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Warnings of ‘unconstitutional’ assault on Social Security as Trump threatens unilateral suspension of payroll tax

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Donald Trump (Olivier Douliery:AFP)

President Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday that he is considering circumventing Congress to unilaterally suspend collection of the payroll tax, a move advocacy groups and lawmakers said would be an “unconstitutional” abuse of power and a destructive attack on Social Security funding.

Trump said during a Covid-19 press briefing that his administration is examining a variety of potential executive orders should Congress fail to reach an agreement on the next stimulus package by the end of the week, a deadline Democratic leaders and the White House set on Tuesday.

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“We are looking at it,” the president said of an executive order to extend enhanced unemployment benefits that expired last week. “We’re also looking at various other things that I’m allowed to do under the system, and—such as the payroll tax suspension. And so we’re allowed to do things.”

Slashing or suspending the payroll tax has long been an obsession of Trump and his right-wing economic advisers, including Stephen Moore. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, Moore urged Trump to “declare a national economic emergency and announce that the Internal Revenue Service will immediately stop collecting the payroll tax.”

But legal experts doubt the president has the authority to suspend the payroll tax through executive action. Mark Mazur, director of the Tax Policy Institute, noted in an interview with Roll Call this week that only Congress has the power to halt collection of taxes.

“Donald Trump is so desperate to defund Social Security, he may rip the Constitution to shreds to make it happen,” progressive advocacy group Social Security Works tweeted.

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Senate Republicans ultimately excluded any cut to the payroll tax—Social Security’s primary funding mechanism—from their coronavirus stimulus package as the proposal remains unpopular on both sides of the aisle.

In a joint statement on Monday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said “Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate have rejected the president’s proposal to include a payroll tax cut in the next Covid-19 response package, yet the president remains fixated on the foolhardy idea.”

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“A payroll tax cut does not help unemployed Americans—the group of people most in need right now—and it would drain money from Social Security and Medicare,” said Neal and Larson. “It is difficult to fathom a worse moment to weaken these lifelines than during a pandemic and crushing economic recession.”

“While Republicans have long sought to gut these earned benefits,” the lawmakers added, “doubling down on those efforts while the Covid crisis rages on would be particularly heartless.”

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Trump apologist thinks president made ‘huge mistake’ by admitting he won’t peacefully give up power

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A conservative who usually defends President Donald Trump admitted to CNN on Thursday that the president made a "huge mistake" when he refused to commit to having a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the 2020 election.

During a panel discussion on the president's latest controversial remarks about the upcoming election, liberal guest Bakari Sellers argued that Americans should be "very terrified" about Trump implicitly encouraging violence in the event that he loses.

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‘Five-alarm fire’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe explains why Trump is rushing to smash democracy

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough sounded the alarm that President Donald Trump had no intention of giving up the White House.

The president has admitted that he wants to ram through a new Supreme Court justice to help decide the election in his favor, and the "Morning Joe" host was shocked -- yet not surprised -- that Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

"Some remarkable things that, actually, could be both shocking and not surprising at the same time considering that they come from Donald Trump," Scarborough said.

"For the first time in the history of this republic, you have a president of the United States, who will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power," he added. "At the same time he's asking Republicans to lie to their constituents and go back on what they said four years ago and ram through a Supreme Court justice. Why? Because he needs that Supreme Court justice to vote for him on any election disputes that he stirs up. That is pretty much a five-alarm fire."

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Is Trump Putin’s friend, foe or useful idiot?

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“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former US Vice President, supporting the US president and fueling public discord ahead of the US election in November.”

Thus reads the first line of a top-secret CIA assessment, published on August 31 but reported today. The report details how Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the US Treasury Department is a Russian agent, is disseminating false stories about Democratic nominee Joe Biden through congressmembers, lobbyists, the media, and people close to the president. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been openly working with Derkach for several months.

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