Trump's last 4 weeks in office: vetoed coronavirus relief bill, controversial pardons
Watch Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, lend perspective to the big developments in Trump's final weeks in office:
What's going on with the coronavirus relief bill? Will Trump really not sign it?
It's possible. This week he did veto the National Defense Authorization Act, suggesting that he's willing to break some china on his way out the door. And Trump is demanding now that Congress do much more generous stimulus checks to individual American households. That probably can't pass either the House or the Senate because Republicans don't support it. But now Trump is aligned with the Democrats and he's threatening to take down this massive spending bill in order to get what he wants. A little bit of drama around Christmas time. We'll see what happens.
What else is in the bill besides cash payments to Americans?
The bill is really a continuation of what was done inside the Cares Act. And the Cares Act included money for small businesses, forgivable loans that was a lifeline to millions of small businesses in the spring, and it includes $300 cash payments to Americans who are unemployed, plus an extension of federally funded unemployment benefits that will last until about April. There's money for testing and tracing, there's money for vaccine distribution, and there's money to get schools back open. Plus, there's specific targeted money for theater venues and airlines and other industries that are suffering because of the pandemic. All told, it's about $900 billion with money going to everywhere, designed to get us through the winter.
Any controversial Trump Christmas pardons?
Yes, there were a few. Trump pardoned four Blackwater contractors who were convicted of murdering Iraqi citizens during the American occupation there. He's also pardoned two members of Congress who were convicted for crimes that had nothing to do with Trump, or the campaign, or their official duties. And he had pardoned a former aide who was involved in the Russian investigation. So, these aren't the last we're going to see, I think that you're going to see some targeted pardons going out to Trump allies and also potentially broader pardons going out to advance Trump's post-presidency political career.