Friday, October 16, 2020

Last Call For Mitch Better Have My Money

There will be no COVID-19 relief bill as long as Mitch McConnell is Senate majority leader, and I really don't understand why people won't just admit that instead of screaming at Nancy Pelosi like this is all her fault somehow.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he would not put a potential $1.8 trillion+ deal struck by Democrats and the Trump administration on the Senate floor. "My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted is the best way to go," he said.

Why it matters: The economy and American workers need help. Democrats say so. President Trump says so. Fed chair Jay Powell says so, adding that there's a low risk of "overdoing it." At some point, such inaction will catch up to investors. This comes against a backdrop of a still-raging pandemic. Yesterday, for example, showed increased COVID-19 caseloads in all 50 states, while over 100 million Americans remain out of the labor force.

State of play: House Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin talked yesterday and will talk again today. One possible breakthrough is on the Democrats' ask for a national testing plan, which Mnuchin this morning said on CNBC that the White House will now support. No word yet on if the WH will relent on another sticking point, related to expansions of the child tax credit and earned income tax credit. Or if Pelosi will give the WH a win on virus-related liability protections for businesses and schools.

What to know: President Trump said on Fox Business this morning that he would "absolutely" go higher than a $1.8 trillion proposal, and that he has directed Mnuchin to do so. But there isn't actually a WH proposal to negotiate against, at least not in document form.

The biggest hurdle is Senate Republicans, who have been left out of negotiations and who seem uninterested in comprehensive stimulus. One explanation is that McConnell is laser-focused on SCOTUS, but it's unclear why he won't walk and chew stimulus at the same time — particularly given how much Trump wants a deal before the election.
It's not unclear at all. Mitch McConnell doesn't want a bill now. There will be no bill in the lame duck, and there will definitely be no bill if he's still Senate majority leader in January with a Biden presidency. In fact, no COVID-19 bill is exactly the sabotage McConnell will want heading into a Biden administration so he can blame them for "failure" and history shows that he'll get away with it.
The problem is Mitch McConnell, period.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion, Con't

 Here's everything you need to know about 2020.

First, in the early days of the pandemic, the Trump regime, while telling America that everything was under control, was secretly telling the titans of Wall Street that the pandemic was a real threat. Wall Street sold off the markets and made trillions.

On the afternoon of Feb. 24, President Trump declared on Twitter that the coronavirus was “very much under control” in the United States, one of numerous rosy statements that he and his advisers made at the time about the worsening epidemic. He even added an observation for investors: “Stock market starting to look very good to me!”

But hours earlier, senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the conservative Hoover Institution, were less confident. Tomas J. Philipson, a senior economic adviser to the president, told the group he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy. To some in the group, the implication was that an outbreak could prove worse than Mr. Philipson and other Trump administration advisers were signaling in public at the time.

The next day, board members — many of them Republican donors — got another taste of government uncertainty from Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council. Hours after he had boasted on CNBC that the virus was contained in the United States and “it’s pretty close to airtight,” Mr. Kudlow delivered a more ambiguous private message. He asserted that the virus was “contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don’t know,” according to a document describing the sessions obtained by The New York Times.

The document, written by a hedge fund consultant who attended the three-day gathering of Hoover’s board, was stark.“What struck me,” the consultant wrote, was that nearly every official he heard from raised the virus “as a point of concern, totally unprovoked.”

The consultant’s assessment quickly spread through parts of the investment world. U.S. stocks were already spiraling because of a warning from a federal public health official that the virus was likely to spread, but traders spotted the immediate significance: The president’s aides appeared to be giving wealthy party donors an early warning of a potentially impactful contagion at a time when Mr. Trump was publicly insisting that the threat was nonexistent.

Interviews with eight people who either received copies of the memo or were briefed on aspects of it as it spread among investors in New York and elsewhere provide a glimpse of how elite traders had access to information from the administration that helped them gain financial advantage during a chaotic three days when global markets were teetering.

The rest of us got screwed. And for millions of us, without jobs, without help from an indifferent Senate GOP blocking any further CVOID-19 legislation, and without a place to go, millions of us now find ourselves in poverty over the last several months.

The number of people in the United States living in poverty grew by 8 million since May, according to a study by the Columbia University Center on Poverty & Social Policy released Thursday — a surged fueled by the economic downturn during the pandemic and the expiration of added weekly unemployment payments back in July.

The study found that the $1,200 one-time payments to those earning under a certain income threshold, coupled with an added $600 per week of unemployment insurance for laid-off workers received, helped stave off an increase in poverty at the beginning of the pandemic.

However, once Senate Republicans allowed those payments to expire in July, the number of people living in poverty began to climb — hurting children, as well as Black and Hispanic populations, the most, the study found.

"Due to the expiration of the CARES Act’s stimulus checks and $600 per week supplement to unemployment benefits, the monthly poverty rate in September was higher than rates during April or May, and also higher than pre-crisis levels," the study found.

House Democrats have twice passed an extension of the $600 weekly unemployment checks — once in May, before the payments expired, and again in early October.

However, the Senate — led by Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — has refused to take up those bills, claiming they were too expensive and not needed.

Senate Republicans let the payments expire at the end of July, before leaving Washington, D.C., for nearly a month. Upon their return, the GOP-led Senate has been unable to pass coronavirus aid.

If the GOP remains in power, millions of Americans will fall into poverty, period. We have a clear choice, now, and we need to make it. 

