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Second stimulus check IRS updates: news summary for 3 January

Second stimulus check IRS updates: who qualifies, $2,000 payment, $600 payment, dates...

US politics, stimulus checks, Georgia updates: live

Second stimulus check: headlines

- Trump pressures Sec of State for Georgia: "All I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes"

- Nancy Pelosi re-elected as Speaker of the House 

- US covid-19 death toll surpasses 350,000

- Donald Trump calls key Georgia senate races "illegal and invalid"

- Attorney Lin Wood suggests Mike Pence 'should be arrested for treason'

- Democrats propose ban on all gender-specific words from House of Representatives rulebook

- Mitch McConnell objects to a Senate vote on the $2,000 stimulus checks for the third day running Thursday, after admitting bill has "no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate"

- Pelosi and Gingrich press McConnell to allow vote on 'clean' bill for $2,000 stimulus checks

- Trump extends freeze on skilled worker visas.

 - Georgia Senator Perdue in isolation ahead of 5 January run-off. 

- IRS confirm second round of stimulus check payments began in late-December

- Senate to vote on overriding Trump defense bill veto as President lashes out at "pathetic" Republican leaders.

- Georgia Senate run-off "too close to call" say pollsters, with control of upper house to be decided on 5 January.

- McConnell ties a new bill with $2,000 stimulus checks to a repeal of the social media-related Section 230 and finance for election fraud investigation

Related stories: 

A majority of Americans support $2000 stimulus checks 

Across the political spectrum there is wide support for further $2000 direct stimulus payments for every American for the duration of the pandemic according to polling by Data for Progress. Another study released by Data for Progress over the weekend shows that Americans blame the Republican leaders for failure to pass the measure.

The facts of Trump’s latest fiction 

What falsehoods did president Donald Trump spout in his incriminating phone call Saturday over the election with Georgia's SoS Brad Raffensperger? 

Trump rewards another ally 

Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee was awarded the Medal of Freedom at a ceremony closed to the public. The Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor was given to Nunes for his help in defending the President during Trump’s impeachment. In his position, Representative Nunes worked to undermine the Justice Department's Russia investigation in cooperation with the President. According to CNN, Trump is planning to give the Medal of Freedom to another ally during his impeachment Representative Jim Jordan.

Trump Tapes scandal: comments from Democrats

So far, president-elect Joe Biden is yet to publicly comment on the leaked phone call recording, but his second-in-command Kamala Harris has, and other top Democrats.

Democrat Hank Johnson indicates plan to censure Donald Trump in Congress

Following revelations of potential criminal activity in the #TrumpTapes, where the president pressures top Georgia election official and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to tamper with the vote numbers, Johnson has come out with a plan to formally censure Trump on Monday. 

5 Jan Georgia runoffs: who's who and why does it matter?

The Georgia runoff election on 5 January is set to decide if Republicans or Democrats will control the Senate. Who is running and why is it so important?

Joe Biden congratulates 117th Congress

The president-elect tweeted as his vice-president Kamala Harris was making comments in Georgia on the leaked phone call scandal involving Donald Trump pressuring top election official to alter election results.

"The Senate swearing-in ceremony was always one of my favorite parts of the job as Vice President. Congratulations to the newly minted members of the 117th Congress. I look forward to working alongside you to get this virus under control and build back better."

Legendary Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein speaking to CNN, reacts to audio obtained by the Washington Post of President Donald Trump pushing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" votes to overturn the election results in the state.

"Something far worse than occurred in Watergate"

Legendary Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein speaking to CNN, reacts to audio obtained by the Washington Post of President Donald Trump pushing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" votes to overturn the election results in the state.

Bernstein went on to posit that the smoking gun tape was "enough to result in impeachment" and recalled that the "real heroes" of the Richard Nixon scandal were the Republicans who would not tolerate Nixon's behaviour. Bernstein urged Trump to leave the White House immediately.

Kamala Harris congratulates Nancy Pelosi

In a tweet, vice president-elect Harris said "Congratulations to fellow Californian,@SpeakerPelosi, for being reelected as Speaker of the House. I look forward to working together on behalf of the American people to move our nation forward and build a brighter future for generations to come."

Watergate journalist: "This is something far worse"

Journalist Cal Bernstein, one of those involved in unearthing the Watergate Scandal which saw President Richard Nixon removed from office, has described today's revelations regarding President Trump as "far worse". 

