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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Pompeo, Mike"

Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy

Westlake Legal Group 01dc-russia-assess-facebookJumbo Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Taliban State Department Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Putin, Vladimir V Pompeo, Mike North Atlantic Treaty Organization Group of Eight Embargoes and Sanctions Cyberwarfare and Defense Cold War Era Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

The intelligence finding that Russia was most likely paying a bounty for the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan has evoked a strange silence from President Trump and his top national security officials.

He insists he never saw the intelligence, though it was part of the President’s Daily Brief just days before a peace deal was signed with the Taliban in February.

The White House says it was not even appropriate for him to be briefed because the president only sees “verified” intelligence — prompting derision from officials who have spent years working on the daily brief and say it is most valuable when filled with dissenting interpretations and alternative explanations.

But it doesn’t require a high-level clearance for the government’s most classified information to see that the list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rivals some of the worst days of the Cold War.

There have been new cyberattacks on Americans working from home to exploit vulnerabilities in their corporate systems and continued concern about new playbooks for Russian actors seeking to influence the November election. Off the coast of Alaska, Russian jets have been testing American air defenses, sending U.S. warplanes scrambling to intercept them.

It is all part of what Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Monday was “the latest in a series of escalations from Putin’s regime.”

Yet missing from all this is a strategy for pushing back — old-fashioned deterrence, to pluck a phrase from the depths of the Cold War — that could be employed from Afghanistan to Ukraine, from the deserts of Libya to the vulnerable voter registration rolls in battleground states.

Officially, in Mr. Trump’s national security strategy, Russia is described as a “revisionist power” whose efforts to peel away NATO allies and push the United States out of the Middle East have to be countered. But the paper strategy differs significantly from the reality.

There are at least two Russia strategies in this divided administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, usually so attuned to Mr. Trump, speaks for the hawkish wing: He came to the State Department podium a few weeks ago to declare that Crimea, annexed by Russia six years ago, will never be recognized as Russian territory.

Then there is the president, who “repeatedly objected to criticizing Russia and pressed us not to be so critical of Russia publicly,” his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, notes in his recent memoir. A parade of other former national security aides have emerged, bruised, with similar reports.

Yet the nature of intelligence — always incomplete and not always definitive — gives Mr. Trump an opening to dismiss anything that challenges his worldview.

“By definition, intelligence means looking at pieces of a puzzle,” said Glenn S. Gerstell, who retired this year as the general counsel of the National Security Agency, before the Russian bounty issue was front and center. “It’s not unusual to have inconsistencies. And the President’s Daily Brief, not infrequently, would say that there is no unanimity in the intelligence community, and would explain the dissenting views or the lack of corroboration.”

That absence of clarity has not slowed Mr. Trump when it comes to placing new sanctions on China and Iran, who pose very different kinds of challenges to American power.

Yet the president made no apparent effort to sort through evidence on Russia, even before his most recent call with President Vladimir V. Putin, when he invited the Russian leader to a Group of 7 meeting planned for September in Washington. Russia has been banned from the group since the Crimea invasion, and Mr. Trump was essentially restoring it to the G8 over the objection of many of America’s closest allies.

The White House will not say whether he would have acted differently had he been aware of the Russian bounty for American lives.

“If you’re going to be on the phone with Vladimir Putin, this is something you ought to know,” said Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who managed the impeachment trial against Mr. Trump. “This is something you ought to know if you’re inviting Russia back into the G8.”

It is just the latest example of how, in Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach, he rarely talks about Russia strategy other than to say it would be good to be friends. He relies on his gut and talks about his “good relationship” with Mr. Putin, echoing a line he often uses about Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator.

So it is little surprise that after three and a half years, there is often hesitation to bring Mr. Trump damning intelligence about Russia.

And in this case, there was another element: concern inside the White House about any intelligence findings that might interfere with the administration’s announcement of a peace deal with the Taliban.

After months of broken-off negotiations, Mr. Trump was intent on announcing the accord in February, as a prelude to declaring that he was getting Americans out of Afghanistan. As one senior official described it, the evidence about Russia could have threatened that deal because it suggested that after 18 years of war, Mr. Trump was letting Russia chase the last American troops out of the country.

The warning to Mr. Trump appeared in the president’s briefing book — which Mr. Bolton said almost always went unread — in late February. On Feb. 28, the president issued a statement that a signing ceremony for the Afghan deal was imminent.

“When I ran for office,” Mr. Trump said in the statement, “I promised the American people I would begin to bring our troops home, and see to end this war. We are making substantial progress on that promise.”

He dispatched Mr. Pompeo to witness the signing with the Taliban. And as Mr. Trump noted in a tweet over the weekend, there have been no major attacks on American troops since. (Instead, the attacks have focused on Afghan troops and civilians.)

Russia’s complicity in the bounty plot came into sharper focus on Tuesday as The New York Times reported that American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account, according to officials familiar with the intelligence.

The United States has accused Russia of providing general support to the Taliban before. But the newly revealed information about financial transfers bolstered other evidence of the plot, including detainee interrogations, and helped reduce an earlier disagreement among intelligence analysts and agencies over the reliability of the detainees.

Lawmakers on Tuesday emerged from closed briefings on the matter to challenge why Mr. Trump and his advisers failed to recognize the seriousness of the intelligence assessment.

“I’m concerned they didn’t pursue it as aggressively or comprehensively as they should have,” said Representative Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat who heads the House Armed Services Committee. “Clearly there was evidence that Russia was paying the bounties.”

The oddity, of course, is that despite Mr. Trump’s deference to the Russians, relations between Moscow and Washington under the Trump administration have nose-dived.

That was clear in the stiff sentence handed down recently in Moscow against Paul N. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, after his conviction on espionage charges in what the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John J. Sullivan, called a “mockery of justice.”

Even Russian state television now regularly mocks Mr. Trump as a buffoon, very different from its gushing tone during the 2016 presidential election.

Andrew Higgins contributed reporting.

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U.S. Halts High-Tech Exports to Hong Kong Over Security Concerns

Westlake Legal Group merlin_171420231_6a3f600b-2dcf-4afa-99c5-f9815cdb3442-facebookJumbo U.S. Halts High-Tech Exports to Hong Kong Over Security Concerns United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J State Department Ross, Wilbur L Jr Pompeo, Mike International Trade and World Market Embargoes and Sanctions Commerce Department

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration placed new restrictions on U.S. exports of defense equipment and certain high-technology products to Hong Kong on Monday, in response to a new Chinese law aimed at tightening Beijing’s control over the territory.

The administration determined in late May that Hong Kong no longer had significant autonomy under Chinese rule, and promised to begin stripping away Hong Kong’s privileged status with the United States if Beijing continued to crack down on civil liberties in Hong Kong.

Chinese lawmakers are poised to approve a national security law as soon as this week that could drastically curb protests and other criticisms of the Chinese government, infringing on an arrangement that has made Hong Kong, which China ceded to Britain in 1842 and which ceased being a British colony in 1997, autonomous in many respects.

In separate statements on Monday, the State Department said that it would end exports of U.S. military equipment to Hong Kong, while the Commerce Department said that Hong Kong would now be subject to the same types of controls on certain technology exports that apply to China. Those controls block American companies from selling certain types of sensitive, high-technology products that could threaten national security to China, Russia and other countries deemed to be a security risk.

The effect of the new restrictions announced Monday appear to be relatively limited in scope, given the small volume of trade the United States does with Hong Kong. Hong Kong represented just 2.2 percent of American exports in 2018, with defense and high-technology items making up a sliver of that.

But the export limitations announced Monday could have larger implications for some multinational companies, including some semiconductor firms, who now will be barred from sending products or sharing certain high-tech information with the territory. Some multinational companies that chose Hong Kong as a base for doing business with China have begun considering moves to other locations, including Singapore.

The Trump administration has said it would end an extradition treaty with Hong Kong and curtail some other commercial relations as a result of China’s new security law. It said it would cancel visas for thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to the Chinese military, and threatened to place sanctions on Chinese government officials and financial institutions involved in promulgating the security law.

But the Trump administration has stopped short of broader financial sanctions, which could be crippling for Chinese companies and the U.S.-China economic relationship, including President Trump’s Phase 1 trade deal.

