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Live Updates: Biden Pursues Elusive Infrastructure Deal


President Biden and Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia in the Oval Office last month. The president has been meeting with Republicans in an effort to reach bipartisan agreement on his infrastructure proposal.
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

President Biden is set to take the first international trip of his term on Wednesday, but negotiations over the future of American roads, bridges and public works projects will be at the top of his agenda before he leaves.

Mr. Biden will talk on Monday with Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the Republican leading infrastructure negotiations with the White House. It will be their second discussion in three days, but a deal appears elusive so far.

The president on Friday dismissed a $50 billion increase to a $928 billion Republican counterproposal to his infrastructure plan, which he had recently narrowed in hopes of bipartisanship.

By Sunday, another West Virginian, Senator Joe Manchin III, said that he believed negotiations were continuing in good faith.

“I still have all the confidence in the world,” he told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “My goodness, the president has gone from $2.25 trillion down to $1 trillion. The Republicans have come up quite a bit from where they started.”

Mr. Manchin, a Democrat, declined to say how he would vote on a party-line infrastructure bill, saying that a bipartisan group of senators negotiating a deal that could get at least 60 votes were “not that far apart.” But he also wrote in The Charleston Gazette-Mail over the weekend that he would not vote for the Democrats’ far-reaching bill to combat voter suppression, nor would he ever end the legislative filibuster, a promise that imperils much of the president’s agenda.

Mr. Biden offered several concessions to Republicans last week to try to win a $1 trillion infrastructure deal that could receive bipartisan support. The president has now cut more than $1 trillion from his initial $2.3 trillion proposal, while Republicans have added less than $100 billion in new spending to their first offer.

But Republicans are still unhappy with Mr. Biden’s plan to fund the bill by increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, making a bipartisan agreement a long shot.

Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, hinted on Sunday that there was still interest among Democrats to jam a package through the Senate without Republican support.

“As our Democratic friends remind us, there is another way,” Mr. Buttigieg said in an appearance on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “But our strong preference is to do this on a bipartisan basis, especially because it’s a bipartisan priority.”

Vice President Kamala Harris and Pedro Brolo, Guatemala’s minister of foreign affairs, in Guatemala City on Sunday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

GUATEMALA CITY — During her first foreign trip as vice president, Kamala Harris is expected to detail efforts to combat trafficking and corruption in Guatemala in order to deter increasing migration that has emerged as one of the more politically contentious issues of the Biden administration, according to a senior administration official.

The trip will serve as an early yet pivotal test for a vice president with clear aspirations for higher office who is currently tasked with the complex challenge of breaking a cycle of migration from a region that has been plagued by corruption.

Ms. Harris met with President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday, and made her priorities clear.

“Most people don’t want to leave the place they grew up. Their grandmother. The place they prayed. The place where their language is spoken, their culture is familiar,” Ms. Harris said. “And when they do leave it usually has to do with two reasons. Either they are fleeing some harm or they simply cannot satisfy their basic needs.”

Ms. Harris was tapped by President Biden to invest in the region to discourage the vulnerable from making the dangerous journey north. Ms. Harris has already committed to sending $310 million to the region, part of a $4 billion, four-year plan to improve the economy in Central America that is at the center of the Biden administration’s strategy to deter migration. Last month, Ms. Harris’s team touted commitments from a dozen private companies, including Mastercard and Microsoft, to develop the economy in Central America.

The administration will also establish new facilities throughout Guatemala where people can learn about obtaining asylum protections in the Central American region, rather than traveling to the U.S. border.

Mr. Giammattei said that the two governments would need to find common ground to work together.

“From now on, I offer you the best, historic relationship that there can be between the United States and Guatemala, in which you will find a country that wishes to cooperate, a country that wishes to unite efforts,” he said.

But questions remain over how Ms. Harris will ensure U.S. aid reaches those who need it most as she works with a Guatemalan government that continues to target entities fighting corruption. Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, has expressed concern to the Guatemalan government about its criticism of a lead prosecutor in the region. Mr. Giammattei has accused the prosecutor of having a left-wing agenda.

Ms. Harris has faced political attacks from Republicans for her role in working with the Central American countries. At a recent news conference, a group of Republicans displayed a milk carton that had been mocked up to show a picture of Ms. Harris with the headline “MISSING AT THE BORDER.”

The Biden administration is expecting to record this year the most encounters at the border in two decades.

