Biden Names Ambassadors for Mexico and Israel – The New York Times

Ken Salazar, who served as interior secretary in the Obama administration, was nominated by President Biden to be ambassador to Mexico.
Credit…David Zalubowski/Associated Press

President Biden on Tuesday announced his long-awaited first slate of ambassadors, including his nominees for key posts in Mexico and Israel, as he made his first trip abroad since taking office.

As was expected, Mr. Biden announced he was nominating Ken Salazar, a former senator of Colorado who served as secretary of the Interior Department in the Obama administration, as ambassador to Mexico, and Thomas R. Nides, a vice chairman at Morgan Stanley who served as a deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama, as ambassador to Israel.

The official announcements of the long-rumored nominations came as Mr. Biden traveled to Europe with the goal of demonstrating to global leaders that “America is back at the table.” Mr. Nides’s nomination also came just days after a new government took power in Israel, opening up the possibility of a less contentious relationship with the Biden administration.

Middle East experts praised the selection of Mr. Nides. “He has the relationships to quickly get access to the very top of the administration at the White House and the State Department,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official who is now director of the Middle East Security program at the Center for a New American Security.

Tuesday’s announcement was expected to be the first batch of a multiweek rollout of nominees. Some of Mr. Biden’s selections for the most significant posts abroad — including R. Nicholas Burns, a veteran Foreign Service officer and a former ambassador to NATO, to serve as ambassador to China, and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles to serve as ambassador to India — were not announced on Tuesday, even though several people familiar with the process said their nominations had been finalized internally.

A 5,000-square-foot mural seen on the facade of a building in Galveston, Texas, on the spot where Gordon Granger, a Union general, brought news of emancipation to the state’s enslaved Black people in 1865.
Credit…Montinique Monroe for The New York Times

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to recognize Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the United States, as a federal holiday.

Many states have recognized Juneteenth for decades, but only some observe it as an official holiday. The holiday is already celebrated in 47 states and the District of Columbia, but has yet to receive federal recognition as a national holiday.In the wake of protests against police brutality last year, dozens of companies moved to give employees the day off for Juneteenth, and the push for federal recognition of the day as a paid holiday gained new momentum.

I just put a bill on the floor of the Senate from @SenMarkey and @SenTinaSmith to make #Juneteenth a federal holiday.

It passed the Senate!

Next up: It should pass the House. Then to President Biden’s desk for signature.

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 15, 2021

The day, which is also known as Emancipation Day, recalls June 19, 1865, when Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans that the Civil War had ended and that they had been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The proclamation ended slavery only in states that had seceded; an end to slavery in the entire country waited until December 1865, when the 13th Amendment was adopted into the Constitution.

Texas was the first state to observe Juneteenth as an official holiday, starting in 1980.

BREAKING: The Senate just unanimously passed #S475 to establish Juneteenth National Independence Day (June 19) as a legal public holiday.

Juneteenth is one step closer to becoming a federal holiday.

— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) June 15, 2021

The latest effort to commemorate the day as a federal holiday came through a bill which the Senate passed unanimously on Tuesday. It heads to the House next. If it becomes law, it would be the 11th national holiday recognized annually by the federal government.

The vice president’s official residence at the Naval Observatory.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris threw a private dinner party at the Naval Observatory on Tuesday night for the 16 Democratic and eight Republican women serving as U.S. senators, a gathering that came at a tense moment in negotiations on a number of the Biden administration’s biggest ambitions.

The bipartisan dinner was the first social event Ms. Harris had hosted since coming into office five months ago — her move to the official vice-presidential residence was delayed for three months because of renovations — and the outreach to her former Senate colleagues came as Ms. Harris has taken the lead on the administration’s push to pass voting rights legislation.

All 24 women in the Senate were invited, according to an administration official. All but three — Cindy Hyde-Smith, Republican of Mississippi; Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming; and Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona — attended.

Photos posted online after the event by Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, showed about 20 of the senators seated together.

Ms. Stabenow posted a photo that showed the vice president giving a toast to the group, flanked by Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington. She also shared a photo of cheese puffs that she said Ms. Harris, known for her love of cooking, made from scratch for the group.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, was scheduled to appear on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News directly after the dinner to give viewers an “inside look at the event,” Mr. Hannity tweeted.

With just six weeks left before Congress’s August recess, the Biden agenda appears to be stalled while Republicans try to derail the president’s economic plans and delay any Democratic changes past the point where they can be implemented before the 2022 elections.