In a statement, Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, said that China’s new security law undermined the territory’s autonomy and increased the risk that delicate American technology would be diverted to China’s military or security forces.

Mr. Ross said that further actions to eliminate Hong Kong’s differential treatment were “also being evaluated.”

“We urge Beijing to immediately reverse course and fulfill the promises it has made to the people of Hong Kong and the world,” he added.

“It gives us no pleasure to take this action,” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said in a separate statement. “But given Beijing now treats Hong Kong as ‘One Country, One System,’ so must we.”

Halting American high-tech exports to Hong Kong is not a new idea, as some American security experts have warned for years that China may be using purchases through Hong Kong to obtain products of military value that are prohibited for sale directly to mainland China. But Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary of commerce and economic development, said in an interview in his office in Hong Kong last year that the city has very tight controls on any re-export of high-tech gear that is subject to export controls by the United States or any other country.

Mr. Yau said at the time that the Hong Kong government was strongly opposed to any American move to apply export controls to Hong Kong, saying that Hong Kong retains a separate system in many ways from the mainland and has a history of close cooperation with the United States.

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Beijing.

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Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir

John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, plans to publish a damning book next week depicting President Trump as a corrupt, poorly informed, reckless leader who used the power of his office to advance his own personal and political needs even ahead of the nation’s interests.

The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” describes Mr. Bolton’s 17 turbulent months at Mr. Trump’s side through a multitude of crises and foreign policy challenges, but attention has focused mainly on his assertions that the president took a variety of actions that should have been investigated for possible impeachment beyond just the pressure campaign on Ukraine to incriminate Democrats.

Mr. Bolton, who did not testify during House proceedings and whose offer to testify in the Senate trial was blocked by Republicans, confirms many crucial elements of the Ukraine scheme that got Mr. Trump impeached in December. He also asserts that the president was willing to intervene in criminal investigations to curry favor with foreign dictators. And he says that Mr. Trump pleaded with China’s president to help him win re-election by buying American crops grown in key farm states.

Here are some of the highlights:

The book offers firsthand evidence that Mr. Trump linked his suspension of $391 million in security aid for Ukraine to his demands that Ukraine publicly announce investigations into supposed wrongdoing by Democrats, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — the heart of the impeachment case against the president.

If Mr. Bolton’s account is to be believed, it means that Mr. Trump explicitly sought to use taxpayer money as leverage to extract help from another country for his partisan political campaign, a quid pro quo that House Democrats called an abuse of power. At the time of the impeachment hearings, Republicans dismissed the accusation by saying that the witnesses offered only secondhand evidence. Mr. Bolton, by contrast, was in the room.

Mr. Bolton says that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper tried eight to 10 times to persuade the president to release the aid, which Ukraine desperately needed to defend itself against a continuing war with Russia-sponsored forces. The critical meeting took place on Aug. 20 when, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Trump “said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” referring to Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Bolton otherwise confirms testimony offered by his former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, that he objected to the “drug deal” being cooked up by Mr. Trump’s associates to force Ukraine to help and that he called Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer who was hip deep in the affair, “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.” He writes that he suspected that Mr. Giuliani had personal business interests at stake and adds that he had the matter reported to the White House Counsel’s Office.

“I thought the whole affair was bad policy, questionable legally, and unacceptable as presidential behavior,” Mr. Bolton writes. “Was it a factor in my later resignation? Yes, but as one of many ‘straws’ that contributed to my departure.”

As the book nears publication and details spill out, many congressional Democrats quickly assailed Mr. Bolton for not telling his story during the impeachment proceedings and instead saving it for his $2 million book.

Mr. Bolton explains his position in the epilogue, saying he wanted to wait to see if a judge would order one of his deputies to testify over White House objections. Once the House impeached Mr. Trump over the Ukraine matter, Mr. Bolton volunteered to testify in the Senate trial that followed if subpoenaed.

But Senate Republicans voted to block new testimony by him and any other witnesses even after The New York Times reported that his forthcoming book would confirm the quid pro quo. Some of those Republican senators said that even if Mr. Bolton was correct, it would not be enough in their minds to make Mr. Trump the first president in American history convicted and removed from office.

Mr. Bolton blames House Democrats for being in a rush rather than waiting for the court system to rule on whether witnesses like him should testify, and he faults them for narrowing their inquiry to just the Ukraine matter rather than building a broader case with more examples of misconduct by the president.

“Had a Senate majority agreed to call witnesses and had I testified, I am convinced, given the environment then existing because of the House’s impeachment malpractice, that it would have made no significant difference in the Senate outcome,” he writes.

The other episodes that Mr. Bolton says the House should have investigated include Mr. Trump’s willingness to intervene in Justice Department investigations against foreign companies to “give personal favors to dictators he liked.” Mr. Bolton said it appeared to be “obstruction of justice as a way of life.”

He singles out Halkbank of Turkey, a financial institution investigated for a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions on Iran. At a side encounter during a Buenos Aires summit meeting in late 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey handed Mr. Trump a memo by the law firm representing Halkbank, “which Trump did nothing more than flip through before declaring he believed Halkbank was totally innocent.” He then told Mr. Erdogan “he would take care of things.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172386801_35c241af-d1c4-4d04-aff7-498baa210452-articleLarge Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Book) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Putin, Vladimir V Presidential Election of 2020 Pompeo, Mike O'Brien, Robert C (1952- ) impeachment Embargoes and Sanctions Bolton, John R
Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Mr. Bolton also mentions ZTE, the Chinese telecommunications giant that was convicted of evading sanctions on Iran and North Korea and then faced new penalties for further violations during its follow-up consent decree. During a conversation on trade with President Xi Jinping of China, Mr. Trump offered to lighten the penalties.

“Xi replied that if that were done, he would owe Trump a favor and Trump immediately responded he was doing this because of Xi,” Mr. Bolton writes. He called himself “appalled” and “stunned” by the idea of intervening in a criminal investigation to let a sanctions buster off the hook. In the end, the Justice Department accepted a $1 billion fine and lifted a seven-year ban on buying American products, an act of lenience that saved the company from going out of business.

A new allegation in the book accuses Mr. Trump of “pleading” with Mr. Xi to help him win re-election by buying American agricultural products, which would help the president in farm states. Mr. Trump did not deny it when asked about the matter on Wednesday night by Sean Hannity on Fox News, but Robert Lighthizer, his trade representative, did on his behalf earlier in the day, saying it was not true.

Over a long career in and out of Republican administrations in Washington, Mr. Bolton has rarely shied from giving his opinions, usually born of strong conservative national security convictions that have made him one of the capital’s most outspoken hawks advocating the use of military power and sanctions.

While he agreed with Mr. Trump on issues like getting out of the nuclear accord with Iran, he found himself repeatedly trying to stop the president from making concessions to other rogue states or inviting the Taliban to Camp David for a peace deal while pushing for a more robust use of force against outliers like Iran or Syria. He considered Mr. Trump’s diplomacy to be folly.

To Mr. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s decision to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore was a “foolish mistake,” and the president’s desire to then invite Mr. Kim to the White House was “a potential disaster of enormous magnitude.” A series of presidential Twitter posts about China and North Korea were “mostly laughable.” Mr. Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki was a “self-inflicted wound” and “Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with in Helsinki.”

Mr. Bolton also describes an environment inside the administration marked by caustic infighting in which various players trash one another in a contest for the president’s ear — and the president trashes all of them.

When Mr. Bolton took over as national security adviser in 2018, John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff, disparaged the departing adviser, H.R. McMaster, by saying, “The president hasn’t had a national security adviser in the past year and he needs one.” Mr. Pompeo, the book says, disparaged Nikki R. Haley, then the ambassador to the United Nations, calling her “light as a feather.”

The Justice Department has gone to court to stop the book from being published, arguing that it has classified information in it and that it was not cleared by a prepublication review required of former government officials like Mr. Bolton.

In fact, according to his lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, Mr. Bolton participated in an extensive back-and-forth over the book and agreed to all of the revisions mandated by the career official who reviewed it or came up with acceptable alternatives. Only when the review was over did another official, Michael J. Ellis, a political appointee, step in to review it all over again at the instruction of Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Bolton’s successor as national security adviser.