On his personal Twitter account, Bernstein goes on to say: "In any other conceivable moment in US history, this tape would result in the leadership of both parties demanding the immediate resignation of the President of the United States."

Trump files lawsuits against Raffensperger

The President has gone on the offensive after his phonecall with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was made public today. The Washington Post released an hour-long recording of a conversation between Trump and Raffensperger in which the President asks him to "find" the required votes needed to overturn the election. 

In response Trump's legal team have filed lawsuits, allegedly claiming that the audio is "heavily edited and omits the stipulation that all discussions were for the purpose of settling litigation and confidential under federal and state law", according to Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party David Shafer. 

McCarthy confirms that he backs continued challenge to election result

In his firt speech in Congress after retaining his position as Minority Speaker of the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy has confirmed that he supports Trump's attempts to challenge the Electoral College result. The official counting of EC votes takes place on Wednesday, when Vice President Mike Pence (in his role as President of the Senate) will tally up each state's selection. 

 

AOC says she would be impeach Trump for Georgia phonecall

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has told Capitol Hill reporters that she believes the President should be impeached for attempting to coerce the highest electoral official in Georgia to "find" the 11,780 votes needed to overturn the election result. 

AOC said: "I absolutely think it's an impeachable offense and if it was up to me, there would be articles on the floor quite quickly but he, I mean he is trying to -- he is attacking our very election. He's attacking our very election,"

Democrat Rep. calls for Trump to resign over Georgia call

Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia's DeKalb County has announced that he is introducing a Resolution of Censure in the aftermath of the President's leaked phonecall with the Secretary of State. Johnson is one of many to publically criticise Trump for attempting to pressure Brad Raffensperger into overturning the election result. 

A House Censure holds no legally-binding power but serves as the highest form of official rebuke the body can serve the president short of filing articles of impeachment. With just days of the Trump presidency remaining it will make little material difference, but demonstrates the strength of feeling in Georgia. 

Breakdown of leaked Trump audio

The President's conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was first released by the Washington Post earlier today and already the hashtag 'TrumpTapes' is trending on social media around the world. 

As well as asking the state election officials to "find" the 11,780 votes needed to overturn the election, Trump also has his conspiracy theories dismissed by those on the call. Many elected officials have already come out to decry the President, but Trump himself is yet to comment on the recording. 

Former Georgia House Leader pushes focus to the election

President Trump has once again stolen the headline today as audio emerges of him attempting to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into overturning the state's election result. This will understandably draw the ire of residents just two days before the all-important Senate runoff election. 

But former Rep. Stacey Abrams, who represented the state of Georgia from 2007 to 2017, has called on Georgians to focus on the election instead. Over 3 million residents have already utilised early voting, and pollsters are expecting a record turnout as the Peach State decides the balance of power in Congress. 

Confirmation of Pelosi's victory in House leadership vote

The House of Representatives has just voted in favour of incumbent Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who will continue her role in the new Congress. She secured seven more seats than Republican challenger Kevin McCarthy, who has been House Minority Leader since 2019

Dem. Nancy Pelosi to return as Speaker of the House

Dem. Nancy Pelosi to return as Speaker of the House

Nancy Pelosi has secured the votes she needed to win the Speaker's gavel (more than 214 votes). 

Pelosi, the only woman to serve as speaker, was reelected by a narrow margin in a closely divided House. The final vote came hours after it began as lawmakers were forced to vote in groups of about 72, a precaution dictated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Two Democrats voted against Pelosi today during the speaker vote. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine voted for Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

Democrats are poised to have the slimmest House majority of either party in 20 years, beginning the session with a 222-to-211 advantage.

 

Senator Cornyn tells Pence they'll "get through" 6 January election certification

Senator Cornyn tells Pence they'll "get through" 6 January election certification

After his mock swearing-in Sunday in the Old Senate Chamber, top Republican Sen. John Cornyn said to Vice President Mike Pence that he told his Chief of Staff Marc Short, “we’re gonna spend a lot of quality time together on Wednesday,” according to CNN.

“I’ll be there. I'll be there, sir,” Pence replied.

Cornyn laughed and added: “We’ll get through it."

The Texas Republican was referring to the joint session of Congress that Pence will preside over on 6 Jan where they’ll meet to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win, and challenges to the results are expected.

