This is President Donald Trump’s last Christmas in the White House. As comforting as that thought might be to some people, his actions over the past week have been anything but. From granting pardons to cronies and mass murderers, to outright vetoing a defense bill, to stalling a much-needed relief package leaving hundreds of thousands of American families in the lurch, Trump left no stone unturned in outdoing the Grinch himself!
On Tuesday, he pardoned or commuted sentences of 15 people including men associated with the Blackwater group and convicted for killing over a dozen civilians in the 2007 mass shooting in Baghdad’s Nusoor Square. The very next day, he issued a fresh set of pardons for 26 more people including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, son-in-law Jared Kushner’s father Charles and Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone.
It is noteworthy that both, Manafort and Stone had been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller. Manafort spent over two years in prison for bank and tax fraud and witness tampering before being transferred to home confinement in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stone meanwhile had been convicted of obstruction of Congress and threatening a witness. Charles Kushner had been convicted of tax evasion and witness intimidation.
Also, on Wednesday, Trump vetoed the defense bill officially known as the National Defense Authorization Act. The Bill had been passed by the House on December 8, by an overwhelming majority of 335-78, despite Trump’s veto threats.
Trump wanted the bill to dismantle provisions of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that deals with legal protections for social media companies for content posted by third-parties, insisting that his demand was in the interest of national security. But the Senate also approved the measure by 84-13 on December 11. Following Trump’s veto on December 23, the House is now all set to meet on Monday December 28, to override the veto, with the Senate expected to follow suit on Tuesday, December 29.
But the biggest shocker of Christmas week came when Trump put unemployment benefits and other social securities of millions of Americans in jeopardy by stalling the USD 900 Billion COVID Relief Bill. The much-awaited stimulus package had been approved by the Congress on December 21 and included:
- direct payments of up to USD 600 per adult
- improved jobless benefits of USD 300 per week
- approximately USD 284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans
- USD 25 billion in rental assistance
- an extension of the eviction moratorium and $82 billion for schools and colleges
But it remained unsigned as of December 24 evening, because Trump wanted to increase the direct payment amount from USD 600 to USD 2000 per adult by cutting down allocation to other programs that he deemed unfit. He explained his reservations via a televised address that he also tweeted:
The deadline to sign the Bill is Saturday, December 26, after which unemployment benefits of over 12 million Americans could be in limbo.