If there is classified information still in the book, it is hard to figure out what it might be. There are not references to secret intelligence programs or espionage sources and methods. But Mr. Trump insisted this week that every conversation with him was “highly classified” and therefore could not be disclosed, an assertion that goes far beyond tradition.

In his epilogue, Mr. Bolton says that in a few cases, “I was prevented from conveying information that I thought was not properly classifiable, since it revealed information that can only be described as embarrassing to Trump or as indicative of possible impermissible behavior.” One example is the direct quote of what Mr. Trump said to Mr. Xi about helping him win re-election.

For the most part, though, Mr. Bolton explains in the epilogue that the career official who reviewed the book merely made him take quotation marks off things that the president said and otherwise generally left them in. And so Mr. Bolton offers a guide to readers: “In some cases, just put your own quotation marks around the relevant passages; you won’t go far wrong.”

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

Trump Moves to Strip Hong Kong of Special U.S. Relationship

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-trump-china-sub2-facebookJumbo Trump Moves to Strip Hong Kong of Special U.S. Relationship Xi Jinping United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Pompeo, Mike Kudlow, Lawrence A Hong Kong Foreign Students (in US) Executive Orders and Memorandums Economic Conditions and Trends Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced Friday that his administration would end almost all aspects of the American government’s special relationship with Hong Kong, including on trade and law enforcement, and that it was withdrawing from the World Health Organization, where the United States has been by far the largest funder.

Speaking at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Trump voiced a range of grievances against China, angrily denouncing the country’s trade and security practices and its handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak.

As punishment, Mr. Trump said he would strip away Hong Kong’s privileges with the United States, ranging from an extradition treaty to commercial relations, with few exceptions.

“My announcement today will affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong,” he said, including “action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.”

Mr. Trump’s announcement came largely in response to Beijing’s move this week to put in place broad new national security powers over Hong Kong. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he was reporting to Congress a determination that Hong Kong no longer had significant autonomy under Chinese rule. Mr. Pompeo had earlier called the new Chinese law a “death knell” for the territory, a global financial and commercial hub with special status under American law because, in theory, it has semiautonomy until 2047 under an international treaty that Britain and China signed.

Mr. Pompeo’s finding amounted to a recommendation that the United States should reconsider its special relationship with Hong Kong. A 1992 law says the United States should continue to treat the Beijing-ruled territory under the same conditions it did when it was a British colony.

Mr. Trump made clear on Friday that he no longer considered Hong Kong to be separate from China.

“China claims it is protecting national security. But the truth is that Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society. Beijing’s decision reverses all of that. It extends the reach of China’s invasive state security apparatus into what was formally a bastion of liberty,” Mr. Trump said.


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  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated May 28, 2020

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      More than 40 million people — the equivalent of 1 in 4 U.S. workers — have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic took hold. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?

      There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • How can I help?

      Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.


He said the United States would suspend the entry of some Chinese citizens who have been identified as “potential security risks.” He did not give details, but appeared to be referring to a move to cancel the visas of graduate students and researchers who attended Chinese universities with ties to the military.

The New York Times reported this week that American officials had decided to go ahead with the action, which would affect thousands of Chinese students, a tiny percentage of the total number from China studying in the country.

Mr. Trump also repeated past charges that China had mishandled the coronavirus outbreak and suggested that Chinese officials had knowingly allowed travelers to fly from Wuhan to other countries, including the United States, while limiting access from Wuhan to other cities within China.

It was unclear from Mr. Trump’s announcement whether he was issuing a formal executive order to end the special relationship with Hong Kong entirely. The administration can take piecemeal actions — for example, imposing the same tariffs on goods from Hong Kong that the United States does on products from mainland China — before taking that final, drastic step.

Alan Rappeport contributed reporting.

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Hong Kong Has Lost Autonomy, Pompeo Says, Opening Door to U.S. Action

Mr. Pompeo’s action came just hours before China was expected to pass a national security law that would allow Chinese security agencies to take broad actions limiting the liberties of Hong Kong residents, many of whom have protested the proposed law and clashed with police officers.

The United States and China appear to be on a collision course over the future of Hong Kong, a center of global capitalism and symbol of resistance to the Chinese Communist Party. Relations between the two nations are at their worst in decades, and disputes have flared over trade, national security and the origins of the coronavirus.

President Trump’s foreign policy aides are discussing actions that would be among the harshest punishments taken against China over the past three years. The actions could have far-reaching consequences for global commerce and transform how Chinese and foreign companies operate, as well as upend the lives of many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents, who have been under enormous pressure from years of political crackdowns.

Hong Kong has been a financial and commercial hub since late last century. China relies on the bustling city of ports and skyscrapers on the edge of the South China Sea for transactions with other countries. Many Chinese and foreign firms use Hong Kong as an international or regional base, and members of elite Communist Party families or executives with ties to them do business and own property there. Many companies also raise capital by listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Mr. Pompeo has said the security law would be a “death knell” for Hong Kong, which has had liberties under a semiautonomous system of governance that do not exist in mainland China, including freedoms of speech, the press and assembly, as well as an independent judiciary.

In recent days, protesters in Hong Kong have taken to the streets to voice outrage at the proposed law, only to be beaten back by police officers clad in riot gear and firing tear gas.

American diplomats said they called on Wednesday for a virtual meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss Hong Kong, but China blocked the move.

If it proceeds with punishments, the Trump administration could impose the same tariffs on exports from Hong Kong that it puts on goods from mainland China, said officials with knowledge of the discussions. Other trade restrictions that apply to China, including bans or limits on what American companies can sell to Chinese companies because of national security or human rights concerns, may be imposed on Hong Kong as well.

Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers are discussing visa bans on Chinese officials who enact the law.

“I certified to Congress today that Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997,” Mr. Pompeo said Wednesday. “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.”

“Hong Kong and its dynamic, enterprising and free people have flourished for decades as a bastion of liberty, and this decision gives me no pleasure,” he added. “But sound policymaking requires a recognition of reality. While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself.”

Mr. Pompeo is the most vocal of a group of national security officials who advocate tough policies on China. Some of Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers prefer a more conciliatory approach to dealing with China, the world’s second-largest economy, and will likely urge caution. American corporate executives have said the administration should act with care.

Mr. Trump has rarely made any strong comments on the situation in Hong Kong, and he has praised Xi Jinping, the president of China, throughout his time in office, even insisting that they have a strong friendship. Mr. Trump has also been eager to promote a trade agreement he signed with China in January as an economic win for the United States. He wants to avoid jeopardizing that deal, even though Beijing is not meeting purchasing quotas mandated by it.

The president is keen to boost the U.S. economy, which has fallen into recession during the pandemic, ahead of the November presidential election.

But on Tuesday, when asked by reporters about China’s proposed national security law, Mr. Trump said he planned to act this week. “I think you’ll find it very interesting,” he said, adding that his response would come “very powerfully.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172871856_1c5f4d61-6dad-417b-859d-87923dc3f8ab-articleLarge Hong Kong Has Lost Autonomy, Pompeo Says, Opening Door to U.S. Action United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J State Department Pompeo, Mike Law and Legislation International Trade and World Market Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong China
Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

The certification by the State Department is a recommendation on policy and does not itself catalyze actions immediately. American officials, including Mr. Trump, will now weigh what steps to take.

The United States is likely to choose specific areas in which to break off cooperation first with Hong Kong, including trade and law enforcement.

The president would need to issue an executive order to end the special relationship entirely, according to people familiar with the discussions. One possibility is for the United States to take piecemeal action over the next year before ending the special status if China does not change course, they said.

“We’re not hopeful that Beijing will reverse itself, but that is an option,” David R. Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said of the Chinese government’s push on the national security law.

Britain handed Hong Kong to China in 1997, after the two nations reached an agreement on the colony 13 years earlier. In 1992, the United States passed a law that said the American government would treat a Beijing-ruled Hong Kong under the same conditions it had applied to the British colony.

In November, after months of pro-democracy protests and crackdowns by the police in Hong Kong, Mr. Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill requiring the State Department to provide an annual certification to Congress to help determine whether to continue the special relationship with Hong Kong.

That certification depends on a judgment by department officials of whether China was ceding enough autonomy to Hong Kong.