Trump pleads with Raffensperger to "find" Georgia votes

President Donald Trump has called on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" the 11,780 votes needed to overturn the election result.

Watch live on CNN as vote on Speaker of the House of Representatives takes place. Democrat Pelosi is running against Republican Kevin McCarthy.

LIVE: Nancy Pelosi expected to return as Speaker of House

Watch live on CNN as vote on Speaker of the House of Representatives takes place. Democrat Pelosi is running against Republican Kevin McCarthy.

Georgia Congresswoman-elect calls Trump audio "desperate attacks on Georgia's voters"

The newest member of Congress for the state of Georgia, Carolyn Bordeaux, has called for officials to stand up to Trump's attempts to "subvert democracy" in his final days in office.

Bordeaux, responding to the telephone call audio in which the President asked Georgia Sec of State to "find" the 11,780 votes needed to overturn the election result, accused Trump of "bullying and strong-arming our election officials". 

Former US Attorney describes incriminating Trump call as typical

Preet Bharara served as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York during the Obama administration and was sacked during Trump's time in office for refusing to submit his resignation. Bharara has said that he refused to engage with the President via telephone in 2017 because of his shady telephone dealings

In a call with Secretary of State for Georgia Brad Raffensperger, Trump said: "I just want to find 11,780 votes", which would be enough to flip the state in his favour. He went on to list a number of baseless conspiracy theories, and appeared to threaten the Sec of State and his lawyer with legal action. 

Audio emerges of Trump encouraging Sec of State to "recalculate" election results

The Washington Post has released audio purporting to be from President Trump's call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he calls for the election result in the state to be "recalculated" to flip the result to a Trump victory. 

Trump says: "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state". During the call the President claims to have "heard rumours" that there were issues with the voting machines, which Raffensperger flatly denied. 

Fauci: Trump's covid-19 claims are inaccurate

Two top U.S. health officials on Sunday disputed a claim by President Donald Trump that federal data on covid-19 cases and deaths in the United States is overblown, and both expressed optimism that the pace of vaccinations is picking up.

"The deaths are real deaths," Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABC News’ This Week, adding that jam-packed hospitals and stressed-out healthcare workers are "not fake. That’s real.”

Fauci and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, defended the accuracy of coronavirus data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after Trump attacked the agency’s tabulation methods.

On Twitter, Trump had claimed that the number of deaths in the US was "far exaggerated" in comparison "to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurately and low."

The US has surpassed 20 million coronavirus cases, and over 350,000 deaths

Former Rep. Abrams predicts "tough battle" for the Senate

Stacey Abrams represented the state of Georgia from 2007 to 2017 and served as leader of the Georgia House of Representative for a decade. Speaking on CNN she said that she anticipates a tough fight for the state's two Senate seats. 

A record-breaking 3 million residents have already cast their vote for the 5th January election, and both parties are desperate to secure the two seats, and therefore control of the Senate. 

117th Congressional session begins today

Lawmakers are back in the Capitol after the 116th Congress was adjourned "sine die", meaning with no time set. Congresswoman Lauren Underwood will be representing Illinois in the 117th Congress which got underway at noon today.

Ahead of the Georgia Senate runoff elections the Upper House begins with a 51-48 split in favour of the Republican Party, with Senate candidate Kelly Loeffler remaining in her role for now. Vice President Mike Pence will swear in the new members in his role as President of the Senate. 

Georgia Sec of State dismisses Trump claim

Just days from the all-important Georgia Senate runoff election and the Secretary of State has publically contradicted the President's claim of electoral fraud. Trump has tried numerous times to contest the state's election result but was unsuccessful. 

Speaking to Fox News yesterday, Raffensperger said of the claims: "We did an audit of the race -- President Trump still lost. Then we did a full recount -- President Trump still lost ... people have to realize that you have to get out and vote, and that's how you win elections"

Going the extra mile is not always a plus

Senator Ted Cruz has thrown his support behind the push by a group of Republicans to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.

Trump's efforts, whether genuine or just a mechanism for him to stay the focus of attention and in the meantime allowing him to persuade people to covertly donate hundreds of millions of dollars to his coffers, have encouraged other high ranking Reublicans to take a stand.

It's as though they don't believe the US judiciary were fair to throw out 60 or so cases to the same effect.

Here's the plan:

Biden with a big win

A reminder, it's unfortunate it is needed, that Biden's win was significant and all bodies involved in the election certified the results.

