Trump angrily vows to veto $740bn military spending bill in late-night Twitter tirade

US president berates Congress for not using legislation to strip social media companies of protections

Tom Embury-Dennis
Friday 04 December 2020 10:47 GMT
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Donald Trump has doubled down on his threat to veto a $740bn (£549bn) defence bill that does not include a repeal of protections for internet companies.

Congressional negotiators reached a compromise deal on Thursday regarding the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), which addresses pay for service members, troop levels and weapons procurement.

The bill is expected to go to the House and Senate floors next week, where it will likely pass, before going to Mr Trump for final sign-off.

But shortly before midnight on Thursday Mr Trump, in an angry late-night Twitter tirade, vowed to veto the legislation over its failure to repeal Section 230, a provision in a 1996 law that shields social media companies from legal challenges regarding content posted by third parties.

“Very sadly for our Nation, it looks like Senator @JimInhofe will not be putting the Section 230 termination clause into the Defense Bill,” the US president tweeted at Republican senator Jim Inhofe, who is chairman of the Senate armed services committee.

“So bad for our National Security and Election Integrity. Last chance to ever get it done. I will VETO!”

The NDAA, which Congress usually sees as a “must-pass” bill because it decides service members’ pay, as well as the US military budget, has been approved by both sides of Congress every year, for almost 60 years.

It is not clear exactly why Mr Trump considers Section 230 a national security issue, or why he believes a rule relating to speech on internet platforms should be included in a military spending bill, but last week he branded Twitter a national security threat after the hashtag #DiaperDon began spreading on the platform.

At about 1am on Friday, responding to a tweet by Mr Inhofe in which the senator announced a deal over the bill had been reached between Republicans and Democrats, Mr Trump said: “But doesn’t get rid of Big Tech’s windfall, Section 230, a grave threat to National Security. I will VETO!”

Shortly after, in a message sent directly to Mr Inhofe, Mr Trump tweeted: “What good is having a very expensive National Defense Authorization Act if Big Tech can run circles around you and the security of our Country? End Section 230 now!”

However, Mr Inhofe had already made clear a repeal of Section 230 would never be included in the NDAA because it “had nothing to do with the military”.

“You can’t do it in this bill. That’s not a part of the bill,” Mr Inhofe told Politico, adding that he had conveyed that message to Mr Trump.

Following earlier veto threats by Mr Trump, Democratic senator Adam Smith, who is chair of the House armed services committee, tweeted: “You’re mad at Twitter. We all know it. You're willing to veto the defense bill over something that has everything to do with your ego, and nothing to do with defense.”

Even if Mr Trump were to veto the NDAA, the Senate would still be able to override the president should the bill achieve two-thirds majority support in both chambers.

Republican representative Adam Kinzinger vowed on Wednesday he would vote to override any presidential veto, “because it's really not about you", he said of Mr Trump.

The NDAA also features requirements for a number of military bases named after Confederate leaders to be renamed, a measure that gained popularity among both parties following mass protests for racial justice earlier this year, but is deeply opposed by Mr Trump. 

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