There are intraparty fights to deal with, as well. Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, remains opposed to the voting rights legislation that Ms. Harris is championing for the administration and to ending the Senate filibuster, which could be used to derail Biden priorities.

Two Democrats invited to the dinner, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, are part of a bipartisan group of senators that is negotiating an alternative to the president’s infrastructure plan that does not address key Democratic priorities, like climate change. The plan does not have the support of a majority of Republicans, and progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, have already come out against it.

Ms. Harris has not been a key player in infrastructure negotiations and was not known for her close relationships with colleagues on Capitol Hill during her four years in the Senate, a chunk of which she spent running for president.

But as vice president — and the tiebreaking vote in the evenly divided Senate — she has taken on some of the administration’s most difficult goals. Besides the voting rights push, Ms. Harris has also been tasked with stemming the flow of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border by addressing the root causes in countries like Guatemala that push migrants north.

The Biden administration suspended oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on June 1.
Credit…U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, via Associated Press

A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, in the first major legal roadblock for President Biden’s quest to cut fossil fuel pollution and conserve public lands.

Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted an injunction on Tuesday against the administration, pending the outcome of a separate legal challenge led by Jeff Landry, the Republican attorney general of Louisiana.

Mr. Landry and attorneys general from 12 other states, all Republicans, sued to lift a White House executive order issued in January that temporarily halted new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters.

Mr. Biden, who has made climate action central to his agenda, signed the order during his first week in office, a controversial act that he said would provide time to review leasing.

Judge Doughty ruled that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and her agency “are hereby enjoined and restrained from implementing the pause of new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters” until the states’ legal case against the administration is decided.

He wrote that the pause on new leasing should end nationwide and noted that such sweeping preliminary injunctions against federal actions were exceedingly rare. But he concluded that the 13 states had demonstrated that their economies could be irreparably harmed by the pause on drilling.

The 13 states have argued that the pause was illegal because it was issued without a formal public comment period. Joining Louisiana were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Chesley Sullenberger III, who safely landed a stricken plane in the Hudson River in 2009, is President Biden’s nominee as ambassador to the United Nations’ Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization. 
Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Chesley B. Sullenberger III gained fame in 2009 as Sully, the pilot whose nimble maneuvers safely landed a malfunctioning plane in the Hudson River.

On Tuesday, President Biden, in a likely nod to Mr. Sullenberger’s past, selected him as his nominee for ambassador to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency composed of 36 member states that develop policies and standards for global aviation.

Mr. Sullenberger was one of nine ambassador nominees Mr. Biden announced on Tuesday.

On Jan. 15, 2009, after his USAirways jetliner smacked into a flock of geese and lost power in both engines, Mr. Sullenberger deftly avoided densely populated areas, calmly warned passengers to brace themselves, and glided into the Hudson. All 155 aboard survived. Witnesses and officials at the time were incredulous.

“We’ve had a miracle on 34th Street,” Gov. David A. Paterson of New York said at a news conference afterward. “I believe now we’ve had a miracle on the Hudson.”

The landing inspired the 2016 movie “Sully,” directed by Clint Eastwood, and featuring Tom Hanks as the pilot.

Last September, Mr. Sullenberger urged people to vote against President Donald J. Trump, in an advertisement paid for by the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group created dissident Republican consultants.

“From my service as an Air Force officer and a fighter pilot, I knew that serving a cause greater than oneself is the highest calling,” Mr. Sullenberger said. “And it’s in that highest calling of leadership that Donald Trump has failed us so miserably.”

Madeleine Ngo

Supporters of President Donald J. Trump were met with teargas outside the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

The F.B.I. is pursuing potentially hundreds more suspects in the Capitol riot, the agency’s director told Congress on Tuesday, calling the effort to find those responsible for the deadly assault “one of the most far-reaching and extensive” investigations in the bureau’s history.

“We’ve already arrested close to 500, and we have hundreds of investigations that are still ongoing beyond those 500,” Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, told the House Oversight Committee.

His assurances of how seriously the agency was taking the attack by a pro-Trump mob came as lawmakers pressed him and military commanders on why they did not do more to prevent the siege despite threats from extremists to commit violence.

“The threats, I would say, were everywhere,” said Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat who is the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee. “The system was blinking red.”

Ms. Maloney confronted Mr. Wray with messages from the social media site Parler, which she said referred threats of violence to the F.B.I. more than 50 times before the attack on Jan. 6. One message, which Ms. Maloney said Parler had sent to an F.B.I. liaison on Jan. 2, was from a poster who warned, “Don’t be surprised if we take the Capitol building,” and “Trump needs us to cause chaos to enact the Insurrection Act.”