Ossoff

Record number of early voters in Georgia

(Reuters) - A record 3 million early votes have been cast in the two Georgia runoff elections that next week will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, according to a final tally released on Friday.

The turnout figures, compiled by the University of Florida's U.S. Elections Project, indicate strong voter interest in Tuesday's elections that pit incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

If Republicans win one or both of those seats, they will retain a slim majority in the U.S. Senate, enabling them to block much of incoming Democratic President Joe Biden's agenda.

If Democrats win both seats, the chamber will be split 50-50, giving the tiebreaking vote to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Biden and Harris are due to take office on Jan. 20.

The 3,001,017 early votes amount to 38.8% of all registered voters in the state, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

That puts turnout at a record high for a Georgia runoff, exceeding the 2.1 million ballots cast in a 2008 Senate contest.

The runoff elections are necessary because no candidate won more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 3 election.

Early voting ended on Thursday. Georgia releases information about the number of people who voted but does not tally their votes until Election Day.

Perdue

US Congress facing uncertainties on Sunday

Reuters - The new US Congress faces many uncertainties as it takes office on Sunday, with Senate control undecided, a narrower Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and Republicans planning an immediate fight over the normally routine election certification.

Democrats lost 11 House of Representatives seats in the November elections, leaving them with a narrow 222-212 majority that gives Speaker Nancy Pelosi little room to maneuver in her first task of being re-elected as the chamber's leader.

The Senate remains Republican-run ahead of twin elections in Georgia on Tuesday, giving its members a platform to again air President Donald Trump's baseless claims that his loss to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden was the result of fraud.

Multiple state and federal reviews have found no evidence of the sort of widespread fraud Trump claims, but a group of Republican senators plans to challenge the election result when they certify it on Wednesday.

The narrower balance of power in both chambers this year could also encourage moderates from each party to flex their political muscles, especially after Trump leaves the White House on Jan. 20 and Biden, who ran as a centrist, takes office.

A smaller Democratic majority and the still-raging coronavirus pandemic could make it trickier for Pelosi, 80, to lock down her re-election to that post, although Pelosi and her lieutenants say they are confident she will succeed.

A smaller caucus means less room for dissident Democrats to vote against Pelosi without risking the possibility that Republican leader Kevin McCarthy wins the speakership instead.

"I think she'll have the votes," Pelosi's number two, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, told reporters last week. "We didn't ... work as hard as we worked to maintain the majority so we could set policy, to give that up."

The coronavirus could be a wild card affecting attendance in Congress on Sunday. In the Senate, Republicans will have the majority at the opening session on Sunday.

The term of Georgia Republican senator, David Perdue, has expired, so he must wait for Tuesday's results to know whether he can re-occupy his seat. A Republican win of one or both Georgia seats would cement the Republican majority led by Mitch McConnell.

Twin Democratic wins in Georgia would produce a 50-50 Senate, where Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would hold the tie-breaking once she is sworn in on January 20.

US surpasses 350,000 covid-19 deaths

The United States has now surpassed 350,000 covid-19 deaths. (Johns Hopkins University)

False claims about Washington DC shutdown for Trump rally

Huge protests have been planned in Washington DC on 6 January in support of President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election results. It has been claimed on social media that DC mayor Muriel Bowser had ordered  "all hotels restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores to close Jan 4th, 5th and 6th to Discourage TRUMP supporters from gathering in D.C." - claims that were declared false by USA TODAY: who explained: "A recent executive order closes indoor dining, libraries and museums, while hotels, convenience stores and grocery stores are still open. The order was issued because COVID-19 cases were rising. The restrictions took effect in December and last through mid-January, not just on the days of the demonstrations".

Georgia

US Senate control and Biden's agenda at stake as Georgia runoff elections loom

(Reuters) - Control of the U.S. Senate – and with it, the likely fate of President-elect Joe Biden's legislative agenda – will be on the ballot on Tuesday when voters in Georgia decide twin runoff elections.

The high-stakes campaign that has unfolded since 3 November, when Biden defeated President Donald Trump in the presidential election, has obliterated spending records and spurred unprecedented turnout. Political groups have flooded the southern state with a tsunami of television advertising.

Both Biden, a Democrat, and Trump, a Republican, will visit on Monday, underscoring the political stakes of the contests. If either or both Republican incumbent senators – David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – win on Tuesday, their party would retain a narrow majority, effectively giving Senate Republicans veto power over Biden's most ambitious goals. A Democratic sweep would produce a 50-50 split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaker that determines control.

