.”
The Vow further illuminates just how seductive this promise of power and community were, and how painful it is for all of those extricating themselves from Raniere’s web to have it taken away. “We like to think of ourselves as super-smart intellectuals who, you know, Nobody can tell me what to do or who I am, and I’m in control of everything I do, and I’m the boss of me and all of that,” says Amer. “And I think the world is showing us time and again, especially now with Covid, we’re a lot more vulnerable and a lot more fragile. And we don’t have as many answers as we have questions.”
One of the more compelling subjects interviewed is Barbara Bouchey, one of Raniere’s former girlfriends and a high-ranking NXIVM member. For more than a decade, Bouchey was relentlessly pursued by the company in civil and criminal court after departing in 2009, a battle that’s left her destitute, according to her own accounts. Throughout Raniere’s trial, Bouchey would often insist that most coverage of NXIVM ignored the positive aspects of the program, what led thousands of people to stay for so long and pledge fealty to the nebbishy little man who played volleyball and loved prog rock and inexplicably referred to himself as “Vanguard.” She reiterates this message in The Vow, at one point speaking fondly of the person who she freely admits ruined her life. “He could’ve been great,” she says, blinking back tears while watching old footage of Raniere playing piano. “There was so much potential. And he did do good and help thousands of people, including me.”
It’s an uncomfortable moment, because it throws a wrench into our preconceived notions about not just NXIVM and Raniere, but about good and evil in general. We know, at this point in the series, the havoc that Raniere has wrought on Bouchey’s life, and the pain he has inflicted on his acolytes in the service of his own ego. Yet Bouchey steadfastly refuses to deny him the credit she feels he is owed for fulfilling at least some part of the group’s stated mission: to do good in a world that does not make doing good easy. A cynic would call this being in denial; an optimist would call it having hope. And The Vow is, at its core, a hopeful project.
The email, sent hours after DeJoy’s public suspension of changes on Tuesday, instructs postal workers not to reconnect any mail sorting machines that have previously been disconnected.
“Please message out to your respective Maintenance Managers tonight,” wrote Kevin Couch, a director of maintenance operations. “They are not to reconnect/reinstall machines that have been previously disconnected without approval from HQ Maintenance, no matter what direction they are getting from their plant manager.”
DeJoy announced Tuesday he would pause many of the new policies he put in place, including the removal of high-volume mail sorting machines, after postal workers, the public and some lawmakers, sounded alarms the changes were causing massive delivery delays, potentially putting the November election in peril.
It’s unclear if there’s been additional guidance since Couch sent the email, which appeared to have been sent to managers in the western region.
The USPS has not been attempting to reassemble or replace the mail sorting machines or letter collection recently removed in at least nine states, according to the union officials CNN spoke to in those states.
CNN spoke with union officials across the US on the local, regional and national level, and was only able to identify two facilities — Dallas and Tacoma, Washington — that had attempted to reassemble and reintroduce mail sorting machines back into USPS’s daily operations.
The Postmaster General and USPS have been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks over changes put in motion ahead of the 2020 election. Many Americans have since grown concerned over the USPS’ ability to handle the expected influx of ballots as more voters choose to vote by mail because of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Dallas facility tried to restore removed mail sorting machines
Yared Wonde, the president of the American Postal Workers Union’s Dallas Area Local, told CNN that management at the Dallas processing and distribution center, which serves nearly all of Dallas, unsuccessfully tried to put back four delivery bar code sorter machines.
DBCS machines make up the bulk of the mail sorting operation across USPS, handling envelopes which includes ballots heading to voters.
The machines, which Wonde says were removed in July, cannot be put back into service because they are missing pieces. Wonde said it was unclear what moved management at the Dallas facility to attempt to reassemble the DBCS machines.
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan faces an increasingly difficult position as China pressures the democratic island to accept conditions that would turn it into the next Hong Kong, its top diplomat told visiting U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks during a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday as the highest-level U.S. official to visit in four decades, a trip condemned by China which claims the island as its own.