“I do not recall hearing about this particular email,” Mr. Wray replied. “I’m not aware of Parler ever trying to contact my office.”

In hearings before two congressional committees on Tuesday, lawmakers sought new information about the security failures that helped lead to the violence.

At one hearing, Ms. Maloney presented her committee’s research into the delayed response of the National Guard, which showed that the Capitol Police and Washington officials made 12 “urgent requests” for their support and that Army leaders told the National Guard to “stand by” five times as the violence escalated.

“That response took far too long,” Ms. Maloney said. “This is a shocking failure.”

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

President Biden arriving in Geneva, where he will meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden’s meeting on Wednesday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia will be tense and tightly choreographed, with no planned “breaking of bread” — underscoring a sharp departure from the chummy, unscripted, unsupervised interactions between Mr. Putin and President Donald J. Trump.

One of the main topics of the meeting in Geneva will be the future of the New Start treaty, which limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the flight from Brussels.

Mr. Biden plans to confront Mr. Putin, whom he has called a killer, about recent ransomware attacks on U.S. companies and government agencies, and he will demand that Moscow stop harboring criminal hacking groups operating on Russian soil. He will also outline responses if state-directed or private hacks emanating from Russia continue, the official said.

Mr. Biden is also likely to raise the issue of the detention of Aleksei A. Navalny, the ailing opposition leader.

“Nothing is off the table,” said the official, who cautioned that the White House was “not expecting a big set of deliverables” from the meeting.

It will be not for a lack of face time. The meeting, which will take place at the Villa La Grange, a sprawling 18th-century chateau set on the shore of Lake Geneva, is expected to last four or five hours, and maybe longer.

The event Wednesday is expected to begin at 1 p.m. local time with both men greeting President Guy Parmelin of Switzerland, followed by a smaller meeting between Mr. Biden, Mr. Putin, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, along with translators.

The group then expands to include other aides, although the size and duration of the session will be determined by events. Reporters and photographers will be allowed in at the top of the meeting, then ushered out when the principals get down to business.

No meals are planned, so there will be “no breaking of bread,” the official said.

Mr. Biden’s detailed itinerary — or even the existence of a detailed public schedule at all — marks a contrast from Mr. Trump’s unscripted conversations with Mr. Putin, which included a lengthy chat with the Russian leader in Hamburg in 2017, which was not disclosed until after the fact.

On Monday, Mr. Biden set a sober tone for the meeting, warning Mr. Putin that the death of Mr. Navalny, one of the Russian president’s most outspoken opponents, would hobble Russia’s already strained relationships with world leaders.

“Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights,” Mr. Biden said at a news conference following the NATO summit.

“It would be a tragedy,” he added. “It would do nothing but hurt his relationships with the rest of the world, in my view, and with me.”

People walk under Russian and American flags on a bridge in Geneva prior to a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Tuesday.
Credit…Sean Gallup/Getty Images

For 70 years, meetings between American presidents and Soviet or Russian leaders were dominated by one looming threat: the vast nuclear arsenals that the two nations started amassing in the 1940s, as instruments of intimidation and, if deterrence failed, mutual annihilation.

Now, as President Biden prepares to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin in Geneva on Wednesday, for the first time cyberweapons are being elevated to the top of the agenda.

The shift has been brewing for a decade, as Russia and the United States, the two most skilled adversaries in the cyberarena, have each turned to a growing arsenal of techniques in what has become a daily, low-level conflict. But at summits, that sort of jousting was usually treated as a sideshow to the main superpower competition.

No more. The rising tempo and sophistication of recent attacks on U.S. infrastructure — from petroleum pipelines running up the East Coast, to plants providing a quarter of America’s beef, to the operations of hospitals and the internet itself — has revealed a set of vulnerabilities no president can ignore.

Aides to Mr. Biden say he and Mr. Putin will spend a good amount of time debating “strategic stability,” shorthand for containing nuclear escalation. But the more immediate task, Mr. Biden told his allies at a Group of 7 summit in Cornwall, England, last week and a NATO meeting in Brussels, is to convince Mr. Putin he will pay a high price for playing the master of digital disruption.

It will not be easy. If a decade of intensifying cyberconflict has taught anything, it is that the traditional tools of deterrence have largely failed.