Susan Shirk, a former State Department official now at the University of California, San Diego, said that given the mandate from Congress, Mr. Pompeo had no choice on his assessment “once Beijing blatantly overruled the Hong Kong legislature with a new law that integrates Hong Kong” into the Chinese security state.

“Of course, the big losers will be the people of Hong Kong, not the politicians in Beijing or Washington who produced this predicament,” she added.

Mr. Pompeo’s announcement is certain to draw condemnation from Beijing, where the government is holding its annual legislative session this week. Officials announced details of the proposed law Friday, at the start of the session.

“If anyone insists on harming China’s interests, China is determined to take all necessary countermeasures,” Zhao Lijian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a news conference earlier Wednesday in Beijing. “The national security law for Hong Kong is purely China’s internal affair that allows no foreign interference.”

Some American business executives are advising the Trump administration to tread carefully on changing the relationship with Hong Kong.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents American companies in Hong Kong, said in a statement Tuesday that it was “deeply concerned” about the proposed national security law. It asked the Chinese government to “peacefully de-escalate” the situation and preserve the semi-autonomy of the “one country, two systems” framework that, under the 1984 treaty between Beijing and London, is supposed to exist until 2047.

“We likewise urge the Trump administration to continue to prioritize the maintenance of a positive and constructive relationship between the United States and Hong Kong,” the group said.

It added that “far-reaching changes” to Hong Kong’s status “in economic and trade matters would have serious implications for Hong Kong and for U.S. business, particularly those with business operations located there who exercise a positive influence in favor of Hong Kong’s core values.”

Julian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University, said the Trump administration had flexibility on which options to exercise.

“I would expect the president would act on some agreements, but not on others,” Mr. Ku said. For example, he noted, the administration might terminate the extradition treaty with Hong Kong, since the national security law makes fair adjudication less credible, or it could put Hong Kong under the same controls that limit American technology exports to China.

“But he might leave the visa waiver treatment that Hong Kong residents currently receive when coming to the U.S. alone for now,” he said.

Mark Williams, the chief Asia economist at Capital Economics, said Mr. Trump’s tariffs on imports from mainland China — which are paid by American companies — would not automatically extend to Hong Kong despite the new State Department assessment. But the cumulative effect of various actions would erode Hong Kong’s status as an international business center, Mr. Williams wrote in a note to clients.

“The irony is that in punishing Hong Kong, we wind up martyring it rather than saving it,” said Daniel Russel, an assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific in the Obama administration. As for diplomacy between Washington and Beijing, he said: “The brake pads in the relationship have worn very, very thin. And it’s hard to see this confrontation going anywhere except escalation.”

In Congress, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a sponsor of the bill on Hong Kong that passed last fall, cheered Mr. Pompeo’s announcement.

“For years, the Chinese government and Communist Party have walked back on its commitment to ensure autonomy and freedom for Hong Kong,” Mr. Rubio said. “We cannot let Beijing profit from breaking the Sino-British Joint Declaration and trying to crush the spirit of Hong Kong’s people.”

On another front, the State Department plans to expand the list of Chinese state-run news organizations operating in the United States on which it has imposed new restrictions, including foreign employee quotas, American officials said. And the agency is watching to see if China will retaliate against American journalists in Hong Kong for the administration’s most recent round of visa restrictions against Chinese journalists. In March, China expelled American journalists from three news organizations, including The New York Times.

Michael Crowley and Ana Swanson contributed reporting from Washington, and Keith Bradsher from Beijing.

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As Questions Grow Over His Activities, Pompeo Defends Firing of Watchdog

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-pompeo-copy-facebookJumbo-v2 As Questions Grow Over His Activities, Pompeo Defends Firing of Watchdog Trump, Donald J State Department Pompeo, Susan Pompeo, Mike Menendez, Robert Linick, Steve A Inspectors General Ethics and Official Misconduct

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday defiantly defended the firing of an inspector general who had investigated his conduct, and he issued a broadside against a Democratic senator to counter criticism that he had used diplomatic resources for his personal advantage.

In seething comments to reporters, Mr. Pompeo said he wished he had recommended earlier that President Trump dismiss the State Department’s inspector general, Steve A. Linick. He called it “patently false” that his request sought to retaliate for inquiries into his potential misuse of government resources or the Trump administration’s decision to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over Congress’s objections.

But he refused to explain why he wanted Mr. Linick fired, as Mr. Trump ordered on Friday night. Mr. Linick has been locked out of his office, despite a law mandating a 30-day waiting period for Congress to raise objections.

The investigations have fueled concerns that Mr. Pompeo has used the State Department to further his political ambitions, including a possible future presidential campaign. Over the last two years, Mr. Pompeo has privately met with political donors and supporters while on official State Department travel, and used speeches and interviews in Iowa, New Hampshire and other important election states to advance foreign policy.

Mr. Pompeo dismissed allegations of improper acts during his leadership, and he spoke of separate investigations by the inspector general in one breath in an effort to ridicule them.

“I’ve seen the various stories that someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner,” he said in response to journalists’ questions at the State Department. “It’s all just crazy. It’s all crazy stuff.”

He lashed out against Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has opened an inquiry into Mr. Linick’s firing after learning of the inspector general’s investigations into whether Mr. Pompeo or his wife, Susan, used State Department resources for their political or personal gain.

“I don’t get my ethics guidance from a man who was criminally prosecuted,” Mr. Pompeo said, referring to 2015 federal bribery charges that were brought, but led to no conviction, against Mr. Menendez.

“The facts speak for themselves,” Mr. Menendez said in a response Wednesday. “Secretary Pompeo now faces an investigation into both this improper firing and into his attempt to cover up his inappropriate and possibly illegal actions.”

Mr. Menendez said the attack against congressional oversight was not surprising. “The fact that Secretary Pompeo is now trying diversion tactics by attempting to smear me is as predictable as it is shameful,” he said.

Mr. Trump had previously fired or demoted three other inspectors general this spring, and the dismissal of Mr. Linick led Democrats in the House and Senate to begin an inquiry into the ouster.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Menendez reached out to Stephen E. Biegun, the deputy secretary of state, for details on a series of lavish dinners at the State Department that the Pompeos have hosted for hundreds of guests, including American business leaders and conservative political officials. Mr. Menendez had been aware for months of the dinners and sent a private letter to Mr. Biegun demanding to know whether they were legal, how they were funded and who had attended.

The Foreign Affairs Manual, which outlines State Department regulations, prohibits the “use, or allowing use, of U.S. government funds, property or other resources for unofficial proposes or for private benefit.”

Congressional officials have said Mr. Linick, who has served as the State Department inspector general since 2013, was examining several areas of policy and potential misuse of government resources that had raised concerns.

In one, officials said, Mr. Linick’s office had opened an investigation into whether the Pompeo family had assigned a State Department employee to work on issues unrelated to diplomatic business. Part of that inquiry has examined whether government aides were told to do personal chores, including picking up dry cleaning and walking the family dog, Sherman.

A focus of that inquiry is the role of Toni Porter, a longtime aide to Mr. Pompeo, who is on the State Department payroll as a senior adviser and who helped set up domestic travel and events inside the United States for Mr. Pompeo and his wife.

Ms. Porter worked for Mr. Pompeo when he was a Republican congressman from Kansas, heading his district office in Wichita. She also worked for a year as a lobbyist and program manager at the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, which had a relationship with Mr. Pompeo, as a congressman, that “was very important to us,” said Gary Plummer, its president and chief executive.

In 2017, Mr. Pompeo hired Ms. Porter to run the C.I.A. protocol office when he was the spy agency’s director. While there, she also helped Mrs. Pompeo’s outreach efforts to families of C.I.A. officers overseas. Ms. Porter followed the couple to the State Department when Mr. Pompeo became the top American diplomat in 2018.

Ms. Porter declined to comment on the investigations. People familiar with her duties said she helped Mrs. Pompeo, an agency volunteer, with a wide range of tasks, including organizing the private “Madison Dinners” in a historic room at the State Department.

A report published late Tuesday by NBC outlined details of the taxpayer-funded dinners, citing guest lists and other documents to demonstrate the extent that government resources were used. The report found that contact information for the dinner guests — including known political donors and potential supporters of any future campaign by Mr. Pompeo for higher office — were sent to Mrs. Pompeo’s personal email address.

