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Westlake Legal Group > United States Politics and Government

Biden Has Deep Connection to Black Voters. Will It Translate Into Votes?

BIRMINGHAM — At the Democratic primary debate last week, Joseph R. Biden Jr. prompted some distress within the party with a rambling, discordant answer to a question about the legacy of slavery, a moment that highlighted his unsteady instincts, and mixed record, on matters of race.

Three days later, a heavily African-American crowd gave Mr. Biden a warm welcome as he delivered a passionate address at the 16th Street Baptist Church, a symbol of the civil rights struggle, where he denounced institutional racism to mark the 56th anniversary of the bombing that killed four young black girls here in 1963.

The divergent responses underscore the uncertainty surrounding whether Mr. Biden can translate his longstanding connection to black voters into votes next year. His deep ties to black leaders, his service as Barack Obama’s vice president and his popularity among older, more conservative African Americans have given him a commanding lead in the polls among a constituency that is crucial to any Democratic candidate seeking the nomination.

But that support has never been rigorously tested at the ballot box outside of his home state of Delaware, and missteps like his meandering debate answer on slavery, as well as his legislative record on issues like busing and criminal justice, have intensified questions among progressive activists, and some party leaders, about whether he is the best standard-bearer for African-American priorities.

“Too much time left to say he’s got it locked down,” Leah Daughtry, a veteran Democratic strategist who ran the 2008 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions and is African-American, said of Mr. Biden’s standing among black voters. “He’s got an advantage, but I don’t think it’s locked.”

Mr. Biden owes much of his front-runner status to his backing from black voters. Polls show he consistently tops 40 percent among African Americans nationally, and surveys from South Carolina, the first southern state to vote and one with a high percentage of black voters, have shown Mr. Biden scoring even higher.

At the church on Sunday, there was little evidence that this advantage was sliding. In nearly a dozen interviews, many attendees who are focused primarily on defeating President Trump said that they had not yet firmly committed to a candidate — though Mr. Biden was at the top of most people’s lists with many citing his partnership with Mr. Obama and describing genuine affection for Mr. Biden. No one said that his past remarks on race had changed their views.

[Which Democrats are leading the 2020 presidential race this week?]

Arthur McGhee, a 72-year-old retiree who was ushering in attendees, characterized his support for Mr. Biden as “mild” but called him his first choice for now.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160851267_8eacfc28-6e7b-4bc9-9977-2dc4b2100d37-articleLarge Biden Has Deep Connection to Black Voters. Will It Translate Into Votes? United States Politics and Government Race and Ethnicity Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 elections Debates (Political) Blacks Biden, Joseph R Jr

Many of the attendees at the church commemoration said they were not bothered by Mr. Biden’s unsteady answer on race at last week’s debate. CreditDustin Chambers for The New York Times

He also said he was not bothered by Mr. Biden’s warm remarks over the summer about working relationships with segregationist senators, comments for which Mr. Biden later expressed regret.

“The same ones that are complaining about Biden, they can’t get anything done,” he said of Mr. Biden’s critics who currently serve in Congress.

Many of the black voters and officials in attendance described him as an experienced leader who is well-known, and trusted.

“In the black community we appreciate the fact that then-former Vice President Joe Biden never overshadowed nor dishonored the role of the president, who happened to be African-American,” said Lashunda Scales, the president pro tempore of the Commission of Jefferson County, where Birmingham is located.

Yet the view of Mr. Biden in the church was only a snapshot of a large and diverse group. There are also many people of color who have been concerned by Mr. Biden’s record and remarks, whether on working with segregationist senators or his support for anti-crime legislation in the 1990s that is often now associated with mass incarceration.

At Thursday’s debate, when asked about what responsibilities Americans had to account for the legacy of slavery, Mr. Biden offered a rambling answer that included suggesting that social workers can aid parents who “don’t quite know what to do,” an apparent reference to a plank of his education plan. He also advised the use of a “record player” to expose underprivileged children to more words.

The moderator, Linsey Davis, started the question by saying that she wanted to discuss “inequality in schools and race,” and Mr. Biden’s allies suggested that explained his pivot to education. But others who watched the exchange were troubled by the fact that he did not substantively address the slavery question.

[Sign up for our politics newsletter and join the conversation around the 2020 presidential race.]

“A lot of us are just shaking our heads, saying it seems to be a disqualifying sentiment,” said Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, a political advocacy group focused on women of color. “At this point in the primary, he does not have an easy and powerful political response to a question like that — it’s got a lot of us just saying, ‘O.K., well, there are other candidates who are seriously contending for our votes.’”

Both Ms. Daughtry and Ms. Allison noted that a recent survey of black women showed “other/prefer not to answer” leading the field, followed by Mr. Biden. They took it as a sign of how fluid the race is.

“If I were the vice president’s team, I’d double down on locking in the vote that they think they have, because right now I’d call it soft,” Ms. Daughtry said.

At the debate, Ms. Davis referred to a remark Mr. Biden had made in 1975, when he said, “I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.” On Sunday, at the church, he struck a sharply different note.

“There can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery,” he said.

Eric Holder, the former attorney general under Barack Obama, told David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s former chief strategist, that he doesn’t think there is any basis “for people to believe that a President Biden would be less committed to civil rights enforcement” than Mr. Obama was, according to a tweet from Mr. Axelrod, who hosts a podcast and a television show on CNN.

Throughout his 20-minute address, Mr. Biden was at times booming as he linked slavery, the bombing at the 16th Street church and the rise of white supremacy today to the nation’s centuries-long struggle with racism and oppression. At other times he spoke slowly and emotionally, as he discussed his personal experiences with tragedy. Mr. Biden, who is practiced at delivering eulogies, read prepared text from a black binder, producing a far more fluent speech than he typically delivers on the stump, when he often walks away from Teleprompters.

“Those of us who are white try, but we can never fully, fully understand, no matter how hard we try,” he said. He spent much of the morning accompanied by Senator Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat who as a prosecutor attained the convictions of two men behind the church bombing.

The Lanier family at the 16th Street Baptist Church. They admire Mr. Biden’s connection to former President Barack Obama.CreditDustin Chambers for The New York Times

That line stayed with Jeffery Lanier Jr., 35, who waved off Mr. Biden’s debate performances and remarks about working with segregationist senators.

“It’s not something he should just use on the campaign trail,” he said. “I can get past it. I see what he’s saying.”

He and his wife, Krystale, 34, both said that they are supporting Mr. Biden, pointing to his experience and his work with Mr. Obama.

If Mr. Biden is shielded, in part, by the Obama connection, other candidates are still working to introduce themselves to the African-American community. That is a particular imperative for Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has climbed steadily in the polls, but whose numbers with black voters, depending on the survey, barely hit double digits — and sometimes fall below.

More coverage of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Race
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A Brief History of Joe Biden and School Busing

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She has made strong gains in the first two early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, which are both home to many white liberals. Her challenge is to expand her appeal with voters of color who dominate the later-voting Southern states.

“In the black community we know Biden because he was Obama’s vice president, we know Sanders because he ran the last time, but we’re not familiar with her,” Ms. Daughtry said. “That’s been her biggest challenge.”

Ms. Warren, like many of the other contenders, has been racing to catch up, making a concerted effort to address voters of color through her policy plans, including measures like combating the racial wealth gap. She also attended a dinner with the Congressional Black Caucus Saturday night.

Stanley Greenberg, a veteran Democratic pollster, stressed that Mr. Biden’s standing with the African-American community may be more durable than many expect, saying that he “embodies the Obama legacy.”

But he also noted that for much of the lead-up to the 2008 election, Hillary Clinton appeared to be the strongest candidate with African-American voters. That changed dramatically after Mr. Obama won Iowa, proving that a black man could win in largely white states.

“That carried over to her until it didn’t,” Mr. Greenberg said.

Like many Democrats, Mr. McGhee, the usher, said he was focused on which Democratic candidate can defeat Mr. Trump.

“It applies to all of them,” he said. “But it does apply to him too.”

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Kamala Harris Was Ready to Brawl From the Beginning

SAN FRANCISCO — The rebuttal sounded something like a threat. That seemed to be Kamala Harris’s point.

It was December 2003, a final debate in the final days before the runoff election in Ms. Harris’s race for San Francisco district attorney against her onetime boss, Terence Hallinan. And Mr. Hallinan, the crusading progressive incumbent, was going low: Ms. Harris could not be trusted to prosecute city corruption, he suggested, because of her relationship with Willie Brown — the outgoing mayor, peerless local kingmaker and Harris supporter whom she had dated years earlier. “He has an interest,” Mr. Hallinan speculated, “in having a friend in the district attorney’s office.”

Ms. Harris conjured a different hypothetical. She would take on crooked actors of all kinds, she said. In fact, she already had a prospective target in mind.

“I will set up a public integrity desk,” she vowed, building to the velocity of a TV lawyer in full riff, “dedicated to dealing with investigating and prosecuting cases involving corruption by any public official — be it Terence Hallinan or anyone else.”

Mr. Hallinan seemed to wobble. “That really takes the breath away,” he said. Eight days later, Ms. Harris took his job away.

Sixteen years on, as a California senator seeking the Democratic nomination for president, Ms. Harris is not, by her own admission, the candidate of structural upheaval, like Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. She is not an old-guard centrist, like former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. But in a party weighing how best to counter President Trump’s boundless capacity for brawling, Ms. Harris is the one who knows how to hit hardest, friends say, because that is how you win in San Francisco.