Chinese fighter jets on Monday briefly crossed the median line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait, and were tracked by Taiwanese anti-aircraft missiles, part of what Taipei sees as a pattern of harassment by Beijing.
Azar’s trip to Taiwan has also coincided with a further crackdown in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, where on Monday police arrested media tycoon Jimmy Lai under a tough new national security law.
“Our life has become increasingly difficult as China continues to pressure Taiwan into accepting its political conditions, conditions that will turn Taiwan into the next Hong Kong,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said at a joint media appearance with Azar in Taipei.
China has proposed a “one country, two systems” model of autonomy to get Taiwan to accept its rule, much as it uses in Hong Kong. The proposal has been rejected in Taiwan by all major parties and the government.
Wu said Taiwan was lucky to have friends like Azar in the United States to help fight for Taiwan’s international space.
“We know this is not just about Taiwan’s status, but about sustaining democracy in the face of authoritarian aggression. Taiwan must win these battles so democracy prevails.”
Washington broke off official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing but is still Taiwan’s biggest arms supplier. The Trump administration has made strengthening its support for the democratic island a priority as relations with China sour over issues including human rights and trade.
Azar is in Taiwan to offer not just the administration’s support for its democracy, but to learn about its successful fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Taiwan has kept its infection numbers low thanks to early and effective prevention efforts.
Azar said the world should recognise Taiwan’s health accomplishments, pointing to Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organization (WHO) due to Chinese objections, which considers Taiwan merely a wayward province.
“Especially during a pandemic, but at all times, international organisations should not be places to play politics. They must be venues for constructive, open dialogue and cooperation.”
Both China and the WHO say Taiwan has been provided with the help it needs during the pandemic.
Reporting by Yimou Lee; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine‘s experience of testing positive for the coronavirus Thursday before testing negative in a follow-up test “certainly scared me,” the Republican told “Your World” Friday.
“I went to Cleveland, drove to Cleveland to meet the president,” DeWine told host Neil Cavuto. “Then, of course, when you go meet the president, you get a test and they do a quick test. So they did do what’s called an antigen test. And they came back very quickly and said, ‘You’re positive.'”
The governor added that he was “surprised” at his positive test and called doctors at Ohio State University about getting tested again.
“So we went down and my wife and I and several other people who’re around me all the time got tests yesterday. And then last night it came back negative,” Dewine said. “They reran it again, came back negative. We’re going to take another test tomorrow and we hope it comes back as negative as well.”
The second test was a PCR test, which DeWine’s office said was “extremely sensitive, as well as specific, for the virus.” DeWine’s wife Fran and his and staff members also tested negative.
If AT&T sent you an email telling you to upgrade your phone — or else — would you write it off as a scam? Well, that’s just what the company did this week, according to Android Police.
Under the big, blue, bold, all-caps heading “UPDATE NEEDED,”the carrier is telling some customers that their devices are “not compatible with the new network” and that they “need to replace it to continue receiving service.”
Here’s the email:
One obvious problem: the company sent this in the middle of an economy-wrecking pandemic, at a time when buying a new phone might be the last thing on someone’s mind. Some customers were so surprised to get the email that they posted on AT&T’s support forums speculating that it might be a scam, though Android Police says the email is legitimate.
Another problem: scared customers may not actually need to do anything until February 2022.
As Android Police points out, what AT&T really seems to be doing here is recommending upgrades ahead of the shutdown of AT&T’s 3G network. That’s scheduled to happen “by February 2022,” according to an AT&T link that reportedly appears in the email. When the 3G network goes away, AT&T says that phones that don’t support HD Voice, which routes calls over 4G LTE, won’t be able to make voice calls or use data on AT&T.
Weirdly, customers with newer phones, which should theoretically support HD Voice, are getting the email, too. The person who started that thread on AT&T’s support forum said they use a Galaxy S10 E, a phone that was released in March 2019.
