Trump claims he’ll extend unemployment benefits through the end of the year

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President Trump forecasted his future executive actions after a failed week of negotiations on Capitol Hill, holding a news conference Friday night at his New Jersey club in front of mostly mask-less club members. 

The president said his administration is “talking about” deferring the payroll tax, as well as continuing a moratorium on evictions and continuing expanded unemployment benefits, and deferring student loan payments through the end of the year. It’s unclear how the president might be able to do those things unilaterally, particularly extending expanded unemployment benefits. And the president did not specify at what amount the expanded benefits would continue. 

“What we’re talking about is deferring the payroll tax for a period of months until the end of the year and I can extend it at a certain period,” Mr. Trump said, adding that it would be retroactive until July 1. 

Mr. Trump said he could sign those executive orders by the end of the week, and added that “the lawyers” are looking at the language now. Asked if he’s worried about legal complications, Mr. Trump said he isn’t but acknowledged he’ll “probably” get sued. 

“We’ll see, yeah, probably we’ll get sued,” Mr. Trump said. 

The president also said he will sign an executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions. 

“This has never been done before,” Mr. Trump said. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has joined a suit to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which is supposed to protect Americans with preexisting conditions. 

When a reporter asked the president about a U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia wants him to win reelection and China wants him to lose, Mr. Trump said, “The last person that Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump.” When that reporter pointed out that’s not what intelligence officials said, the president responded, “I don’t care what anybody says.” 

Mr. Trump began his news conference by saying recent job growth has been the greatest in history, after some of the worst job losses on record. The president said, against all evidence, the virus is “disappearing, it’s going to disappear.” 

At the end of the news conference, a reporter pointed out many club members in the room weren’t wearing masks indoors, violating state law and the club’s own guidelines. The crowd booed the reporter, and Mr. Trump defended his supporters. The president said it’s a “political activity” and they “have exceptions” as a “peaceful protest.” The crowd, full of wealthy club members, cheered. 

US-POLITICS-TRUMP
Country club members, few wearing facemasks, await the US president’s arrival ahead of a news conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 7, 2020. 

Jim Watson/Getty Images


Most members of the media couldn’t join the press conference, which was open only to the White House press pool. Members reportedly pay up to $350,000 just to join. 

After talks between Democratic leaders House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows collapsed Friday, Mnuchin said he would recommend executive action to the president. 

“Pelosi and Schumer only interested in Bailout Money for poorly run Democrat cities and states. Nothing to do with China Virus! Want one trillion dollars. No interest. We are going a different way,” the president tweeted Friday afternoon. 

But the roughly $1 trillion Democrats are requesting for state and local government would be distributed across the country, to Republican-led states and localities, as well. Pelosi and Schumer said they told White House negotiators Thursday they would decrease the coronavirus aid proposal by $1 trillion if Republicans increased their proposal by $1 trillion. That was a no-go. 

Mr. Trump has already said he was considering executive action to halt evictions and suspend payroll tax collection without a deal in Congress. A suspension of the payroll tax had already been dropped from negotiations on Capitol Hill, since it attracted little interest from Republicans. Mr. Trump has honed in on the move as his idea for boosting the economy.

While a payroll tax cut could mean more income in workers’ pockets, it would do little for the millions of unemployed Americans whose boosted unemployment benefits expired last week

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