A State Department spokeswoman defended the dinners as an opportunity for the guests — nearly 500 invitees from the corporate, political and diplomatic communities at about two dozen events since 2018 — to discuss foreign policy.

A person who attended one of the dinners last year called it “classic soft diplomacy,” describing it as geared toward offering an informal take on American political and business issues with a foreign dignitary as the featured guest. Other attendees included another Trump cabinet official, the chief executive of an American business and some conservative journalists and political operatives, the person said.

The Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee said in a statement Wednesday that “reports that Secretary Pompeo misused taxpayer dollars for lavish entertainment are very concerning, and these serious questions are compounded by Secretary Pompeo’s penchant for secrecy.”

Secretaries of state have used the diplomatic reception rooms atop the State Department, home to Thomas Jefferson’s desk and featuring an outdoor patio with a commanding view of Washington, to seek advice and to impress potential supporters. Condoleezza Rice held dinners there on promoting democracy, and John Kerry on the future of the Middle East.

But Mr. Pompeo finds himself in the position Hillary Clinton was a decade ago: every event scrutinized for the presence of potential donors to a future presidential campaign, and a suspicion that the sessions were about more than just foreign policy.

President Bill Clinton used overnight stays in the White House Lincoln Bedroom as a way to reward major donors, and Vice President Mike Pence courted influential donors, corporate executives and conservative political leaders at a string of private dinners at his official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington. President Barack Obama also entertained donors at the White House, as did former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. when he lived at the Naval Observatory residence.

When such efforts are exposed, they inevitably raise questions about the use of taxpayer-funded resources for the political or personal benefit of the politician. The president and vice president are broadly exempt from laws prohibiting the use of government resources for political purposes, and cabinet secretaries are generally allowed to participate in some political activities while on the clock, as long as they are not funded by tax dollars.

Questions over the possible misuse of taxpayer funds by Mr. Pompeo, including on frequent trips aboard department aircraft to his adopted home state, Kansas, have dogged the secretary since he began his current job.

On Monday, the person appointed by Mr. Trump as acting inspector general, Stephen J. Akard, an ally of Mr. Pence’s, came into the inspector general’s office to start his new job, even though the 30-day review period for Congress to examine Mr. Linick’s firing is still in effect, a congressional aide said. Mr. Akard is not quitting his job as head of the department’s foreign missions office, the aide said, and doing both jobs is an obvious conflict of interest.

David E. Sanger, Kenneth P. Vogel and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis

WASHINGTON — The State Department inspector general fired by President Trump on Friday was in the final stages of an investigation into whether the administration had unlawfully declared an “emergency” last year to allow the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their air war in Yemen.

Employees from the office of the inspector general, Steve A. Linick, presented preliminary findings to senior State Department officials in early March, before the coronavirus forced lockdowns across the United States. But it was not clear whether that investigation, or others that Mr. Linick had underway, led to his dismissal.

Mr. Trump, speaking about the latest in his series of firings of inspectors general around the government, said on Monday of Mr. Linick: “I don’t know him. Never heard of him. But I was asked by the State Department, by Mike” to terminate Mr. Linick. He apparently was referring to a recommendation he received from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I have the absolute right as president to terminate,” Mr. Trump added. “I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ and they say, ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look I’ll terminate him.’”

Video

transcript

‘Never Heard of Him,’ Trump Says of Inspector General He Fired

President Trump said he didn’t know why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had asked him to terminate the official, who was investigating the administration.

“So, I don’t know him. Never heard of him, but they asked me to terminate him. I have the absolute right as president to terminate. I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ And they said, ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look, I’ll terminate him.’ I don’t know what’s going on other than that. But you’d have to ask Mike Pompeo. But they did ask me to do it, and I did it. I have the right to terminate the inspector generals. Now, I don’t know anything about the investigation. But you’re just telling me about walking a dog, and what’d you say, doing dishes?” “Saudi arms deals, sir. Sales to Saudi Arabia over certain arms of concern over their use in the Yemeni crisis. So the question is whether Secretary Pompeo tried to subvert the deal with actions that he may have taken.” “I don’t think so. I mean, I think that when somebody pays us a fortune for, you know, arms, we should get the deal done. I will tell you that. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Westlake Legal Group 18vid-trump-pompeo-inspector-general1-videoSixteenByNine3000 State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis Yemen United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J State Department Saudi Arabia Raytheon Company Pompeo, Mike Linick, Steve A Iran Inspectors General House Committee on Foreign Affairs Foreign Aid Engel, Eliot L Defense Contracts Appointments and Executive Changes
President Trump said he didn’t know why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had asked him to terminate the official, who was investigating the administration.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The investigation into how Mr. Pompeo moved to end a congressional hold on arms sales to the Saudis was prompted in part by demands from the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, who said on Monday that the subsequent investigation might have been “another reason” for the firing of Mr. Linick. The White House announced the firing Friday night under a provision that requires 30 days’ notice to Congress before removing an inspector general.

Democratic leaders in Congress and several Republican lawmakers said on Monday that Mr. Trump had not given sufficient justification for the firing and that they wanted answers during the 30-day review period.

The inspector general’s office conducts multiple, simultaneous investigations into the activities of the State Department and its officials.

“We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed,” Mr. Engel said of the arms sale inquiry.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Pompeo said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post that he had recommended to Mr. Trump that Mr. Linick be fired because Mr. Linick was “undermining” the department’s mission. Mr. Pompeo did not give details.

He also said his recommendation to fire Mr. Linick could not have been an act of retaliation to end an investigation because he had not been briefed on any inquiries.

However, top department officials had clearly received briefings from Mr. Linick’s office and been asked to comply with investigations.

Mr. Linick is widely seen as competent, though sometimes reluctant to wade into the most politically charged issues.

Nonetheless, he issued a harsh report in 2016 on the use of a private email server by Hillary Clinton, who served as Mr. Obama’s secretary of state, and played a minor role in the impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump last fall. He issued two reports last year that criticized political appointees at the State Department, some of whom work closely with Mr. Pompeo.

Mr. Trump has appointed Ambassador Stephen J. Akard, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions, for the role of acting inspector general. Mr. Akard, an associate of Vice President Mike Pence, failed to get congressional support for a top State Department job under Mr. Pompeo’s predecessor but was eventually confirmed for the lesser post at the foreign missions office.

The decision to resume lethal aid to the Saudis and Emiratis was a major initiative undertaken by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump, who often discussed the importance of the weapons sales with officers of Raytheon, the Massachusetts-based defense contractor that lobbied heavily to get a 2017 suspension of sales lifted. Congress had imposed the suspension because of a political rift among Gulf Arab nations driven by the Saudis and because of discoveries that bomb fragments traced to Raytheon by investigators were linked to a series of Saudi bombings that killed civilians, including children.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172054212_974f6070-527a-4661-b3b2-1cc78fa5f5d0-articleLarge State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis Yemen United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J State Department Saudi Arabia Raytheon Company Pompeo, Mike Linick, Steve A Iran Inspectors General House Committee on Foreign Affairs Foreign Aid Engel, Eliot L Defense Contracts Appointments and Executive Changes
Credit…Pool photo by Andrew Harnik

Mr. Trump had pushed to resume the sales in 2018, justifying it as a jobs issue.

“I want Boeing and I want Lockheed and I want Raytheon to take those orders and to hire lots of people to make that incredible equipment,” he said.

But the effort to restart the sales was delayed by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident, Washington Post columnist and American resident. His death, and the suspected role of the Saudi leadership in ordering the killing, led to calls for a full end to military aid to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Pompeo broke the logjam a year ago, declaring an “emergency” over Iran’s activities in the Middle East that enabled him to sidestep the congressional ban and approve restarting the sales. That started the resumption of more normal exchanges with the Saudi government, as the Trump administration tried to move past Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. Saudi Arabia and Iran are archrivals in the region.

In June, after congressional hearings with State Department officials into the rationale for declaring an emergency over Iran, Mr. Engel sent a letter to Mr. Linick asking him to open an investigation. Mr. Engel’s office then tracked the investigation sporadically once it had begun, a Democratic aide said. The office learned by early spring that Mr. Linick had conveyed preliminary findings to the State Department.