If it’s true that these phones won’t stop working until 2022, sending out an email like this isn’t exactly the best look for AT&T; it could be seen as an attempt to boost sales during a pandemic, and there’ll no doubt be a wave of newer and better phones available (including more with 5G support) before that deadline passes.
It’s unclear exactly how many customers may have gotten this email, and AT&T hasn’t replied to a request for comment. But hopefully AT&T provides clearer communication about why and when customers will actually need to upgrade.
Hours after sending an email instructing employees to remove the social media app TikTok from their phones, citing unspecified “security risks,” Amazon.com Inc. said Friday the message was sent in error.
The curious sequence of events came days after the White House amped up messaging that casts the popular Chinese-owned service as a potential threat to national security.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and President Donald Trump said early this week the federal government was weighing a ban on the app in the U.S. because of concerns surrounding Chinese surveillance.
Trump’s and Pompeo’s comments represent the latest escalation of conflict between the U.S. and China, which are locked in a global competition for technological dominance. The Trump administration has aggressively campaigned against China, launching a trade war with China more than two years ago, and clamping down on China’s premier telecommunications company, Huawei Technologies Co., by barring the company from doing business with U.S. firms. While the Huawei crackdown shook the world of enterprise tech, with TikTok, the war could touch U.S. consumers directly.
There are real security concerns about TikTok, experts say, but the Trump administration’s harsh stance on the app appears to be heavily driven by its posturing toward China. Were TikTok to end up a casualty of this war, it could have wide-reaching effects.
Amazon’s email to employees, the existence of which was first reported by the New York Times and independently confirmed by the L.A. Times, said TikTok, which lets users create and share short videos of themselves with millions of viewers, would no longer be allowed on mobile devices that access Amazon email. Employees would still be allowed to use TikTok on their Amazon laptops using a web browser, the email said. TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.
An Amazon spokesperson declined to provide more details about how the error occurred.
TikTok said in a statement that the company is committed to respecting the privacy of users: “While Amazon did not communicate to us before sending their email, and we still do not understand their concerns, we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community. We’re proud that tens of millions of Americans turn to TikTok for entertainment, inspiration, and connection, including many of the Amazon employees and contractors who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic.”
U.S. companies such as Amazon are likely watching these developments carefully and paying close attention to cues from the government, said Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.
If Amazon had stuck with its original memo, it would have been the biggest company to warn its employees of TikTok as a possible security risk.
Earlier this week, Wells Fargo ordered employees who had installed TikTok on company mobile devices to delete the app due to privacy concerns. The Democratic National Committee had previously issued guidance in December asking employees to stop downloading the app. The Republican National Committee followed suit on Friday.
Security concerns about TikTok are legitimate: Information the app collects hypothetically could be exploited, said Justin Sherman, a fellow with the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
But Sherman said he doesn’t think the the Trump administration’s push is based on legitimate intelligence, and is more political posturing than anything else. Huawei, which provides critical telecommunications equipment, poses a much clearer security threat than TikTok, Sherman said.
“All these statements, policy announcements and strategies focused on Chinese technology are really about politics. They’re about posturing and looking tough in this trade war,” Sherman said.
The company has taken steps to define itself as an American entity, seeking to shift attention away from its Chinese ownership. In May, ByteDance hired Kevin Mayer, an American who spent most of his career at Walt Disney Co., as TikTok’s new CEO. The company also stopped using Chinese moderators to monitor content in other countries this year.
Unlike Trump’s battle with Huawei, which primarily affected U.S. companies selling computer hardware and internet access in rural areas, the administration’s battle with TikTok could mean depriving millions of U.S. users of an increasingly beloved service.
Tobias Rugger, a teacher in San Francisco’s public school system, uses TikTok regularly to find videos of Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality, as well as for entertainment. “It’s quick, to the point, and in my opinion, relevant information from people I trust,” he said.
Rugger said he’s deeply concerned that a crackdown on TikTok would stifle voices he relies on and would serve to boost Trump’s hold on the national conversation.
Last week, India banned the app as part of an escalating border dispute between Beijing and New Delhi. With 200 million users, India is TikTok’s biggest international market.
