Posts tagged with "The Wall Street Journal"

SCOTUS rejects Trump bid to block New York subpoena seeking his financial and tax records

July 10, 2020

In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court on July 9 rejected President Donald Trump’s bid to block the Manhattan District Attorney from enforcing a subpoena seeking years of his financial and tax records from his accountants—and potentially opening the president up to widespread scrutiny.

The case was one of two before the high court—brought separately by New York County and the U.S. Congress—in which the president challenged subpoenas that weren’t sent to him, but instead to his accountants and bankers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Trump has been highly protective of his financial records. He is the only major-party presidential candidate in recent elections not to release his tax returns to the public.

Overall, the justices said that the New York prosecutor was entitled to access the president’s personal financial information—but dropkicked the decision on whether several committees of Congress should receive the records to a lower court.

Among the subpoenas under scrutiny:

Deutsche Bank since 1998 has led or participated in loans of at least $2.5 billion to companies affiliated with Trump, the Journal noted.

The Intelligence Committee said it needed the information as part of its probe of foreign influence in the U.S. political process, including whether foreigners have financial leverage over the Trump family and its enterprises. The Financial Services Committee is investigating bank-lending practices, including to Mr. Trump and his businesses.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) immediately commended the ruling in the consolidated cases of Trump v. Mazars and Trump v. Deutsche Bank., saying, “A careful reading of the Supreme Court rulings related to the president’s financial records is not good news for President Trump.The Court has reaffirmed the Congress’s authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people, as it asks for further information from the Congress.”

In turn, the Journal said, Trump argued that House committees infringed on his prerogatives as chief executive, and that the U.S. Constitution prohibits state prosecutors from subpoenaing records of a sitting president.

However, SCOTUS already had gone on-record about such prerogatives: In 1974, the Supreme Court required President Nixon to obey a subpoena for tapes and other records related to the Watergate investigation. In 1997, the court likewise ordered President Clinton to comply with a private lawsuit brought against him over sexual harassment allegations.

House investigators and state prosecutors argued that the burdens on Trump were minor compared to those cases, as the subpoenas were directed to third parties and the president need do nothing in response.

Lower courts upheld the subpoenas for the Trump records, but they have been blocked during the Supreme Court appeal.

Research contact: @WSJ

You’re too close to Grandma! American families can’t agree on reopening protocols

July 6, 2020

When shelter-in-place restrictions eased in May in Gurnee, Illinois, Laura Davis’ first thought was: When are people coming over? The teacher’s mother and two sisters live within driving distance, she said, and her backyard can accommodate social distancing.

It turned out that wasn’t going to be easy, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Davis, 38, landed and her older sister could not agree on get-together terms. Her sister and mother have health conditions that put them at risk for complications from the new coronavirus and said they would come only if they could sit outside, if no one ate, and if everyone wore masks—including all nine children.

That might sound fairly reasonable, but Davis couldn’t understand why food she prepared would be riskier than food delivered from restaurants. Her sister and mother wouldn’t budge.

“It’s been a weird balancing act,” she told the Journal. “I’m trying to understand them, but I’m also trying to push them a little bit. You can’t do this for two years until there’s a vaccine.”

The question of how to resume aspects of normal life months after the first known U.S. coronavirus death is confounding businesses and roiling state and national politics. It is also straining relations among friends and relatives.

What’s more, the recent surge of newly confirmed cases in many states has made the question more urgent—upending reopening plans, and prompting several states to reverse course or hit pause. Disagreement among federal officials, governors and mayors has led to shifting official messages and rules about how to stay safe.

Behind all the confusion are thousands of conversations and arguments every day in households across America about how to do the right thing—with disagreements on what that is.

Behavior one friend or relative deems essential around other people—mask-wearing, for example—is considered excessive by another. Differences over safety measures split some families on partisan lines, much as they divide parts of the country.