Trump Like A Egyptian

So not only did the Muller team suspect and investigate Russian, Ukrainian, Saudi, Cypriot and German money laundering for Team Trump, turns out the most egregious example was Egyptian money laundering too. And all of it was blocked by the Justice Department and in the case of the Egyptian money laundering, we now know it was the Supreme Court that refused to hear the case on a subpoena of financial records.
By summer 2017, Mueller's office was handling the Egypt investigation gingerly, with the team of prosecutors and FBI personnel often working without sharing full details with the other teams in the office, according to multiple accounts of the office's dynamics.
CNN sent Mueller detailed questions about the Egypt investigation for this story. He declined to comment. 
One official familiar with the work said some investigators believed the Egypt inquiry presented a more direct avenue for Mueller's team to examine Trump's finances, in part because it did not have an obvious tie to Russia. 
Diving into Trump's finances, however, was highly sensitive -- so much so that Mueller suspected the President would fire him if the White House learned his finances were being probed, crossing a so-called "red line" Trump set early in the Mueller investigation.
Yet understanding Trump's finances was crucial to the Egypt investigation -- especially regarding the $10 million he gave to his campaign. 
Needing a final push before Election Day as the polls tightened in 2016, the Trump campaign was running low on cash. Trump's top campaign officials scrambled to convince Trump to inject money, according to memos of witness interviews from the investigation and contemporaneous news reports. 
Trump lagged well behind a pledge he made to spend $100 million of his own money on his campaign. Less than two weeks before Election Day, Trump wrote his campaign a $10 million check, publicly calling it a loan. Campaign finance records showed it as his single largest political contribution, by far, and not one the campaign would reimburse him for.
Federal law enforcement officials suspected, in part because of intelligence information, that there was money moving through the Egyptian bank that could connect to Trump's campaign donation, according to the sources. Yet untangling the web of Trump's complex business interests ultimately remained out of reach. 
Campaign finance law prohibits foreign political contributions to campaigns for public office. A financial tie between a sitting president and a foreign country could also have explosive national security consequences. 
Mueller's office pressed witnesses to explain how the Trump-Sisi meeting in late 2016 came about. Ahmad, whose aims on the investigation were cloaked in secrecy, was repeatedly present in interviews touching on both Trump's $10 million contribution to his campaign and the campaign's ties to Egypt. 
For instance, in one witness interview in November 2017, Ahmad and the FBI pressed an unnamed former staffer on the Trump campaign, transition and National Security Council about Trump's meeting with Sisi and her interactions with Egyptian nationals. Another witness, according to the interview memos, spoke to investigators in August 2018 about the Trump-Sisi meeting and Egypt's stance on US presidential elections. 
Mueller's team repeatedly asked witnesses questions about Trump foreign policy campaign adviser Walid Phares and his ties to Egypt, after intelligence pointed them toward him. The New York Times first reported in June about the special counsel's investigation into Phares' suspected role in an Egyptian influence effort. It led to no charges. The FBI has not made public records that show Mueller's team interviewing Phares, though the former Trump adviser has said he spoke to investigators. Phares' assistant declined to comment. 
In an initial interview with the special counsel's office, senior campaign official and White House adviser Stephen Bannon also discussed his role in setting up the meeting between Trump and Sisi. 
In a session months later, Bannon was asked about Trump's $10 million contribution to his campaign, according to another recent release of Mueller's interview memos. 
Bannon explained to Mueller's investigators how Trump initially resisted cutting his campaign such a large check, and that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner doubted that Trump would do so, saying, "that was not going to happen," according to Bannon. But Trump was talked into providing the last-minute money by future Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Kushner, Bannon said. Mnuchin described the money as a "cash advance," Bannon said, and Trump eventually agreed to wire the money. "Trump was convinced the cash would be there," Bannon said, according to the interview summary. 
A spokesperson for Mnuchin at the Treasury Department confirmed Bannon's description of convincing Trump to make the loan, and said that Mnuchin had no knowledge of how Trump had $10 million available to him. 
Records of the special counsel's office interviews, which remain heavily redacted, do not make clear whether witnesses were asked directly about money connected to Egypt. At the same time, investigators may have sought not to tip their suspicions to witnesses -- especially those like Bannon who were close to the President. 
Representatives for Bannon didn't respond to CNN's requests for comment.
Donald Trump took a $10 million bribe from Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Why, you and me.

The farther behind Donald Trump has fallen in the competition for campaign dollars, the more he’s milked government resources to make up the difference.

Millions of boxes of food doled out to needy families — with letters signed by the president taking credit stuffed inside. An $8 billion program for drug-discount cards to seniors featuring Trump branding — intended to arrive before the Nov. 3 election. A $300 million advertising blitz to "defeat despair" over the coronavirus pandemic — the biggest threat to Trump’s reelection.

Each of those initiatives have two things in common: They’re paid for with taxpayer money, and they are plainly intended to help Trump’s flagging reelection campaign. The actions are just the latest examples of how the president has eviscerated the traditional boundaries separating politics from government.

His heavy reliance on federal resources and his own executive powers to win reelection come as Trump has fallen more than $100 million behind Joe Biden in TV ad spending, and slipped to a double-digit deficit in national polls.

As the election approaches, Trump has moved beyond using his control over federal resources to deploying government officials to carry out his political messaging. Last week, Trump suggested that his attorney general prosecute some of his political enemies. Days ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed he would release Hillary Clinton’s emails “before the election,” moving to resurrect a volatile issue from the 2016 race. And Attorney General William Barr has put the weight of the Justice Department behind Trump’s unfounded allegations of voter fraud.

“The president is increasingly using all the levers he’s got for political purposes,” says Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under George H.W. Bush who has endorsed Biden. “You can wonder whether he’s getting a bit desperate … It appears to me that the president is making increasingly outrageous demands and comments as time goes along.”
It's always about the grift.


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