Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrives to testify at a Congressional Oversight Commission hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, December. 10, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger / The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Saturday continued to call for amendments to the $ 900 billion stimulus agreement that Democrats and Republicans approved in December. This increases the likelihood the government could shut down on Tuesday and the economy could take a devastating shock in the final days of his presidency.
« I just want to get great people out for $ 2,000 instead of the paltry $ 600 that’s now on the bill, » Trump wrote in a tweet.
His demand for 2. $ 000 stimulus checks is a direct rejection of the $ 600 checks that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin personally proposed and negotiated with Democrats and Republicans. Now Trump’s rejection of the deal has puzzled many leaders on Capitol Hill because they thought Mnuchin negotiated the package on behalf of the president. The reputation of the chief financial officer with many lawmakers is in tatters just days before a full blown crisis erupts.
The president’s cancellation of the deal represented an astonishing public broadside against his own finance minister, who for four years loyally shielded the president’s tax returns, endured repeated presidential tirades in private, and even defended Trump’s most dangerous and contradictory statements. Throughout all of this, Mnuchin had emerged with the unique ability to walk the tightrope between Trump and the leaders of Congress, and serve as envoy in difficult negotiations. It all ended on Tuesday when Trump posted a video on Twitter ridiculing the deal.
In addition to a possible government shutdown on Tuesday, the entire emergency aid package is at risk. The $ 600 stimulus checks promised by Mnuchin, due to be sent later this week, cannot be sent unless the bill is legally signed. A number of other emergency aid programs that were part of the package, from rental protection to small business help, airline assistance to vaccine distribution, are also now frozen. Congressional leaders have signaled that they will make one final attempt to avert a shutdown on Monday, but their options are dwindling. If all of these efforts fail, the Trump and Mnuchin economy could quickly deteriorate in the last few days.
« We were assured that the President would sign the bill, and I have no reason to believe Secretary Mnuchin did not believe it, » Sen said. . Roy Blunt, R-Mo. , a member of the executive team of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, told reporters Thursday.
Mnuchin had described the bipartisan deal as « fabulous » the day before Trump’s « shame ». ”
« Loyalty and support for President Trump are generally rewarded with humiliation. That’s how it ends up for a lot of the people who work for the guy, ”said Brian Riedl, a conservative political expert at the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank. “Secretary Mnuchin was completely embarrassed. ”
At 12:59 p.m.. m. Mnuchin tweeted a message of congratulations to the leaders of Congress, thanking them for voting to “approve additional critical economic relief for American workers, families and businesses. ”
« I want to thank President Trump for his guidance, » Mnuchin wrote in a press release that accompanied the tweet.
Six hours later, Trump published his own tweet in which he described the bill as a « disgrace » and called for extensive changes. He didn’t mention Mnuchin, and aides say the two have hardly spoken since then. It remains unclear whether Trump will sign or veto the bill.
Mnuchin was blind to the video even though he was Trump’s chief negotiator with Congress on the relief package for months, according to two administrators with knowledge of the matter. The administrative officials, like others in this story, spoke on condition of anonymity in order to openly discuss internal matters. A finance spokesman, Mnuchin, was actually aware of the video and spoke to Trump all week, including on Saturday.
In the days leading up to the bill’s passage, officials from both the Treasury Department and the White House Legislative Office told Republicans in Congress that Trump would sign the bill, according to two people with knowledge of the private exchange.
Both parties’ congressional leaders said they believed Mnuchin brokered the deal on Trump’s behalf, and the Treasury Secretary reported to lawmakers that he is keeping the president regularly updated on the talks.
In the video, Trump called the provision of $ 600 checks in the stimulus package « ridiculously low » and urged lawmakers to stop making payments by Jan.. $ 000 per person to approve.
The $ 600 payments were Mnuchin’s idea and formed the centerpiece of a proposal the White House sent to the Democrats in Congress earlier this month. The details of this plan were released 13 days before the President published his objections.
Trump also attacked the foreign aid package, which is included in a government spending bill along with the coronavirus aid package. Some of these provisions were included in the President’s annual budget proposal earlier this year. A White House Bureau of Administration and Budget spokeswoman who drafted the President’s battered budget document would not say whether budget officials were involved in the President’s condemnation of his own administration priorities.
Trump’s shocking move into potentially blowing up the deal seems to have been his idea alone, according to two people who were briefed on the matter by White House staff.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who successfully stopped Trump earlier this month from 2. Demanding $ 000 in stimulus payments helped orchestrate the video released by the White House. But Meadows had no idea for it and was widely viewed internally as an opponent of the move, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.