Summer is especially fraught, with vacation plans suddenly a subject of debate. The Journal spoke to Dani Duncan of Jacksonville, Florida, whose 12-year-old daughter traditionally spends a month with her in-laws in Daytona Beach each summer.

However, this year, the Duncans didn’t think it was safe and said no. Her in-laws took offense, she told the news outlet: “They were like, ‘You don’t trust us with her.’ ” Her husband replied, “Obviously, we do,” said Dani, 49. “It became personal.”

Her father-in-law suggested a weekend trip instead of a month, but she wasn’t OK with that, either. Her daughter was upset about the change of plans, she said, and her in-laws felt at a loss.

In America, who takes what position in the family debate over COVID-19 safety precautions is sometimes drawn by party lines. Some within families say the  threat has been overblown by political liberals and the media; others say politically conservative Americans have unwisely played down the threat.

Indeed, a June survey by the Pew Research Center found that political partisanship—more than race, geography, gender or age—was the biggest factor in determining comfort levels with various activities. The partisan difference widened since Pew conducted a similar survey in March, with Republicans significantly more at ease than Democrats about going to places like restaurants, salons and friends’ houses.

Mary Ellen Carroll, 48, who lives in Huntington, West Virginia, has barely left home since March. Her husband, Mike Carroll, plays golf several times a week and has been sitting outside on the country-club patio with fellow players after rounds—six feet apart, he said.

“I don’t want him to go because he’s 70 years old,” she said. “There have been arguments.” Her husband fudged it: “There’s been discussions,” but “we don’t really argue.”

They also disagree over whether their disagreement falls along partisan lines. The politically conservative Mike Carroll wears a mask only in the grocery store, he said. May Ellen Carroll wears a mask when she goes out and said she gets dirty looks from people—her mask says “Ridin’ With Biden,” she said, but she also gets negative reactions in a pink knitted one without a slogan.

“You know conservatives don’t believe in quarantine and masks,” she said. But the Carrolls have achieved an uneasy truce, and intend to go on in the same fashion.

And back in Gurnee, Illinois, the Davises have come to an understanding. Katie Clark, 41, the sister with diabetes, told the Journal that her sister, Laura, had misunderstood her objections. She said Laura’s inference that she didn’t want home-cooked food was a misunderstanding: She didn’t want people eating because they would have to take off their masks, which she didn’t think was safe..

Laura  “thinks I’m far too cautious, and I don’t think I’m too careful,” said Katie, a librarian. “We decided if we could be one person we’d handle COVID perfectly.”

Their mother, Kathy Clark, 70, said she’s coming around and has started spending time with the family indoors—six feet apart, wearing masks. “It’s just like anything,” she said. “The more you do the new thing, the more you get comfortable.”

Katie’s parents-in-law presented another dilemma. When she had them over in June, everyone agreed on the plan: Precautions included bring-your-own water bottles, mask-wearing, six-foot distancing.

But her 8-year-old and twins, 6, hadn’t seen their grandparents in months and had a hard time staying away. Her mother-in-law is immunocompromised. Katie could see her father-in-law getting anxious. “He kept saying, ‘Boys, you’re too close to Grandma,’ ” she said. “You could tell it was too much.”

Her mother-in-law, Linda Davis, 71, of Lake Forest, Illinois, told the Journal that she and her husband plan to see their grandchildren in a few days—outdoors, where the risk seems to be low.

“It makes me wonder what’s gonna happen in the fall,” she said. “But for right now, I’m happy to have that chance.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Kanye West to design Yeezy clothing line for Gap

June 29, 2020

He’s a rapper, he’s a designer, he’s a preacher, he’s a billionaire (or so he says), he’s a true Trump believer; he’s a father and the husband of reality star Kim Kardashian. And he used to work at Gap as a kid growing up in Chicago.

