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Meadows says Trump tweets to declassify Russia probe docs 'were not' direct orders

Mark Meadows on allegations against Hunter Biden

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows addresses allegations against Hunter Biden, social media giants facing backlash over censorship and coronavirus stimulus talks on ‘Fox & Friends.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows rejected suggestions this week that President Trump’s tweets earlier this month calling for the “total declassification” of all documents related to the Russia investigation and the FBI’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server were an explicit order to release more documents.

Meadows' comments came in a sworn, two-page declaration filed in federal court Tuesday as part of a lawsuit by media and other groups to declassify former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report, without redactions.

The president, on Oct. 6, tweeted: “I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax.”

He added: “Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”

A federal judge had asked the White House to clarify whether the president had ordered that declassification in his social media posts — a position that conflicts with the Justice Department.

Meadows defended the president’s tweets, saying they were not a direct order to the Justice Department.

“The president indicated to me that his statements on Twitter were not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification or release of any particular documents,” Meadows said.

“The president’s statements do not require altering any redactions on any record at issue in these or any other cases, including, but not limited to, any redactions taken pursuant to any discretionary FOIA exemptions.”

Meadows, later, in a statement to Fox News, said the president “is very clear.”

DNI DECLASSIFIES BRENNAN NOTES, CIA MEMO ON HILLARY CLINTON 'STIRRING UP' SCANDAL BETWEEN TRUMP, RUSSIA

“He’s been very clear a number of times on the fact that we need to make sure that the transparency on some of these documents as they relate to the whole Russia hoax investigation that the American people get to see exactly what’s there in an unreacted form,” Meadows said. “To take it beyond that is just not appropriate and I’m just trying to make sure we clarify that.”

Last year, the president gave Attorney General Bill Barr authority to declassify any documents related to surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016. Trump, at the time, also ordered members of the intelligence community to cooperate with Barr’s probe.

Allies of the president, including Republicans on Capitol Hill leading their own investigations into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, have criticized officials like FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel, claiming that the directors have been blocking the release of documents.

The president’s tweets come after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified documents that revealed former CIA Director John Brennan briefed former President Obama on Hillary Clinton’s purported “plan” to tie then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server” ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Fox News first reported that Ratcliffe declassified Brennan’s handwritten notes – which were taken after he briefed Obama on the intelligence the CIA received – and a CIA memo, which revealed that officials referred the matter to the FBI for potential investigative action.

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"Today, at the direction of President Trump, I declassified additional documents relevant to ongoing Congressional oversight and investigative activities," Ratcliffe said in a statement to Fox News Tuesday.

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Trump calls NBC's Kristen Welker 'terrible and unfair' before she moderates next debate

Trump, Biden hold competing town hall events in lieu of debate

Fox News media analyst and host of ‘Media Buzz’ Howard Kurtz breaks it all down on ‘Fox News @ Night.’

President Trump let everyone know just how he perceives NBC News' Kristen Welker – the scheduled moderator for the upcoming presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn. — calling her “terrible and unfair” Saturday in a pre-debate offensive attack.

“She’s always been terrible & unfair, just like most of the Fake News reporters, but I’ll still play the game. The people know! How’s Steve Scully doing?” Trump tweeted along with a retweet from son Donald Trump Jr., linking Welker and her family to prominent Democrats.

Welker’s family has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats over the years and Welker and her family spent Christmas at the White House with the Obamas in 2012.

Trump’s Steve Scully comment was a reference to a C-SPAN journalist who was suspended, allegedly for lying about his Twitter account being hacked before he was set to moderate a scheduled Oct. 15 debate between Trump and Biden in Miami that was ultimately canceled.

Scully had sent out a tweet that some critics saw as biased against Trump over whether Scully should respond to the president's criticisms of him. 

Prior to joining C-SPAN, Scully's jobs included being an intern for Biden and working for the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Welker briefly deactivated her Twitter account after Scully claimed he had been hacked. 

Trump frequently takes issue with interviewers and moderators, including Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who moderated the first debate Sept. 29 in Cleveland, and NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, the moderator for Trumps’ town hall that aired in place of the canceled Miami debate.

The president accused both of them of being unfair to him.

“Anyone who’s ever dealt with Welker knows she’s an activist, not a reporter," a senior White House official told the New York Post. 

Trump 2020 senior adviser Jason Miller, conversely, told “The Story” host Martha McCollum last week that he thought Welker would do an “excellent job.”