When Facebook and Twitter barred Donald J. Trump from their platforms after the Capitol riot in January, he lost direct access to his most powerful megaphones. On Friday, Facebook said the former president would not be allowed back on its service until at least January 2023, citing a risk to public safety.

Since his ban and President Biden’s inauguration, he has posted statements online far less often. But some of his statements have traveled just as far and wide on social networks.

The New York Times examined Mr. Trump’s nearly 1,600 social media posts from Sept. 1 to Jan. 8, the day Mr. Trump was banned from the platforms. We then tracked the social media engagement with the dozens of written statements he made on his personal website, campaign fund-raising site and in email blasts from Jan. 9 until May 5, the day that the Facebook Oversight Board, which reviews some content decisions by the company, said that the company acted appropriately in kicking him off the service.

Before the ban, the social media post with the median engagement generated 272,000 likes and shares. After the ban, that dropped to 36,000 likes and shares. Yet 11 of his 89 statements after the ban attracted as many likes or shares as the median post before the ban, if not more.

How does that happen?

The Global Disinformation Index, a nonpartisan nonprofit that studies disinformation, examined the political leanings of the top accounts sharing Mr. Trump’s statements online after he was barred from Facebook and Twitter. The group classified hundreds of accounts as either left- or right-leaning, or a mix of the two, relying on standards that it established through its work on disinformation risk ratings for news sites and other online media.

One thing that became immediately clear: Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters continue to spread his message — doing the work that he had been unable to do himself.

President Biden’s trip to Europe for meetings with the Group of 7, NATO, the European Union and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia will be more than symbolic.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Four years ago, European leaders were traumatized by President Donald J. Trump, who cheered Brexit and eviscerated NATO, declaring the alliance “obsolete,” calling member countries deadbeats and at first refusing to explicitly endorse NATO’s bedrock mutual defense principle.

As they prepare to welcome President Biden, the simple fact that he regards Europe as an ally and NATO as a vital element of Western security is almost a revelation. Yet the wrenching experience of the last presidential administration has left scars that some experts say will not soon heal.

As much as the Europeans appreciate Mr. Biden’s vows of constancy and affection, they have just witnessed how 75 years of American foreign policy can vanish overnight with a change in the presidency. And they fear that it can happen again — that America has changed, and that Mr. Biden is “an intermezzo” between more populist, nationalist presidents, said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, vice president of the German Marshall Fund.

Still, Mr. Biden’s visits to NATO on June 14 and then the European Union for brief summits, following his attendance at the Group of 7 in Britain, will be more than symbolic. The meetings are synchronized so that he can arrive in Geneva on June 16 with allied consultation and support for his first meeting as president with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“The hopeful, optimistic view is that Biden is kicking off a new relationship, showing faith in Brussels and NATO, saying the right words and kicking off the key strategic process” of renovating the alliance for the next decade, said Jana Puglierin, Berlin director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “But Biden also wants to see bang for the buck, and we need to show tangible results. This is not unconditional love, but friends with benefits.”

“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy,” Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia wrote.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia said on Sunday in no uncertain terms that he would not vote for the Democrats’ far-reaching bill to combat voter suppression, nor would he ever end the legislative filibuster, a written promise that imperils much of President Biden’s agenda.

The bill, which all the other Senate Democrats had rallied around as a moonshot bid to preserve American democracy, would roll back dozens of laws being passed by Republican state legislatures to limit early and mail-in voting and empower partisan poll watchers. The measure, known as the For the People Act, would also restore many of the ethical controls on the presidency that Donald J. Trump shattered.

In The Charleston Gazette-Mail, the newspaper of the capital of his home state, Mr. Manchin, a Democrat, wrote: “I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”

The 818-page bill would end partisan gerrymandering, tighten controls on campaign spending and ease voter registration. It would also force major-party candidates for president and vice president to release 10 years’ worth of personal and business tax returns and end the president’s and vice president’s exemption from conflict-of-interest rules, which allowed Mr. Trump to maintain businesses that profited off his presidency.

With Mr. Manchin’s vow, passage of the full For the People Act appears to be impossible, though parts of it could pass in other ways if Democrats are willing to break up the bill, a move that they have resisted. Mr. Manchin’s blockade of filibuster changes makes other Biden initiatives far less likely to pass, including any overhaul of immigration laws, a permanent expansion of the Affordable Care Act, controls of the price of prescription drugs and the most serious efforts to tackle climate change.