But can the multitalented Kanye West pull Gap’s retail empire out of its years-long slump? The casual-clothing retailer announced on June 26 that it is teaming up with West’s fashion brand Yeezy on a collection called Yeezy Gap that will debut next year, The Wall Street Journal reports. Yeezy will receive royalties and potential equity, based on meeting sales targets.

West, who has 21 Grammy awards and whose Yeezy fashion brand had a tie-up with Nike, and currently has one with Adidas, has talked about wanting to partner with Gap in various interviews over the years. A former Gap employee in his teens, West even mentioned the retailer in his 2004 song “Spaceship.”

“I believe that Yeezy is the McDonald’s and the Apple of apparel,” West told  the Journal in March. “In order to make the Apple of apparel the next Gap, it has to be a new invention. To invent something that’s so good that you don’t even get credit for it because it’s the norm.”

Founded in 1969 in San Francisco, Gap rose to fame by dressing several generations of Americans in its jeans, khakis, and T-shirts; but has since been overtaken by fast-fashion chains and new e-commerce players. Its sales have declined each year since 2013, dragging down results at parent Gap where its new chief executive, Sonia Syngal, is trying to fashion a turnaround in the middle of a pandemic.

Syngal told the Journal in May that she is using the upheaval created by the coronavirus pandemic “to refashion the company for what we want it to look like over the next 50 years.”

And she thinks West is the man to do it, with a new line of T-shirts, jeans, and hoodies.

At Yeezy’s Cody, Wyoming, studio, Mr. West has been working on perfecting the hoodie. His version is chunky and slightly cropped at the waist. “The hoodie is arguably the most important piece of apparel of the last decade,” .West told the Journal in March.

A version of the hoodie—along with T-shirts and jeans for men, women and children—will be available at Gap stores and on its website beginning next year. Prices will be in line with Gap’s other offerings, according to a company spokesperson.

Research contact: @Gap

All in the family: It’s hard to find a Trump who hasn’t voted by mail

June 24, 2020

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday morning, June 22, to rant about the threat he believes mail-in ballots pose to the integrity of U.S. elections—but his family seems to have never gotten the message, according to a report by The Daily Beast.

The POTUS  fired off another social media fusillade against the practice of submitting ballots through the USPS, which he has previously labeled as “horrible,” “terrible,” and “corrupt,” as well as “dangerous,” “fraudulent,” and for “cheaters.”

The Daily Beast opined, “The tweet on Monday, like his prior statements, reflected his fears over the expansion of vote-by-mail policies in several states amid the COVID-19 pandemic. ”

 “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” Trump tweeted in all-capital letters.

But such fears apparently have not deterred either Trump, himself, or members of his immediate family from entrusting their ballots to the U.S. mail.

In fact, the Beast reports, the White House has acknowledged that the president mailed in ballots in New York in 2018 and in Florida this year—and the Orlando Sun-Sentinel has reported that First Lady Melania Trump recently also has taken advantage of the Sunshine State’s remote voting program.

On reviewing records from the Manhattan Board of Elections, The Daily Beast discovered that Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and the First Lady all had ballots mailed to them in Washington, D.C., as recently as the 2018 election cycle, and have done so since decamping to the capital three years ago. Eric Trump, who remains in New York, similarly exercised his franchise via envelope and stamp in 2017. 

Various errors—from the First Lady’s forgetting to sign the crucial affidavit, to the First Daughter’s sending her ballot back too late, to Kushner’s failure to mail it back at all—prevented the Washington-based wing of the family’s votes from counting in 2017. But the Board of Elections documents show they all successfully returned their votes in the most recent election cycle.

Neither Eric Trump nor the White House immediately provided an on-the-record response. The president and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who. the Tampa Bay Times found has voted by mail 11 times in the past decade, have sought to distinguish between absentee voting and “mass mail-in voting.”

But experts assert there is little difference between the two processes, which are both already widespread. Records show nearly 67,000 people besides the Trumps sent in absentee ballots in the 2018 general election in New York City, while the Wall Street Journal reported that more than 33 million people voted by mail in the 2016 presidential race.

