Donald Trump spent Christmas Eve on the golf course after congressional Republicans struck down a Democrat-backed attempt to increase the amount of aid handed to Americans as part of the latest Covid-19 relief package, which the president said on Tuesday did not go far enough.
It comes as Mr Trump was accused of leaving Americans “adrift” after he arrived in Florida for Christmas on Wednesday, leaving the coronavirus relief package unsigned and a military spending bill threatened by a veto in his wake.
The president and First Lady Melania Trump released a message to Americans on Christmas Eve, highlighting the work of first responders, teachers and scientists working on the coronavirus vaccine to end the “terrible pandemic.” Moments after sharing the video on Twitter, the president lashed out at Republicans for their inadequate response “over the fact that the Democrats stole the rigged presidential election.”
The president pardoned more disgraced personal aides on Wednesday, including his one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort and adviser Roger Stone, who were both sentenced for lying or not cooperating with the Robert Mueller investigation. Two others, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former adviser George Papadopoulos, have also been pardoned.
The president pardoned more disgraced personal aides on Wednesday, include Mr Trump’s one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort and adviser Roger Stone, who were both sentenced for lying or not cooperating with the investigation. Two others, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former adviser George Papadopoulos, have also been pardoned.
Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe called the pardons “remarkably disgusting," and claimed they were “undermining the system of justice that he is supposed to protect and defend.”
The New York Times spoke with Iraqi citizens about Mr Trump pardoning the Blackwater mercenaries. One man, who was shot in the leg during the massacre in Nisour Square, said the American justice system was “just theatre.”
The president’s fury at the election results continued, with Mr Trump vowing on Twitter to “NEVER FORGET” the Republicans who he claims “sit back and watch me fight against a viscous and crooked foe.” He personally named Sen. Mitch McConnell in the tweet.
He also lamented Twitter’s continued use of tags claiming his posts contain false or misleading information regarding the 2020 election. The president said that the company was “dangerous” and that fact checking was the way “communism starts.” He attributed the company’s policy to “cancel culture.”
- US sees record breaking Covid hospitalisations on Christmas Eve
- House Republicans turn down Trump-Democrat bid to increase Covid checks
- Trump trolls White House press corps with 7:30 am start on a day he has no public duties
- New round of Trump clemency benefits Manafort, other allies
- Trump ‘rotten to the core’ - angry reactions to latest presidential pardons, now at 26
- Congress expected to override Trump veto on military policy and spending bill
Hello and welcome to the Independent’s rolling coverage of Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump issues pardons for more personal aides
Lawmakers of both parties and ethics experts were dismayed at how the president was using the pardon power to aid his close associates, as he enters the closing weeks of his single-term presidency.
The White House on Wednesday announced full pardons for another slate of Donald Trump allies and friends, including former campaign advisers Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, plus Charles Kushner, the father of Mr Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.
It now brings the total number of people pardoned by Mr Trump to 26, with 3 others granted clemency.
Both Stone and Manafort faced charges stemming from the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in US politics, and neither cooperated with the special counsel. Two others convicted by the investigation into Trump campaign ties with Russia, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former adviser George Papadopoulos, were pardoned before Wednesday.
James Marcus has the write up.
It’s the latest in a string of controversial pardons in the Trump administration’s final days
Paul Manafort thanks president for pardon - ‘You truly did Make America Great Again’
Paul Manafort, the disgraced former Trump campaign chairman who was pardoned by the president on Wednesday, sent a series of thankful messages to Donald Trump via Twitter, and wrote: “Words cannot fully convey how grateful we are."
Among other flattery, Manafort added that Mr Trump “truly did Make America Great Again”.
Manafort was serving a 7 year prison term, having been sentenced by charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the country’s ties to the Trump campaign.
Still, 70 year old Manafort was also under investigation in New York for alleged mortgage fraud and other alleged crimes, and prosecutors said on Wednesday they would continue to pursue an appeal for their case.
Roger Stone thanks Trump for pardon - ‘the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln’
Roger Stone was also thankful for his pardon from Donald Trump, who he labelled “the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln".