Mr. Manchin said instead that he would support passage of another bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore federal oversight over state-level voting law changes to protect minority groups that might be targeted. He cited one Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, as a supporter of the measure, which would give the Justice Department powers to police voting rights that the Supreme Court took away in 2013.

That decision freed nine states, mainly in the South, to change voting laws without pre-approval from Washington. After the 2020 election, many of those states — and several others — jumped at the chance, powered by the false claim that voting in November was rife with fraud.

But Mr. Manchin is still far short of the 60-vote threshold he backs to pass even that bill.

“I continue to engage with my Republican and Democratic colleagues about the value of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” he wrote, “and I am encouraged by the desire from both sides to transcend partisan politics and strengthen our democracy by protecting voting rights.”

An Afghan soldier flying over Helmand Province last month. Recent C.I.A. and military intelligence reports on Afghanistan have been increasingly pessimistic, highlighting gains by the Taliban.
Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

The rapid U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan is creating intense pressure on the C.I.A. to find new ways to gather intelligence and carry out counterterrorism strikes in the country, but the agency has few good options.

The C.I.A., which has been at the heart of the 20-year American presence in Afghanistan, will soon lose bases in the country from where it has run combat missions and drone strikes while closely monitoring the Taliban and other groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The agency’s analysts are warning of the ever-growing risks of a Taliban takeover.

United States officials are in last-minute efforts to secure bases close to Afghanistan for future operations. But the complexity of the continuing conflict has led to thorny diplomatic negotiations as the military pushes to have all forces out by early to mid-July, well before President Biden’s deadline of Sept. 11, according to American officials and regional experts.

One focus has been Pakistan. The C.I.A. used a base there for years to launch drone strikes against militants in the country’s western mountains, but was kicked out of the facility in 2011, when U.S. relations with Pakistan unraveled.

Any deal now would have to work around the uncomfortable reality that Pakistan’s government has long supported the Taliban. In discussions between American and Pakistani officials, the Pakistanis have demanded a variety of restrictions in exchange for the use of a base in the country, and they have effectively required that they sign off on any targets that either the C.I.A. or the military would want to hit inside Afghanistan, according to three Americans familiar with the discussions.

Diplomats are also exploring the option of regaining access to bases in former Soviet republics that were used for the Afghanistan war, although they expect that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would fiercely oppose this.

Recent C.I.A. and military intelligence reports on Afghanistan have been increasingly pessimistic. They have highlighted gains by the Taliban and other militant groups in the south and east, and warned that Kabul could fall to the Taliban within years and return to becoming a safe haven for militants bent on striking the West, according to several people familiar with the assessments.

As a result, U.S. officials see the need for a long-term intelligence-gathering presence — in addition to military and C.I.A. counterterrorism operations — in Afghanistan long after the deadline that Mr. Biden has set for troops to leave the country. But the scramble for bases illustrates how U.S. officials still lack a long-term plan to address security in a country where they have spent trillions of dollars and lost more than 2,400 troops over nearly two decades.

William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, has acknowledged the challenge the agency faces. “When the time comes for the U.S. military to withdraw, the U.S. government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish,” he told senators in April. “That is simply a fact.”

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

Marine recruits training at Parris Island in South Carolina last year.
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge to a federal law that requires only men to register for the military draft.

As is the court’s custom, it gave no reasons for turning down the case. But three justices issued a statement saying that Congress should be allowed more time to consider what they acknowledged was a significant legal issue.

“It remains to be seen, of course, whether Congress will end gender-based registration under the Military Selective Service Act,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the statement, which was joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Brett M. Kavanaugh. “But at least for now, the court’s longstanding deference to Congress on matters of national defense and military affairs cautions against granting review while Congress actively weighs the issue.”

The requirement is one of the last sex-based distinctions in federal law, one that challengers say cannot be justified now that women are allowed to serve in every role in the military, including ground combat. Unlike men, though, they are not required to register with the Selective Service System, the government agency that maintains a database of Americans who would be eligible for the draft were it reinstated.

The unequal treatment “imposes selective burdens on men, reinforces the notion that women are not full and equal citizens, and perpetuates stereotypes about men’s and women’s capabilities,” lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a petition on behalf of two men who were required to register and the National Coalition for Men.

In 1981, in Rostker v. Goldberg, the Supreme Court rejected a sex-discrimination challenge to the registration requirement, reasoning that it was justified because women could not at that time serve in combat roles.

“Since women are excluded from combat service by statute or military policy,” Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the majority, “men and women are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft.”