“I have a very high opinion of Kristen Welker,” he said. “I think she's going to do an excellent job as the moderator for the third debate. I think she's a journalist who’s very fair in her approach and I think that she'll be a very good choice for this third debate."

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Trump and Biden court crucial senior voters in the biggest battleground

Trump brings reelection campaign to seniors in battleground Florida

National Journal politics editor Josh Kraushaar joins ‘The Daily Briefing’ with analysis

A new TV commercial by President Trump’s reelection campaign touts that the president is “the clear choice” for seniors, who are a key voting bloc in many of the battleground states that will decide the winner of the presidential election.

The ads running on the airwaves in Florida and other crucial swing states as the president courted voters 65 and older on Friday during a stop in Fort Myers in southwest Florida.

"I am honored to be here in Fort Myers to reaffirm my solemn pledge to America’s Seniors: I will protect you, I will defend you, and I will fight for you with every ounce of energy and conviction that I have," the president told the crowd.

And he vowed to keep seniors safe from the coronavirus pandemic, promising that he was "working as hard as I can" so that they "can kiss and hug your children and grandchildren very soon."

Senoirs make up roughtly 20% of the population in Florida, which with 29 electoral votes up for grabs is the largest of the traditional battlegrounds.

The president’s stop came three days after Democratic nominee Joe Biden visited Florida and told a crowd of seniors that Trump views them as “expendable, forgettable.”

And the president’s trip comes as Trump is trying to avoid becoming the first Republican presidential nominee in two decades to lose the 65 and older vote.

Former Vice President Al Gore – who in the 2000 election repeatedly emphasized that he would keep Social Security “in a lockbox” – was the last Democratic presidential nominee to win the senior vote.

President Donald Trump speaks during an event on "Protecting America’s Seniors," Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Four years ago Trump captured the national vote of those 65 and older by a 52%-45% margin over Clinton, according to exit polls. But fast forward four years and the latest Fox News national poll indicates Biden with a slight 49%-47% edge over the president among seniors. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News national poll released this week showed a larger 54%-44% margin for Biden among voters 65 and older.

One key reason may be the coronavirus pandemic, which is tied to the deaths of nearly 220,000 Americans and has hit seniors particularly hard.

“Seniors are much more impacted by the coronavirus, by their concern about getting it, their concern about what happens if they do get. They’re much more sensitive to it because they’re in the population is most at risk,” noted longtime Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. “They’re focused on coronavirus and the president’s numbers on coronavirus are not strong. Voters generally disapprove of the job he’s doing handling the issue.”

Biden, during a stop Tuesday in heavily populated Broward County in southeast Florida, pointed to comments Trump made last month in Swanton, Ohio, when he argued that the coronavirus "affects virtually nobody" except seniors.

"It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that's what it really affects, that's it," the president said at the time.

“Nobody,” Biden said on Tuesday. “Think about that. Who was he talking about when he said it affects virtually nobody. He was talking about America’s seniors. He was talking about you.”

And speaking directly to voters age 65 and older, the former vice president argued that Trump thinks “you’re expendable, 'forgettable, you’re virtually nobody. That’s how he sees seniors. … The only senior that Donald Trump cares about … is the senior Donald Trump."

Biden also claimed the president will “undermine the Medicare trust fund and increase overall out of pocket costs for seniors.” And he charged that Trump “says he wants to lower drug prices, but he hasn’t done a single thing to do it.”

The Trump campaign fired back, arguing that “Biden resorted to his worn tactic of lying about President Trump, who has steadfastly protected Social Security and Medicare and who has pledged to always do so.”

Last week, as he was recovering at the White House after being diagnosed and hospitalized for COVID-19, tweeted that seniors are “MY FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD!” 

And the announcer in the new Trump campaign commercial highlights that “President Trump protected Social Security and Medicare” and that Trump “lowered drug costs and during his first term Medicare Advantage premiums fell 34%.”

Four years ago Trump narrowly edged out 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Florida. An average of some of the most recent polling in the state shows Biden holding a single-digit lead over the president. In a sign of how important the state is to the president’s reelection, Trump’s spent three days campaigning in the state this week.

“Seniors in Florida are critical to winning the state,” noted Newhouse, who was Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s pollster in the 2012 presidential campaign. “The key voter groups in the state would be seniors and Hispanics. A strong performance among seniors would go a long way towards giving the president an edge in the state.”

