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.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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