Hawk-Eyed Senate Progressives Kept Trump-Benefiting Stimulus Loophole Closed
Senate progressives didn’t just have to fight hard to convince Senator McConnell and company to close a loophole that would have allowed Trump’s family to exploit the stimulus package for their own gain – they apparently had to watch like a hawk to ensure it stayed closed.
Reaction from Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US: “It’s sad that Congress found it necessary to hold up a stimulus for hard-working Americans to protect against the rampant corruption of Trump and his family, but such is the America we live in under this administration.”
But do other loopholes remain open? The bill included a tweak to the 2017 Trump tax law to allow companies, potentially including the Trump organization, to retroactively declare tax write-offs for building-renovation costs from the last two years.
KEY POINTS FROM STORY:
The Senate was about to approve the largest recovery bill in U.S. history on Wednesday night when the Democrats hit pause, realizing something was missing — tighter language to limit the money President Donald Trump and his family would get from the stimulus.
Democrats and Republicans had already agreed to revise a clause that would bar money from going to Trump family-owned businesses during the coronavirus outbreak, but that update was not in the final printed legislation, according to two people familiar with the situation.
For two hours, Democrats held up passage of the bill as the stricter language was inserted, the people said. The Senate eventually passed the bill just before midnight.
The updated language was meant to address a loophole in the original clause, which barred the bill’s loans from going to businesses that were at least 20 percent owned by presidents or their children, spouses and in-laws.
But that wording would have still allowed the money to go to businesses where several family members each owned less than a 20 percent stake of a single business, but collectively the family owned more than 20 percent. That’s the case with some of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s financial holdings, and lawmakers didn’t want it to seem like Kushner’s family was getting a carve-out.
So the two sides agreed to tweak the language to address the collective ownership issue.
Yet the tweak was somehow missing from the final bill. A Republican source familiar with the situation said it was merely an oversight, and that both sides were fine with the updated language.
“To suggest it is anything other than a clerical error is wrong,” the person said.
The bill also was missing a second provision that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had pushed, indicating that the terms of the Treasury Department loans under the bill would be made public every seven days.
Before he was sworn into office, Trump was urged to fully separate from his eponymous company, which comprises more than 500 businesses. But he ignored those calls, retaining ownership of his business. Instead, he placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his benefit. He can withdraw money from the trust at any time without the public’s knowledge.
House Democrats and watchdog groups have tried — unsuccessfully — for three years to hold Trump accountable for what they consider violations of the Constitution’s little-used emoluments clause, which forbids Trump from receiving gifts from foreign governments or money from U.S. taxpayers beyond his salary. Several watchdog groups even pushed the House to include violations of the emoluments clause in its initial list of impeachment articles.