The 2003 race, the first of her career, is where she learned.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160738524_4f6db9a3-ecc7-459e-857b-15c3acc2c140-articleLarge Kamala Harris Was Ready to Brawl From the Beginning United States Politics and Government San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco (Calif) Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Elections, District Attorneys Campaign Finance Brown, Willie L Jr Breed, London Boudin, Chesa

Ms. Harris receives the oath of office on Jan. 8, 2004.CreditGeorge Nikitin/Associated Press

“San Francisco is the bluest of blue,” said Tony West, her brother-in-law and longtime informal adviser. “All political wars there are civil wars. And so it’s like a family fight. And those are often the worst.”

For Ms. Harris, who was 38 when she ran for district attorney, the campaign arrived at an inflection point — a period of restlessness, according to former colleagues, in the career of a hard-charging deputy accustomed to straddling disparate orbits. After a decade of unglamorous work for local prosecutors and a studied induction into San Francisco’s social elite, a Candidate Harris was by turns a society-page veteran and a prolific loiterer at supermarket parking lots, unfurling an ironing board from her back seat as a canvas for campaign literature. She began her evenings at fund-raisers in ritzy Pacific Heights and ended them at the modest apartment where she lived alone in the city’s SoMa neighborhood, stretching across her living room floor to compose longhand thank-you notes to donors.

“She was always the candidate who was like, ‘I got everything done on my list. Did you get everything done on your list?’” said Jim Stearns, a top consultant to Ms. Harris in 2003.

Often enough, those lists included the kinds of strategic choices that seemed endemic to success in San Francisco politics, particularly against someone like Mr. Hallinan, known locally as “Kayo” (as in “K.O.,” for knockout) since his boxing youth.

When her pledge to obey a voluntary campaign spending cap proved nettlesome, Ms. Harris did not hesitate to reverse herself, earning a hefty ethics fine.

Eager to extract information about her opponent’s operation, a senior Harris aide once posed as a Hallinan volunteer over email under an assumed name, before being found out and told to attend a nonexistent rally at 10 p.m. on a Sunday.

And subjected to gendered insinuations that Mr. Brown, three decades her senior, had facilitated Ms. Harris’s rise by introducing her to the city’s ruling class, the candidate was quick to flag her rival’s own sensational baggage, accusing Mr. Hallinan of fostering a debauched workplace where prosecutors had sex in the office.

It is no coincidence that some of Ms. Harris’s sharpest moments as a national voice have come in political combat. As a senator, she has won viral recognition for her lacerating questioning during hearings. In June, she flattened Mr. Biden in a debate exchange over his warm remembrances of segregationist senators. After some polling stumbles since then, she turned her attention to Mr. Trump from the Houston debate stage on Thursday, comparing the president to the “really small dude” behind the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz.”

[Here are six takeaways from the September Democratic debate.]

Yet if her 2003 run proved that Ms. Harris could thrive in campaign conflict, it was also an early lesson in the challenges of negotiating the party’s base, particularly for a politician more inclined toward within-the-system reform than simmering revolution.

In many ways, no 2020 candidate has faced a hometown electorate more analogous to today’s Democratic primary conditions than Ms. Harris has. Then, as now, she was a self-described progressive, introducing herself as a potentially history-making pick in a multicultural city of vanguard liberalism, parochial neighborhood factions and often staggering income inequality.

But Ms. Harris also ran unambiguously to Mr. Hallinan’s right in a place that prided itself on showing offenders compassion. “She was the moderate,” said Nathan Ballard, a friend who worked with her as a deputy city attorney. “She was somebody who wanted to prosecute criminals.”

Getting that chance meant subjecting herself to an unpalatable fate: confronting the two men who had helped her, to a point, and were now threatening to stand in her way.

“I mean, I know how to fight,” Ms. Harris said in an interview. “But most people like to avoid a fight if you can.”

Mr. Hallinan was known as an empathetic prosecutor during his years as district attorney.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

For a short while, the office was big enough for them both.

After several years across the bay in Alameda County, Ms. Harris joined Mr. Hallinan’s team in 1998 as an assistant district attorney overseeing the career criminal unit.

Friends say Ms. Harris initially admired his instinct for empathetic prosecution, which prized diversion over jail for many nonviolent lawbreakers. She spent off-hours helping his 1999 re-election and took a particular interest the next year in trying to defeat a state ballot measure, also opposed by Mr. Hallinan, that effectively shifted many young offenders into the adult justice system.

This, it seems, is where some of the tensions began. Fred Gardner, an office spokesman at the time, said that Mr. Hallinan became concerned as Ms. Harris assumed a public-facing role in the ballot debate, growing suspicious that Ms. Harris might run against him. (Mr. Hallinan’s son, Brendan, said his father, now 82, was not able to give an interview.)

In Ms. Harris’s telling, the office, which Mr. Hallinan had steered since 1996, was tumbling into disarray — epitomized one afternoon, she said, by a mass firing of lawyers who returned from lunch to find pink slips on their chairs. “The place was falling apart,” Ms. Harris said in the interview. “People were urging me to run.”

She left in 2000 for the city attorney’s office. Mr. Hallinan did not attend the send-off. Some other lawyers stayed away, too, Mr. Gardner said, fearing that they would “get reported back to the boss as disloyal.” He estimated that half the office attended anyway.

No longer under Mr. Hallinan’s purview, Ms. Harris began considering a campaign to replace him in earnest. She produced a low-tech bio page, pressing a photograph of herself against the sheet and making multiple copies. “I think we went to, like, Kinko’s,” Ms. Harris said. “Very high-level, professional operation.”

Mr. Stearns, her consultant, cautioned that Ms. Harris was occupying a dangerous political space: the center — wedged between Mr. Hallinan and a more conservative challenger named Bill Fazio.

“He kind of scratched his head and said, ‘O.K., this is going to be difficult because you’re running up the middle,’” Ms. Harris said. “I have this saying, which is: ‘No good public policy ends with an exclamation point.’”

Ms. Harris, who has strained at times as a presidential candidate to convince progressives of her convictions, was asked if this tension felt familiar lately. “There probably are some parallels,” she said. “There’s an appetite for statements that end with an exclamation point. And it’s really challenging.”

Mr. Hallinan’s supporters believe his punctuation, as it were, was commendable for a district attorney, praising his commitment to rehabilitating drug users in the throes of the tough-on-crime era. Kenneth Wine, a longtime law partner of Mr. Hallinan’s brother’s, said that while Ms. Harris was “a good, honest, straightforward prosecutor,” she won the job in part by questioning the kind of progressivism that Mr. Hallinan championed.

“He shocked a lot of people with his progressive ideas,” Mr. Wine said. “Kamala Harris became the D.A. sort of backtracking on those to some extent.”

Ms. Harris liked to say there was nothing progressive about being “soft on crime.” Volunteers furnished doorknobs with fliers stuffed with muscular adjectives (“Tough. Fair. Effective.”), trumpeting her support from law enforcement groups. The headshots of local elected endorsers specked her campaign materials.

And about five or so faces into that roster — not so prominent as to draw immediate attention, not so buried as to suggest deliberate camouflage — voters were greeted by a smiling mayor.

Willie Brown, the local kingmaker, was the outgoing San Francisco mayor during Ms. Harris’s campaign, and she promoted his support for her on her fliers.CreditPaul Sakuma/Associated Press

The thing was, it could feel as though everyone who hit it big here owed a debt to Willie Brown — the showman power broker enamored of Brioni suits, well-directed patronage and his own legend.

The current California governor, Gavin Newsom, was a young businessman when Mr. Brown elevated him to the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission and, soon after, to the Board of Supervisors — placing Mr. Newsom on the fast track to succeed him at City Hall. The current mayor, London Breed, was once an intern in Mr. Brown’s administration.

Ms. Harris’s example is more complicated. She began dating Mr. Brown, now 85, around 1994, when she was working in Alameda County and he was speaker of the California Assembly. He appointed her to two well-compensated state posts. He gave her a BMW. He introduced her to people worth knowing.

“When I first met her, she was Willie’s girlfriend,” said John Burton, a former congressman and chairman of the California Democratic Party. “Everybody gets their start through somebody else. Jack Kennedy got his start through his father. Bobby got his start through Jack.”

Ms. Harris’s allies have bristled at any suggestion that Mr. Brown powered her ascent, dismissing the charge as sexist and making clear that she was plenty capable of impressing on her own. Few could argue that Ms. Harris, hovering around 5 percent in early polling, entered the 2003 race at much of an advantage, even as her fund-raising drew on an ungainly Filofax full of high-end contacts. (Eventually, friends insisted she transfer to a Palm Pilot.)

Fair or not, Ms. Harris understood quickly that Mr. Brown would shadow the campaign. “No woman likes to be judged by who she dates,” said Rebecca Prozan, a top 2003 campaign aide. “Was it something that we wanted to address? No. Was it something we had to address? Yes.”

Ms. Harris hoped to maintain distance without alienating his supporters. An internal memo suggested hiring Mr. Stearns as a consultant in part because he was associated with “the anti-Willie Brown camp which may be helpful.” Ms. Harris told SF Weekly in 2003 that she was so independent of Mr. Brown that he “would probably right now express some fright about the fact that he cannot control me.”