On Monday, Justice Sotomayor wrote that “the role of women in the military has changed dramatically since then.”

“Beginning in 1991,” she wrote, “thousands of women have served with distinction in a wide range of combat roles, from operating military aircraft and naval vessels to participating in boots-on-the-ground infantry missions.”

Lower courts had agreed with that assessment.

In 2019, Judge Gray H. Miller, of the Federal District Court in Houston, ruled that since women can now serve in combat, the men-only registration requirement was no longer justified. A unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, agreed that “the factual underpinning of the controlling Supreme Court decision has changed.” But it said that only the Supreme Court could overrule its own precedent.

“Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind,” said David Goldberger, a Jewish lawyer who defended the free speech rights of Nazis in the 1970s.
Credit…Shuran Huang for The New York Times

The American Civil Liberties Union, America’s high temple of free speech and civil liberties, has emerged as a muscular and richly funded progressive powerhouse in recent years, taking on the Trump administration in more than 400 lawsuits. But the organization finds itself riven with internal tensions over whether it has stepped away from a founding principle — unwavering devotion to the First Amendment.

Its national and state staff members debate, often hotly, whether defense of speech conflicts with advocacy for a growing number of progressive causes, including voting rights, reparations, transgender rights and defunding the police.

These conflicts are unsettling to many of the crusading lawyers who helped build the A.C.L.U. The organization, said its former director Ira Glasser, risks surrendering its original and unique mission in pursuit of progressive glory.

David Goldberger argued one of the A.C.L.U.’s most famous cases, defending the free speech rights of Nazis in the 1970s to march in Skokie, Ill., home to many Holocaust survivors. Mr. Goldberger, who is Jewish, said he was discouraged by the tenor of speakers at a 2017 A.C.L.U. event at which he received a prestigious award.

“I got the sense it was more important for A.C.L.U. staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle,” he said in a recent interview. “Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind.”

Sam Peters, a Republican who is campaigning for a Las Vegas-area House seat, said he was not sure that President Biden had legitimately won Nevada.
Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

Across the country, a rising class of Republican challengers has embraced the fiction that the 2020 election was illegitimate, marred by fraud and inconsistencies. Aggressively pushing Mr. Trump’s baseless claims that he was robbed of re-election, these candidates represent the next generation of aspiring G.O.P. leaders, who would bring to Congress the real possibility that the party’s assault on the legitimacy of elections, a bedrock principle of American democracy, could continue through the 2024 contests.

Dozens of Republican candidates have sown doubts about the election as they seek to join the ranks of the 147 Republicans in Congress who voted against certifying President Biden’s victory. There are degrees of denial: Some bluntly declare they must repair a rigged system that produced a flawed result, while others speak in the language of “election integrity,” promoting Republican re-examinations of the vote counts in Arizona and Georgia and backing new voting restrictions introduced by Republicans in battleground states.

They are united by a near-universal reluctance to state outright that Mr. Biden is the legitimately elected leader of the country.

“I would not have voted to certify Jan. 6, not without more questions,” said Sam Peters, a Nevada Republican who is campaigning for a Las Vegas-area House seat. He said he was not sure that Mr. Biden had legitimately won Nevada, even though the president did so by more than 33,000 votes.

It’s unclear how long the reluctance to accept unfavorable electoral outcomes will remain a central focus of the party, and to what degree Republicans might support widespread election challenges up and down the ballot in the future.

But Republicans’ unwavering fealty to the voter fraud myth underscores an emerging dynamic of party politics: To build a campaign in the modern G.O.P., most candidates must embrace — or at least not openly deny — conspiracy theories and election lies, and they must commit to a mission of imposing greater voting restrictions and making it easier to challenge or even overturn an election’s results. The prevalence of such candidates in the nascent stages of the party primaries highlights how Mr. Trump’s willingness to embrace far-flung falsehoods has elevated fringe ideas to the mainstream of his party.

Supporters of former President Donald J. Trump gathered in Phoenix in May.
Credit…Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

The Republican State Senate’s autopsy of the 2020 vote, broadly seen as a shambolic, partisan effort to nurse grievances about Donald J. Trump’s loss here in November, risks driving away some of the very people the party needs to win statewide elections in 2022.

That Arizona Republicans are ignoring that message — and that Republicans in other states are now trying to mount their own Arizona-style audits — raises worrisome questions not just about their strategy, but about its impact on an American democracy facing fundamental threats.

