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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J"

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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Data on Financial Transfers Bolstered Suspicions That Russia Offered Bounties

Westlake Legal Group data-on-financial-transfers-bolstered-suspicions-that-russia-offered-bounties Data on Financial Transfers Bolstered Suspicions That Russia Offered Bounties United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Taliban Russia Ratcliffe, John Lee (1965- ) National Security Council McEnany, Kayleigh GRU (Russia) Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense Department Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan
Westlake Legal Group 30dc-intel-facebookJumbo Data on Financial Transfers Bolstered Suspicions That Russia Offered Bounties United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Taliban Russia Ratcliffe, John Lee (1965- ) National Security Council McEnany, Kayleigh GRU (Russia) Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense Department Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

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, which was among the evidence that supported their conclusion that Russia covertly offered bounties for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, according to three officials familiar with the intelligence.

Though the United States has accused Russia of providing general support to the Taliban before, analysts concluded from other intelligence that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program that detainees described during interrogations. Investigators also identified by name numerous Afghans in a network linked to the suspected Russian operation, the officials said — including, two of them added, a man believed to have served as an intermediary for distributing some of the funds and who is now thought to be in Russia.

The intercepts bolstered the findings gleaned from the interrogations, helping reduce an earlier disagreement among intelligence analysts and agencies over the reliability of the detainees. The disclosures further undercut White House officials’ claim that the intelligence was too uncertain to brief President Trump. In fact, the information was provided to him in his daily written brief in late February, two officials have said.

Afghan officials this week described a sequence of events that dovetails with the account of the intelligence. They said that several businessmen who transfer money through the informal “hawala” system were arrested in Afghanistan over the past six months and are suspected of being part of a ring of middlemen who operated between the Russian intelligence agency, known as the G.R.U., and Taliban-linked militants. The businessmen were arrested in what the officials described as sweeping raids in the north of Afghanistan, as well as in Kabul.

A half-million dollars was seized from the home of one of the men, added a provincial official. The New York Times had previously reported that the recovery of an unusually large amount of cash in a raid was an early piece in the puzzle that investigators put together.

The three American officials who described and confirmed details about the basis for the intelligence assessment spoke on condition of anonymity amid swelling turmoil over the Trump administration’s failure to authorize any response to Russia’s suspected proxy targeting of American troops and downplaying of the issue after it came to light four days ago.

White House and National Security Council officials declined to comment, as did the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe. They pointed to statements late Monday from Mr. Ratcliffe; the national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien; and the Pentagon’s top spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman. All of them said that recent news reports about Afghanistan remained unsubstantiated.

On Monday, the administration invited several House Republicans to the White House to discuss the intelligence. The briefing was mostly carried out by three Trump administration officials: Mr. Ratcliffe, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Mr. O’Brien. Until recently, both Mr. Meadows and Mr. Ratcliffe were Republican congressmen known for being outspoken supporters of Mr. Trump.

That briefing focused on intelligence information that supported the conclusion that Russia was running a covert bounty operation and other information that did not support it, according to two people familiar with the meeting. For example, the briefing focused in part on the interrogated detainees’ accounts and the earlier analysts’ disagreement over it.

Both people said the intent of the briefing seemed to be to make the point that the intelligence on the suspected Russian bounty plot was not clear cut. For example, one of the people said, the White House also cited some interrogations by Afghan intelligence officials of other detainees, downplaying their credibility by describing them as low-level.

The administration officials did not mention anything in the House Republican briefing about intercepted data tracking financial transfers, both of the people familiar with it said.

Democrats and Senate Republicans were also separately briefed at the White House on Tuesday morning. Democrats emerged saying that the issue was clearly not, as Mr. Trump has suggested, a “hoax.” They demanded to hear directly from intelligence officials, rather than from Mr. Trump’s political appointees, but conceded they had not secured a commitment for such a briefing.

Based on the intelligence they saw, the lawmakers said they were deeply troubled by Mr. Trump’s insistence he did not know about the plot and his subsequent obfuscation when it became public.