“His career is over,” she said, as Mr. Brown’s second mayoral term wound down. “I will be alive and kicking for the next 40 years.”

But Ms. Harris also promoted Mr. Brown’s support on her fliers. And his barely hidden hand helped goose her precedent-busting fund-raising. “He was instrumental behind the scenes,” said Mark Buell, a major Democratic donor who served as Ms. Harris’s finance chairman. “Willie Brown told me — and I didn’t want to believe him — you have to raise $1 million to win this race. And we did.”

Mr. Brown, who now writes political columns, cheekily declined to be interviewed, on the grounds that he could not assist a rival publication. “I write for The Chronicle,” he said, quickly ending a phone call. (In one of those columns in January, he wrote: “Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago. Yes, I may have influenced her career.”)

Ms. Harris, in the interview, called her 2003 opponents’ references to Mr. Brown “frustrating” and “designed to degrade, frankly, the conversation about why we needed a new D.A.”

Asked if Mr. Brown was a factor in the race — either as a boogeyman deployed by her rivals or as a sitting mayor with an interest in the outcome — Ms. Harris said: “Um, I’d — you know. You can ask the pundits. I — yeah.”

Asked if she found the attacks misogynistic, she said, “I think most people think that that’s the case.”

A campaign pamphlet from Ms. Harris’s 2003 run for the district attorney of San Francisco.Credit

Enough voters seemed to.

Just before the election, the campaign of Mr. Hallinan’s other challenger, Mr. Fazio, circulated a mailer quoting a woman critical of Ms. Harris: “I don’t care if Willie Brown is Kamala Harris’ ex-boyfriend,” it read. “What bothers me is that Kamala accepted two appointments from Willie Brown to high-paying, part-time state boards.”

The approach backfired. Former Harris aides credit public disgust over the mailer with helping to push her into the two-person runoff at the expense of Mr. Fazio, who had been polling ahead of Ms. Harris throughout the race. (Reached by phone, Mr. Fazio said he did not remember the mailer but suggested it sounded like “some desperation on my campaign’s part.” He said he supported Ms. Harris’s presidential run.)

Perhaps more relevant, Ms. Harris proved to be a relentless and versatile campaigner, parking herself at transit stops, gay bars and senior-center bingo sessions where she worried her hot streak one night might upset the regulars. She established her headquarters in the predominantly nonwhite Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, posing for photographs beneath an indoor graffiti mural that read “Justice” and watching her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, instruct supporters on proper envelope-stuffing form.

Ms. Harris as the San Francisco district attorney in 2008.CreditJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ms. Harris also excelled in more exclusive company. She held events with the musician Boz Scaggs and Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues.” She persuaded the party’s powerful central committee to withhold an endorsement before the first round of voting, a major setback for Mr. Hallinan.

On the night of the runoff, Ms. Harris entered her victory party to chants of “D.A.! D.A.!” as “We Are the Champions” blared, relatives gathered beside the “Justice” mural and Mr. Brown held court with reporters.

Mr. Hallinan was terse in conceding defeat. “It’s a tough job,” he said, wishing Ms. Harris luck.

More recently, Ms. Harris has likewise found that the city’s politics can be fickle. Many of San Francisco’s progressive activists prefer Ms. Warren or Mr. Sanders. Mr. Buell, her 2003 finance chairman, remains a supporter but has also raised money for Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. “I think she’s a little miffed,” Mr. Buell said.

And in the city’s latest district attorney’s race, to be decided in November, Mr. Stearns has taken on a new client: Chesa Boudin, a public defender running on reducing mass incarceration.

“He is actively criticizing Kamala’s record,” Mr. Stearns said. “2003 has never seemed so much like yesterday.”

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Impeachment Inquiry or Just Plain Oversight? It Depends on Who You Ask

Westlake Legal Group 13dc-impeach-facebookJumbo Impeachment Inquiry or Just Plain Oversight? It Depends on Who You Ask United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Nadler, Jerrold impeachment House of Representatives House Committee on the Judiciary Democratic Party Constitution (US)

WASHINGTON — An impeachment investigation to potentially try to remove the president of the United States for high crimes and misdemeanors would seem to be fairly clear-cut.

But as the House Judiciary Committee pushed ahead this week with a wide-ranging investigation it said was designed to determine whether to recommend impeaching President Trump, Democrats found themselves tripped up again and again by a seemingly straightforward question: Is what they are doing an impeachment inquiry, or not?

The Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where impeachment cases are typically built, insisted it is, and hastened on Thursday to add that he sees no more room for debate. But his Republican counterpart is just as adamant that it is not. And the Justice Department is trying to capitalize on the confusion to argue the panel has no right to any secret evidence the department has that’s relevant to its case.

Those looking on, including some Democrats, have been left scratching their heads.

Which answer is right could matter a great deal for the Democrats and President Trump, though maybe not for the reasons one might think.

Here’s what you need to know about the history of impeachment and the arguments both sides are making.

Democrats are deviating in key ways from the way the House launched the two presidential impeachment inquiries of the modern era.

When the Judiciary Committee was investigating whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon in the 1970s and Bill Clinton in the 1990s, it ultimately sought and received explicit authority to conduct each of those inquiries by a vote of the full House.

In this case, the Judiciary Committee led by Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, has neither asked for nor received such a vote.

Instead, Democrats used a court filing and news conference in July, on the day they were leaving Washington for a six-week summer recess, to declare that an investigation that had been going on for months should now be considered primarily one “investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment” against Mr. Trump.

The panel did cast its first impeachment-related vote on Thursday, but while that action may have drawn attention to their work, it did not change the nature of the probe. The action merely adopted formal procedures to govern the inquiry that was already underway.

Mr. Nadler laid out the committee’s views at the outset of Thursday’s vote on investigative procedures, but only after swatting away some of the questions about its work.

“Some have said that, absent some grand moment in which we pass dramatically from ‘concerned about the President’s conduct’ to ‘actively considering articles of impeachment,’ it is hard to know exactly what the committee is doing here. Others have argued that we can do none of this work without first having an authorizing vote on the House floor.”

Not so, he continued. Nothing in House rules or the Constitution, he said, requires any such action. As long as it is considering articles of impeachment, Mr. Nadler contended, the committee has all the authority it needs to designate that work an impeachment investigation or inquiry.

In the Nixon and Clinton cases, Democrats argue, a House vote was necessary to grant the committee special powers it did not already possess during those periods under the standing rules of the House, like the ability to issue subpoenas and conduct depositions. Under the current House rules, the committee already has all of those authorities.

Mr. Nadler and the lawyers have also pointed to past examples of the House Judiciary Committee acting on its own authority to open inquiries and recommend articles of impeachment against judges and other officials and not drawing any complaints.

Under normal circumstances, the distinction might not matter. It does this time because Democrats have asked for the help of the federal courts to obtain grand jury material related to the special counsel’s Russia investigation and speedily secure the cooperation of witnesses. To get it, they have to convince a judge in the coming weeks that they have met the criteria for an impeachment inquiry.

The list of former Trump administration officials whose testimony the committee is seeking seems to grow by the day; on Friday, an aide confirmed that lawyers have initiated negotiations to get Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, to appear. Those talks were first reported by The Washington Post.

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, argued over and over at Thursday’s committee hearing that without a House vote authorizing it, the inquiry is merely regular oversight work dressed up to look more menacing than it is. Democrats were choosing to not formalize their inquiry because they do not have the votes they need to do so, he said.

“The ambiguity — the confusion — is a product of my colleagues’ own making, because there is an easy way to know exactly whether this committee is in impeachment proceedings,” Mr. Collins said. “It’s called a vote — a vote of the full House of Representatives.”

The Republicans argue that the Judiciary Committee does not inherently have the authority to conduct a presidential impeachment investigation on its own. The standing rules of the House explicitly outline the panel’s jurisdiction, including the impeachment of judges, but they do not mention presidential impeachments, proving that the two are different, Republicans aides say.

The Justice Department echoed some of those arguments on Friday as it sought to thwart the panel in court. Citing Democrats’ conflicting statements about the nature of the inquiry, the department argued to a federal judge that the Judiciary Committee’s request for grand jury information should be rejected.

The Constitution gives little guidance on impeachment aside from the most basic facts: the House can vote to charge presidents or other officials, and the Senate holds a trial to determine whether to remove the officeholder. It does not dictate what impeachment proceedings should look like, and is completely silent on what, if any, preliminary investigative steps must be taken.

Historians of impeachment and lawyers who have worked for the House or studied its rules have taken that to mean that the chamber is free to decide how to handle the investigative work related to an impeachment inquiry as it sees fit.

“Whatever procedure the House adopts for this impeachment or any other is really up to it,” said Michael J. Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor and an impeachment scholar at the University of North Carolina. “There is no formula.”

Raymond W. Smock, the House’s official historian in the 1980s and 1990s, agreed, noting that there was a long history of rewriting the rule book around impeachment.

But Democrats’ strategy is not without risk. House parliamentarians, nonpartisan aides who help interpret and enforce the rules of the House, would likely make a more conservative recommendation, people who work with them said. If lawmakers want to ensure that a judge will recognize what they are doing as impeachment, it would be better to follow the most well-worn path.

“They can say they are doing it, but what will a judge think, given the precedent in the past?” said Michael Conway, who served as a Judiciary Committee lawyer in 1974 during the Nixon impeachment.