Mr. Biden has made clear that he intends to give Mr. Putin a choice: Cease the attacks, and crack down on the cybercriminals operating from Russian territory, or face a rising set of economic costs and what Mr. Biden calls a set of moves by the United States to “respond in kind.” But on Sunday, while still at the Group of 7 summit in Cornwall, he acknowledged that Mr. Putin may well ignore him.

The White House on the Fourth of July last year.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

The White House will host a 1,000-person gathering on the South Lawn on the Fourth of July, a celebratory display meant to signal that President Biden delivered on a promise that Americans could expect to return to some semblance of normal life by the holiday.

Essential workers and military families will be invited to participate in the South Lawn event, and administration officials have encouraged local leaders to hold their own celebrations: “America is headed into a summer dramatically different from last year. A summer of freedom. A summer of joy. A summer of reunions and celebrations,” an email circulated to local leaders by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs said.

The National Parks Service announced that visitors are encouraged to attend a holiday fireworks display on the National Mall and that all nearby monuments will be open. (Last year, attendees were advised to stay socially distanced and to avoid traveling into the capital.)

Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington also issued a statement that “D.C. is open and ready to welcome back visitors” for the holiday.

“We thank President Biden and his team for acting with urgency to get the vaccine to the American people so that we could save lives, get our country open, and celebrate together once again,” Ms. Bowser said.

The large celebration goes well beyond the scope of what Mr. Biden had promised three months ago. In a televised address in March to mark the anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the spread of the coronavirus a pandemic, Mr. Biden said the country could expect to celebrate with friends and family on the Fourth of July, as long as they took the chance to get vaccinated and did not prematurely abandon mask wearing, social distancing and other measures to contain the virus.

“July 4th with your loved ones is the goal,” he said. “This is not the time to let up.”

The modest expectations Mr. Biden laid out in his speech have given way to the largest planned event of his presidency, one designed to emphasize the speed with which the Biden administration has gotten shots in arms. Still, with a recent slowdown in vaccination rates, particularly in Southern states, Biden may not reach his goal of 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4. If the pace of adult vaccination continues on the seven-day average, the nation will come in just shy of Mr. Biden’s target, with roughly 67 percent of adults partly vaccinated by July 4, according to a New York Times analysis.

In recent days, administration officials have subtly started to shift their responses when asked if that goal will still be met.

“There’s no question it’s a bold and ambitious goal,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary told reporters last week. “Regardless of where we are on July 4th, we’re not shutting down shop. On July 5th, we’re going to continue to press to vaccinate more people across the country.”

Still, Mr. Biden has acknowledged the tremendous loss that Americans had endured during the pandemic, as the United States neared 600,000 virus deaths.

“I know that black hole that seems to consume you, that fills up your chest when you lose someone that’s close to you, that you adored,” he said Monday in Brussels.

He continued: “Please get vaccinated as soon as possible. We’ve had enough pain.”

Lazaro Gamio and Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

Lina Khan, 32, was confirmed to a seat on the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday, and is expected to be named as its chairwoman. 
Credit…Pool photo by Graeme Jennings

President Biden has named Lina Khan, a prominent critic of Big Tech, as the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, according to two people with knowledge of the decision, a move that signals that the agency is likely to crack down further on the industry’s giants.

Ms. Khan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier in the day, the Senate voted 69 to 28 to confirm Ms. Khan to a seat at the commission, which investigates antitrust violations, deceptive trade practices and data privacy lapses in Silicon Valley.

Mr. Biden’s decision caps an unusually rapid ascent for Ms. Khan, 32. She graduated from Yale’s law school in 2017 and was the first full-time hire at a think tank program that became the Open Markets Institute, a group of writers and researchers that helped elevate concerns about corporate consolidation into a mainstream issue in Washington.

In her new role at the F.T.C., Ms. Khan will lead efforts to regulate the kind of behavior highlighted for years by critics of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple. She told a Senate committee in April that she was worried about the way tech companies could use their power to dominate new markets. She first attracted notice as a critic of Amazon. The F.T.C. is investigating the retail giant, and filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook last year.

Many of the buildings in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, still show scars from the country’s 1990s civil war. 
Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The Pentagon is developing a proposal to send dozens of Special Forces trainers back to Somalia to help local forces combat Al Shabab, the terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda — a step that would partly reverse President Donald J. Trump’s abrupt pullout of nearly all 700 American troops from the country in January.

