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Trump pushes back against congressional oversight for $500 billion bailout fund

Funds Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump attend briefing about the coronavirus outbreak in the press in a word room at the White House on March 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Trump administration is considering an $850 billion stimulus enclose to counter the economic fallout as the coronavirus spreads.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Friday penned in a signing statement accompanying the $2 trillion stimulus bill that he believes the inspector general overseeing a $500 billion locum tenens fund for businesses will not have as much regulatory power as Democrats had sought.

The bill includes a $500 billion cache that companies, such as the struggling airlines, can tap to support their business. The fund is overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. In beginning drafts of the Republican Senate bill, Mnuchin had wide discretion in overseeing that money. After criticisms from Democrats, Republicans agreed to add on a congressional keeping committee and Inspector General as added control measures.

The language gives the Inspector General power to report defeat to Congress information including the nature of the loan and its recipients. It has the power to make informational requests from other intermediations “to extent practicable and not in contravention of any existing law.” It is required to let Congress know if those requests are blocked.

Trump, though, translated Friday he believes the Inspector General needs his permission in order to make such reports to Congress.

“I do not understand, and my Management will not treat, this provision as permitting the [the Inspector General] to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision,” he disregarded in a signing statement. A signing statement indicates how the president intends to interpret a law.  Trump has a record of seeking to withhold intelligence from Congress, most notably during the recent House Intelligence Committee’s probe of his dealings with Ukraine. He similarly fought efforts by House committees to subpoena his financial records

Oversight of that $500 billion fund was one of the behind major sticking points in Senate negotiations, CNBC previously reported. Senate Democrats cheered the ultimately agreed-upon words as a victory. They were wary of repeating the mistakes of the bank bailout after the financial crisis, in which Democrats were criticized for approving bank executives to reward themselves with bonuses after receiving federal money. 

“The president’s statement is indicative of the contradistinction between Democrats and Republicans when it came to this bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Friday prevalent the language.

“It’s not a surprise to anyone,” she said of Trump’s signing language. “But Congress will exercise its oversight — and we will be dressed our panel appointed by the House to, in real-time, make sure we know where those funds are being expended.”

A Senate Representative aide said, “We fully anticipated Trump shenanigans, so that’s why there are multiple layers of strict oversight in this beak, including a council of existing inspectors general and GAO review, in addition to the Special IG, reporting requirements and a Congressional Oversight Commission.”

The $500 billion subject

Trump’s Friday declaration is one of many statements from the administration in recent days that highlight the lingering impossibles about the $500 billion fund. Emergency loans could equate to more than $4 trillion in give power through the leverage of the Federal Reserve, administration officials have said. 

After the Senate added idiolect to the stimulus bill that effectively excluded the ailing cruise lines from aid, Trump told reporters earlier this week he may aspire ways to get them money. 

“We’re going to work very hard on the cruise line business and we’re going to figure something out,” the president said. Trump has at one time indicated his support of the industry and Carnival chairman Micky Arison.

It remains unclear the exact structure of the financing choices. Of the $500 billion the fund offers, it gives $50 billion in aid to passenger carriers, half in direct payments, half in advances and guarantees. It gives $8 billion to cargo carriers, half in direct payments and loans. It also gives $1 billion to $3 billion for the vigorousness costs of airline contract caterers.

Because airlines are the only businesses to get direct payments, as a result of their dire monetary situation, those payments come with conditions including warrant provisions. 

Trump indicated on Friday the regime may take advantage of those warrants or other means of obtaining equity stakes.

“Will we end up owning large chunks, depending on what these aptitudes decide along with executives of different companies — its possible. And they’ll make a better deal on the loan,” Trump suggested. 

What that means for Boeing, the only domestic airline manufacturer, is unclear. The bill allocates $17 billion in allows and guarantees for companies important to national security − a provision that sources say Boeing is eligible at least in part for. Boeing has prognosticated it will not accept any money that requires giving up an equity stake, but the administration keeps implying that may be its purely option.

“Right now Boeing’s saying they don’t need it,” Mnuchin told Fox News on Friday. 

But Trump has repeatedly proffered his intent to support the company.

“Boeing will probably need a hand, and we’re going to bring Boeing back to vigorousness,” Trump said at a Friday briefing of the coronavirus task force.

Meanwhile, Trump told reporters Friday the charge has been talking to “the most brilliant financial minds in the world” about helping with the bailouts, including Blackrock’s Larry Fink.

The New York Federal On call recently disclosed it has retained BlackRock as an advisor and asset manager in three financing programs. A person familiar with BlackRock alleged Fink doesn’t comment on discussions with public officials. A spokesperson for Blackrock declined to comment. 

United Airlines apprised on Friday that despite government aid, it expects layoffs or furloughs down the line, as demand for travel stays faded.  As a condition of financial relief, United and all airlines accepting aid agreed to withhold from furloughing or cutting the pay of their labourers through Sept. 30. United executives committed to that on Friday.

CNBC’s Christina Wilkie and Leslie Josephs gave to this report

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