Trump news: President attacked over executive orders for coronavirus relief as economic adviser ties himself in knots trying to explain them

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AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump is facing swift backlash from Democrats — and even some Republicans — who say he is attempting to unconstitutionally bypass Congress after coronavirus relief negotiations stalled on Capitol Hill.

Critics decried the president latest measures, which he announced on Saturday from his golf club in New Jersey after the US Senate hit an impasse on the negotiations for a new coronavirus relief package, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warning: “If you’re a social security recipient or Medicare recipient, you better watch out if President Trump is re-elected.” The orders were also described by Republican Ben Sasse as "unconstitutional slop."

Meanwhile, the president's top economic adviser seemed to have a difficult time explaining the specific details behind his latest executive orders in a cringeworthy interview with CNN's Dana Bash, forcing the journalist to switch topics after saying: “Okay, we’ll move on because I think this is not what the president said and it’s a bit confusing, and I think the fact that it’s not entirely known is very telling.”

The executive orders would cut additional government unemployment benefits provided during the pandemic from $600 to $400, and offer a payroll tax holiday for millions of Americans, which Mr Trump said he would make permanent if reelected in November.

But none of that was entirely clear when Larry Kudlow, the White House’s director of the National Economic Council, spoke to CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday morning.

Mr Kudlow asserted the president’s orders on unemployment benefits would actually provide $800 to Americans who lost work due to the pandemic — even though Mr Trump’s measures would offer just half of that amount.

He went on to claim Americans would receive as much as $1,200 under the new measures when asked when the first relief checks would be received, saying: “I don’t want to be as specific as you might hold me to it, as you should, but I think it’s going to be in a couple of weeks, and I think it’s going to come to about $1,200 per person — that’s a huge wage increase.”

The economic adviser’s answer did not provide a specific timeline, or include the fact that the federal government will only pay $400 while requiring states to pay 25 percent. Moreover, it is not possible for someone on unemployment benefits to earn a “wage increase” as they are not working and have no wages to begin with.

“You keep saying $1,200 per person, are you talking about in addition to the unemployment that they’re already getting?” Ms Bash asked Mr Kudlow.

“No, that’s the payroll — no, I’m sorry, I beg your pardon, the $1,200 will come from the payroll tax deferral, on top of this — yeah, I’m sorry,” Mr Kudlow responded.

He then once again asserted that unemployment benefits would amount to “$800 bucks,” leaving the anchor appearing confused.

“$800 or $400?” she asked.

“No, it should be four — it should be $800,” Mr Kudlow said. “If the states step up, we’re prepared to match, that should come out $400 federal, $400 states.”

Ms Bash then moved on from the issue, telling Mr Kudlow: “Okay, we’ll move on because I think this is not what the president said and it’s a bit confusing, and I think the fact that it’s not entirely known is very telling.”

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