Mr. Trump’s order to withdraw ground forces from Somalia underscored his desire to end long-running military engagements against Islamist insurgencies in dysfunctional states in Africa and the Middle East, a grinding mission of low-intensity warfare that has spread since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The desire by some military policymakers to return to Somalia offers a glimpse into the challenges the Pentagon could face in advising Afghan forces from a distance after carrying out President Biden’s order to withdraw the last 3,500 American troops from Afghanistan, especially if the Taliban then make serious gains there.

John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on the Somalia proposal.

The proposal has not yet been presented to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, officials said, and it is not clear whether Mr. Biden will approve such a plan.

President Biden’s administration placed new limits on such strikes when he took office on Jan. 20, to allow time to develop a permanent policy.

A confluence of events in Somalia, including political infighting among factions and the withdrawal of most American troops, has emboldened Al Shabab in the past several months and worsened what tenuous security existed in many parts of the country, senior American officials said.

In the latest attack, at least 10 people were killed and 20 injured on Tuesday when a suicide bomber struck a military camp in Mogadishu, partly run by Turkey, where dozens of young recruits had gathered.

President Biden at a news conference at the Group of 7 summit in Cornwall, England, on Sunday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden on Tuesday announced the end of a bitter, 17-year dispute with the European Union over aircraft subsidies for Boeing and Airbus, suspending the threat of billions of dollars in punitive tariffs on each other’s economies for five years and shifting their focus to China’s growing ambitions in the aircraft industry.

The breakthrough came as Mr. Biden met top European leaders in a U.S.-E.U. summit meeting. European officials said that two days of negotiations in Brussels between Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, and Valdis Dombrovskis, the E.U. trade commissioner, had finally produced an agreement that member countries approved overnight.

After the meeting, Mr. Biden flew to Geneva, where he will meet President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday. Mr. Biden will be able to present himself there as the leader of the Western democracies, having first been to summit meetings of the Group of 7, NATO and now the European Union, where he has consulted extensively with allies.

At these meetings, he said, “I’ve been making the case that the U.S. and Europe — and democracies everywhere — are stronger when we work together to advance our shared values like fair competition and transparency,’’ Mr. Biden said in a statement. “Today’s announcement demonstrates exactly how that can work in practice.”

The agreement comes at a critical moment for both companies, which are struggling to overcome a slowdown caused by the pandemic.

Both sides had already begun unwinding the subsidies, with Washington repealing a state tax break for Boeing last year, while Airbus had said that it would increase repayments of low-cost loans it received from multiple E.U. countries.

Then Attorney General William P. Barr with Mr. Trump on September 1st, 2020.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

An hour before President Donald J. Trump announced in December that William P. Barr would step down as attorney general, the president began pressuring Mr. Barr’s eventual replacement to have the Justice Department take up his false claims of election fraud.

Mr. Trump sent an email via his assistant to Jeffrey A. Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, that contained documents purporting to show evidence of election fraud in northern Michigan — the same claims that a federal judge had thrown out a week earlier in a lawsuit filed by one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers.

Another email from Mr. Trump to Mr. Rosen followed two weeks later, again via the president’s assistant, that included a draft of a brief that Mr. Trump wanted the Justice Department to file to the Supreme Court. It argued, among other things, that state officials had used the pandemic to weaken election security and pave the way for widespread election fraud.

The draft echoed claims in a lawsuit in Texas by the Trump-allied state attorney general that the justices had thrown out, and a lawyer who had helped on that effort later tried with increasing urgency to track down Mr. Rosen at the Justice Department, saying he had been dispatched by Mr. Trump to speak with him.

The emails, turned over by the Justice Department to investigators on the House Oversight Committee and obtained by The New York Times, show how Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Rosen to put the power of the Justice Department behind lawsuits that had already failed to try to prove his false claims that extensive voter fraud had affected the election results.

They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s frenzied drive to subvert the election results in the final weeks of his presidency, including ratcheting up pressure on the Justice Department. And they show that Mr. Trump flouted an established anticorruption norm that the Justice Department act independently of the White House on criminal investigations or law enforcement actions, a gap that steadily eroded during Mr. Trump’s term.

The documents dovetail with emails around the same time from Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, asking Mr. Rosen to examine unfounded conspiracy theories about the election, including one that claimed people associated with an Italian defense contractor were able to use satellite technology to tamper with U.S. voting equipment from Europe.

Former President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin walked together at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in 2019.
Credit…Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Ahead of President Biden’s summit on Wednesday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in an 18th-century villa, Republicans in Congress and conservative media outlets like Fox News have coalesced around a succinct line of attack: Mr. Biden is weak when it comes to dealing with the Russian leader.