And it’s not just Florida. Seniors make up at least 17% of the population in the battleground states of Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire.

The concentration by the two standard-bearers on seniors this week is welcome news to many.

With America dealing with the most devastating pandemic in a century, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression more than 80 years ago, the most intense and widespread protests and unrest over racial inequity in decades, and arguably the most bitter U.S. Supreme Court confirmation battle in recent history, it’s little wonder that some issues critical to seniors that usually dominate presidential elections have been pushed to the side in recent months.

 “We’re certainly concerned that our issues have been overshadowed because when these things pass – and they will pass – the fundamental bedrock issues for Americans- things like their health, taking care of aging parents, Medicare, prescription drug prices, Social Security – those things are still going to be with us,” AARP New Hampshire state director Todd Fahey told Fox News.

 “It’s really important that the voters understand where each candidate stands on these singularly important issues,” Fahey emphasized. “They are of great important to the nation and the candidates need to speak to all of them.”

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Sen. David Perdue mispronounces colleague Sen. Kamala Harris' name at a Trump rally, saying 'Kamala-mala-mala'

  • GOP Sen. David Perdue repeatedly mispronounced Sen. Kamala Harris' name at a rally for President Donald Trump on Friday.
  • "KAH-mah-la, Kah-MAH-la, Kamala-mala-mala, I don't know, whatever," Perdue said, eliciting laughs from the audience.
  • Others were quick to condemn the remarks, including Sabrina Singh, Harris' campaign press secretary, who tweeted that the comments were "incredibly racist" and to "vote him out."
  • John Burke, the Perdue campaign communications director, said the senator "simply mispronounced" her name.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia repeatedly mispronounced Sen. Kamala Harris' name at a rally for President Donald Trump on Friday.

While referring to his Senate colleague, Perdue said, "KAH-mah-la, Kah-MAH-la, Kamala-mala-mala, I don't know, whatever," eliciting laughs from the audience.

Others were quick to denounce the remarks, calling them racist.

"Well that is incredibly racist," Sabrina Singh, Harris' campaign press secretary tweeted, saying to "vote him out" by voting for Perdue's opponent. She also said that Perdue and Harris have been colleagues in the Senate for more than three years.

Jon Ossoff, who is running against Perdue, also condemned the remarks.

 

"This kind of vile, race-baiting trash talk is what President Trump has unleashed from sitting Republican members of the Senate," Ossof said on MSNBC.

He also tweeted, "Senator Perdue never would have done this to a male colleague. Or a white colleague. And everyone knows it."

John Burke, the Perdue campaign communications director, said that the senator "simply mispronounced Senator Harris' name."

"He didn't mean anything by it," he tweeted. "He was making an argument against the radical socialist agenda that she and her endorsed candidate Jon Ossoff are pushing, which includes the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-all, raising taxes, and holding up COVID relief for the people of Georgia."

Harris, who is the first Black and South Asian woman to be the vice presidential nominee of a major party, has had her name repeatedly mispronounced by political opponents. Her name is pronounced, according to the senator herself, as "comma-la."

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Trump campaign rakes in massive $247.8M in September, though still short of Biden fundraising haul

Trump, Biden compete for ratings in dueling televised town halls

Incumbent, challenger take to the airwaves in lieu of canceled debate; John Roberts has the latest on ‘Special Report’

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) raised a massive $247.8 million in September, an impressive haul as the 2020 cycle hit its final stretch — though still short of his Democratic rival Joe Biden, who raked in $383 million in the same time period.

“President Trump hits final stretch with strength, resources, record & huge ground game needed to spread message and secure re-election,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh tweeted late Thursday.

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and its joint-fundraising committees brought in $247.8 million in September, and combined, have a whopping $251.4 million cash on hand.

“POTUS has done more in 47 months than Biden in 47 years,” Murtaugh added.

But the Biden campaign and Democrats, earlier this week, announced their fundraising numbers, revealing they out-raised Trump and Republicans, bringing in $383 million in September.

“To every person who chipped in a few dollars last month — thank you. Because of your support, we raised an astounding $383 million. I'm incredibly humbled,” Biden tweeted.

“That’s more than I’ve ever raised in my whole life… I’m really humbled by it,” Biden added in a video in which he announced the news to one of his supporters, a special education teacher who lives in Harrisburg, Pa.

Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon announced on Twitter that the Biden campaign and the DNC entered October with an eye-popping $432 million cash on hand. That’s down slightly from the $466 million they had in the bank at the beginning of September, as the Biden campaign continues to spend tens of millions of dollars each week to run ads on TV, radio, and digital in the key general election battleground states and on national broadcast and cable networks.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER SAYS CASH NOT AN ISSUE 'DOWN THE STRETCH'

Touting the campaign’s low-dollar donations, Dillon said that “Our success has been driven by our grassroots supporters. $203 million came from online donors. We had 1.1 million new donors last month — bringing the total to 5.5 million donors throughout this campaign.”

The Biden campaign also outraised Team Trump in August, touting $364.5 million raised, while the Trump campaign brought in $210 million during the same period. 

But at the time, a senior Trump campaign official told Fox News that Trump was out-raised in 2016 by then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who brought in $1.2 billion to his $646 million (including some of Trump's own money).

“We had the better candidate, the better message, and better grassroots enthusiasm then, just like we do now,” the official told Fox News. “Biden needs this money, because we had such an enormous head start on him.”

Fox News' Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report. 

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Trump says Biden family 'protected' by Big Tech, threatens platforms 'unless they shape up'

Trump: Choice between socialism vs. American dream

Fox Business Network’s Stuart Varney weighs in on 2020 election’s impact on the economy.

President Trump said that the Biden family has been “protected” by Big Tech after Twitter and Facebook censored a damning New York Post report about Hunter Biden's purported emails.

“He and his family are crooked, and they got caught. And now they are being protected by Big Tech,” the president told North Carolinians at the Pitt-Greenville airport. 

“We must immediately strip them of their Section 230 protection," Trump added about the tech giants. 

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 states "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

The section has been pivotal in the rise of today's social media giants by allowing not only Internet service providers –­ but also Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others –­ to be shielded from liability from content posted on their platforms by third parties, in most cases. But some critics on the right feel that tech giants should no longer benefit from protections of Section 230 if they censor conservative viewpoints, including controversial postings by Trump.

“Big Tech got something years ago that let them become Big Tech,” Trump said of social media platform’s liability protections. “We’re going to take away their Section 230 unless they shape up.”

“Believe it or not, Democrats agree,” Trump continued. Democrats on the Hill have threatened to break up Big Tech, questioning whether the companies violated U.S. antitrust laws and stole from competitors.

On Wednesday, the Post released a report on purported emails they’d obtained from a whistleblower that claim to show that Biden’s son introduced the then-vice president to a top executive at Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings less than a year before the Obama administration pressured government officials in Ukraine to fire prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was investigating the company.

The emails were found in a stash of data on a computer left at a repair shop in Biden’s home state of Delaware, according to the store’s owner. The customer who brought in the laptop, who store owner John Paul Mac Isaac said he 'can't be 100% sure' was Hunter Biden, never came to retrieve it.  He said he contacted the FBI out of concern for the computer’s content. 

Isaac told the Post he believed it to be Hunter Biden's laptop because the laptop had a sticker from the Beau Biden Foundation, which is named after his late older brother.

“Big tech is censoring these stories to get Biden out of an impossible jam," Trump said. "Hunter Biden left his laptop somewhere… the guy that had his laptop said 'wow this is criminal stuff.' He brought it to the FBI.”

Facebook admitted to limiting distribution of the article until “independent fact-checkers” could review it. Twitter blocked users from tweeting the story link or sending it via direct message to other users. Users who tried to tweet the story’s link were locked out of their accounts, while Twitter pointed to its “hacked materials” policy for censoring the story. 

The Post report revealed that Biden, at Hunter’s request, allegedly met with Vadym Pozharskyi in April 2015 in Washington, D.C.

The meeting was mentioned in an email of appreciation, according to the Post, that Pozharskyi sent to Hunter Biden on April 17, 2015 — a year after Hunter took on his position on the board of Burisma.

“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” the email read.

An earlier email from May 2014 also showed Pozharskyi, a top Burisma executive, reportedly asking Hunter for “advice on how you could use your influence” on the company’s behalf, the Post reported.

The alleged meeting took place less than a year before the former vice president purportedly pressured government officials in Ukraine to fire prosecutor Viktor Shokin.

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Josh Hawley on Thursday called on the heads of Twitter and Facebook to testify, and said a subpoena was in the works, as critics claimed the social media platforms have been censoring reporting critical of Democrats.

