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White House aides reportedly stepped in to keep Trump from calling for $2,000 stimulus checks, fearing it could torpedo relief negotiations

Joseph Zeballos-Roig
·3 min read
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Donald Trump wildcard
President Donald Trump. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump's advisors talked him out of calling for $2,000 direct payments to Americans in the next federal coronavirus rescue package since it might've derailed the relief negotiations on Capitol Hill, The Washington Post reported.

The newspaper cited two sources familiar with the events.

The Post reported that Trump held a phone call with allies in which he said he wanted stimulus payments to be "at least" $1,200 and perhaps as large as $2,000. Congressional leaders are drafting a $900 billion relief package with $600 direct payments for Americans, half the $1,200 amount distributed in March and April through an earlier package of pandemic aid.

Trump was said to be in the midst of outlining his desire when White House officials told him the move would capsize the negotiations between top Republicans and Democrats, which appear likely to last into the weekend. Republicans are trying to keep the price of a relief package under $1 trillion, and larger direct payments could swell the legislation's cost well beyond that.

An anonymous source told The Post that "aides were really frantic, saying: 'We can't do this; it will blow up negotiations.'"

Ben Williamson, a White House spokesman, told The Post that Trump supported large relief payments for struggling Americans.

"The president has heard from Americans all over the country who are hurting through no fault of their own, and he's made clear he wants the next round of relief to include stimulus checks at a significant number," he said. "We're working with Congress to settle on an agreement that can pass as soon as possible."

In the run-up to the election, Trump sought a large relief package and suggested at times he could support one bigger than the $2.2 trillion amount that Democrats wanted. But Republicans didn't follow suit and repeatedly threw cold water on his demands. They instead opted to push for a $500 billion relief package that Democrats blocked twice.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: Jared Kushner helped create a Trump campaign shell company that secretly paid the president's family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash, a source tells Insider

The president's position on coronavirus relief has veered wildly over time, and he has been largely quiet on the subject since his election loss to Joe Biden. Trump, though, has publicly indicated recently he still backs large direct payments. "Right now, I want to see checks - for more money than they're talking about - going to people," he told Fox News in an interview that aired Sunday.

The White House entered the relief negotiations last week with a $916 billion offer, which included $600 direct payments. Democrats panned it, however, for excluding federal unemployment benefits.

On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have led calls to include direct payments, which were initially left out of a bipartisan plan now under consideration. Progressive lawmakers in the House have also ramped up their drive to include sizable payments in the next relief package.

Read the original article on Business Insider