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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.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Now that Joe Biden is officially US president, leaders from around the world would like a word with him — but where will he make his first international trip?

After a tumultuous four years, many countries are now clamoring for a face-to-face with President Biden. That includes allies who felt abandoned by Trump's "America First" presidency, as well as adversaries with thorny issues on the agenda. We check in on who's pitching him hardest on a near-term state visit.

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Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meet next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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