Now in its seventh week, the review of 2.1 million votes in Arizona’s most populous county has ballooned not just into a national political spectacle, but also a political wind sock for the Republican Party — an early test of how its renewed subservience to Mr. Trump would play with voters.

The returns to date are not encouraging for the party. A late-May poll of 400 Arizonans by the respected consulting firm HighGround Inc. found that more than 55 percent of respondents opposed the recount, most of them strongly. Fewer than 41 percent approved of it. By about 45 to 33 percent, respondents said they were less likely — much less, most said — to vote for a Republican candidate who supported the review.

The recount itself, troubled by procedural blunders and defections, has largely sacrificed any claim to impartiality. The Pennsylvania computer forensics firm that was conducting the hand recount of ballots quit without a clear explanation this month, adding further chaos to a count that election authorities and other critics say has been making up its rules as it went along.

“If they were voting on it again today, they would have withheld doing this, because it’s been nothing but a headache,” Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman from southeast Arizona from 1985 to 2003, said of the Republican state senators who are backing the review. “It’s a black mark on Arizona’s reputation.”

Vic Stemberger holding a photo of his mother and father, Victor Stemberger. The elder Mr. Stemberger has been in a Spanish prison for almost two years.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

After two decades in the military, after earning two master’s degrees and navigating a successful career as a corporate coach, Victor Stemberger seemed ready for a peaceful retirement. But he had a new venture in the works.

Mr. Stemberger, of Virginia, had a $10 million inheritance waiting for him, according to men claiming to be affiliated with the Nigerian Ministry of Finance. Through a dizzying web of more than 160 emails over the course of a year, Mr. Stemberger, then 76, somehow grew convinced.

The final step to collect his millions was a good-will gesture: He needed to embark on a whirlwind tour to several countries, stopping first in São Paulo, Brazil, to pick up a small package of gifts for government officials.

With that parcel tucked away safely in his luggage, Mr. Stemberger got ready to board a flight to Spain, the next leg of his trip.

The next day, his son, Vic Stemberger, received a text from a Spanish number: “Your father is in prison.”

International criminals have long set their sights on older Americans, deceiving them with promises of money or romance and setting them up to unwittingly carry luggage filled with drugs or other contraband, hoping they will not raise flags in customs.

But Mr. Stemberger’s case shines a discomfiting light on a little-known program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement known as Operation Cocoon, which is devised to disrupt international drug trafficking rings.

Under the program, ICE officials share information with foreign law enforcement agencies when they learn about potential smuggling. But critics say the program does not do enough to warn unwitting drug mules that they are being duped; instead, U.S. officials in some cases are delivering vulnerable older Americans straight into the hands of investigators in foreign countries, where they can be locked up for years.

“If somebody from the U.S. government showed up at my father’s house and spoke to my dad and said, ‘Hey, look, we have reason to believe you’re being scammed,’ there’s 100 percent no doubt he would have dropped it,” Vic Stemberger said.

His father has been in a Spanish prison since the police arrested him as he got off a plane in Madrid nearly two years ago and found more than five pounds of cocaine sewn into jackets in his luggage, according to court documents.

A Spanish court sentenced him last year to seven and a half years in prison.

Employees making chips at a factory of a semiconductor company in Nantong, in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, in March.
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Faced with an urgent competitive threat from China, the Senate is poised to pass the most expansive industrial policy legislation in U.S. history, blowing past partisan divisions over government support for private industry to embrace a nearly quarter-trillion-dollar investment in building up America’s manufacturing and technological edge.

The legislation, which could be voted on as early as Tuesday, is expected to pass by a large margin. That alone is a testament to how commercial and military competition with Beijing has become one of the few issues that can unite both political parties.

It is an especially striking shift for Republicans, who are following the lead of former President Donald J. Trump and casting aside what was once their party’s staunch opposition to government intervention in the economy. Now, both parties are embracing an enormous investment in semiconductor manufacturing, artificial intelligence research, robotics, quantum computing and a range of other technologies.

And while the bill’s sponsors are selling it in part as a jobs plan, the debate over its passage has been laced with Cold War references and warnings that a failure to act would leave the United States perilously dependent on its biggest geopolitical adversary.

“Around the globe, authoritarian governments smell blood in the water,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, warned in a recent speech on the Senate floor. “They believe that squabbling democracies like ours can’t come together and invest in national priorities the way a top-down, centralized and authoritarian government can.”



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