Trump Wants U.S. to Get a Cut of TikTok Sale

Trump Wants U.S. to Get a Cut of TikTok Sale

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Plus, faint signs of progress in coronavirus talks
Tuesday, August 4, 2020

No Coronavirus Relief Deal in Sight, but Faint Signs of Progress

Negotiations on the next round of coronavirus relief continued Tuesday afternoon, and Democratic leaders emerged sounding more positive on the state of the talks.

"They made some concessions, which we appreciated. We made some concessions, which they appreciated. We’re still far away on a lot of the important issues but we’re continuing," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters after meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. He did not detail those concessions.

Looking for a deal this week: Mnuchin and Meadows reportedly characterized Tuesday’s talks as the most productive yet. Mnuchin reportedly offered Democrats a few new proposals. He told reporters after that negotiators agreed they’d like to strike a deal by the end of this week so that both the House and Senate could vote on a package next week.

But, but, but:
That doesn’t mean the two sides are anywhere close to an actual deal. The Washington Post’s Erica Werner described the state of the talks this way: "Pelosi’s comment after the latest Meadows/Mnuchin mtg — ‘We agree that we want to have an agreement’ — actually constitutes a sign of progress." So yeah, there’s a long way to go.

White House still eyeing executive orders:
With talks progressing slowly if at all, frustrated White House officials reportedly were still considering three executive orders aimed at providing some relief and prodding negotiations along.

"The three actions under consideration would delay the collection of federal payroll taxes, reinstitute an expired eviction moratorium, and in the riskiest gambit of them all, extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits using unspent money already appropriated by Congress," Politico’s Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan reported Tuesday.

Meadows reportedly implied that the executive orders wouldn’t be needed if bipartisan talks progressed. And CNN’s Phil Mattingly suggests that the possibility of issuing executive orders won’t win the White House much leverage in talks since it’s "not a threat anyone on the Hill takes seriously."

Trump Wants U.S. Treasury to Get a Cut of TikTok Sale

President Trump said Monday that he would allow an American company to acquire the video app TikTok, but that any deal would have to include a "substantial amount of money" going to the U.S. Treasury.

Microsoft is looking to buy the app, reportedly used by some 100 million Americans, from Chinese company ByteDance. Trump said he will ban TikTok if it doesn't find an American buyer by September 15.

"The U.S. should get a very large percentage of that price, because we’re making it possible," Trump told reporters. He compared the payment to "key money," or cash paid by a prospective tenant to secure a lease from a landlord. The White House wouldn’t say how the administration could force either party in any deal to pay the Treasury, or how such a payment would work, the Financial Times reports.

Trump and others have expressed national security concerns over the app, suggesting that it could pose data privacy and censorship risks because of its Chinese ownership and the influence of the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok has pushed back against those claims and security experts have said the risks the app poses are less direct than politicians have suggested.

In a blog post over the weekend, Microsoft said it "fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury."

Why it matters:
Trump’s requirement is highly unusual, Gene Kimmelman, a former chief counsel for the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and currently a senior adviser to the policy group Public Knowledge, told CNN: "It's not unheard of for transactions to have broader geopolitical implications between countries, but it's quite remarkable to think about some kind of money being on the table in connection with a transaction."

Others put it more bluntly. "This is akin to extortion — the sort of thing you'd expect to hear on a wiretap, not from the White House in front of reporters," Axios’s Dan Primack writes. He adds that there’s still no guarantee any deal will get done by Trump’s deadline, let alone one that meets his stated terms. "If not," Primack says, "he'll either have to ban a service beloved by tens of millions of voters, less than two months before the election, or kick the can down the road."

Number of the Day: $2 Trillion

The Treasury Department said Monday that it expects to borrow another $2 trillion over the second half of this year, including $947 billion from July through September and $1.216 trillion from October through December. Those estimates would raise total borrowing for fiscal year 2020, which runs through September, to $4.5 trillion, more than triple last year’s level. The estimates also assume that Congress will pass another round of coronavirus relief requiring $1 trillion in additional borrowing through the end of the calendar year.