The move was a harsh blow to villagers, lower-caste Indians and others from marginalized backgrounds for whom the app was a source of pleasure, and for many, even viral fame and needed income.
If the Trump administration does choose to pursue a ban on the app in the U.S., Sherman said, it would raise all sorts of questions about legality and technical implementation. “What does a ban even mean? Is blocking apps on the internet even legal?” Sherman said.
Regardless, it’s clear TikTok will remain in the spotlight in coming months.
“This is just the first chapter in whats going to be a pretty drawn out soap opera,” Ives said.
President Trump has told aides he is largely supportive of sending Americans another round of stimulus checks, expressing the belief that the payments will boost the economy and help his chances at reelection in November, according to three people aware of internal administration deliberations.
However, leading congressional Republicans and some senior White House officials remain skeptical of sending more checks, creating a rift within conservative circles that could have significant consequences for the stimulus package set to be taken up by lawmakers in July.
The discussion is part of a fast-moving debate about what to include in a new economic stimulus package that the White House and Democrats have said should be a priority.
In March, Congress approved stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per person for every American citizen earning less than $75,000 per year as part of the Cares Act. The Internal Revenue Service had, as of the beginning of June, sent these payments to more than 159 million American households.
Many economists say the checks provided needed relief as unemployment surged across the country, but they also generated significant controversy because of glitches in getting the money to taxpayers and the Treasury Department’s decision to put Trump’s name on the mailed checks, as well as a gushing letter that included his 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
House Democrats included another round of $1,200 stimulus checks in the bill they approved last month, but the GOP position on the measure has remained murky.
Internally, the president’s advisers and allies are split. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has advocated sending another round of checks, two people with knowledge of internal deliberations said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to frankly discuss matters they weren’t authorized to comment on publicly.
Mnuchin joined GOP senators at their weekly policy lunch on Tuesday and talked up the impact of the stimulus checks. “He just said that when he went around the country, people came up and thanked him for it. It seemed to have made a difference to them,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told reporters.
Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, is skeptical of sending payments to as many people who received them in the first round, said one person familiar with internal matters who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. Kudlow said Tuesday the administration may want to send payments primarily to those who need them most, rather than the nearly 160 million Americans who received the first round.
“I think the tax rebates or the direct mail checks are on the table. … There are a lot of discussions going on,” Kudlow told Fox Business. “Probably, we would want to target those to those folks who lost their jobs and are most in need. All right, that’s the speculation on my part, but I think this is — that’s where it’s going.”
Other conservative White House officials and influential congressional Republicans oppose the plan, expressing concern with the impact of tremendous levels of new spending on the deficit. Some White House officials have also argued internally that the checks were pocketed by Americans rather than spent in the economy, pointing to an enormous increase in Americans’ personal savings rate after the payments went out, one person aware of internal discussions said. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) made a similar argument to reporters on Tuesday.
“A lot of the stimulus checks that have gone out right now — people have been saving money and putting it into their savings accounts,” Rounds said. “For me, let’s get people back to work. I think that’s a better way.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he opposes another round of stimulus payments in favor of adjustments to the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, as well as extending unemployment benefits at a lower level than approved by Congress in March.
Still, several other Senate Republicans on Tuesday expressed openness to more direct payments. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) suggested he would back smaller versions of the initial measure if targeted for “the people who are hurting the most.” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said it should be considered as part of the discussion on how to handle the increase in unemployment benefits approved by Congress in March.
“Direct check, or direct infusion of discretionary money — whether for rent or something more discretionary — would in fact have a stimulating effect, and it could be very helpful to people getting through a rough patch,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said.
Cramer added: “I’d be warm to that as one of the components of another round. Of course, [Trump] has always wanted another round of stimulus checks, and probably for good reason.”
The president has emphasized in public his desire to cut payroll taxes for businesses in the next stimulus package. Asked on Monday whether the administration will be sending Americans a second round of stimulus checks, Trump said “we are” but then quickly shifted the discussion to a different matter, making it unclear what he was referring to. White House officials said that the administration continues to study the checks and that the president is hearing from advisers but has not reached a final decision.
