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On The Money: Trump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections | 2M more Americans file new jobless claims, pushing total past 40M | White House to forgo summer economic forecast amid COVID-19, breaking precedent

On The Money: Trump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections | 2M more Americans file new jobless claims, pushing total past 40M | White House to forgo summer economic forecast amid COVID-19, breaking precedent
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Happy Thursday and welcome back to On The Money. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL—Trump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections: President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE signed an executive order Thursday aimed at increasing the ability of the government to regulate social media platforms, a marked escalation of his lengthy feud with Silicon Valley over allegations of anti-conservative bias.

  • The brunt of the order is focused on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that gives platforms legal immunity for content posted by third-party users while also giving them cover to make good-faith efforts to moderate their platforms.
  • Trump's order directs an agency within the Commerce Department to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify the scope of Section 230, a proposition that has already drawn rebukes from the two Democratic members of the five-person commission.

Trump, joined by Attorney General William BarrBill BarrPolice accountability board concludes that Seattle police officers used excessive force during encounters with protesters Trump hasn't asked Barr to open investigation into Bidens, McEnany says Seattle, Portland, NYC sue Trump administration over threat to pull federal money MORE, addressed reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon before signing the executive order.

"We're here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly, and you know what's going on as well as anybody. It's not good," Trump told reporters.

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LEADING THE DAY

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2M more Americans file new jobless claims, pushing coronavirus toll past 40M: Roughly 2.1 million more Americans filed new claims for jobless benefits as President Trump and governors push some states to loosen coronavirus-related restrictions, according to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday.

  • In the week ending May 23, a seasonally adjusted 2,123,000 Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits, falling from a revised total of 2,446,000 applications filed the week before. 
  • The non-seasonally adjusted number of new jobless claims, which some economists deem a better gauge of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, totaled 1,914,958 in the week ending May 23.

Since the week ending March 22, more than 40 million Americans have filed initial claims for unemployment benefits as the spread of COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed to slow it forced thousands of businesses to close up shop. I have more on the data here.

White House to forgo summer economic forecast amid COVID-19, breaking precedent: The White House will not release an updated round of economic projections this summer, breaking from precedent as the U.S. faces its deepest downturn since the Great Depression, two administration officials familiar with the decision confirmed to The Hill on Thursday. 

  • The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), the internal White House economic team, will not release the typical midsummer review of its initial economic projections in July or August even as top Trump administration officials publicly predict a swift recovery from the crisis caused by COVID-19. 
  • The projections are typically produced jointly by the Office of Management and Budget, CEA and Treasury Department.
  • Administration officials say that the decision, first reported by The Washington Post, was made because the state of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in fluctuating economic data that would produce a forecast that could mislead the public. 

What’s going on: The rapidly evolving economic damage caused by COVID-19 has posed an enormous challenge to economists seeking to track its course. The unprecedented speed of the downturn and the uncertain path of the pandemic have forced forecasters to frequently update and revise their projections, typically toward deeper harm to the economy. 

  • A White House official noted that the CEA is under no legal obligation to release an updated version of its initial February forecast, which is released with the president’s annual budget proposal, and said the precedent of doing so is “dismissible” given the uncertainty facing the economy.
  • Even so, several other federal agencies and departments have charged ahead with their midyear projections, including the Federal Reserve and Congressional Budget Office.

The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and I have more here.

Markets fall as Trump plans to hold a news conference Friday on China: Markets reversed their morning gains and fell into negative territory on Thursday after President Trump announced he would hold a Friday news conference on China.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 148 points, or 0.6 percent, and the S&P 500 was down 6 points, or 0.2 percent.

Earlier in the day, markets seemed on track to close out a third day in a row of gains, even as new data showed an additional 2.1 million Americans filing for unemployment last week and first-quarter GDP contracting 5 percent.

Trump's announcement that he would hold a news conference sent jitters through the markets, raising concerns that escalating tensions could have an adverse economic impact.

The Hill’s Niv Elis tells us why here.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury Department announced Thursday that $10 billion of “round two” funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is being set aside for financial institutions focused on lending to low-income communities.
  • America's economy shrank at an annualized rate of 5 percent in the first quarter of the year, according to the Commerce Department's second estimate, more than the 4.8 percent level first announced.
  • Democratic lawmakers on a key House subcommittee are pressing the Treasury Department about the prepaid debit cards being used to deliver coronavirus relief payments to millions of Americans, saying that some taxpayers are concerned the cards are a scam.
  • Child care remains a central obstacle to reopening the economy as the school year ends and camps and summer programs remain on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Trump administration is making it easier for renewable energy projects to take advantage of certain tax credits amid the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Reuters: “The U.S. economy has likely bottomed, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan said on Thursday, but a healthy rebound depends on a massive increase in testing so that people feel comfortable resuming traveling, dining out and other pre-crisis activities.”
  • The New York Times: “Emergency programs have cushioned the shutdown’s impact on workers and businesses and lifted the economy, but may not outlast the coronavirus crisis.”

ODDS AND ENDS