“I find it inexplicable in light of these very public allegations that the president hasn’t come before the country and assured the American people that he will get to the bottom of whether Russia is putting bounties on American troops and that he will do everything in his power to make sure that we protect American troops,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

He added: “I do not understand for a moment why the president is not saying this to the American people right now and is relying on ‘I don’t know,’ ‘I haven’t heard,’ ‘I haven’t been briefed.’ That is just not excusable.”

Mr. Ratcliffe was scheduled to go to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet privately with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, an official familiar with the planning said.

The Times reported last week that intelligence officials believed that a unit of the G.R.U. had offered and paid bounties for killing American troops and other coalition forces and that the White House had not authorized a response after the National Security Council convened an interagency meeting about the problem in late March.

Investigators are said to be focused on at least two deadly attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan. One is an April 2019 bombing outside Bagram Air Base that killed three Marines: Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Del.; Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, N.Y.; and Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa.

On Monday, Felicia Arculeo, the mother of Corporal Hendriks, told CNBC that she was upset to learn from news reports of the suspicions that her son’s death arose from a Russian bounty operation. She said she wanted an investigation, adding that “the parties who are responsible should be held accountable, if that’s even possible.”

Officials did not say which other attack is under scrutiny.

In claiming that the information was not provided to him, Mr. Trump has also dismissed the intelligence assessment as “so-called” and claimed he was told that it was “not credible.” The White House subsequently issued statements in the names of several subordinates denying that he had been briefed.

The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, reiterated that claim on Monday and said that the information had not been elevated to Mr. Trump because there was a dissenting view about it within the intelligence community.

But she and other administration officials demurred when pressed to say whether their denials encompassed the president’s daily written briefing, a compendium of the most significant intelligence and analysis that the intelligence community writes for presidents to read. Mr. Trump is known to often neglect reading his written briefings.

Intelligence about the suspected Russian plot was included in Mr. Trump’s written President’s Daily Brief in late February, according to two officials, contrasting Mr. Trump’s claim on Sunday that he was never “briefed or told” about the matter.

The information was also considered solid enough to be distributed to the broader intelligence community in a May 4 article in the C.I.A.’s World Intelligence Review, commonly called The Wire, according to several officials.

A spokesman for the Taliban has also denied that it accepted Russian-paid bounties to carry out attacks on Americans and other coalition soldiers, saying the group needed no such encouragement for its operations. But one American official said the focus has been on criminals closely associated with the Taliban.

In a raid in Kunduz City in the north about six months ago, 13 people were arrested in a joint operation by American forces and the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, according to Safiullah Amiry, the deputy provincial council chief there. Two of the main targets of the raid had already fled — one to Tajikistan and one to Russia, Mr. Amiry said — but it was in the Kabul home of one of them where security forces found a half-million dollars. He said the Afghan intelligence agency had told him the raids were related to Russian money being dispersed to militants.

Two former Afghan officials said Monday that members of local criminal networks have carried out attacks for the Taliban in the past — not because they share the Taliban’s ideology or goals, but in exchange for money.

In Parwan Province, where Bagram Airfield is, the Taliban are known to have hired local criminals as freelancers, said Gen. Zaman Mamozai, the former police chief of the province. He said the Taliban’s commanders are based in two districts of the province, Seyagird and Shinwari, and that from there they coordinate a network that commissions criminals to carry out attacks.

And Haseeba Efat, a former member of Parwan’s provincial council, also said the Taliban have hired freelancers in Bagram district — including one of his own distant relatives in one case.

“They agree with these criminals that they won’t have monthly salary, but they will get paid for the work they do when the Taliban need them,” Mr. Efat said.

Twenty American service members were killed in combat-related operations in Afghanistan last year, the most since 2014.