Some of Mr. Biden’s most prominent critics, however, neglect to mention their backing of President Donald J. Trump as he spent four years seeking to befriend Mr. Putin, dismissing Russia’s aggressive behavior and complaining that a “Deep State” and other Washington actors were preventing him from striking deals with Moscow.

On Tuesday, shortly before Mr. Biden departed on Air Force One from Brussels for Geneva, where he will meet with Mr. Putin for the first time in more than a decade, the website of Fox News published an opinion essay by Mike Pompeo, who served as secretary of state under Mr. Trump, arguing that Mr. Biden “shows up with a self-dealt weak hand.”

The idea that Mr. Biden is no match for the Russian has been a regular theme on the network’s programming in recent weeks.

On his prime-time program Monday night, the Fox host Sean Hannity declared that Mr. Putin “will see firsthand how weak Joe is,” adding that “Putin loves a weak America and a weak American president.”

During the Trump years, both men — along with many other prominent conservatives — to varying degrees defended or excused Mr. Trump’s approach to Mr. Putin, whom U.S. intelligence concluded had ordered a campaign to interfere in the 2016 American election.

“We are the toughest administration ever on Russia,” Mr. Pompeo insisted during Senate testimony last July, citing sanctions that were imposed on Moscow, often with Mr. Trump’s grudging approval at best.

In recent weeks, many other Republicans, not all of whom defended Mr. Trump’s approach, have charged that Mr. Biden has been soft on Russia. Many have cited Mr. Biden’s decision last month to waive Congressional sanctions on the Russian company behind the Nord Stream 2 oil and gas pipeline and the company’s German chief executive.

Opponents of the pipeline say that it gives Mr. Putin needed new revenues and dangerous control over Europe’s energy supplies. Mr. Biden had opposed the pipeline, but in the end gave in to the arguments of supporters, including Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who contend that the risks are overblown.

The pipeline, mostly built during the Trump era, was about 95 percent complete by the time Mr. Biden took office, and it was unclear whether he could have stopped it even if he tried. In explaining his decision, Mr. Biden said that imposing the sanctions would be “counterproductive in terms of our European relations.”

“We’re rewarding Putin with a summit? Instead of treating Putin like a gangster who fears his own people, we’re giving him his treasured Nord Stream 2 pipeline and legitimizing his actions with a summit,” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said in a May 25 statement. Mr. Sasse was a harsh critic of Mr. Trump.

But his critique reflected wide sentiment within the Republican Party and among allies of Mr. Trump.

“Biden is weak. Putin knows it,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, tweeted on June 2.

The White House rejects the notion that the meeting with Mr. Putin amounts to a concession, and privately officials say the problem with Mr. Trump’s meetings with the Russian leader was not that they took place but what they said was Mr. Trump’s obsequious approach.

In a briefing this month, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said that Mr. Biden “is never one to hold back on areas where he has concern, areas where he feels the actions of the Russian government or Russian leadership are hurting the United States. And he certainly has no intention of holding back during this meeting, publicly or privately.”

The border wall in Yuma, Ariz., last month.
Credit…Ariana Drehsler for The New York Times

A nonpartisan federal government watchdog on Tuesday found no wrongdoing in President Biden’s decision in January to pause spending on the border wall with funds that Congress allocated during the Trump administration.

The review by the Government Accountability Office, requested by a group of Republican lawmakers, affirms the legality of Mr. Biden’s approach to the politically divisive project along the southwestern border.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and 39 other Republican senators argued earlier this year that Mr. Biden’s decision to pause spending on the border wall was no different than the Trump administration’s withholding of military aid for Ukraine in 2019. The House in 2019 impeached former President Donald J. Trump over the scandal, and he was acquitted in the subsequent Senate trial.

In January 2020, the G.A.O. found that the Trump White House violated the 1974 Impoundment Control Act when it withheld nearly $400 million in security funds that Congress had already allocated for Ukraine. But in this case, the office determined that Mr. Biden’s decision regarding the border wall funding was rooted in legal requirements.

The Biden administration, the G.A.O. found, has “shown that the use of funds is delayed in order to perform environmental reviews and consult with various stakeholders, as required by law, and determine project funding needs in light of changes that warrant using funds differently than initially planned.”

Delaying the wall funding was permissible because of “the time required to meet applicable statutory requirements and develop plans for the use of the funds that consider current circumstances,” the G.A.O. said in its decision.