House Democrats have good reasons to avoid a House vote that might land them on firmer legal ground. Unlike in the Nixon or Clinton cases, when the House voted overwhelmingly and on a bipartisan basis to authorize investigations, a vote now would almost certainly be strictly partisan, potentially sapping the investigation of momentum. It could also deepen rifts among Democrats, given that many moderates in conservative-leaning districts have been reluctant to embrace the idea of impeachment, and there is no guarantee Democrats could secure a majority on the House floor.

Republicans argue that Democrats are moving forward with a not-quite-legitimate impeachment simply to spare their moderates from taking a potentially difficult vote.

“You can have your impeachment and deny it too,” Representative Tom McClintock, Republican of California, needled on Thursday.

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With Markers and Straws, Trump’s Campaign Sells Defiance as a Lifestyle

WASHINGTON — The message the president is selling to his supporters is clear.

“You don’t have any choice. You have to vote for me,” President Trump told a crowd on Monday at a rally in North Carolina, making a point he has revisited often in recent weeks. “Your way of life is under assault by these people.”

Now, would they like a straw with that?

It turns out that Mr. Trump’s message of outright defiance — against Democrats, against the news media and, often, against facts — can exist in tchotchke form. The president’s campaign, which is relying on small-dollar donors to bolster his re-election effort, is also courting supporters willing to pay a little bit more for reminders of that message.

And the campaign has been creative in quickly bringing to market a range of products memorializing the president’s latest run-in — defiance as lifestyle.

In July, for example, plastic Trump drinking straws were created to hit back at the growing movement, most noticeably at large coffee and fast food chains, that has called for environment-friendly alternatives to plastic straws. The Trump campaign says its straws are in fact recyclable — “Liberal paper straws don’t work,” was the pitch.

Siphoning Twitter rage over the straws created a revenue stream. According to data shared by Trump campaign officials this week, almost 55,000 packs of straws have been sold, netting over $823,000 in sales. More than a third of the people who bought the items had never donated to the campaign before that purchase, according to Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director.

Last week, a tweetstorm broke out after the president was photographed with a map showing the path of Hurricane Dorian with a hard-to-miss black line that appeared to have been drawn to extend the storm’s possible path into Alabama after he had insisted he had been right in predicting the storm, at one point, was headed to the state.

Mr. Trump said he did not know who had doctored the map with a Sharpie, but that did not stop the campaign from selling something new — markers with Mr. Trump’s autograph on them. As it became clear that administration officials, if not the president, had altered a scientific document, campaign officials tried to direct attention not to the administration’s mistake but to the fact that it was being heavily covered by the news media.

“Buy the official Trump marker, which is different than every other marker on the market, because this one has the special ability to drive @CNN and the rest of the fake news crazy!” tweeted Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager.

This week, The New York Times revealed that Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, had threatened to fire employees at a federal scientific agency responsible for weather forecasts as Mr. Trump grew angry over the coverage around his Alabama tweets.

But the markers do not appear to have the same appeal the straws did, having sold only about $50,000 worth, according to Mr. Murtaugh. Mr. Parscale initially said they had been selling by the “hundreds.”

While drinking straws and black markers are churned out the speed of a Twitter news cycle, that is nothing compared with the new varieties of T-shirts that go on the market after Mr. Trump tangles with a Democratic congressman or prominent journalist.

For $34, fans can buy a recent model lampooning the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo for unleashing a profanity-laced tirade on a pair of men who called him “Fredo,” a reference to the incompetent son of Marlon Brando in “The Godfather.” The shirt is meant to mock Mr. Cuomo’s assertion that the moniker was a slur against Italians.

The “Fredo” shirt displays the campaign’s omnipresent phone number to sign up and receive texts. The campaign closely monitors text sign-ups around each effort, and the results seem to have emboldened officials.

The seemingly unending product line has raised questions about who is hatching the ideas and who is creating the merchandise. Everything officially manufactured by the Trump campaign is American-made, Mr. Murtaugh said in an email.

Most of the merchandise requests are routed through a company called Ace Specialties in Lafayette, La., whose owner, Christl Mahfouz, can often be seen mingling with fans outside Trump rallies. Her team sells hats in exchange for money and the buyer’s voting data: Each time a supporter buys a T-shirt or a hat at a rally, a digital interface prompts them to turn over their names, addresses and other voter-specific information for future Federal Election Commission reports.

Publicly, at least, all credit goes to the president.

“President Trump is a master of communication and branding, and his campaign merchandise is emblematic of that,” Mr. Murtaugh said. “It gives people a little ownership of the re-election campaign and gives them high-quality merchandise in exchange for their donations.”

Mr. Parscale has privately taken credit for some of the more incendiary items, including the straws and the “Fredo Unhinged” T-shirt.

The attention, good and bad, just adds up to more money for Mr. Trump, Jennifer Wingard, a professor of rhetoric at the University of Houston, said in an interview. Ms. Wingard said that in some ways, Mr. Trump understood the very basics of social media influencer culture long before the Kardashians (or the Caroline Calloways) of the world did.

“His obsession with popularity,” Ms. Wingard said, “speaks to the social media influencing mind-set that most politicians don’t have.”

Internally, the commodification of the president’s trollish insults, no matter how un-politically correct, are a point of pride: A Pencil Neck illustration — a crude depiction of Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, based on a name Mr. Trump called him in a tweet — hangs in the kitchen of the campaign’s headquarters in suburban Virginia.

In some cases, it is not always clear that Mr. Trump understands the nuances of each smaller battle waged on his behalf. When asked if he supported the banning of plastic straws in July, the president said the public had bigger things to worry about before delivering an answer that ultimately did not match the fiery language used by his campaign.

“You know, it’s interesting about plastic straws,” he said. “So, you have a little straw. But what about the plates, the wrappers and everything else that are much bigger and they’re made of the same material? So the straws are interesting. Everybody focuses on the straws. There’s a lot of other things to focus. But it’s an interesting question.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160522017_6f8d8885-d6f7-48dd-b7bc-9f1a9313943a-articleLarge With Markers and Straws, Trump’s Campaign Sells Defiance as a Lifestyle United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Straws (Drinking) Social Media Presidential Election of 2020 Parscale, Brad (1976- ) Hurricane Dorian (2019) Campaign Finance

A rallygoer on Monday in Fayettville.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Trump may not be interested in the merits of debating the material composition of a straw, but he does instinctively understand the monetary value of slapping his name on one. Officials throughout his campaign are hypervigilant at trying to make sure that only officially sanctioned merchandise is showcased in campaign materials that he might see.

At campaign rallies, supporters are not invited to participate in pro-Trump videos unless they are wearing the official red “Make America Great Again” hat. Campaign aides even scan the crowds for green under the bill of the hat, a telltale sign that a product has been bought through official channels.

Ms. Wingard said that a person’s desire to buy a pack of straws or a red hat reflects the work of a campaign trying to monetize everything from heated cultural battles to consequential presidential mistakes, and a president who instinctively understands that a lot of attention — negative or otherwise — translates to money.

“He can get bad press, people can make fun of him,” Ms. Wingard said, “but the Sharpie campaign shows very flat out that it doesn’t matter. He’s going to make money off of it.”

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The Senate: Still Great at Deliberating, but Less So at Legislating

WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell says he is awaiting President Trump’s proposal on new gun safety rules before swinging his chamber into action. Some of his colleagues think he’s got it backward.

After all, it is the Senate — in conjunction with the faster-moving House — that by tradition has jealously guarded its role in originating and shaping legislation, only later sending it to the president to be accepted or rejected. But today’s Senate, devoted almost exclusively to confirming Mr. Trump’s nominations, is hardly a hotbed of legislative activity.

Members of both parties say they would like that to change.

“I’m very eager to turn from nominations to legislation,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. “There are important issues that are pending, and I think we could produce some terrific bills that would be signed into law.”

Democrats took a harsher line, particularly when it comes to stricter gun safety legislation they are demanding after an August marked by mass shooting sprees.

“They are hiding behind each other,” Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, said of the dance by the White House and Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, over new gun safety proposals. “The president is spineless on these topics and changes his mind all the time, and McConnell abdicates the role of the legislature.”

“McConnell wants to protect his members from having to take a vote on issues that are important to America,” Mr. Merkley said in an interview. “That is our responsibility, to take a stand.”

Mr. McConnell does want to spare his Republican colleagues tough votes, especially with a critical election to decide control of the Senate 14 months away. But he is even more determined to avoid getting the Senate caught up in an issue that divides Republicans, or separates them from a president who appears to have a stranglehold on the party base. Because of the objections of a handful of conservatives — and despite broad Senate and White House support — Mr. McConnell last year brought a criminal justice measure to the floor only after tremendous pressure.

The issue of gun control could also split Republicans. A few of them, including Ms. Collins and Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, have a history of backing bipartisan gun legislation, and others have signaled they may now join them given the urgency to act in the aftermath of shootings in Ohio and Texas. But most Republicans want nothing to do with gun measures that would also have to satisfy the Democratic majority in the House.

“We ought to be focusing seriously, substantively on how to stop these horrific crimes from occurring, and what many Democrats are proposing wouldn’t do it,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said Friday on Twitter.