Fahim Abed, Najim Rahim, Helene Cooper and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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Father of Slain Marine Finds Heartbreak Anew in Possible Russian Bounty

Westlake Legal Group 30dc-military-facebookJumbo Father of Slain Marine Finds Heartbreak Anew in Possible Russian Bounty VoteVets Political Action Committee Veterans United States Marine Corps United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Russia Mattis, James N Improvised Explosive Devices Concerned Veterans for America Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — Erik Hendriks has largely avoided news reports since his son, Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, was killed by a car bomb in Afghanistan last April.

But the news that several American officials believe that a Russian military intelligence unit paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan has been impossible to ignore, especially as he’s learned that the attack in which his son and two other Marines died may have been related to that effort.

“If it does come out as true, obviously the heartache would be terrible,” Mr. Hendriks said.

He is not a political person, Mr. Hendriks insists. While he does not usually vote, he described himself as a supporter of President Trump.

“I am a Republican and I am a Trump supporter,” he said. “But there would be no way he didn’t know about it if Russians were paying off these cowards like mafia payoff hit men. I would expect the government to have 1,000 percent support behind these warriors.”

Despite the heartbreak of losing a son in combat, Mr. Hendriks said he never had doubts about the mission in Afghanistan.

“I agreed with Mattis on this,” he said, referring to Jim Mattis, the retired Marine general who served as Mr. Trump’s first defense secretary and repeatedly defended the United States’ role in Afghanistan.

“Thank God these warriors were there,” Mr. Hendriks said. “I really do believe if they were not there, the enemy would be here. I know my son supported it.”

In a telephone interview from his home in Glen Cove, N.Y., Mr. Hendriks said that “you would think they would have had the best intelligence and the best backing over there. If I find out this information was given to this administration or a previous administration, because let’s face it, who knows how long this could have gone on, the little faith I have in government would go down the drain.”

Felicia Arculeo, Cpl. Hendriks’ mother, and Erik Hendriks’ ex-wife, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Mr. Hendriks described her as currently “living a nightmare.” She told CNBC Monday “that the parties who are responsible should be held accountable, if that’s even possible.”

Lawmakers from both parties in the House and Senate have called for Congress to be briefed on the charges. On Monday, the White House brought in eight House Republicans to be briefed, while some Democrats were scheduled to go to the White House Tuesday morning.

Robert Hendriks was 25 when he and two other Marines, Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, a New York City firefighter, and Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Penn., were killed when their armored vehicle struck a roadside bomb near Bagram Air Base, about 20 miles north of Kabul.

Cpl. Hendriks had signed with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve infantry battalion based in Garden City, N.Y., right after high school.

It was his first deployment to Afghanistan, where he was serving with his brother, Joseph, who escorted his body back to the United States.

During his 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly promised to end the foreign entanglements that had engulfed previous administrations over the course of two decades.

Indeed, his criticism of the war in Iraq during the campaign and his desire to greatly reduce the United States’ role abroad attracted many veterans to his campaign. He has moved to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan. While still popular with veterans and members of the military, he has lost some support in recent months over his use of active-duty troops on American streets against largely peaceful protesters around the nation.

VoteVets, a liberal group, has teamed with Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative group aligned with Mr. Trump on many policy issues, to oppose overseas interventions and lobby members on Capitol Hill against “forever war.”

The accusations against Russia and questions around what Mr. Trump knew about them drew immediate fury from some groups that represent military families.

The Secure Families Initiative, which advocates on behalf of military families on foreign policy matters, said in a statement: “These revelations should appall anyone. But as military families, we are particularly panicked and grief-stricken. Those are our loved ones living with a target on their back. Outrage does not even begin to cover it.”

This week, VoteVets created a video for social media targeting Mr. Trump on the Russia issue, which was watched over 3 million times on Twitter.

The revelations of intelligence pointing toward a Russian bounty program have added to the disappointment and frustration of some veterans.

“This is pretty outrageous, quite frankly,” said Kyle W. Bibby, who was a Marine infantry officer in Helmand, Afghanistan, in 2010 and 2011, and retired last year as a captain. “This consistent theme of the Trump administration of overlooking things Russia has done has become ridiculous.”

Mr. Bibby said that during his time in Afghanistan, Marines were often told that other countries — notably Iran — were backing what he called “malign” activities by insurgents against American troops.