The president’s spokeswoman and immediate family aren’t the only executive branch staff taking advantage of the system: Business Insider reports that Vice President Mike Pence and his wife voted via mail as recently as April. 

Monday’s rant marked the first time that the president has warned that hostile nations might dabble in the American mail stream. In the past, he has largely warned that blue states might refuse to send ballots to GOP-controlled districts, and claimed that U.S.-based fraudsters resort to outright robbery, The Daily Beast notes..

“They steal them, they hold up mailmen, they take them out of mailboxes, they print them fraudulently,” the president told radio host Michael Savage earlier this month.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Living the dream: Supreme Court blocks Trump repeal of DACA immigration program

June 19, 2020

In a 5-4 ruling that affects more than 600,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, the Supreme Court ruled on June 18 that the Trump Administration did not provide sufficient reasons for canceling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA); which was first announced by former President Barack Obama in June 2012.

In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the SCOTUS rejected the White House’s decision to cancel the program, which has provided legal protections and work authorizations to undocumented immigrants, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“The dispute before the Court is not whether [the Department of Homeland Security] may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, joined in full or part by liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

He added that the decision didn’t address “whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” which wasn’t the court’s concern. But the government failed its duty under the Administrative Procedure Act to “provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” including “what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.”

Indeed, the Journal opines, “The ruling hands President Trump one of the biggest legal defeats of his presidency, and in the middle of an election year in which immigration is again a top political topic. The decision effectively provides relief to more than 600,000 DACA recipients, often referred to as Dreamers, who have been in limbo since Mr. Trump in 2017 decided to wind down the program.”

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Justice Thomas wrote. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a separate dissent, the Journal noted.

The court’s ruling doesn’t mean the White House can never cancel DACA, but it will have to come up with new supporting reasons if it tries again to end the program.

The president and his advisers maintained that DACA wasn’t lawful because Congress hadn’t authorized any such policy. The White House and Congress have been unable to reach agreement on how to tackle the issue, or immigration policy more broadly.

According to the Journal, the cancellation of the program was scheduled to begin in March 2018, but lower courts issued rulings that blocked the administration from ending DACA. Judges previously found that the administration offered little explanation or support for its decision, in violation of a federal administrative law that requires government agencies to explain their decision-making to the public and offer sound reasons for adopting a new policy.

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump intended to fire Esper over troops dispute

June 11, 2020

Only “yes men” get tenure in the Trump White House. President Donald Trump last week was on the verge of firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper—who has held his position officially for less than one year—over their differing views about domestic use of active-duty military. However, advisers and allies on Capitol Hill talked him out of it, according to several officials who talked exclusively to The Wall Street Journal.

The officials said that Trump was furious with Esper for not supporting his intent to use active-duty troops to quell protests in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and elsewhere following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

The discord surfaced, the Journal said, when Esper said on June 3 that he didn’t think using federal troops in American streets was warranted at that time. The comments, made in an opening statement at a news conference at the Pentagon, echoed his remarks the night before in an NBC interview. The news conference comments weren’t vetted beforehand by the White House, and the statement caught officials there off guard, two officials said.

“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort,” the defense secretary said at that time. “And only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.”

The disagreement between the two reflected the extent of differences on the issue of active-duty troops between the president and the Pentagon, where military and defense leaders were adamantly opposed to deploying federal forces to contain protesters as fundamentally at odds with military values.

A decision to fire the Pentagon chief that day also would have meant a major shake-up in the administration amid one of the biggest security crises of Trump’s presidency, the Journal noted.

The president asked several advisers for their opinion of the disagreement, with the objective that day of removing Esper, his fourth defense secretary, according to the officials. After talks with the advisers, who cautioned against the move, Trump set aside the plans to immediately fire Esper, the Journal reports.