Democrat Jon Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, is challenging Perdue, while the Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at the historic Black church Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, will take on Loeffler.

Biden's narrow Georgia victory in November – the first in a generation for a Democratic presidential candidate – completed the state's shift from a Republican stronghold to a fiercely competitive battleground. The 5 January head-to-head runoffs were triggered when no candidate reached 50% in either race in November. Polls suggest the contests are virtual dead heats. Early voting has shattered runoff records, with 3 million ballots already cast.

Vandals attack Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell's homes

The homes of Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell were targetted by vandals on Saturday, both being daubed with graffiti. McConnell's home in Louisville, Kentucky was sprayed with messages apparently protesting against his refusal to increase Covid aid payments from $600 to $2,000. Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home was also attacked - a pig’s head was left outside and messages such as “cancel rent” and “We want everything” sprayed onto walls and the garage door.

Georgia senate races were "illegal and invalid" claims Trump

Donald Trump declared that next week's Georgia Senate runoff elections are “both illegal and invalid,” even as he has been seeking to drum up support from voters to get behind GOP senators seeking reelection. "Before even discussing the massive corruption which took place in the 2020 Election, which gives us far more votes than is necessary to win all of the Swing States (only need three), it must be noted that the State Legislatures were not in any way responsible for the massive changes made to the voting process, rules and regulations, many made hastily before the election, and therefore the whole State Election is not legal or Constitutional. Additionally, the Georgia Consent Decree is Unconstitutional & the State 2020 Presidential Election is therefore both illegal and invalid, and that would include the two current Senatorial Elections. In Wisconsin, Voters not asking for applications invalidates the Election. All of this without even discussing the millions of fraudulent votes that were cast or altered!” Trump tweeted yesterday.

More GOP lawmakers join Trump effort to undo Biden win

(AP) A growing number of Republican lawmakers are joining President Donald Trump’s extraordinary effort to overturn the election, pledging to reject the results when Congress meets next week to count the Electoral College votes and certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Saturday announced a coalition of 11 senators and senators-elect who have been enlisted for Trump’s effort to subvert the will of American voters.

This follows the declaration from Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who was the first to buck Senate leadership by saying he would join with House Republicans in objecting to the state tallies during Wednesday’s joint session of Congress. Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat is tearing the party apart as Republicans are forced to make consequential choices that will set the contours of the post-Trump era. Hawley and Cruz are both among potential 2024 presidential contenders.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had urged his party not to try to overturn what nonpartisan election officials have concluded was a free and fair vote.

The 11 senators largely acknowledged Saturday they will not succeed in preventing Biden from being inaugurated on Jan. 20 after he won the Electoral College 306-232. But their challenges, and those from House Republicans, represent the most sweeping effort to undo a presidential election outcome since the Civil War.

What is Trump doing during his last days in office?

President Donald Trump cut short his Christmas retreat to Mar-a-Lago to return to the White House early. He has plenty to keep him occupied over the next fortnight.

Read more:

GOP suit requesting that VP Pence overturn election rejected in court

(Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Saturday rejected a Republican congressman’s bid to allow Vice President Mike Pence to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 election victory in favor of President Donald Trump.

In a brief order, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s decision on Friday to toss U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert’s lawsuit, which had argued that Pence had the power to invalidate Biden’s win when Congress meets to certify the results on Wednesday.

Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede to Biden, claiming without evidence that his victory was due to widespread fraud. Dozens of election officials and judges around the country have dismissed Trump’s allegations.

Hello & welcome: relief bill and second stimulus check updates

Hello and welcome to our live blog on the third day of 2021, where we will be bringing you the latest developments on the $900bn coronavirus relief bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law exactly one week ago.

The package included a provision for $600 stimulus checks but House Democrats, with the support of Trump and President-elect Joe Biden, passed a separate bill to raise that amount to $2,000 per individual as the covid-19 crisis continues to hit workers and small businesses in the pocket

However, Senate Republicans led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have blocked a vote in the upper chamber with McConnell describing the likelihood of it passing as "unrealistic." Senior Republicans have pointed to the strain on federal coffers while McConnell has tied any vote on the checks to the issues of the repeal of Section 230 and the convening of a committee to investigate election fraud.   

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