This past weekend, after Mr. Trump notified Congress of the firing of Mr. Linick, Mr. Engel’s office learned more details of the circumstances around the arms sale investigation, leading Mr. Engel to ask whether the inquiry might have contributed to the sudden move against Mr. Linick by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump.

The separate inquiry into the possible misuse of a political appointee to run personal errands was still a potential factor, and there might be other motivations for the firing that remain unknown, an aide said.

Aaron David Miller, a former American official on Middle East policy who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that a year ago, “there was no credible emergency nor any real urgency for invoking an Iran emergency declaration for lethal arms sales to the Saudis other than the administration’s desire to please Saudi Arabia.”

He added that American officials “don’t want anyone digging around in the triangular relationship between the administration, Raytheon and Saudi because somebody crossed the line.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo were aware of the sensitivities around trying to bypass the congressional hold on the arms sales. Mr. Pompeo made the announcement of the “emergency” declaration over Iran on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend last year, a common move by government officials to avoid immediate questions from Congress and extensive news coverage. The administration also announced it was sending 1,500 more troops to the Middle East.

The move was aimed at allowing American companies to sell $8.1 billion worth of munitions in 22 pending transfers mainly to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. At the time, a person briefed on the decision said, a part of the arrangement would involve a transfer of munitions from the U.A.E. to Jordan that had nothing to do with Iran.

Mr. Pompeo had pushed aggressively for the sales, over the objections of career Foreign Service officers and lawmakers.

After the announcement of the “emergency” on May 24, lawmakers pointedly asked why, if there was such a crisis, Mr. Pompeo and Patrick Shanahan, then the acting defense secretary, had not briefed them on the situation and on the need to push through arms sales in a closed-door discussion on Iran just three days earlier.

In June, lawmakers called top State Department officials to testify about the decision. Some of their questions focused on the roles played by Charles Faulkner, a former Raytheon lobbyist who worked in the State Department’s legislative affairs bureau, and Marik String, a former deputy assistant secretary in the political-military affairs bureau who became a top department legal adviser in late May.

In a contentious hearing on June 12, lawmakers pressed R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of state in the political-military affairs bureau, on the move. Mr. Cooper argued that a continued hold on the sales would cede commercial advantages to Russia and China. One lawmaker asked whether Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a Middle East adviser with close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, had weighed in on the decision. Mr. Cooper demurred at first, then said no.

Michael LaForgia contributed reporting.

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Inspector General’s Firing Puts Pompeo’s Use of Taxpayer Funds Under Scrutiny

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo swatted away questions about his use of government resources again and again last year.

In January, news reports cited unnamed diplomats complaining about his wife, Susan, traveling with him across the Middle East during a partial government shutdown.

In the summer, members of Congress began examining a whistle-blower complaint accusing Mr. Pompeo of asking diplomatic security agents to run errands like picking up restaurant takeout meals and retrieving the family dog, Sherman, from a groomer.

And in October, a Democratic senator called for a special counsel to investigate his use of State Department aircraft and funds for frequent visits to Kansas, where he was reported to be considering a Senate run.

In each case, Mr. Pompeo or other department officials denied wrongdoing, and the secretary moved on unscathed. But his record is now coming under fresh scrutiny after President Trump told Congress on Friday night that he was firing the State Department inspector general — at Mr. Pompeo’s private urging, a White House official said.

The inspector general, Steve A. Linick, who leads hundreds of employees in investigating fraud and waste at the State Department, had begun an inquiry into Mr. Pompeo’s possible misuse of a political appointee to perform personal tasks for him and his wife, according to Democratic aides. That included walking the dog, picking up dry-cleaning and making restaurant reservations, one said — an echo of the whistle-blower complaint from last year.

The details of Mr. Linick’s investigation are not clear, and it may be unrelated to the previous allegations. But Democrats and other critics of Mr. Pompeo say the cloud of accusations shows a pattern of abuse of taxpayer money — one that may mean lawmakers will be less willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt as congressional Democrats begin an investigation into Mr. Linick’s dismissal.

The investigation is aimed at determining whether the act was one of illegal retaliation intended to shield Mr. Pompeo from accountability — which “would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions,” Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, leading Democrats on foreign policy committees, said in a joint statement.

Mr. Engel stressed on Sunday that Mr. Pompeo must turn over all requested records, and said, “What I’ve learned about Inspector General Stephen Linick’s removal is deeply troubling.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_162011826_8a8c5901-a331-4ea2-a0f3-bb74e95b9501-articleLarge Inspector General’s Firing Puts Pompeo’s Use of Taxpayer Funds Under Scrutiny United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J State Department Pompeo, Mike Linick, Steve A House of Representatives
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Mr. Linick is the fourth inspector general to fall in a purge this spring by Mr. Trump of officials he has deemed insufficiently loyal, but the dismissal is the first to prompt a formal inquiry in Congress, and it has also drawn criticism from a few Republicans.

“The president has the right to fire any federal employee,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “But the fact is, if it looks like it is in retaliation for something that the I.G., the inspector general, is doing, that could be unlawful.”

She called the move “unsavory” — “when you take out someone who is there to stop waste, fraud, abuse or other violations of the law that they believe to be happening.”

Aides to Mr. Pompeo did not reply to repeated requests for comment. The White House did not respond to questions about whether it knew of Mr. Linick’s investigation into Mr. Pompeo when it moved to dismiss him.

Mr. Linick’s office has not commented on that inquiry or on Mr. Trump’s announcement, which started a 30-day clock on the inspector general’s departure. Employees under Mr. Linick generally view him as competent and nonpartisan. Mr. Linick began his current job in 2013, and he held senior posts in the Justice Department starting in the administration of President George W. Bush.

In May 2016, Mr. Linick issued a report sharply criticizing Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, for her use of a private email server, and last fall he played a minor role during the impeachment hearings against Mr. Trump.

A few Republican senators, notably Mitt Romney and Charles E. Grassley, have expressed varying degrees of disapproval of Mr. Trump’s move. But on Sunday, Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, said: “I understand it. I don’t disagree with it.”

He told CNN that he had spoken with White House and State Department officials about the matter. “I’m not crying big crocodile tears over this termination, let’s put it that way,” he said.

Since Mr. Pompeo took up his current post in April 2018, and for more than one year before that as the C.I.A. director, he has been peerless in his navigation of Mr. Trump’s inner world of loyal advisers and domestic politics around foreign policy. While sticking close to Mr. Trump, he has weathered the impeachment process involving Ukraine, questions over the decision to kill a top Iranian general and the fraught diplomacy between the president and Kim Jong-un, the unpredictable leader of North Korea.

But the maelstrom of questions that began over the weekend could present a formidable challenge to Mr. Pompeo’s political instincts and career ambitions. People close to him say he is thinking of running for president in 2024. And more immediately, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has repeatedly urged him to run for an open Senate seat in Kansas — an important race given that the Republicans are at risk of losing control of the Senate in the November elections.

Mr. Pompeo knows the potential effect of a congressional investigation on a politician’s career: As a Republican congressman, he helped lead the charge against Mrs. Clinton, then the secretary of state, over the deaths of four Americans at a mission in Benghazi, Libya, an issue that hounded her during the 2016 presidential campaign.

For Mr. Pompeo, the spotlight now falls on much more personal matters, including the role of his wife. Other secretaries of state have occasionally traveled with spouses, but some officials in the State Department say Mrs. Pompeo, a former bank executive, has played an unusually active role in running meetings and accompanying her husband on official business.

“She has this quasi-official role, where my friends are called to meetings she is leading at the department,” said Brett Bruen, a former career diplomat and director of global engagement on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. “They know that’s not supposed to happen, because she isn’t in their chain of command. But what can they do?”

Credit…Pool photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

Mrs. Pompeo has accompanied Mr. Pompeo on several long trips overseas. In January 2019, she went with him on an eight-day journey across the Middle East — which raised questions among some officials because most State Department employees, including those supporting the trip, were working without pay during a partial government shutdown. Mrs. Pompeo has also flown with her husband on multinight trips to Switzerland and Italy, which included a visit to the secretary’s ancestral home region of Abruzzo.