At the same time, however, Esper, who was well aware of  the president’s feelings, was making his own preparations to resign—partly in frustration over the differences regarding the role of the military, the officials said. He had begun to prepare a letter of resignation before he was persuaded not to do so by aides and other advisers, according to some of the officials.

As advisers scrambled to avert the upheaval, Trump’s June 1 threat to send military forces into American cities emerged as a flashpoint, provoking national debate and drawing condemnation from onetime Trump aides.

Approximately 1,600 federal troops brought to the Washington, D.C., area were at that time poised for possible deployment in what was widely seen as a crossroads for the United States.

The officials said that President Trump and White House officials also were perturbed by Mr. Esper’s public comments indicating he didn’t know that a June 1 walk by. Trump and an entourage of officials that included Esper was set up for the purpose of taking photographs by a church near the White House that had been damaged in violence. Security forces including the National Guard forcibly removed protesters to allow for the photo session.

Advisers consulted by Mr. Trump that day included White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; longtime Trump friend and outside adviser David Urban; and Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), the officials said.

Research contact: @wsjournal

Barr: U.S. Attorney’s probe not likely to focus on Obama, Biden—or ‘Obamagate’

May 20, 2020

How low will he go? Even at the behest of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr said on Monday that he “doesn’t  expect” either to investigate—or to subpoena for testimony— former President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Barr, who to date has been all too willing to do the president’s bidding, said the former heads of state would not be scrutinized as part of an examination into the origins of a federal probe looking at whether the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russia. In doing so, he crushed Trump’s Obamagate hopes—making it clear that there would be no criminal prosecution.

Last year the AG appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to review the origins of the 2016 probe into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference. The investigation, according to people familiar with it, the Journal says, is proceeding on multiple fronts—examining how the initial allegations surfaced in 2016, as well as a separate 2017 U.S. intelligence report that concluded Moscow had interfered in the presidential election in part to help then-candidate Trump.

“As to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” Barr said in response to a reporter’s question during a news conference called to discuss updates to the probe of a shooting at a military base last year in Pensacola, Florida. “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”

A spokesman for Obama declined to comment to the Journal. Biden didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barr didn’t provide details on exactly what or whom Durham was investigating, but he expressed concern generally about a trend to “gin up allegations of criminality by one’s political opponents based on the flimsiest of legal theories.”

He didn’t directly address remarks made in recent weeks by President Trump and some of his conservative allies that have suggested without evidence that. Obama and Biden—who is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and Trump’s expected 2020 opponent—had engaged in criminal acts to spy on his 2016 election campaign.

Speaking at the White House Monday afternoon, the president said he was a “little surprised” by  Barr’s announcement about the former president and vice president, adding that “if it was me, I guarantee they’d be going after me.” He said he had “no doubt” that. Biden and Obama were involved in what he called the “takedown of a president.”

Still, the president called Barr an “honorable man” and said he would rely on him to “make all of those decisions.”

Research contact: @WSJ

We’re so over sourdough; chess is the new passion of the pandemic

May 8, 2020

Ever since he started sheltering in place, The Wall Street Journal reports, Arnold Schwarzenegger has received several threatening phone calls each day. The most menacing come from a burly man who rings late at night from Budapest. “You want a quick beating?” the voice asks.

Schwarzenegger is unfazed. He says he’ll be back—to beat his distant opponent, an old friend, at online chess.

“I, of course, do that religiously now,” Schwarzenegger, wearing a Terminator T-shirt during a video call with the news outlet, said of his online chess habit.

This is how the former governor of California is spending quarantine. And he isn’t alone. His pandemic chess habit is shared by a growing crowd, including reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, presidential candidate Joe Biden, and the manager of the Spanish professional football club FC Barcelona.

When the world told them to stay home, they became part of the global pandemic’s most surprising counterattack: a modern chess boom. Everyone’s newest form of entertainment is one of the world’s oldest games.