Last week, the administration announced that $2.2 billion in funds for the wall would be redirected to the Defense Department for military construction projects. And Mr. Biden did not ask for any funding for wall construction in his 2022 budget request.

Republicans have pointed to the record numbers of migrants who have been arriving at the southern border in the spring as a crisis of Mr. Biden’s own making — in part because he stopped construction of the border wall.

“G.A.O.’s decision today makes clear that there are two sets of rules when it comes to executing funds appropriated by Congress: one for Democrat administrations and one for Republican administrations,” Ms. Capito said in a statement with Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, on Tuesday.

Ms. Capito is a member of the Senate appropriations subcommittee; Mr. Shelby is the vice-chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Senator Joe Manchin III, above right, skipped a lunch on Tuesday during which Texas Democrats described their fight to ward off a state bill that would restrict voting. 
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Tuesday’s Senate Democratic lunch was supposed to be a homecoming of sorts — but an uncomfortable one for Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

He didn’t show up.

For the first time in a year, Senate Democrats — newly freed from pandemic precautions that prevented their weekly lunch for more than a year — convened in the ornate room in the Capitol named after a former majority leader, Mike Mansfield, just off the Senate floor, to hash out the issues facing the caucus. Front and center was the escalating pressure from Democrats nationwide to push forward with a far-reaching congressional voting-rights bill to counter restrictive ballot access laws that are streaming through Republican-held state capitals.

Mr. Manchin, as the only Democrat in the Senate who has refused to sign on to the bill, was supposed to be in the hot seat. His absence suggested that he was sticking by his opposition.

As part of a series of meetings designed to rally support for the legislation, Senate leaders had brought in Democratic members of the Texas Legislature to make the case for why the bill, known as the For the People Act, is urgently needed. The Texans managed to stave off passage of a state voter restriction bill last month with a dramatic late-night walkout, but that stunt cannot stave off the bill’s eventual passage if the Republican majority in Austin remains united. Many Democrats argue that only the enactment of superseding federal legislation mandating extended voting hours and mail-in balloting, as the party’s bill would do, could accomplish that.

Texas Democrats pleaded for the federal cavalry to ride in.

“We heard really moving testimony from five Texas state lawmakers about the vicious, nasty and bigoted attacks aimed at voting rights in their state,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said afterward. “These Texas Democrats bravely fought against voter suppression. They briefed our senators on what’s happening in their state and why passing legislation is so important.”

The Texans were largely preaching to the converted. Forty-nine Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have signed on as co-sponsors of the measure, also known as S1. The bill, which also covers presidential ethics and campaign finance, is slated to face a test vote in the Senate later this month.

The 50th vote is the problem; Mr. Manchin has said in no uncertain terms that he will not vote for the bill, nor will he vote to end the legislative filibuster in the Senate, an equally necessary step, since Democrats have no hope of getting enough Republican support to come up with the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said no senator from his party would vote for what they see as a power grab by Democrats to seize control of election laws from the states.

“The core desire they have is to federalize all elections, to try to achieve a benefit for the Democrats, at the expense of the Republicans,” he said.

Some senators on the Democratic side have expressed qualms at the bill’s scope. Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he had issues with the breadth of the bill, and would favor jettisoning some parts of it, especially a provision that would begin taxpayer financing of elections.

But Democrats say first things first, and the first step is to try to get Mr. Manchin to co-sponsor the bill and present at least the veneer of a united Democratic front.

A QAnon flag in the crowd along the National Mall on July 4, 2019. The conspiracy theory has grown in popularity.
Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

The F.B.I. said this month that QAnon adherents could turn to violence as some of the conspiracy theory’s major predictions, including that Democrats would be subject to mass arrest and detention, have not come to pass.

The conspiracy theory holds that a corrupt cabal of global elites and career government employees who run a Satan-worshiping, child sex-trafficking ring will soon be rounded up and punished for their misdeeds; and that former President Donald J. Trump will be restored to the presidency.

QAnon has grown online, with believers watching message boards for new information and directives from Q, an anonymous figure who posts predictions and tells adherents to “trust the plan.”

But the arrests have not happened and Mr. Trump did not return to the White House as predicted this spring, sowing doubts among some believers whose once decentralized community is now a large, real-world and global movement.

The F.B.I. said in a June 4 threat assessment that as people increasingly believe that they can no longer “trust the plan,” they could be compelled to shift “towards engaging in real-world violence — including harming perceived members of the ‘cabal’ such as Democrats and other political opposition — instead of continually awaiting Q’s promised actions which have not occurred.”