Mr. McConnell has chosen his usual cautious route in saying that he would await the president, to spare the Senate from wasting time on bills that would never become law. “Until the White House gives us some indication of what the president is willing to sign, we are waiting to see what it looks like,” Mr. McConnell told reporters in recent days.

But while the White House has been promising to show its hand on what it would accept when it comes to new gun laws, nothing has yet materialized, and the president seems conflicted. Democrats and a few Republicans say the best approach would be for Congress to act on its own, and deliver a measure that would present the president with a take-it-or-leave-it choice.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160669578_e91e5bad-cc22-4890-9a1a-01a06a444d03-articleLarge The Senate: Still Great at Deliberating, but Less So at Legislating United States Politics and Government Senate Republican Party mass shootings gun control Courts and the Judiciary

“I’m very eager to turn from nominations to legislation,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“I’m sure if a bill on background checks gets to the Oval Office, the president will sign it,” Mr. Merkley said.

But that’s an open question considering that Mr. Trump has previously refused to sign bills even after saying he would.

Polarizing congressional politics have severely diminished the legislative pace in the Senate, which has become an institution recognized more for no votes being taken rather than for people voting no. Republicans pummeled Democrats for treating the Senate as a legislative desert in the 2014 election when they won the majority, ridiculing Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, for failing to get a floor vote on a single amendment over six years, a charge that helped defeat him that year.

Now some Republicans, privately frustrated with the lack of legislative progress, worry that they may receive the same treatment at the hands of Democrats next year if they don’t start to produce. (Senate leaders often say that members demand votes right up to the moment they are asked to take a dicey one.)

Others believe Mr. McConnell is making the best of a difficult political environment.

“I think he wants to unify Republicans, and I believe the president’s support will help us do that,” said Senator John Cornyn, a top ally of Mr. McConnell as the Senate’s former No. 2 Republican. “I think it is a smart move on his part.”

“This is not easy stuff,” Mr. Cornyn added. “The majority leader has to make a decision on what is the best use of floor time and given the split in the Congress, he has made a decision that judges are an optimal use since we don’t have to be dependent on the House.”

Without question, Mr. McConnell and Senate Republicans have scored a major success on judges since confirming nominees now requires no participation by the Democratic minority and gives Republicans a powerful talking point with conservatives.

This week, the Senate passed a milestone in confirming the 150th federal judge of Mr. Trump’s administration to a lifetime appointment, far outstripping President Barack Obama’s pace and fulfilling pledges by Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell to remake the federal judiciary.

“These conservative judicial appointments will impact our nation for years to come,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who leads the Judiciary Committee and has been speeding through Trump nominees as if running an assembly line.

But the Senate is supposed to be about more than confirmations. Lawmakers on both sides would like to see it get back to legislative business. They see gun legislation, laws to rein in prescription drug prices, a trade deal with Mexico and Canada and a highway bill as possibilities.

“I believe both in the case of gun safety legislation and legislation on prescription drugs that the Senate has developed very good proposals and there have been a lot of negotiations going on in the past months and that we should proceed to the Senate floor,” Ms. Collins said.

But when it comes to legislation these days, the Senate floor is proving to be a very difficult destination to reach.

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Biden and Warren Avoid Direct Conflict — But for How Long?

If Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Elizabeth Warren are headed for a showdown, neither of them appears in a hurry to get there.

The two candidates have seemed to be on a collision course for much of the last few months: Mr. Biden as the Democratic front-runner and de facto leader of the party’s moderate wing, with a steady but hardly dominant lead in polls, and Ms. Warren as his rising challenger, slowly trimming his lead and perhaps surpassing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont as the focal point of progressive energy in the race.

Despite some pre-debate chest-thumping by Mr. Biden’s camp, no great clash occurred in Thursday’s debate in Houston, the first time he and Ms. Warren have been onstage together during the primary.

It is almost inevitable that the race will grow more combative, and in the wake of the debate there were signs that some of the leading candidates were ready for conflict. Mr. Biden, who only challenged Ms. Warren in a single exchange on health care Thursday, delivered a veiled swipe at her policy-heavy campaign at a fund-raiser on Friday, saying that the country needed not just plans but also “someone who can execute a plan.” And Mr. Sanders sought to reignite his own clash with Mr. Biden, releasing a statement from his campaign manager that accused Mr. Biden of “echoing the deceptions and falsehoods of the health care industry.”

Ms. Warren, for her part, ignored the back-and-forth, seemingly content with a debate performance that her campaign said had presented her “like a president.”

Supporters of Mr. Biden claimed encouragement from what they called the best of his three debates, but his tendency to garble his words, and his dated instincts on sensitive matters of culture and race, are sure to be tested even more strenuously in the coming months.

[Here are six takeaways from the September Democratic debate.]

Ms. Warren, the Massachusetts senator, and Mr. Sanders are plainly unintimidated by Mr. Biden’s lead in the polls. While he has a solid electoral base, made up chiefly of moderates, older voters and African-Americans, he has not gained new support since he entered the race, and now appears vulnerable to defeat in at least three of the four early primary and caucus states — Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

“The question is, who is trying to play a long game, against Biden and for the nomination,” said Dan Sena, a strategist who helped oversee the Democratic takeover of the House last year.

Mr. Sena, who is now advising Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a presidential candidate who failed to qualify for the Houston debate, suggested that Ms. Warren appeared satisfied with pursuing her own gradual and disciplined strategy.

“My suspicion,” he said, “is that the Warren campaign in particular is looking at a much, much longer runway.”

Among Ms. Warren’s goals in the near term are to consolidate her backing from liberals and expand her appeal to lower-income voters and minorities. Attacking Mr. Biden might not serve either goal. In the debate, Ms. Warren spent far more time highlighting her upbringing in a working-class Oklahoma family than engaging on any level with Mr. Biden. She must also still navigate the enduring presence of Mr. Sanders on the left.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160702203_c6bff26a-1474-4d23-acd4-58aeffb5d2f0-articleLarge Biden and Warren Avoid Direct Conflict — But for How Long? Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Richmond, Cedric Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Democratic Party Debates (Political) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr

Ms. Warren in the spin room on Thursday following the debate. She mostly avoided criticizing Mr. Biden. CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

And Mr. Biden may have more immediate challenges. On Thursday night, he repeatedly expressed himself imprecisely — saying at one point that no nonviolent criminals should be in jail, when he meant to refer only to nonviolent drug offenders. He also referred to himself as the vice president of the United States, without appending the modifier “former.”

In a moment that drew criticism after the debate, Mr. Biden responded to a question about the legacy of slavery with a meandering answer that wound up involving a recommendation to place social workers in the homes of parents who “don’t quite know what to do.” Those parents, he suggested, might do well to “make sure you have the record player on at night” so that young children grow up hearing more words — a suggestion he has made more broadly at other times, though he does not typically allude to that particular technology.

[Sign up for our politics newsletter hosted by Lisa Lerer and join the conversation around the 2020 presidential race.]

Mr. Biden’s obvious unsteadiness at certain moments opened the way for other candidates to question his strength as a challenger to President Trump. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, appearing on CNN after the debate, noted that Mr. Biden “tends to go on sometimes,” and depicted him as out of touch.

“At one point, he’s talking about people in communities like mine listening to record players — I don’t remember the last time I saw a record player,” Mr. Booker said, adding, “There are definitely moments when you’re listening to Joe Biden and you just wonder.”

Mr. Biden and his campaign surrogates have taken umbrage at suggestions that he has slipped in his political acuity, and on Friday they pushed back particularly hard on Julián Castro, the former federal housing secretary, for having bitingly questioned Mr. Biden’s recall of his own policies in the debate. Mr. Castro, who is polling near the bottom of the field, was the only candidate to attack Mr. Biden in such strong terms, drawing backlash that illustrated why other candidates had shunned that approach.

Asked by a reporter Friday whether he would release his medical records to address “concerns,” Mr. Biden, 76, said he would do so before votes are cast.

“What the hell concerns, man, you want to wrestle?” he said lightheartedly. He continued, “When I get the next physical. Look, I’ll release my — before there’s a first vote, that’s — I’ll release my medical records. There’s no, I mean there’s no reason for me not to release my medical records.’’

In Mr. Biden’s camp, there is a persistent sense that his rivals and the news media are underestimating him and giving him too little credit for the blocs of support he has already claimed. Whatever the flaws in Mr. Biden’s performance in Houston, there was no exchange in which an opponent obviously routed him, as Senator Kamala Harris of California did in the first debate and Mr. Booker did in the second.

He has faced many controversies throughout the campaign, his allies note, and he is still in the lead — a reflection, they argue, of the good will he enjoys from rank-and-file Democrats who feel that they already know him and who see him as best positioned to defeat Mr. Trump.

Mr. Biden’s advisers and allies indicated ahead of Thursday’s debate that he was prepared to challenge Ms. Warren, but he mostly refrained from doing so. CreditBrittainy Newman/The New York Times

Still, Mr. Biden may have exposed his anxieties about Ms. Warren in the one debate exchange that pitted him against her. He used his very first answer of the night to chide Ms. Warren for calling for the replacement of the Affordable Care Act with a “Medicare for All”-style system. Ms. Warren declined to swipe back; instead, she praised the A.C.A. but said it could be improved upon.

[Here’s the latest data on who’s leading the race to be the Democratic nominee.]

Mr. Biden never went after Ms. Warren again. It was a more restrained performance than what several of his campaign surrogates had seemed to forecast, suggesting that he would question the pragmatism of Ms. Warren’s policies.