“We’ve just been exploding,” s Daniel Rensch, the chief chess officer of Chess.com, told the Journal. “It’s been crazy.”

With sports off the air since March, the world’s best grandmasters have broken centuries of convention by cooking up high-stakes tournaments over the internet. The world’s worst pawn pushers have nothing better to do than hone their middle games—or just learn the basics.

“If you put someone’s king in stalemate in chess…it’s a draw?!?!” tweeted New York Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley last month. “I’m heated.”

Right now, the Journal reports, the world’s top chess players are competing virtually in the FIDE Chess.com Online Nations Cup, with the U.S. competing against India, Europe, China, Russia and the “Rest of the World.” Last week, the world’s No. 1 player, Magnus Carlsen, hosted the Magnus Carlsen Invitational online—and won the tournament himself, handily. I

During this brief period of time, organizers have developed complex systems to host lucrative events—while accounting for potential cheaters—and feed the content-starved masses flocking to the game in unprecedented numbers.

Chess.com hosted almost 204 million games in February alone. By April, that number had surged to more than 279 million for an average of 9.3 million games a day.

Even wilder was the spike in other activity on the site. The number of messages between users shot up by 136% over those two months. Aficionados tuned in just to watch—and not even play—more than 10 million games in April, a jump of 97% from February

The Chess.com spike happened, quite literally, overnight. The sharpest increases began right after March 11, the same day the NBA announced the suspension of its season. As more populous countries like India issued shelter-in-place orders, demand only grew. The eggheads who run the world’s most popular chess website were frantically making sure their servers could handle this army of wannabe Kasparovs.

“All of us were holding on like the Millennium Falcon before it crashes,” said Rensch.

Chess has been available to play online for practically as long as the internet has existed, but the game’s governing bodies had always insisted on conducting tournaments in person for one specific reason: cheating. Organizers of the Carlsen Invitational positioned cameras behind every player to monitor their screens and make sure they weren’t consulting chess engines.

Schwarzenegger relies on his half-century of chess experience for his victories, including games on Venice’s Muscle Beach, on movie sets; and in his after-school programs where kids as young as 6 years old have beaten him. (“The kids love that they terminated The Terminator,” Schwarzenegger says.)

But not all of his opponents seem to be taking it very seriously. Schwarzenegger recently shared a picture of himself chewing a cigar and matching wits with a friend named Lulu, who was resting her head on the board. Lulu is his pet donkey.

“She’s not the best chess partner but she’s getting there,” Schwarzenegger wrote.

And she’s not the only one: Even political chess has evolved into discussions of actual chess. When Bernie Sanders endorsed Biden in a live stream last month, they chopped it up over the Democratic nomination and vital policy questions. Then they really got down to business.

“I thought we’d play some chess, what do you think?” Sanders offered with a board in the background.

“I’d like to play chess,” Biden replied. “I’ve been playing on my cellphone—that’s about it.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Senate passes $484B small-business stimulus bill

April 23, 2020

Congressional leaders struck a deal with the White House on April 21 to send hundreds of billion of dollars in extra aid to small businesses and hospitals—replenishing funding to help Main Street America survive amid the twin economic and public health crises created by the coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Senate on Tuesday evening passed the $484 billion bill by a voice vote , sending it to the House for an approval expected Thursday. President Trump said on Twitter he supported the legislation, and he is expected to sign it when it reaches his desk.

The package, which lawmakers dubbed an interim emergency bill, also includes funding to ramp up the country’s testing for the new coronavirus—but, the Journal noted, does not include funding sought by Democrats for hard-hit state and local budgets, which instead was pushed off to the next round of stimulus negotiations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that concerns over the mounting debt would play a bigger role in talks about future stimulus aid—setting up a sharp divide with Democrats worried that Congress has done far from enough.