Senate Republicans have already rejected the president’s call for a payroll tax cut. Most opposed the initial round of $1,200 payments despite voting for the Cares Act and are even more likely to oppose another round now that the economy has begun recovering from its lows in March and April, said Jason Pye, the vice president of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks, a conservative organization. The initial round of payments cost approximately $300 billion.
“There’s likely to be widespread opposition to something like another round of this. The cost is just too much,” Pye said.
Congressional Republicans may be more likely to support another round of stimulus checks if it is paired with a substantial reduction to the $600-per-week increase in unemployment benefits approved by Congress in March, aides said. Stephen Moore, an outside economic adviser to the White House, said the administration is studying this approach as officials push for a reduction in unemployment benefits.
The White House is looking at another stimulus package in part because the coronavirus pandemic is expected to be a long-term drag on the U.S. economy. The Federal Reserve and Congressional Budget Office have both projected that unemployment could remain as high as 10 percent for the rest of the year. Many economists say the $1,200 checks and the increase in unemployment benefits helped shield low-income Americans, with one study finding poverty dropped in April, despite the economic contraction, because of the massive infusion of government cash.
Democrats have called for the stimulus checks to be bigger and criticized the March law for not sending payments to undocumented immigrants. They have largely unified behind the idea that the payments quickly got money to people in need.
“The Economic Impact Payments proved to be a very effective way to get people money given our rickety administrative systems,” said Matt Bruenig, founder of the People’s Policy Project, a left-leaning think tank. “Given that the public health and economic crisis has not yet abated, another round of these payments would be a good idea.”
NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised his staff that more NYPD officers will be disciplined over violent clashes with protesters throughout last week.
In seeking to quell an uprising among city employees, some of whom are planning to rally against de Blasio on Monday morning, the mayor explained that he thought officers’ lives were in danger during the protests, according to three people on a staff call Sunday afternoon.
“There were even — between the time of Thursday night and Saturday night — so many instances where I had come to fundamentally believe, based on evidence, that officers’ lives were in direct danger, and officers might be killed,” de Blasio said, according to a verbatim account of two people on the call.
He said he was also worried about protesters and tried to strike a balance between those fears, but acknowledged he did not articulate his concerns well enough to staffers, who grew furious watching him unconditionally defend the NYPD and chastise demonstrators.
“In retrospect there’s things I realize now we could’ve done better, said better, made clearer,” the mayor said.
On the call, de Blasio reiterated his concern about some protesters, who he said seized on the frenzy of the marches to loot stores that are shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also promised that more discipline for police officers would be announced in the coming days.
“It took too long, I agree. That can’t be the case in the future, but that discipline has begun and there will be much more,” he said.
So far two NYPD officers have been suspended as a result of attacks against peaceful protesters, which were often videotaped in footage that has gone viral on social media. De Blasio said multiple investigations, including one by the NYPD’s internal affairs bureau, are underway.
He also told staffers, who submitted questions that he answered on the conference call, that he did not want to institute an 8 p.m. curfew last week but did so to avoid a National Guard takeover in the city, according to two attendees.
As POLITICO reported, the New York Immigration Coalition and New York Civil Liberties Union each threatened to sue over the curfew, arguing it violated the constitutional right to assembly.
The Sunday call came as de Blasio faces the most profound crises of his administration: His handling of the coronavirus, which was beset by a near-public feud between the mayor and his health commissioner, was followed by an eruption of anger over his stance on the protests.
In addition to current and former aides, the mayor so gravely disappointed black and Latino New Yorkers who make up his base that he was roundly booed as he spoke during a memorial for Floyd in Brooklyn last week.
On the call Sunday, de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, offered staff a pep talk, telling them she is proud of them and offering a virtual hug.
“The confusion, the pain … the anger, the outrage that we’ve all experienced in some way in the past two weeks must be channeled into more action,” she said, according to an attendee.