Instead, the differences that emerged between Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren arose largely by implication: the side-by-side contrasts between Mr. Biden’s manner of speech and Ms. Warren’s crisp, detailed answers; or between his proud ownership of the ideological middle and her refusal to be outflanked by other liberals.

Allies of Mr. Biden pointed to the exchange over health care as an example of how he would draw contrasts with Ms. Warren and other candidates without becoming venomous.

“He made clear that everybody knew about the differences in their two health care plans,” said Representative Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat and Mr. Biden’s campaign co-chairman. Asked about Mr. Biden’s aversion to making personal attacks onstage, Mr. Richmond said: “It’s not his style, he would never do that.”

Indeed, Mr. Biden, who served for decades as a senator from Delaware, at times acted more like a man on the Senate floor than someone in a crowded presidential field, referring to Ms. Warren as his “distinguished friend” as he raised questions about her plan to pay for single-payer health care.

“There’s no pressure at this point for either one of them to go on the attack,” said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster. “The potential downside is, frankly, much more likely than the upside.”

The relative lack of engagement between Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren may carry risks, too. For Mr. Biden, there is the chance that holding back against Ms. Warren could allow her to amass momentum that would make her harder to overcome later on. And for Ms. Warren, there is the possibility that her status as the challenger who is creating the most buzz could pass to a rival candidate — perhaps someone more eager to make the case against Mr. Biden directly.

Kathy Sullivan, a former head of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said it would be a mistake to write off the rest of the field in favor of the top two or three candidates.

“I know people still want to focus on Sanders and Biden and Warren and say it’s a three-person race,” she said. “I don’t think that’s accurate. I think it’s a mistake and it would be unfortunate if people didn’t give all of these other candidates a good look, too.”

More Coverage of Biden, Warren and the Debate
Attacks on Biden in Debate Highlight Divide Over the Obama Legacy

Sept. 12, 2019

Biden Was Asked About Segregation. His Answer Included a Record Player.

Sept. 12, 2019

Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden Will Finally Debate. Here’s What to Expect.

Sept. 11, 2019

6 Takeaways From the September Democratic Debate

Sept. 12, 2019

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Liz Cheney, Tart-Tongued Fighter, Is Warring With Rand Paul Over Who’s Trumpier

WASHINGTON — After becoming the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, Representative Liz Cheney, the sharp-tongued lawmaker from Wyoming, wasted little time establishing her reputation as one of her party’s most combative partisan brawlers.

Ms. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, routinely lashes out at Democrats and detractors of President Trump. She branded Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of two Muslim women in Congress, “an anti-Semitic socialist who slanders US troops.” She said anti-Trump texts sent by F.B.I. agents “could well be treason.” She asked Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to “do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history.”

Now, the tough-talking congresswoman, who is pondering a run for Senate, has laced into a fellow Republican, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, in a nasty and deeply personal clash — with multigenerational undertones — over Afghanistan policy and the firing of John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s hawkish national security adviser. The feud, which began on Twitter and has continued on television, has cemented Ms. Cheney’s reputation as the most combative Cheney in Washington.

At a time when the president’s hold on the Republican Party is as strong as ever, it comes down to a contest between Ms. Cheney and Mr. Paul over who is Trumpier.

Ms. Cheney, an unapologetic proponent of using the United States’ military might around the globe, is a backer of Mr. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration with her father. Mr. Paul, a libertarian whose own father, former Representative Ron Paul, has called the Bush-Cheney approach a “crazed neocon foreign policy,” is among the most vocal opponents in Congress of armed foreign intervention.

Their back-and-forth has gotten downright nasty.

Ms. Cheney has invoked Mr. Paul’s 2016 Republican presidential primary loss to Mr. Trump, calling the senator “a big loser (then & now),” and resurfaced a four-year-old Trump tweet likening Mr. Paul to “a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain.” Mr. Paul shot back, suggesting that Ms. Cheney “might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars.”

On Friday, at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore, Ms. Cheney took a victory lap.

“I enjoyed it,” she said wryly. “I thought it was an enlightening exchange. Here I had been thinking the Senate was dull.”

A lawyer, former State Department official, onetime Fox News pundit and mother of five, Ms. Cheney, 53, has had a stunning ascent in Washington. Some view her as a possible House speaker, though she may be setting her sights across the Capitol. She is weighing a run for the Senate seat being vacated by Michael B. Enzi, a Republican whom she briefly sought to oust in 2014 in a campaign that ended in disaster for her.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158699361_25d9f14f-c9d8-440f-bfe1-f607679a4b39-articleLarge Liz Cheney, Tart-Tongued Fighter, Is Warring With Rand Paul Over Who’s Trumpier Wyoming United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Senate Republican Party Paul, Ron Paul, Rand Midterm Elections (2018) House of Representatives Conservatism (US Politics) Cheney, Liz Cheney, Dick

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, shot back at Ms. Cheney, suggesting that she “might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars.”CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“We have a problem in our conference where a lot of our members fear engagement with the media because of the media bias that we all believe to exist,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida. “Liz seems to understand the importance of doing a lot of media and also doing hostile media.”

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, said Ms. Cheney “hasn’t been afraid to call out some of the most radical members of the socialist Democrats.” But her tendency to name-check her opponents makes at least some colleagues uncomfortable.

“I think we have to get away from personalities,” said Representative Tom Emmer, Republican of Minnesota and the chairman the party’s campaign arm, in June, long before Ms. Cheney’s spat with Mr. Paul. “From a messaging standpoint, I think it’s a mistake — you don’t use names. This is not about the people — this is about their ideas. We need to have a battle of ideas in this country.”

Ms. Cheney’s meteoric rise has injected the politics of the personal into the highest levels of congressional leadership in a way not seen since Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker whose political action committee instructed Republicans to “learn to speak like Newt” by describing Democrats using words like decay, traitors, radical, sick, destroy, pathetic, corrupt and shame.

“I think that she’s been very effective when she’s been on TV,” Mr. Gingrich said in an interview. “I think she is personable, knowledgeable and assertive without being hostile.”

And in a party where 90 percent of House Republicans are white men, Mr. Gingrich said, Ms. Cheney is a huge asset in Republicans’ efforts to demonize three liberal freshman Democrats — Representative Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota, Ms. Omar and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez — who have become lightning rods on the right, fueling Republican fund-raising.

“You need a woman member to do that,” he said.

Ms. Cheney’s supporters say she pushes back hard at Democrats because she is deeply concerned about the direction in which the party, particularly the progressive left, would take the country. And they say she has drawn a sharp line against hateful speech, no matter where it comes from. When Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, seemed to embrace white supremacy, Ms. Cheney was among the first to condemn him.

But she also knows that tough talk wins elections. After Republicans took a drubbing in the 2018 midterms, losing control of the House, she complained the party had been too tame.

“We’ve got to change the way that we operate and really, in some ways, be more aggressive, have more of a rapid response,” she told The Associated Press at the time.

Ms. Cheney grew up around politics, handing out fliers and politicking for her father, who was elected to the House in 1978, when she was still a teenager. He once was the No. 3 House Republican; when Ms. Cheney’s colleagues voted her into the same post last year, the former vice president sat in the front row, wearing a silent smile, those in attendance said.

Ms. Cheney with her father, Dick Cheney, as he was sworn in as vice president in 2001.CreditGetty Images

“The vice president has a great line: He says, ‘I’m conservative and I’m not mad about it,’” said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “I think that’s the attitude Liz has had. She’s defending conservative Republican principles, she’s doing it with a smile on her face, and she’s doing it in an aggressive fashion.”

In 2013, after moving from suburban Washington to Wyoming, Ms. Cheney announced she would challenge Mr. Enzi, a genial and well-liked incumbent, in a Republican primary race.

It was an audacious move, and the campaign did not go well. Ms. Cheney was branded a carpetbagger; “Cheney for Virginia” bumper stickers sprung up around the state. Her ambitions divided the Wyoming Republican Party, splitting old alliances and friendships. It also created a rift within the Cheney family. Ms. Cheney came out in opposition of same-sex marriage, angering her sister, Mary Cheney, and Mary’s wife, Heather Poe.

She withdrew from the race in January 2014, citing “serious health issues” in her family. But in 2016, when Representative Cynthia Lummis announced her retirement, Ms. Cheney sought her seat and won. Now Ms. Lummis has announced her candidacy for Mr. Enzi’s seat, promising a “barn burner” of a race if Ms. Cheney challenges her.

A Lummis-Cheney matchup would be “very difficult to handicap,” said Tucker Fagan, a former aide to Ms. Lummis. Mr. Fagan said Ms. Cheney’s high profile in Washington and her combative style are assets.

“Here our representative is being interviewed on national television,” he said. “So we’re not just the flyover state. We’re somebody to contend with.”

In the House, Ms. Cheney’s policies are as bellicose as her messaging. She has led an unsuccessful charge against a resolution, sponsored by Mr. Gaetz and Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, barring federal money from being used for war with Iran. She has also argued forcefully against a withdrawal of troops from Syria.

That is the root of her disagreement with Mr. Paul, which seems to have begun Sunday after Mr. Trump disclosed that he had canceled peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David to end the war in Afghanistan. Ms. Cheney tweeted that he was right to do so.

