This week, USA TODAY Politics focuses on the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and the effort in Congress to get through a fresh round of COVID-19 economic relief.
Dates to watch:
Jan. 6: Congress will count and certify the electoral results in a joint session.
Jan. 20: Inauguration of Biden, who will take the oath of office.
Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the transition.
Dominion says it may file defamation lawsuits over conspiracy theories
In a flurry of letters this week, attorneys for Dominion Voting Systems signaled that the company may sue several conservative media outlets and allies of President Donald Trump for defamation over their unfounded allegations that the company was involved in election fraud.
Dominion’s lawyers have demanded retractions from Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network (OAN) for airing baseless conspiracy theories alleging that Dominion’s vote count system was used to rig the November 2020 presidential election.
“This disinformation campaign against Dominion has caused the company permanent and irreparable damages which are exacerbated by your ongoing refusal to retract,” reads one of the letters, a Dec. 22 missive to Newsmax, from Dominion’s attorneys, Thomas Clare and Megan Meier.
Earlier this week, Fox News and Newsmax issued retractions for some of the claims they aired after Dominion and a second election system’s company made initial legal threats.
But Dominion, in more than 20 letters sent on Dec. 22, signaled its intent to sue for defamation by demanding that the outlets and some of the people interviewed – including Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani – preserve all records related to Dominion.
“This week, Dominion Voting Systems issued a series of letters to the Office of the President, Rudy Giuliani, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax, OAN, Fox News, Epoch times, Russ Ramsland, Lin Wood, and others, giving legal notice that litigation on Dominion’s defamation claims is imminent,” spokeswoman Alexa Green wrote in an email on Thursday.
“The letters formally demand they cease and desist making defamatory claims against Dominion, and preserve and retain all documents relating to Dominion,” she wrote.
— Deirdre Shesgreen
Move to raise direct payments to $2,000 will have to wait until Monday
Democrats’ efforts to bump up direct payments from $600 to $2,000 as part of a COVID stimulus package hit a roadblock Thursday when the top House Republican refused to let the proposal reach the floor for a vote.
The proposal to raise the amounts – backed by President Donald Trump – is expected to come up again Monday when the full House is back in session. But because most lawmakers already have returned home for the holiday recess, Democrats had hoped to win approval for the measure on Christmas Eve through a procedure known as “unanimous consent.”
That needed House Minority Kevin McCarthy’s agreement, but he declined to grant it. He responded by issuing a counter-proposal to “revisit” the amount of foreign aid in the same spending bill that included the direct payments. Democrats in turn blocked McCarthy’s plan to bring that proposal to the floor.
“To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement following the vote.
It’s doubtful either measure would have passed anyway because it would have taken only a single member to scuttle either proposal under unanimous consent rules.
On Monday, Congress overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan $2.4 trillion bill that includes broad stimulus relief to help Americans battered by the pandemic’s economic fallout and funding for the federal government through September.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted a video of his remarks calling the measure “a disgrace” partly because he felt the direct payments were too small and partly because he opposed foreign aid in the bill.
That was despite his own Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin negotiating the $600 compromise and despite his administration submitting a budget earlier this year that asked Congress to approve similar levels of foreign aid included in the package adopted Monday.
— Ledyard King
Andrew Yang files paperwork to run for NYC mayor
Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang may run for mayor of New York City in 2021.
Yang filed paperwork Wednesday that allows him to raise money and explore a run for mayor in the nation’s largest city, putting him in line to enter a crowded Democratic field to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio who can’t run again because of term limits.
Yang, 45, has said little about his potential run but has been quietly meeting with city leaders and beginning to lay the groundwork for a campaign after faring better than expected in his presidential bid as a political newcomer.
“2021 is going to be epic,” he tweeted cryptically Wednesday evening.
The Manhattan entrepreneur centered his presidential campaign around his call for universal basic income, which would be $1,000 a month for every adult in the country.
— Joseph Spector, USA TODAY Network’s Atlantic Group
Democrats’ plan to raise direct payment amounts in vote Thursday might not get off ground
Democrats acting on President Donald Trump’s call to increase the amount of money millions of Americans are slated to get as part of a COVID stimulus package Congress approved Monday are planning to bring the issue to the House floor for a vote Thursday.
But the proposal to raise the direct payment from $600 to $2,000 at a pro forma session Thursday while most lawmakers are out of town for the holiday recess appears to be doomed after the top House Republican said he would offer a counter-proposal to “revisit” the package’s inclusion of billions in foreign aid.
“Democrats appear to be suffering from selective hearing,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, tweeted late Wednesday with a letter to fellow Republicans laying out his proposal. “They’ve conveniently ignored @realDonaldTrump’s call to reexamine tax dollars wasted overseas while so many Americans are struggling at home. Republicans will act to put America first.”
On Monday, Congress overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan $2.4 trillion bill that includes broad stimulus relief and the funding of the federal government through September. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted a video of his remarks calling the measure “a disgrace” partly because he felt the direct payments were too small and partly because he opposed foreign aid in the bill.
That was despite his own Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin negotiating the $600 compromise and despite his administration submitting a budget earlier this year that asked Congress to approve levels of foreign aid similar to those included in the package adopted Monday.
In a letter to fellow House Democrats Wednesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House will try to pass an amendment to the bill under a procedure known as “Unanimous Consent” since most lawmakers won’t be present. But the process allows a single member’s objection to scuttle passage, and McCarthy’s counter-proposal to revisit foreign aid is a signal that at least some GOP lawmakers don’t plan to go along with the Democrats.
“If the President truly wants to join us in $2,000 payments, he should call upon Leader McCarthy to agree to our Unanimous Consent request,” she wrote in a letter to fellow Democrats.
If the proposal to raise the direct payment amounts fails Thursday, Democrats are expected to bring the measure for a vote Monday when the House is back in regular session.
— Ledyard King