Trump spends Christmas golfing in Florida as US government shutdown nears, millions at risk of losing unemployment benefits


President Donald Trump spent his Christmas golfing in Florida as a government shutdown looms and COVID relief hangs in the balance. Trump, at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach for the holidays, had no events on its public agenda after questioning the future of a huge COVID relief and government funding bill. Failure to sign the bill, which arrived in Florida Thursday night, could deny relief checks to millions of Americans on the brink and force a government shutdown amid the pandemic.

The White House declined to share details of the president’s schedule, despite playing golf on Friday with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally. White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump was made aware of the explosion in downtown Nashville early Friday which officials said appeared to be intentional, but the president has nothing to do with it. said publicly within hours.

Trump tweeted that he was planning to give “a brief speech to military personnel around the world” via video conference on Friday to celebrate the holiday, but said, “Fake news is not invited!” Without giving details, the White House only said Trump would work “tirelessly” during the holidays and had “many meetings and calls.”

Trump’s vacation came while Washington was still reeling from his surprise, demanding at the last minute that a year-end spending bill that congressional leaders have spent months negotiating give the Most Americans $ 2,000 in COVID relief checks – far more than the $ 600 from members of his own party. agreed to. The idea was quickly rejected by House Republicans in a rare Christmas Eve session, leaving the proposal in limbo.

The bipartisan compromise was seen as a done deal and was widely endorsed in the House and Senate this week after the White House assured GOP leaders Trump was backing it. If he refuses to sign the deal, which is tied to a $ 1.4 trillion government funding bill, it will force the federal government to shut down, in addition to delaying aid controls and ending aid controls. unemployment benefits and eviction protections in the most severe part of the pandemic.

“I have made numerous calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida. Why wouldn’t politicians want to give people $ 2,000, rather than just $ 600? “He tweeted after leaving the golf course on Friday afternoon.” It wasn’t their fault, it was China. Give our people money! “

Graham tweeted Friday night that Trump still intends to get changes to the year-end legislation before signing it. “After spending some time with President @realDonaldTrump today, I have no doubts that he is more determined than ever to increase stimulus payments to $ 2,000 per person and challenge the liability protection of big technology in the world. ‘Section 230, “he said in his tweet,” Both are reasonable demands, and I hope Congress is listening. The biggest winner would be the American people. “

In addition to COVID help, Graham was referring to another Trump priority: securing the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a law that protects online platforms from liability for content posted by the users. Trump’s decision to attack the COVID bill has been seen, at least in part, as political punishment for what he sees as insufficient support from Congressional Republicans for his campaign to overturn the 3 election results. November with unfounded allegations of electoral fraud.

“At a meeting in Florida today, everyone was wondering why Republicans are not armed and fighting against Democrats stealing the rigged presidential election?” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “I’ll never forget!” he added later.

For weeks, Trump has refused to accept the election results and has been pushing new and increasingly outrageous schemes to try to overturn the results. He was encouraged by allies like his lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who accompanied the president to Florida on Air Force One.

Trump has provided no credible evidence to back up his election claims, which have been refuted by a long list of officials, including judges, former Attorney General William Barr, Republican governors and local election administrators. Meanwhile, the nation continues to falter as the coronavirus spreads, with record infections and hospitalizations and more than 327,000 dead. And millions of people are now spending the holidays alone or struggling to make ends meet without adequate income, food or shelter thanks to the economic toll of the pandemic.

The Justice Department said Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen had also been made aware of the Nashville explosion and ordered that all resources in the department be made available to help. The FBI will lead the investigation, agency spokesman Joel Siskovic said. Three people were treated in hospitals after an RV, sounding a recorded warning of an impending detonation, exploded in downtown Nashville. The blast caused widespread communication failures that shut down police emergency systems and ground flights at the city’s airport.

To mark the holiday, President and First Lady Melania Trump tweeted a pre-recorded video message in which they wished Americans a Merry Christmas and thanked first responders and members of the military. “As you know, this Christmas is different from previous years,” said Ms. Trump, who focused on the acts of “kindness and courage” that the pandemic had inspired. Trump praised the vaccine doses currently being delivered and thanked officials. “It truly is a Christmas miracle,” he said.

Meanwhile, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have attempted to salvage year-end legislation in an attempt to prevent a shutdown. Democrats will recall House lawmakers in Washington for a vote Monday on Trump’s $ 2,000 proposal, though she would likely die in the Republican-controlled Senate. They are also considering a vote Monday on at least an interim measure to avoid a federal shutdown and keep the government in business until Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20.

In addition to relief checks, the COVID bill that passed would establish a temporary additional unemployment benefit of $ 300 per week, provide a new round of grants for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters and the money for schools, and would provide money to health care providers and to help distribute the COVID vaccine.

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