That prompted Mr. Paul to tweet a Washington Examiner op-ed article from Wyoming legislators upbraiding Ms. Cheney for opposing the president’s push to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The tit-for-tat escalated, with the senator blasting the #NeverTrumpCheneys — a double swipe at the congresswoman and her father — and accusing Ms. Cheney of “pro-Bolton blather.”

On Friday, she seemed determined to have the last word.

“They’re issues that surround whether or not you put America first, as President Trump does,” Ms. Cheney told reporters, referring to her foreign policy disagreements with Mr. Paul, “or blame America first, as Rand Paul does and has for years.”

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Liz Cheney, Tart-Tongued Fighter, Is Warring With Rand Paul Over Who’s Trumpier

WASHINGTON — After becoming the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, Representative Liz Cheney, the sharp-tongued lawmaker from Wyoming, wasted little time establishing her reputation as one of her party’s most combative partisan brawlers.

Ms. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, routinely lashes out at Democrats and detractors of President Trump. She branded Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of two Muslim women in Congress, “an anti-Semitic socialist who slanders US troops.” She said anti-Trump texts sent by F.B.I. agents “could well be treason.” She asked Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to “do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history.”

Now, the tough-talking congresswoman, who is pondering a run for Senate, has laced into a fellow Republican, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, in a nasty and deeply personal clash — with multigenerational undertones — over Afghanistan policy and the firing of John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s hawkish national security adviser. The feud, which began on Twitter and has continued on television, has cemented Ms. Cheney’s reputation as the most combative Cheney in Washington.

At a time when the president’s hold on the Republican Party is as strong as ever, it comes down to a contest between Ms. Cheney and Mr. Paul over who is Trumpier.

Ms. Cheney, an unapologetic proponent of using the United States’ military might around the globe, is a backer of Mr. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration with her father. Mr. Paul, a libertarian whose own father, former Representative Ron Paul, has called the Bush-Cheney approach a “crazed neocon foreign policy,” is among the most vocal opponents in Congress of armed foreign intervention.

Their back-and-forth has gotten downright nasty.

Ms. Cheney has invoked Mr. Paul’s 2016 Republican presidential primary loss to Mr. Trump, calling the senator “a big loser (then & now),” and resurfaced a four-year-old Trump tweet likening Mr. Paul to “a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain.” Mr. Paul shot back, suggesting that Ms. Cheney “might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars.”

On Friday, at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore, Ms. Cheney took a victory lap.

“I enjoyed it,” she said wryly. “I thought it was an enlightening exchange. Here I had been thinking the Senate was dull.”

A lawyer, former State Department official, onetime Fox News pundit and mother of five, Ms. Cheney, 53, has had a stunning ascent in Washington. Some view her as a possible House speaker, though she may be setting her sights across the Capitol. She is weighing a run for the Senate seat being vacated by Michael B. Enzi, a Republican whom she briefly sought to oust in 2014 in a campaign that ended in disaster for her.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158699361_25d9f14f-c9d8-440f-bfe1-f607679a4b39-articleLarge Liz Cheney, Tart-Tongued Fighter, Is Warring With Rand Paul Over Who’s Trumpier Wyoming United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Senate Republican Party Paul, Ron Paul, Rand Midterm Elections (2018) House of Representatives Conservatism (US Politics) Cheney, Liz Cheney, Dick

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, shot back at Ms. Cheney, suggesting that she “might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars.”CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“We have a problem in our conference where a lot of our members fear engagement with the media because of the media bias that we all believe to exist,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida. “Liz seems to understand the importance of doing a lot of media and also doing hostile media.”

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, said Ms. Cheney “hasn’t been afraid to call out some of the most radical members of the socialist Democrats.” But her tendency to name-check her opponents makes at least some colleagues uncomfortable.

“I think we have to get away from personalities,” said Representative Tom Emmer, Republican of Minnesota and the chairman the party’s campaign arm, in June, long before Ms. Cheney’s spat with Mr. Paul. “From a messaging standpoint, I think it’s a mistake — you don’t use names. This is not about the people — this is about their ideas. We need to have a battle of ideas in this country.”

Ms. Cheney’s meteoric rise has injected the politics of the personal into the highest levels of congressional leadership in a way not seen since Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker whose political action committee instructed Republicans to “learn to speak like Newt” by describing Democrats using words like decay, traitors, radical, sick, destroy, pathetic, corrupt and shame.

“I think that she’s been very effective when she’s been on TV,” Mr. Gingrich said in an interview. “I think she is personable, knowledgeable and assertive without being hostile.”

And in a party where 90 percent of House Republicans are white men, Mr. Gingrich said, Ms. Cheney is a huge asset in Republicans’ efforts to demonize three liberal freshman Democrats — Representative Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota, Ms. Omar and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez — who have become lightning rods on the right, fueling Republican fund-raising.

“You need a woman member to do that,” he said.

Ms. Cheney’s supporters say she pushes back hard at Democrats because she is deeply concerned about the direction in which the party, particularly the progressive left, would take the country. And they say she has drawn a sharp line against hateful speech, no matter where it comes from. When Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, seemed to embrace white supremacy, Ms. Cheney was among the first to condemn him.

But she also knows that tough talk wins elections. After Republicans took a drubbing in the 2018 midterms, losing control of the House, she complained the party had been too tame.

“We’ve got to change the way that we operate and really, in some ways, be more aggressive, have more of a rapid response,” she told The Associated Press at the time.

Ms. Cheney grew up around politics, handing out fliers and politicking for her father, who was elected to the House in 1978, when she was still a teenager. He once was the No. 3 House Republican; when Ms. Cheney’s colleagues voted her into the same post last year, the former vice president sat in the front row, wearing a silent smile, those in attendance said.

Ms. Cheney with her father, Dick Cheney, as he was sworn in as vice president in 2001.CreditGetty Images

“The vice president has a great line: He says, ‘I’m conservative and I’m not mad about it,’” said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “I think that’s the attitude Liz has had. She’s defending conservative Republican principles, she’s doing it with a smile on her face, and she’s doing it in an aggressive fashion.”

In 2013, after moving from suburban Washington to Wyoming, Ms. Cheney announced she would challenge Mr. Enzi, a genial and well-liked incumbent, in a Republican primary race.

It was an audacious move, and the campaign did not go well. Ms. Cheney was branded a carpetbagger; “Cheney for Virginia” bumper stickers sprung up around the state. Her ambitions divided the Wyoming Republican Party, splitting old alliances and friendships. It also created a rift within the Cheney family. Ms. Cheney came out in opposition of same-sex marriage, angering her sister, Mary Cheney, and Mary’s wife, Heather Poe.

She withdrew from the race in January 2014, citing “serious health issues” in her family. But in 2016, when Representative Cynthia Lummis announced her retirement, Ms. Cheney sought her seat and won. Now Ms. Lummis has announced her candidacy for Mr. Enzi’s seat, promising a “barn burner” of a race if Ms. Cheney challenges her.

A Lummis-Cheney matchup would be “very difficult to handicap,” said Tucker Fagan, a former aide to Ms. Lummis. Mr. Fagan said Ms. Cheney’s high profile in Washington and her combative style are assets.

“Here our representative is being interviewed on national television,” he said. “So we’re not just the flyover state. We’re somebody to contend with.”

In the House, Ms. Cheney’s policies are as bellicose as her messaging. She has led an unsuccessful charge against a resolution, sponsored by Mr. Gaetz and Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, barring federal money from being used for war with Iran. She has also argued forcefully against a withdrawal of troops from Syria.

That is the root of her disagreement with Mr. Paul, which seems to have begun Sunday after Mr. Trump disclosed that he had canceled peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David to end the war in Afghanistan. Ms. Cheney tweeted that he was right to do so.

That prompted Mr. Paul to tweet a Washington Examiner op-ed article from Wyoming legislators upbraiding Ms. Cheney for opposing the president’s push to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The tit-for-tat escalated, with the senator blasting the #NeverTrumpCheneys — a double swipe at the congresswoman and her father — and accusing Ms. Cheney of “pro-Bolton blather.”

On Friday, she seemed determined to have the last word.

“They’re issues that surround whether or not you put America first, as President Trump does,” Ms. Cheney told reporters, referring to her foreign policy disagreements with Mr. Paul, “or blame America first, as Rand Paul does and has for years.”

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House Antitrust Panel Seeks Documents From 4 Big Tech Firms

Congress showed the breadth of its investigation into the big tech companies on Friday, making a public demand for scores of documents, including the personal emails and other communications from dozens of top executives.

Members of the House committee, Republicans and Democrats alike, who are investigating the market power and behavior of the companies, sent letters directly to Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Google.

The requests called for all communications to and from executives at those companies, including eight at Amazon, 14 at Apple, 15 at Facebook, and 14 at Google.

With the request, which was posted on the committee’s website, the lawmakers sent a not-so-subtle message that executives would be held responsible for the replies, and that the investigation would continue to play out publicly. That has the potential of damaging the brands’ reputation. They are already dealing with questions about spreading disinformation, failing to respect users’ privacy and maneuvering to minimize their taxes.

The requests come as similar inquiries are underway at the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and by the attorneys general of dozens of states. The investigations are just beginning in earnest. How far the inquiries will go, what they will uncover and if any allegations will stand up in court are all uncertain.

