Donald Trump signed the $2 Trillion coronavirus rescue bill on Friday, which is the good news. The bad is that he says he intends to ignore the provision that specifies that the newly-created Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery is to report to Congress “without delay” when any government agencies don’t provide information on how the stimulus money is to be spent. Politico:
Trump’s decision to override the requirement that the inspector general report concerns to Congress is reminiscent of his handling of the whistleblower complaint regarding Ukraine that ultimately led to his impeachment last year.
At the time, the intelligence community’s inspector general sought to relay to Congress a whistleblower complaint that Trump had abused his power by seeking Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 election. But top officials in the Justice Department and White House intervened, blocking the report from reaching Congress until subpoenas and a pressure campaign from House Democrats forced it into the open.
Trump, in his signing statement, is now suggesting that any legal requirement that an inspector general report to Congress is inherently improper without allowing for the president to make the ultimate decision.
Under the final measure, the special inspector general would be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. He or she would be required to “conduct, supervise, and coordinate audits and investigations of the making, purchase, management, and sale of loans, loan guarantees, and other investments made by the Secretary of the Treasury under any program established by the Secretary under this Act.”
“I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause, Article II, section 3,” the signing statement specified.
Trump has in essence granted himself authority to block the inspector general from reporting inter-agency obstruction to Congress, even though there is nothing in the bill which says he can do that. But he does get a chance to rant about Article II. He loves to talk about Article II and how powerful he is.
And here’s the bottom line:
“But a requirement to consult with the Congress regarding executive decision-making, including with respect to the President’s Article II authority to oversee executive branch operations, violates the separation of powers by intruding upon the President’s power and duty to supervise the staffing of the executive branch,” Trump wrote.
Two reasons he’s doing this: 1. He’s power mad, that’s a no brainer; 2. He’s looking to exploit loopholes in the bill which will allow himself and Jared Kushner to get bail out money. Market Watch:
WASHINGTON — The $2 trillion legislative package moving through Congress to shore up the U.S. economy devastated by the coronavirus was carefully written to prevent President Donald Trump and his family from profiting from the federal fund. But the fine print reveals that businesses owned by Trump and his family still may be eligible for some assistance. […]
Ethics groups warn, though, that the 880-page bill contains loopholes in the ethics ban and wording elsewhere could theoretically allow the banned parties to still benefit from the federal giveaways.
After analyzing the massive bill, the DC-based ethics group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Trump and his family might still benefit from provisions in the package that are aimed more broadly at various parts of the U.S. economy. […]
Certain hotel owners, including those employing thousands of people, will be eligible for small-business loans, a provision that could potentially help Trump’s company continue to pay wages for his employees. The Trump Organization could also benefit from a $15 billion change to the tax code won by retailers and restaurants. [
And here is how Jared Kushner could benefit.
Instead, Kushner has retained passive ownership stakes in his family firm’s interests, which potentially might allow him to sidestep the ethics ban — depending on whether one of those interests seeks federal aid. Under the wording of the legislation’s ethics rules, the ban only kicks in when the affected party retains more than 20% ownership in a stake requesting federal aid from the stimulus.
Some of Kushner’s stakes in his family firm’s interests, according to his most recent 2019 financial disclosure and to a New York Times analysis, appear to be minority holdings below that 20% threshold. Kushner could potentially also benefit from a separate $300 billion stimulus provision aimed at aiding small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Under the stipulations of the stimulus, eligible companies under that size limit could obtain up to $10 million in forgivable federal loans as long as they retained their workers for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
Unless I miss my guess, this is exactly what Trump is trying to pull off. He signed the bill and he wants to benefit from the bill. Knee capping the Inspector General will allow that to take place. This bears watching like an aviary of hawks.