The Senate Judiciary Committee leaders announced they will vote on a subpoena Tuesday for Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, to testify before the committee on Friday, Oct. 23. Hawley said he hoped the committee would vote to subpoena Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, too. 

Biden and Biden's allies have maintained, though, that his intervention prompting the firing of Shokin had nothing to do with his son, but rather was tied to corruption concerns.

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Biden repeatedly has claimed he’s “never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.”

Fox News' Brooke Singman and Marisa Schultz contributed to this report. 

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Trump says Twitter, Facebook acting as 'third arm of the DNC' by censoring Hunter Biden story

Trump: Twitter blocks will ‘all end up in a big lawsuit’

President Trump says Twitter and Facebook act ‘like a third arm’ of the DNC with their censorship.

President Trump on Thursday slammed Twitter and Facebook, calling the social media platforms the “third arm” of the Democratic National Committee, after the tech giants blocked accounts from sharing a New York Post report on Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings.

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The New York Post report referred to emails that suggested Hunter Biden introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to a top adviser at Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings in 2015.

Trump, during an interview on FOX Business' "Varney & Co.," said his administration is “looking at a lot of things” with regard to the social media companies after White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s Twitter account was locked due to sharing the story.

“When they take down Kayleigh McEnany, who is just an honorable — she’s an incredible person, when they don’t want to put up the Biden story … the whole thing is crazy,” Trump said.

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TWTR TWITTER INC. 45.05 -0.92 -2.00%
FB FACEBOOK INC. 263.83 -7.99 -2.94%

The president was asked for comment on his campaign’s account being suspended — which he had not heard prior to the interview.

TWITTER SAYS TRUMP CAMPAIGN 'VIOLATED' RULES, LOCKS ACCOUNT OVER TWEET REFERENCING HUNTER BIDEN REPORT

“I haven’t heard that, but if it is, it is,” he said. “It’s all going to end up in a big lawsuit.”

He added: “Things can happen that are very severe, that I’d rather not see happen, but it’s probably going to have to.”

“It is out of control,” the president said. “And it’s like a third arm, maybe a first arm, of the DNC — Twitter, and Facebook, they’re all, they’re — like really, it’s a massive campaign contribution.”

The president added: “This is a third arm of the DNC. The radical left movement — and that’s the biggest problem our country has. It’s not with the right. It's with the left. The radical left is the biggest — Antifa and that scum — is the thing that’s hurting our country.”

TWITTER HACKERS TRICK EMPLOYEES BY POSING AS IT WORKERS, NY PROBE FINDS

The president went on to say that “if you get rid of Section 230, that’s the end of them.”

The president on Wednesday night tweeted: ”So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of 'Smoking Gun' emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the [New York Post] it is only the beginning for them. There is nothing worse than a corrupt politician. REPEAL SECTION 230!!!"

Trump was referencing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that states "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

HOUSE GOP REPOSTS HUNTER BIDEN STORY IN PRESS RELEASE, GETS CENSORED BY TWITTER

The section has been pivotal in the rise of today's social media giants by allowing not only internet service providers but also Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others to be shielded from liability from content posted on their platforms by third parties, in most cases. But some critics on the right feel that tech giants should no longer benefit from protections of Section 230 if they censor conservative viewpoints, including controversial postings by Trump.

On Wednesday night, Twitter sent a series of tweets clarifying why the New York Post articles were in violation of its "hacked materials policy."

The company's 2018 policy prohibits the distribution of content "obtained without authorization." Twitter doesn't want to incentivize hacking or circulating "possibly illegally obtained materials."

"Commentary on or discussion about hacked materials, such as articles that cover them but do not include or link to the materials themselves, aren’t a violation of this policy," Twitter said. "Our policy only covers links to or images of hacked material themselves."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also shared the update and said the company had not done a good enough job of communicating why it took the actions it did.

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The tech giant claimed it took action against the article due to the company's "Hacked Materials Policy." Twitter is blocking the post from being shared on its platform.

"In line with our Hacked Materials Policy, as well as our approach to blocking URLs, we are taking action to block any links to or images of the material in question on Twitter," a spokesperson said.

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Fox News hasn't independently verified the New York Post article yet, which claimed the newspaper had been given emails showing Hunter Biden had introduced his father to a top executive at the energy firm Burisma Holdings less than a year before a top Ukrainian prosecutor was forced out for looking into the matter.