Mrs. Pompeo, who is not paid by the State Department, has met with embassy families and local figures on some of the trips, and Mr. Pompeo has called her a “force multiplier.”

Mrs. Pompeo also played an unusually prominent volunteer role at the C.I.A. when Mr. Pompeo was the director there; she traveled with her husband, used an office space in C.I.A. headquarters and asked employees to assist her — actions that an agency spokesman defended at the time. Their son used a C.I.A. shooting range recreationally, according to CNN.

Mr. Pompeo’s frequent trips to Kansas last year also drew intense scrutiny. He went four times, three on the auspices of official business and flying in and out on State Department aircraft. To many, the trips appeared to be part of a shadow Senate campaign for 2020 and had little to do with foreign policy, despite Mr. Pompeo’s denials and his refusal so far to agree to run for the seat.

On the last trip, in October, Mr. Pompeo took part in a student event with Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter. And he discussed the Senate race with Charles Koch, the billionaire who is a longtime supporter of Mr. Pompeo, and Dave Robertson, the president and chief operating officer of Koch Industries, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Kansas City Star ran a blistering editorial denouncing Mr. Pompeo’s frequent trips to his adopted home state, telling him he should quit and run for Senate or “by all means focus on U.S. diplomacy — remember diplomacy? — and stop hanging out here every chance he gets.”

Four days later, Mr. Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel asking it to investigate Mr. Pompeo for potential violations of the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from using their official positions to engage in partisan political activities.

Separately, Democratic lawmakers on a House committee last year began looking at a whistle-blower complaint that Mr. Pompeo, his wife and adult son were asking diplomatic security agents to run personal errands, including picking up Chinese food and the family dog from a groomer. The whistle-blower said agents had complained they were “UberEats with guns,” according to CNN, which first reported on the accusations.

Lon Fairchild, the agent in charge of the Diplomatic Security Service, told CNN that he had seen no wrongdoing. The Democratic lawmakers did not open a formal inquiry.

More broadly, Mr. Pompeo has wrestled with managing the State Department, though he was initially hailed by many employees as a welcome change from Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s first secretary of state, who was perceived as aloof and dismissive.

Last fall, current and former State Department officials criticized Mr. Pompeo for not vocally defending diplomats who were testifying in the impeachment inquiry and coming under attack from Mr. Trump, and for his own role in the earlier ouster of Marie L. Yovanovitch, a respected career diplomat, from the ambassadorship to Ukraine.

Since the winter, Mr. Pompeo has also found himself on unsteady ground on policy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Usually outspoken on policy matters, he seemed to play a more subdued role early in the crisis. Then he chose to pull back from diplomacy with China, where the outbreak began, and relentlessly criticized the Chinese Communist Party for its actions. He pushed spy agencies to look for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that the outbreak began in a virology laboratory in the city of Wuhan, and later said there was “enormous” and “significant” evidence behind the theory even when many scientists and intelligence analysts argued otherwise.

On Sunday, Mr. Pompeo warned China in a statement that he was aware “the Chinese government has threatened to interfere with the work of American journalists in Hong Kong,” which has semi-autonomy. He did not give details, but said that “these journalists are members of a free press, not propaganda cadres, and their valuable reporting informs Chinese citizens and the world.”

David E. Sanger and Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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Trump Ousted State Dept. Watchdog at Pompeo’s Urging; Democrats Open Inquiry

Westlake Legal Group 16dc-investigate-facebookJumbo Trump Ousted State Dept. Watchdog at Pompeo’s Urging; Democrats Open Inquiry United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J State Department Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Pompeo, Mike Linick, Steve A Inspectors General House Committee on Foreign Affairs Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged President Trump to fire the official responsible for fighting waste and fraud in his department, a White House official said Saturday, a recommendation certain to come under scrutiny after congressional Democrats opened an investigation into what they said “may be an act of illegal retaliation.”

Mr. Trump told Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Friday night that he was ousting Steve A. Linick, who led the office of the inspector general at the State Department, and replacing him with an ambassador with close ties to Vice President Mike Pence.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, immediately called the decision to remove Mr. Linick an “outrageous act” meant to protect Mr. Pompeo from accountability.

By Saturday, Mr. Engel and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had opened an investigation into Mr. Linick’s removal, citing a pattern of “politically motivated firing of inspectors general.”

In letters to the White House, the State Department and Mr. Linick, the two Democrats wrote that they believed Mr. Linick had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Mr. Pompeo and that Mr. Pompeo had responded by recommending that Mr. Linick be fired. The lawmakers did not provide any more details, but a Democratic aide said that Mr. Linick had been looking into whether Mr. Pompeo improperly used a political appointee at the State Department to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.

A White House official, speaking on the condition on anonymity, confirmed on Saturday that Mr. Pompeo had recommended Mr. Linick’s removal and said that Mr. Trump had agreed. A spokeswoman for Mr. Pompeo did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

“Such an action, transparently designed to protect Secretary Pompeo from personal accountability, would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions and may be an illegal act of retaliation,” the lawmakers wrote.

Since starting his current job in April 2018, Mr. Pompeo has come under growing public scrutiny for what critics say is his use of the State Department’s resources for personal endeavors. Mr. Menendez has called for Mr. Pompeo to explain how he can justify frequent trips to Kansas, his adopted home state, using State Department funds and aircraft. He has brought his wife, Susan Pompeo, on many trips abroad, telling others she is a “force multiplier” for him. And CNN reported last year that congressional officials were looking at potential misuse of diplomatic security personnel for personal errands. That did not result in the opening of a formal inquiry.

In their letters, Mr. Engel and Mr. Menendez requested that the administration turn over records and information related to the firing of Mr. Linick as well as “records of all I.G. investigations involving the Office of the Secretary that were open, pending, or incomplete at the time of Mr. Linick’s firing.”

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, one of the few congressional Republicans who have been publicly critical of the president, denounced Mr. Linick’s dismissal Saturday evening.

“The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented; doing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their purpose,” Mr. Romney said on Twitter. “It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power.”

Few Republicans have commented on the move. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who in the past has made a point of defending inspectors general, said in a statement that “a general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress.”

Mr. Trump’s decision to remove Mr. Linick is the latest in a series of ousters aimed at inspectors general who the president and his allies believe are opposed to his agenda, upending the traditional independence of the internal watchdog agencies.

A month earlier, the president ousted Michael K. Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, who had infuriated the president by insisting on telling lawmakers about a whistle-blower complaint that ultimately prompted impeachment proceedings.

The president also took steps to remove Glenn A. Fine, who has been the acting inspector general for the Defense Department since before Mr. Trump took office, so that he could not be installed as the leader of an oversight panel intended to keep tabs on how the Trump administration spends trillions of dollars in pandemic relief approved by Congress.

In his letter informing Ms. Pelosi about Mr. Linick’s removal, which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Trump wrote that “it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General.”

“That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General,” the president added.

Under law, the administration must notify Congress 30 days before formally terminating an inspector general. Mr. Linick is expected to leave his post after that period.

Mr. Linick was spotlighted during the impeachment inquiry when he requested an urgent meeting with congressional staff members to give them copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine, signaling that the documents could be relevant to the House inquiry into whether President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden. The documents — a record of contacts between Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and Ukrainian prosecutors, as well as accounts of Ukrainian law enforcement proceedings — turned out to be largely inconsequential.

Two other investigations spearheaded by Mr. Linick’s office created friction among senior political appointees at the State Department. The office said in November that it had found that appointees at the agency, when it was led by Rex W. Tillerson, had retaliated against a career civil servant, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, because of her Iranian-American ethnicity and a perception that she held political views different from those of top Trump officials. Brian H. Hook, then the head of the office of policy planning, where Ms. Nowrouzzadeh worked, was scrutinized in that inquiry. Mr. Hook is now the special representative for Iran and works closely with Mr. Pompeo.

Mr. Linick’s office also found in August that two political appointees in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs had harassed career employees based on claims that the employees were “disloyal” based on their perceived political views.

His ouster came hours after the Democratic-led House had passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief measure that included a provision designed to provide additional legal protections for inspectors general. The overall proposal has no chance of becoming law, with near-unanimous Republican opposition.

Edward Wong contributed reporting.