But the investigations show the growing angst about the tech companies’ power. For decades, the industry has been held up as a beacon of American ingenuity and business acumen, and it faced little regulation. Now, though, Silicon Valley’s influence on everything from how we vote to how we shop is readily apparent — and yet the technology driving it remains largely mysterious.

“There is this great and growing dependence on technology that we don’t really understand,” said A. Douglas Melamed, a former antitrust official in Justice Department. “And that frightens people.”

House lawmakers were expected to demand internal corporate documents and communications as part of their antitrust investigations. But those demands are often made to a company’s top lawyer. And the committee asked for all communications related to a long list of corporate actions, from companies acquired to the treatment of potential rivals.

By releasing its requests, the House committee offered a glimpse of the depth of the scrutiny that the companies will face and laid out the lines of investigation being pursued. The information it collects can also feed the other investigations, and help lawmakers more sharply question witnesses under oath in hearings, said William Kovacic, a law professor at George Washington University.

“Those interrogations take on an entirely different tone,” said Mr. Kovacic, a former chairman of the F.T.C. “This is a significant escalation of the process.”

The inquiries into individual companies are complex; the tech giants span a range of digital markets including internet search, advertising, e-commerce and social media. And the companies are likely to resist some of the requests, contending they could reveal trade secrets.

The companies will almost certainly try to narrow the scope and reduce the volume of the documents they deliver. But the House investigators have leverage. These are document “requests” but backed by the threat of subpoenas if the companies do not comply.

The communications habits of the individual companies will also play a role in determining how much evidence there is and in what form.

At Amazon, for example, Mr. Bezos writes brief emails to make announcements or delegate, but largely gives feedback and discusses issues in person. He is well known internally for forwarding customer complaints to staffers with just a “?,” leaving teams scrambling to resolve the issue.

Westlake Legal Group tech-investigation-sept9-articleLarge House Antitrust Panel Seeks Documents From 4 Big Tech Firms United States Politics and Government States (US) Justice Department House of Representatives Google Inc Federal Trade Commission Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet Collins, Douglas A (1966- ) Cicilline, David N Apple Inc Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues Amazon.com Inc Alphabet Inc

16 Ways Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon Are in Government Cross Hairs

Investigations could eventually lead to the breakup of some companies, and to new laws that might alter the balance of corporate power.

He has developed a rigid process for making decisions at Amazon that heavily relies on paper documents — called six-pagers for their length — that lay out the plan and reasoning for a proposed strategy. They often include hefty appendices and are presented to executives in long meetings where they are read and discussed.

In response to the committee’s requests, representatives of the companies mainly pointed to their previous statements: They have consistently said that they would cooperate with the federal and state investigations, and would seek to demonstrate that they operate in dynamic, highly competitive markets.

In a statement, Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, who leads the subcommittee on antitrust, which is conducting the House investigation, called the document requests “an important milestone” in the fact-gathering stage.

Mr. Cicilline also emphasized the effort’s bipartisan nature. The letters to chief executives are signed by Mr. Cicilline, and Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and also the ranking Republican members of the Judiciary Committee and the antitrust subcommittee, Doug Collins of Georgia and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

The formal requests for information begin with cover letters to the chief executives, saying the investigators are examining competition in online markets and “whether dominant firms are engaging in anticompetitive conduct.” The letters are accompanied by detailed lists of the requested documents and communications.

It is unclear how much of the investigative work will become public as inquiries progress. At later stages, when investigators are trying to lay the groundwork for a suit, they won’t want to show their hand to a potential corporate defendant.

Such work — collecting more documents, taking depositions, assembling evidence and building the narrative of corporate misbehavior — is best done in secrecy. Major antitrust investigations typically last many months or years.

Sometimes, companies themselves make disclosures about an investigation. Google, for example, said last Friday that its parent company, Alphabet, had received a mandatory request for information from the Justice Department about previous antitrust investigations.

The House document requests indicate that its staff has closely studied the companies.

The request sent to Google, for example, seeks communications to or from senior executives on a series of company moves including Google’s purchase of DoubleClick in 2008 and AdMob in 2011. Those acquisitions helped build up Google’s huge and lucrative ad business.

House investigators also want to see the executives’ communications on Google practices: One request is for communications on its policy on “whether non-Google companies can provide competing ad networks” and other services.

That part of the House inquiry echoes that of the states’ investigation of Google. The Texas State Attorney General’s Office, which is leading that effort, this week sent Google a lengthy demand for information on its ad business, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

But the House investigation is broader. Its request touches other businesses including smartphone software, seeking information on Google’s purchase of Android in 2005.

The House requests for the other companies are similarly detailed. The document sent to Facebook, for example, asks for extensive internal information about its acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, which were potentially emerging competitors until they were bought.

The House committee asks for company documents related to the “strategic value” and “any antitrust risks associated with acquiring” those companies.

The House document also requests information on any Facebook decisions that limit third-party apps’ access, including a version of its “platform policy,” which the company withdrew last year and could be read as a policy intended to keep competing technology off Facebook.

According to the House document, the policy said apps should, “Add something unique to the community. Don’t replicate core functionality that Facebook already provides.”

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House Antitrust Panel Demands Big Tech C.E.O.’s Emails

The government’s pursuit of big tech companies turned more personal and political on Friday, as federal lawmakers demanded documents, emails and other communications from dozens of top executives.

Members of the House committee investigating the market power and behavior of the companies sent letters directly to Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Google.

The requests called for all communications to and from executives at those companies, including eight at Amazon, 14 at Apple, 15 at Facebook, and 14 at Google.

With the request, which was posted online, the lawmakers sent a not-so-subtle point that executives would be held responsible for the replies, and that the investigation would continue to play out publicly. That has the potential of damaging the brands’ reputation in the eyes of their customers.

The lawmakers were expected to demand internal corporate documents and communications as part of their antitrust investigations. But those demands are often made to a company’s top lawyer. And the committee asked for all communications related to a long list of corporate actions, from companies bought to treatment of potential rivals. That suggests the Congressional staff has done its homework.

Similar inquiries are being conducted by the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of dozens of states.

The House investigation, like the ones by the federal agencies and states, is really just beginning in earnest. How far they will go, just what they will uncover, and, if it comes to that, whether allegations will stand up in court are all uncertain.

The inquiries into individual companies are complex, as the tech giants span a range of digital markets including internet search, advertising, e-commerce and social media. And the companies will most likely resist some of the inquiries by the House committee and other government investigators, contending that to comply would mean handing over corporate trade secrets.

By releasing its information requests, the House committee offered a glimpse of the depth of the scrutiny that the companies will face and laid out the lines of investigation being pursued. And the evidence it collects can also feed the other investigations.

In response to the House committee’s information requests, representatives of the companies mainly pointed to past statements they have already made. The companies have consistently said they would cooperate with the federal and state investigations, and that they would seek to demonstrate that they operate in dynamic, highly competitive markets.

Westlake Legal Group tech-investigation-sept9-articleLarge House Antitrust Panel Demands Big Tech C.E.O.’s Emails United States Politics and Government States (US) Justice Department House of Representatives Google Inc Federal Trade Commission Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet Collins, Douglas A (1966- ) Cicilline, David N Apple Inc Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues Amazon.com Inc Alphabet Inc

16 Ways Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon Are in Government Cross Hairs

Investigations could eventually lead to the breakup of some companies, and to new laws that might alter the balance of corporate power.

In a statement, Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, who leads the subcommittee on antitrust, which is conducting the House investigation, called the document requests “an important milestone” in the fact-gathering stage of its investigation.

Mr. Cicilline also emphasized the bipartisan nature of the House effort. The letters to chief executives are signed by Mr. Cicilline, and Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, but also the ranking Republican members of the Judiciary Committee and the antitrust subcommittee, Doug Collins of Georgia and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

The formal requests for information begin with cover letters to the chief executives, saying the investigators are examining competition in online markets and “whether dominant firms are engaging in anticompetitive conduct.” The letters are accompanied by detailed lists of the documents and communications sought from the named executives.

Just how much of the investigative work will become public as inquiries progress is unclear. Information requests and public declarations are one thing. But that is very different from later stages, when investigators are trying to lay the groundwork for a suit — and won’t want to their hand to a potential corporate defendant.

Such work, collecting more documents, taking depositions and assembling the evidence and building the narrative of corporate misbehavior, is best done in private. Major antitrust investigations typically last many months or years.

Sometimes, the companies themselves make disclosures about an investigation. Google, for example, said last Friday that its parent company, Alphabet, had received a mandatory request for information from the Justice Department concerning the company’s previous antitrust investigations.

The House document requests show that its staff has closely studied the companies.

The request sent to Google, for example, seeks communications to or from senior executives on a series of company moves including Google’s purchase of DoubleClick in 2008 and AdMob in 2011. Those acquisitions helped build up Google’s huge and lucrative ad business.

But House investigators want to see the executives’ communications on Google practices: One request is for communications on its policy on “whether non-Google companies can provide competing ad networks” and other services.

That part of the House inquiry echoes that of the states’ investigation of Google. The Texas state attorney general’s office, which is leading the states’ pursuit of the company, sent Google this week a lengthy demand for information on its ad business, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

But the House investigation is broader. Its request also touches other businesses including smartphone software, seeking information on Google’s purchase of Android in 2005.

The House requests are similarly detailed for the other companies. The Facebook document asks for extensive internal information about its acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, which were potentially emerging competitors until they were bought.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com