Fox News' Marisa Schultz contributed to this report. 

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Trump says he would raise offer coronavirus stimulus deal above $1.8T, claims China will pay the bill

Trump ‘absolutely’ considering raising stimulus offer above $1.8T

President Trump tells ‘Varney & Co.’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ‘holding up’ the next round of coronavirus stimulus aid.

President Trump said Thursday he would raise his offer for a coronavirus relief package above the White House's current $1.8 trillion proposal amid a months-long impasse with Democratic leaders over more funding.

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"I would," he told FOX Business' Stuart Varney when asked whether the White House would increase its offer. "Absolutely I would. I would say more. I would go higher. Go big or go home, I said it yesterday."

“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to give anything. She thinks it helps her with the election,” the president continued. “And I don’t think so. I think it hurts her with the election because everyone knows she’s holding it up. We’re not holding it up. She’s holding it up.”

The Trump administration's latest proposal — its largest yet – drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats last week, dimming the odds of another round of emergency aid before the Nov. 3 election. It was expected to include a second round of direct payments of up to $1,200 for adults and $1,000 for children; expanded unemployment benefits at $400 per week and additional funding for state and local governments.

In a weekly letter to Democratic colleagues, Pelosi said the administration’s proposal lacked a “strategic plan to crush the virus” and gave President Trump too much power in determining how the funds were spent.

"This proposal amounted to one step forward, two steps back," Pelosi said in the letter. She later identified a lack of funding for testing as one of the main sticking points in negotiations.

But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday during an interview with CNBC that the testing issue was "getting overblown." The administration agreed to allocate $178 billion overall for health and $75 billion for contact tracing and testing, he said.

“What we have been focused on is the language around testing,” he said. “When I speak to Pelosi today, I’m going to tell her that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way. We’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language subject to some minor issues. This issue is being overblown.”

For months, Congress has struggled to reach an agreement on additional stimulus. Negotiations first collapsed in early August, prompting Trump to sign four executive measures intended to provide relief to families still reeling from the virus-induced crisis, including temporarily extending supplemental jobless aid at $300 a week.

But that aid is beginning to expire, and lifelines that propped up the economy in the early weeks of the pandemic — like the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, a one-time $1,200 stimulus check and sweetened unemployment benefits — lapsed weeks ago.

Although Democrats and Republicans broadly agree that another bill is necessary to aid the economy's recovery, they sharply disagree over the size and scope of it.

Economists have urged lawmakers to pass another round of emergency aid, or risk imperiling the nation's tepid turnaround from the virus-induced crisis. There are still 10 million more unemployed Americans than there were in February, before the economy shut down.

“Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last week. "The recovery will be stronger and move faster if monetary policy and fiscal policy continue to work side by side to provide support to the economy until it is clearly out of the woods."

Any bill still needs to get through the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate, where some Republicans have expressed concern about another massive spending initiative amid the nation's ballooning deficit, which is projected to hit a record-shattering $3.3 trillion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Economy

Trump says Pelosi doesn’t care about American workers, ready to sign stimulus

Mnuchin: Will ‘regroup’ with Pelosi on Thursday for stimulus talks

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he suspects Democrats don’t want to give President Trump a stimulus win right before the election.

President Trump took to Twitter early Thursday—shortly after a rally in Iowa—to criticize House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the struggling stimulus bill, and said the California Democrat has shown that she doesn’t care about American workers.

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“She should approve needed STIMULUS now,” Trump tweeted. “Most other Dems agree. Republicans are ready to go, I am ready to sign.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business on Wednesday there has been no agreement on any comprehensive coronavirus relief packages and expressed consternation over $300 billion that has remained unspent from the country’s previous stimulus.

He told anchor Lou Dobbs, “We could get that money into the economy quickly.”

PELOSI SPURNS TRUMP'S $1.8T STIMULUS OFFER IN CONTENTIOUS INTERVIEW WITH CNN'S BLITZER

Mnuchin hinted that Democrats might be dragging their feet because they have the November election in mind.

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Pelosi, who had a tense interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, said, “I want this very much now. Because people need help now. But it's no use giving them a false thing just because the president wants to put a check with his name on it in the mail."

Pelosi told  MSNBC on Thursday that the issue isn’t about the dollar amount, but where the funding will be directed.