A day before Trump’s video was released, Mnuchin called the aid package « fabulous » in an interview with CNBC. Mnuchin emphasized that the government would make payments of up to 2 this week. Send $ 400 to millions of American households. It would have been one of the largest federal cash transfers in history outside the Cares Act in March.
Instead, Trump decided to torpedo efforts while raging against Republicans in Congress on Twitter for unsupporting his efforts to scrap the 2020 presidential election results. Trump has also voiced his anger at the Congressional Democrats for not agreeing to a stimulus package before the presidential election.
As the $ 900 billion stimulus package moved through Congress, Trump became increasingly angry with media coverage that caused him to largely sideline negotiations, said two people led by officials from the White House were briefed. The President has not appointed Democratic leaders to Congress in over a year. Sen. . Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a longtime enemy of Trump who voted to indict him, has been widely seen in most press coverage as being instrumental in overcoming the month-long federal aid jam.
The result is that Trump’s final economic act in office could be to block an emergency aid package negotiated as a U by his finance minister himself. S.. . The economy is being hurt by a surge in coronavirus cases and a new wave of shutdowns.
Up to 14 million unemployed Americans received their last unemployment benefit on Saturday. Millions more could lose their homes as an eviction moratorium expires at the end of the year. These two cliffs would have been avoided if the President had signed the stimulus agreement.
President-elect Joe Biden condemned Trump on Saturday for refusing to sign the deal.
« It’s the day after Christmas and millions of families don’t know if they can make ends meet because President Donald Trump refuses to sign an overwhelming, bipartisan Congress-approved economic relief bill, » Biden said in a statement. “This renunciation of responsibility has devastating consequences. ”
And even some people close to the White House say Trump’s decision to halt the deal reflects his bitter mood in the final days of his presidency.
« He’s just mad at everyone and wants to cause as much pain as possible to Congress, » said one person who was briefed on the matter by White House officials.
The decision to torpedo the deal also reflects Trump’s willingness to undermine Mnuchin, despite the fact that the Treasury Secretary largely steadfastly respected the president for four years.
Mnuchin, a former Wall Street and Hollywood executive, is just one of a handful of cabinet secretaries to survive past the president’s first term. He declined to have a narrator comment on this story.
He turned down the House Democrats’ attempt to secure Trump’s tax returns despite a 1924 law expressly giving them the authority to obtain the documents. He defended the president’s handling of white nationalist protests in Charlottesville in 2017, as well as the president’s derogatory remarks against Black House Democrats.
The president has privately complained to Congress Republicans that Mnuchin was « giving the shop away » in negotiations with Congress Democrats, wondering if he wasn’t pushing hard enough on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Trump has also repeatedly berated Mnuchin by enraging his Treasury Secretary over the small business aid that went to the Los Angeles Lakers and sparking an explosive rant over Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Mnuchin recommended Powell to the President in 2017.
Legislators on Capitol Hill felt that these tensions were largely resolved, with Trump focusing on the 2020 elections for the past few weeks. Senior negotiators were persuaded that Mnuchin was speaking about a long-awaited stimulus package on behalf of the president earlier this month, according to several people close to the negotiations.
But even during the last round of negotiations, there were signs that the president could refuel the agreement afterwards.
During a Dec. . During the meeting, Pelosi repeatedly tried to brief Mnuchin on the president’s position on direct payments. The four main conference leaders attended the meeting – Pelosi; McConnell, R-Ky. ;; Senate Minority Chairman Chuck Schumer, D-N. Y. . ;; and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. – Mnuchin calls a speakerphone in the middle of Pelosi’s conference room.
Pelosi asked Mnuchin four times to explain the president’s position, but Mnuchin declined, so two people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting. According to these people, Pelosi got frustrated and at one point exclaimed, « Come on, Steven! »
Some Democrats, like former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, have attacked Mnuchin for several years, claiming he is « the greatest sycophant in cabinet history. Other senior Democratic lawmakers speak with a mixture of admiration and compassion from Mnuchin, saying he has shown an understanding of the need to provide urgent relief to the American economy despite the president’s second guess. They accuse Trump of leaving Mnuchin to the wind despite his efforts to improve the president’s economic record.
« He had a tough job from the start, but he always understood the severity of the crisis. . . . Mnuchin was a very positive force, ”said Sen. . Mark Warner, D-Va. who came close to Mnuchin and goes on long bike rides with him. “But anyone who has ever tried to speak for Donald Trump has had their legs cut out at some point. ”
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World News – USA – Mnuchin’s loyalty to Trump could end in a painful setback if the president breaks the stimulus deal
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