Stone was convicted in November 2019 of lying under oath to lawmakers also investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Responding to the pardon on Wednesday, Stone said in a statement that Mr Trump was “completely erasing the criminal conviction to which I was subjected in a Soviet-style show trial on politically-motivated charges.”
He added in comments made to Fox News: "The whole thing has been an outrage, and my hat is off to the president, the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln, who had the courage to correct this injustice."
The latest round of pardons have largely annulled the most serious convictions stemming from Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference - an investigation repeatedly attacked by Mr Trump, it having led to his impeachment.
Washington DC ethics watchdog says pardons ‘corrupt’
Ethics groups have fiercely criticised Donald Trump’s latest round of pardons, which the Washington DC-based nonprofit, Citizens for Ethics, called “another way for him to be corrupt”.
In a further statement, the ethics watchdog said two nights of pardons by the US president showed “that he believes the purpose of the pardon is to bail out rich white men connected to him. Trump has turned an instrument of mercy and justice into just another way for him to be corrupt.”
Democrats and Republicans also condemned the move to grant clemency to personal aides, some convicted of lying to investigators during the Russia investigation.
Trump trolls press corps with Christmas Eve morning schedule
Donald Trump, who arrived at his Palm Beach resort on Wednesday to spend the final Christmas of his presidency at Mar-a-Lago, has found what journalists are calling “a way to stick it to them" — by scheduling a White House correspondents call at 7:30 am on the day before Christmas.
Reporters, including the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman joked about the unusual notice in the president’s Christmas Eve schedule.
The president has now vacationed at Mar-a-Lago exactly 31 times since he entered office, and according to Michael Flynn, his former lawyer, there’s a chance the president will stay in Florida until Joe Biden’s inauguration day, writes Namita Singh.
President Trump has arrived at Palm Beach, Florida, to spend Christmas at Mar-a-Lago
MSNBC anchor says ‘it wouldn’t even matter’ if Trump stayed at Mar-a-Lago
MSNBC anchor and political analyst, Tiffany D Cross, was covering for Joy Reid on Wednesday night’s episode of The Reidout, and delivered tough words on president Trump.
Her remarks came after the president landed in Florida, where he could spend his last weeks as president.
“Honestly, who knows if he'll ever come back. It wouldn't even matter. Because right now, we essentially have no president. No one in the Oval Office who is interested in the acts, or oaths, of being president. No one is even pretending to be president.”
Mr Trump has been called out by his critics for failing to lead on numerous crises including the coronavirus pandemic, since he lost November’s election. He has instead spent time alleging the election was rigged - without basis - and has suggested he won’t attend president-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in.
Trump’s former ‘fixer’ criticises presidential pardons
Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” on Wednesday said the criminal justice system is broken as pardons were announced for the outgoing president’s allies and friends who never cooperated with authorities unlike him.
“What happened tonight shows how broken the whole criminal justice system is," wrote Cohen, who was charged by Robert Mueller’s team for lying about a real estate project in Russia. Although he reportedly cooperated with various authorities during the investigation, Mayank Aggarwal writes.
Cohen’s three-year sentence is scheduled to end in November 2021
Ivanka Trump hands out food to families, and tweets about it
The president’s eldest daughter and White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, was in Miami Dade on Tuesday, where she helped a food distribution centre hand-out food boxes to families hit hard by the pandemic and it’s economic fallout - which of course, has largely been overseen by the Trump administration and Congress, which took nine months to agree on crucial stimulus paychecks for Americans in need - and are now on their way.
Twitter users noticed Ms Trump wrote or shared tweets about her Miami Dade deeds at least four times.
Another 803,000 Americans seek unemployment help
Although numbers have fallen on the previous week, the number of Americans who claimed unemployment benefits in the past week were still nearly four times that seen in the same period last year, and another sign the US economy was making a slow recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Labor Department figures released on Wednesday showed that 803,000 million Americans sought help, while an additional 397,511 workers filed for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is designed to provide aid to those who are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
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