CORONAVIRUS RELIEF UNLIKELY BEFORE ELECTION, MNUCHIN SAYS, AMID IMPASSE WITH PELOSI

“If it’s underwriting tax cuts for the wealthiest while depriving it to the working–working– low-income people, you see the unfairness of it all,” she said.

A Pelosi aide told the Associated Press that Mnuchin and the speaker talked by phone Wednesday but reached no agreement. Mnuchin said it would be difficult to complete an agreement before next month’s presidential election.

Fox Business' Brittany De Lea and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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Economy

Biden or Trump? Survey reveals Americans' views on future of Social Security

Kudlow: No plan to eliminate social security taxes

Chief actuary warns cutting payroll taxes could permanently deplete Social Security; White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow reacts.

Just in case it may have somehow slipped your mind amid the barrage of news coverage, ads, and tweets, there's a political election coming up this November. The differences between the candidates have been well documented, but how are those differences perceived by the voting public?

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In the case of how Americans view the candidates' respective views on Social Security, a new survey by Simplywise, a fintech that provides technology to help people plan and save for retirement, sheds some light. The company's most recent Retirement Confidence Index, released in September, revealed that 63% of Americans feel confident in the future of Social Security if the Democratic challenger, former Vice president Joe Biden, is elected, while only 44% feel confident if President Donald Trump is reelected. Among people age 60 and over, 59% feel confident in the future of Social Security if Biden wins compared to 43% for Trump.

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Trump and the payroll tax

The major reason for the perceived lack of confidence in President Trump, according to the survey, seems to be his recent actions and statements related to the payroll tax, which is the primary funding source for Social Security. Trump signed an executive order (EO) in August calling for a four-month deferral of the payroll tax for workers earning less than $4,000 per biweekly pay period. This was done to help people through tough times by giving them a little extra cash in their paychecks.

However, the Simplywise survey, a random survey of 1,154 Americans, said that 86% are concerned that the payroll tax deferral will hurt Social Security in the long run. But to be clear, the deferral laid out in the EO would be temporary, as the taxes would be paid back starting in January. But the EO did say that the Treasury Secretary "shall explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes deferred pursuant to the implementation of this memorandum." Also, it should be noted that employers could opt out of this, and many of them have.

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But there have been mixed messages from the Trump administration on the future of the payroll tax, which funds about 89% of Social Security. Right after his EO was issued on Aug. 8, Trump said at a press briefing on that same day: "If I'm victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax. So I'm going to make them all permanent."

Then on Aug. 12 at a COVID-19 task force press conference, Trump added, "When I win the election, I'm going to go completely and totally forgive all deferred payroll taxes without in any way, shape or form hurting social security. That money is going to come from the general fund. We're not going to touch Social Security." And in a TV interview on Sept. 12, he reiterated the idea that the money would come from the general fund, buoyed by the "tremendous growth that we're going to experience."

However, there has been no official policy proposal from the Trump Administration on this, and administration spokespeople said Trump meant permanent forgiveness of deferral, not permanent payroll tax elimination. So you can see where the confusion comes from. Also, if there were any proposal to tap the general fund, it would take legislative action, and that would be unlikely to pass, even if proposed.

Biden’s plan for the payroll tax

Biden's Social Security plan seeks to improve the solvency of Social Security by increasing the payroll tax on high-wage earners. Currently, the Social Security Trust Fund, which is often referred to as its reserves, will be depleted by 2035. After that, based on the existing payout schedule, Social Security will begin to face a funding shortfall, which would lead to benefit cuts, if the fund isn't bolstered by 2035.

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Currently, the payroll tax is 12.4%, with employers and employees each contributing 6.2 percent of wages on up to $137,700 of income. The additional income beyond $137,700 is exempt from the payroll tax. As my colleague Sean Williams points out, that's about $150 billion per year that's not going into Social Security.

Biden's plan would partially correct that by taxing income earned over $400,000 at that 12.4% rate. A doughnut hole exemption would remain between $137,700 and $400,000 in income. The payroll tax increase would generate about $820 billion in revenue over 10 years, according to the Tax Foundation.

Overall, the Simplywise survey found that there's a great deal of concern about Social Security, in general. Specifically, 57% of those not receiving benefits worry about it drying up, while 54% of those receiving it have the same concern. The latter number is up from 29% in July.

It seems pretty clear by these numbers that saving Social Security should be a top priority for whoever wins in November.

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