Second Wave of Layoffs Underway: Report

Nearly one in three workers who had returned to their jobs after being laid off due to the coronavirus have lost their jobs again, according to a new survey released Tuesday by researchers at Cornell University.

The survey, conducted from July 23 to August 1, found that 31% of workers who had stopped working at some point during the Covid-19 shutdown and been rehired reported that they had been laid off again. Another 26% had been told that they were in danger of being laid off again.

"Official and private sectors jobs data have not yet picked up the significant share of American workers that have already been re-laid off," said Danielle Goldfarb of RIWI, the research firm that conducted the survey.

The job losses may be driven by the exhaustion of federal aid — including funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans to help small businesses keep employees on payroll — rather than the resurgence of the virus, the researchers said, since there was little difference in the results between states that had controlled the virus and those that had not.

Trump Extends National Guard Deployment to Fight Coronavirus, but Reduces Funding

Responding to requests from numerous governors, President Trump has extended the federal deployment of the National Guard to help states respond to the coronavirus. However, as part of the extension, states will have to start covering 25% of the cost of the deployments.

About 25,000 members of the National Guard serving in the states will continue to receive federal pay and benefits while performing a variety of essential tasks, including building temporary hospitals, operating test sites and assisting with food distribution. States will have to cover some of the tab from August 22 until December 31, when the extension ends.

While the governors are no doubt relieved by the extension, some state and federal officials are concerned about the reduced funding and cost-sharing requirement, coming as it does during an economic crisis that has caused state tax collections to plunge. "States are being asked to bear significant costs while simultaneously facing an historic decline in revenues," Casey Katims, director of federal affairs for the state of Washington, told Politico. "It is incumbent on Congress to deliver sorely needed resources to state and local governments on the front lines of this crisis."

Officials also complained about the last-minute timing of the White House decision. In the absence of an announcement last week, some National Guard troops had already started heading back to their bases in preparation for a two-week quarantine before returning home. Now, it could take several weeks to reestablish their missions, and in the meantime the essential services they provide may be available only on a limited basis.

Opinion of the Day: GOP May Be Ready to Forget Trump

Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat writes that the internal Republican debates over the next round of coronavirus relief illustrate that many in the GOP are ready to pretend that the Trump era never happened:

"These debates are somewhat mystifying if you believe that the party has been remade in Trump’s populist image, or alternatively if you just believe that the G.O.P. is full of cynics who attack deficits under Democrats but happily spend whatever it takes to stay in power. Neither theory explains the Republican determination to dramatically underbid the Democrats on relief spending three months before an election, nor the emergence of a faction within the Senate Republicans that doesn’t want to spend more money on relief at all.

"But these developments are easier to understand if you see the Republican Senate, in what feels like the twilight of the Trump presidency, instinctively returning to its pre-Trump battle lines. The anti-relief faction, with its sudden warnings about deficits, is eager to revive the Tea Party spirit, and its would-be leaders are ur-Tea Partyers like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. The faction that wants to spend less than the Democrats but ultimately wants to strike a deal is playing the same beleaguered-establishmentarian role that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell played in the pre-Trump party — and of course McConnell is still leading it. And the fact that neither approach seems responsive to the actual crisis unfolding in America right now doesn’t matter: The old Tea Party-establishment battle — a battle over whether to cut a deal at all, more than what should be in it — is still the Republican comfort zone, and the opportunity to slip back into that groove is just too tempting to resist."

Read the full column at The New York Times.

For-Profit Nursing Homes Accused of Fraud Got Millions in Coronavirus Aid: Report

For-profit nursing home operators who have faced federal lawsuits over charges including improper billing and substandard care have received millions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Looking over the last few years, the Post’s Debbie Cenziper, Joel Jacobs and Shawn Mulcahy report that nursing homes accused of Medicare fraud had received more than $300 million in coronavirus relief payments. Millions more were sent to facilities that experienced severe problems during the early days of the pandemic, including nursing homes in the Northeast that recorded high numbers of deaths.

Read the full analysis here.

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