Congress has operated in emergency mode during the outbreak, last month passing a $2.2 trillion package by consensus with minimal debate. Amid growing pressure from rank-and-file members, House leaders agreed Tuesday to hold a vote later this week on allowing proxy voting, which would allow members to cast votes without meeting in person.

The agreement reached Tuesday caps a brief but bitter fight over funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, a highly sought-after small-business loan fund that both parties wanted to see replenished after it depleted its initial $350 billion allocation last week. \

Lawmakers sparred for nearly two weeks over what else should be funded in the relief package, with the GOP pushing to quickly pour more funds into the small-business program and Democrats holding out for money for hospitals, testing, food stamps and state and local governments, the Journal said.

In addition to the small-business aid, the bill includes $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing—two areas where Republicans said the need for funding grew more apparent over recent days.

The bill tasks the Trump administration with outlining how the U.S. can further expand its testing capacity in a plan that will be updated every 90 days.

States and localities also will be required to submit their own testing plans to the federal government.

The $25 billion in funds for manufacturing and purchasing tests will provide $11 billion to states and localities to administer tests and conduct contact tracing. Up to $1 billion can be used to cover costs for testing people without health insurance, while $1 billion will go toward the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for surveillance measures, including contact tracing.

Hospitals and health-care providers will receive $75 billion in aid under the legislation to help them cover revenue shortfalls and fund response to the pandemic. That funding builds on the $100 billion in the $2.2 trillion relief bill passed last month provided for health care providers, some $70 billion of which hasn’t yet been distributed.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services will disburse the funds to eligible health-care providers that are treating people with coronavirus. The money can be used to build temporary structures and purchase personal protective equipment, among other purposes.

Democrats said they would press for state and local funding in negotiations already under way over the next, broader relief bill. McConnell said that next round of legislation should wait until lawmakers can safely come back to Washington to craft the next bill and signaled the accumulated cost of coronavirus relief would influence his position.

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump threatens to adjourn Congress in order to unilaterally confirm his nominees

April 17, 2020

“I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be,” President Donald Trump told Fox News in November 2017. And he continues to think that his choices are the only ones of value.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the president threatened on April 15 to adjourn both chambers of Congress so he can appoint his nominees for key positions without confirmation by the Senate.

Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reports, during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday, Trump called on lawmakers to formally adjourn the House and Senate so he can make recess appointments for positions he said were important to the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate, which confirms a president’s nominees, has been conducting what are called pro forma sessions while lawmakers are back in their states, sheltering in place.

No legislative business is conducted during these brief meetings, which sometimes last only a few minutes, but they technically prevent the president from making recess appointments.

If lawmakers don’t agree to adjourn and end the pro forma sessions, “I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress,” President Trump avowed. “The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis. It’s a scam, what they do.”

Among the appointments Trump said he wanted to make, the Journal reported, was his nominee to head the agency that oversees Voice of America, conservative filmmaker Michael Pack, who has been blocked by Democrats. The White House has accused the government-backed news organization of spreading foreign propaganda—a charge VOA strongly denies.

In addition to the VOA nominee, Trump pointed to his nominee to be the director of national intelligence, as well as nominees for positions on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, and in the Treasury Department and the Agriculture Department.

The Constitution gives the president the power to adjourn Congress only in the rare circumstances of a disagreement between the two chambers over when to adjourn. No president has ever exercised the authority to adjourn it.

President Barack Obama challenged the Senate’s practice of holding pro forma sessions to try to block his constitutional power to make recess appointments. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against  Obama’s end run around the Senate in 2014.

Trump said he was reluctant to make recess appointments but would do so if Congress doesn’t act on his nominees.

For Mr. Trump’s strategy to work he would need the cooperation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Kentucky), who would have to force a disagreement with the House over when to adjourn. Trump and McConnell discussed the idea in a phone call earlier Wednesday, the Journal reports.

The president acknowledged that the effort would likely result in a legal challenge. “We’ll see who wins,” he said.

Research contact: @WSJ