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Coronavirus World Updates

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172147917_6e5774bf-8299-4a7a-aebc-aa6db4ace060-articleLarge Coronavirus World Updates Pompeo, Mike Palestinians Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Beirut (Lebanon)
Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

Some countries take tiptoe steps in easing restrictions.

At least 12 countries will begin easing restrictions on public life on Monday, as the world tentatively tries to figure out how to placate restless populations tired of being inside and reboot stalled economies without creating opportunities for the coronavirus to re-emerge.

Some of the measures include reopening schools and other public facilities, or allowing airports to begin domestic service.

Most of the countries are in Europe, including Italy, one of the places where the virus hit earliest and hardest, leaving more than 28,000 dead. The country plans to reopen some airports to passengers.

In Germany, where widespread testing has kept the pandemic under control, children will return to schools. Neighboring Austria also plans to restart its school system.

In Lebanon, bars and restaurants will reopen, while Poland plans to allow patrons to return to hotels, museums and shops.

In Asia, Japan is set to announce it will extend its state of emergency through the end of the month, while allowing some public facilities, such as museums and libraries, to reopen as long as they maintain social distancing controls. And India will loosen up some restrictions.

China and South Korea, both of which seem to have emerged from brutal, early encounters with the virus, have already begun limited reopenings. Restaurants and ]art galleries are returning to a semblance of normal operation, although the introduction of hand sanitizer and other preventive measures remain a constant reminder of how Covid-19 has changed the world.

Other countries planning to lift some of their restrictions beginning on Monday include Belgium, Greece, Iceland, Hungary, Monaco, Nigeria, Poland, and Portugal.

Trump predicts the American death toll could top 100,000.

President Trump predicted on Sunday night that the death toll from the coronavirus in the United States may reach as high as 100,000, far higher than he had forecast just weeks ago, even as he pressed states to begin reopening their shuttered businesses.

Mr. Trump, who last month forecast that 60,000 lives would be lost, acknowledged that the virus has proved more devastating than he had expected but said he believes parks and beaches should begin reopening and schools should resume classes in person by the fall.

“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” he said in a virtual “town hall” meeting on Fox News. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person over this.”

During the two-hour broadcast, he also acknowledged he was warned about the coronavirus in his regular intelligence briefing on Jan. 23 but asserted that the information was characterized as if “it was not a big deal.”

Mr. Trump confirmed reports that his intelligence briefings cited the virus even as he argued that it had not been presented in an alarming way that demanded immediate action.

“On Jan. 23 I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import,” Mr. Trump said. “In other words, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to do something.’ It was a brief conversation and it was only on Jan. 23.”

His comments come as warmer weather and fatigue over weeks of confinement lured millions of Americans outside this weekend, adding to pressure on city and state officials to enforce, or loosen, restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded with residents to resist the impulse to gather outdoors. In New Jersey, golf courses reopened and Gov. Philip D. Murphy said early anecdotal reports indicated that people were maintaining social distance.

Elsewhere, protesters pressing for the loosening of restrictions gathered in the capitals of Kentucky; Florida, where the governor has already announced a relaxing of restrictions; Oregon, where Gov. Kate Brown has extended a state of emergency through July 6; and Michigan, where protesters pressed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to reopen the state completely.

In Stillwater, Okla., officials abandoned a requirement that people wear masks in shops and restaurants after workers were faced with violent threats.

The website made its debut last week after Mayor Eric Garcetti declared that Los Angeles would become the first major American city to offer all residents tests for the virus, which health officials said on Sunday had caused 1,229 deaths in Los Angeles County. The city and county have the capacity to do 18,000 tests a day across 34 sites, Los Angeles officials said.

Thousands of Palestinian workers have crossed into Israel, and there’s fear they could bring the virus home with them.

Throngs of Palestinian laborers traveled to their workplaces in Israel on Sunday even though Palestinian officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about them contracting the coronavirus there and carrying it back to the West Bank.

Ibrahim Milhim, a government spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said that thousands of workers crossed into Israel on Sunday and that thousands more would do so later in the week.

Last week, an Israeli Defense Ministry body charged with liaising with the P.A. said Palestinians with permits to work in construction, agriculture and other sectors in Israel would be allowed to cross into the country. It also said their employers would be asked to provide them with accommodations until Eid al-Fitr, the festival at the conclusion of Ramadan in about three weeks.

Rami Mehdawi, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Labor Ministry, said Palestinian officials remained concerned that infected workers could return to their homes and spread the virus, but he said the Palestinian authorities had worked with their Israeli counterparts to prevent such a scenario. Israel and the P.A. would closely coordinate the workers’ return to the West Bank, he said.

After Palestinian laborers were last permitted to travel to their jobs in Israel in late March, Palestinian officials accused Israeli authorities of abandoning some of them at checkpoints and allowing others to cross back to the West Bank through areas they don’t control.

The P.A. has said that more than 70 percent of the 336 known cases of the virus in the West Bank are linked to Palestinians employed in Israel.

Separately, for the first time since mid-March, schools opened for some grades in Israel on Sunday, but local authorities in several cities, including Tel Aviv, kept them closed, citing concerns about safety and preparedness.

Beirut’s nightlife survived a civil war. Can it withstand a pandemic?

In Beirut, it is both a cliché and a point of pride to say that the Lebanese partied straight through a civil war from 1975 to 1990, Times correspondent Vivian Yee writes. She shared some observations from the Lebanese capital.

The barhopping neighborhood of Mar Mikhaël in Beirut used to vibrate with the clip-clop of high heels and the car-stereo beat of Western and Arabic music almost every night.

But the bars and nightclubs have been shut down since early March; many had closed before that as the city was engulfed in an epochal economic crisis. The coronavirus could only conquer what remained, putting thousands more out of work.

Nightclub appearances by D.J.s who had flown in from Europe, hyped for weeks on social media and street posters, were abruptly canceled. Soon it was just restaurants and cafes, and then not even those.

Though Lebanon appears to have dodged a mass outbreak, allowing the government to announce a staggered reopening for businesses in the coming weeks, not all will come back. Now that the Lebanese pound buys less than half what it used to, imports and drinks alike cost more.

The government has proposed allowing clubs to reopen in early June, but Joe Mourani, the owner of Ballroom Blitz, a popular alternative electronic-music nightclub, doubts he will do so.

“Clubbing, it’s really all about proximity,” Mr. Mourani said. “It’s the opposite of social distancing.”

A local D.J., Priscilla Bakalian had a different view. She believes clubbers will return, if in smaller numbers.

“People are dying to go party,” she said. “It’s in our DNA.”

Trump’s chief adviser on immigration sought to use disease to close borders even before Covid-19.

From the early days of the Trump administration, Stephen Miller, the president’s chief adviser on immigration, has repeatedly tried to use an obscure law designed to protect the nation from diseases overseas as a way to tighten the borders.

The federal law on public health that Mr. Miller has long wanted to use grants power to the surgeon general and president to block people from entering the United States when it is necessary to avert a “serious danger” posed by the presence of a communicable disease in foreign countries.

Mr. Miller pushed for invoking the president’s broad public health powers in 2019, when an outbreak of mumps spread through immigration detention facilities in six states. He tried again that year when Border Patrol stations were hit with the flu.

When vast caravans of migrants surged toward the border in 2018, Mr. Miller looked for evidence that they carried illnesses. He asked for updates on American communities that received migrants to see if new disease was spreading there.

In 2018, dozens of migrants became seriously ill in federal custody, and two under the age of 10 died within three weeks of each other. While many viewed the incidents as resulting from negligence on the part of the border authorities, Mr. Miller instead argued that they supported his argument that President Trump should use his public health powers to justify sealing the borders.

On some occasions, Mr. Miller and the president, who also embraced these ideas, were talked down by cabinet secretaries and lawyers who argued that the public health situation at the time did not provide sufficient legal basis for such a proclamation.

That changed with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.

Within days of the confirmation of the first case in the United States, the White House shut American land borders to nonessential travel, closing the door to almost all migrants, including children and teenagers who arrived at the border with no parent or other adult guardian.

Reporting was contributed by Ben Dooley, John Branch, Adam Rasgon, Peter Baker, Neil Vigdor, Michael Levenson, Claire Moses, Caitlin Dickerson and Michael D. Shear.

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