The two-page bulletin was compiled by the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security, and was earlier reported by The Associated Press.

It said that other QAnon adherents may disengage from the movement or reduce their involvement now that several long-promised QAnon predictions had failed to materialize. And it said that major tech companies also helped people to disengage from the movement after they began to remove QAnon content.

The F.B.I. detailed instances when QAnon believers have turned to violence, noting that it had arrested more than 20 self-identified QAnon adherents who participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. A popular belief within QAnon was that the election had been stolen from Mr. Trump and that true patriots would fight to keep him in office.

The F.B.I. emphasized that believing in QAnon or consuming materials related to the conspiracy theory was activity protected by the First Amendment, and that the conspiracy theory falls under the purview of law enforcement only when adherents engage in violent or other illegal activity.

But the F.B.I. also said that the fact that some of the domestic violent extremists who participated in the Jan. 6 attack identified as QAnon adherents “underscores how the current environment likely will continue to act as a catalyst for some to begin accepting the legitimacy of violent action.”




Attorney General Details New Domestic Terrorism Strategy

Merrick B. Garland, the attorney general, outlined a strategy released by the Biden administration on Tuesday to counter heightened domestic terrorism threats in the United States, especially violence by white supremacists and militia groups.

The National Strategy is designed to coordinate and provide a principled path for the federal government’s efforts to counter the heightened domestic terrorism threat, using all available tools. Our current effort comes on the heels of another large and heinous attack, this time the Jan. 6 assault on our nation’s Capitol. We have now, as we had then, an enormous task ahead: to move forward as a country, to punish the perpetrators, to do everything possible to prevent similar attacks, and to do so in a manner that affirms the values on which our justice system is founded and upon which our democracy depends. According to an unclassified summary of the March intelligence assessment, the two most lethal elements of the domestic violence extremist threat are racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and militia violent extremists. And the F.B.I.’s view that top domestic violent extremist threat comes from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocated for the superiority of the white race. The strategy rests on four pillars, each of which is essential to support the whole: First, our efforts to understand and share information regarding the full range of domestic terrorism threats. Second, our efforts to prevent domestic terrorists from successfully recruiting, inciting and mobilizing Americans to violence. Third, our efforts to deter and disrupt domestic terrorist activity before it yields violence. And finally, the long-term issues that contribute to domestic terrorism in our country must be addressed to ensure that this threat diminishes over generations to come. We cannot prevent every attack. The only way to find sustainable solutions is not only to disrupt and deter, but also to address the root causes of violence.

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Merrick B. Garland, the attorney general, outlined a strategy released by the Biden administration on Tuesday to counter heightened domestic terrorism threats in the United States, especially violence by white supremacists and militia groups.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The Biden administration is aiming to bolster information sharing with technology companies, potentially expand hiring of intelligence analysts and improve screening of government employees for ties to domestic terrorism as part of a much-anticipated plan expected to be released on Tuesday detailing how the federal government should combat extremism.

President Biden ordered the review of how federal agencies addressed domestic extremism soon after coming into office, part of an effort to more aggressively acknowledge a national security threat that has grown since the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

The 32-page plan synthesizes steps that have been recommended by national security officials — including bolstering relationships with social media companies and improving information sharing among law enforcement agencies — into one blueprint on how to more effectively identify extremists in the country after years of heightened focus on foreign terrorists.

“We cannot ignore this threat or wish it away,” Mr. Biden wrote in the strategy document. “Preventing domestic terrorism and reducing the factors that fuel it demand a multifaceted response across the federal government and beyond.”

But the plan, titled “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism” and issued by the National Security Council, also left some questions unanswered.

The new strategy was widely expected to detail a position on whether the government should establish a domestic terrorism law that prosecutors could use to investigate and charge homegrown extremists instead of relying on assault, murder and hate crime charges. The strategy instead indicates that the administration is focused for now on bolstering methods of combating extremism already used by the government, despite Mr. Biden calling for such a law during the presidential campaign.

While there is increasing bipartisan support to equip prosecutors with more laws to crack down on extremists, civil rights advocates have expressed concern that new statutes would lead to government overreach and infringements on privacy rights. The administration referred the issue to the Justice Department for further review, according to the planning document.

“New criminal laws, in particular, should be sought only after careful consideration of whether and how they are needed to assist the government in tackling complex, multifaceted challenges like the one posed by domestic terrorism and only while ensuring the protection of civil rights and civil liberties,” according to the strategy document.