“The general rule of thumb is when something like this takes place, you call it out for the obvious reason that continuing this hurts people who are serving there,” he said. “At this point, we know that’s a basic expectation of a commander in chief. Donald Trump is not meeting that.”

But for Mr. Hendriks, a retired New York City Police detective, the issue is not a political debate, but a deep emotional scar, something that he said only others who have lost a family member to war can comprehend.

“I can talk to one thousand people a day and they have no idea what it is like to lay down at night and to lose a son like they do,” he said.

Mr. Hendriks notes that he has no proof of what Mr. Trump knew. “Because who knows the truth anymore?” he said.

Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Reddit’s Steve Huffman on Banning ‘The_Donald’ Subreddit

Westlake Legal Group 30ROOSE-facebookJumbo Reddit's Steve Huffman on Banning ‘The_Donald’ Subreddit United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Social Media Reddit Inc Huffman, Steve (1983- ) Hate Crimes Freedom of Speech and Expression Computers and the Internet Advertising and Marketing

On Monday, Reddit — a site that for years was considered one of the internet’s dirtiest sludge pits — barred more than 2,000 communities as part of a broad crackdown on hate speech.

The crackdown’s most notable casualty was Reddit’s largest pro-Trump community, r/The_Donald. The group, which had nearly 800,000 subscribers, served as a virtual gathering place for President Trump’s fans, and a source of countless memes, slogans and conspiracy theories that made their way into the broader online conversation. (In more recent years, it had devolved into a cesspool of racism, violent threats and targeted harassment.)

These actions were a major shift for Reddit, which spent years resisting the idea of moderating users’ posts and refused to remove all but the worst content on its platform. Steve Huffman, Reddit’s co-founder and chief executive since 2015, when he returned to the company after six years away, has faced pressure to reckon with the site’s legacy of bigotry. This year, hundreds of Reddit moderators signed an open letter to Mr. Huffman and Reddit’s board demanding changes to the site’s policies.

On Monday, after the bans were announced, I interviewed Mr. Huffman about the decision to take down The_Donald and many other subreddits. These are edited excerpts from our conversation.

Can you explain, in the most succinct way possible, why you decided to take down these subreddits?

STEVE HUFFMAN Yes. We updated our content policy to add an explicit rule banning hate on Reddit, which has long been an implicit rule, somewhat by design. But not being explicit about it, I think, has caused all sorts of confusion over the years. And so we updated the rule.

And then any time we make a rule change, we evaluate communities against the rule change. And so, as a result, there were a number of communities we ended up banning.

A few weeks ago, you wrote a letter to your employees about Black Lives Matter and where Reddit stood on issues like hate and racism. How much do you think the political climate and the protests and the kind of reckoning we’re seeing played into this decision?

The current events certainly added more urgency to it. Now, that said, we’ve been working on an update to our content policy for quite some time, and we had a sense of where the gaps were, and the rough patches.

A few years ago, you were asked about banning The_Donald specifically, and you said “there are arguments on both sides, but ultimately, my view is that their anger comes from feeling like they don’t have a voice, so it won’t solve anything if I take away their voice.” What changed?

So The_Donald is complex, and I think reducing that community or any large political group to one thing or one viewpoint is impossible. One aspect of The_Donald is that it’s a very large political community that, at one point in time, represented the views of many Americans. Political speech is sacred in this country, and we applied that to Reddit as well.

At the same time, that community had rule-breaking content — content that was harassing or violence or bullying. And so our strategy has been to try to get that community to come in line with our content policies. We made moderator changes, different technical changes to try to bring The_Donald into line, some more successful than others, but ultimately not to the extent that we needed.

Something I’ve said many times is that the only way to scale moderation online is by working alongside our community members and the moderators, because they have the context to decide whether an individual piece of content is hateful or not, for example. Which means that if we don’t have agreement from our moderators and our communities that these are the rules that we’re all going to abide by, then a community that’s not willing to work with us has no place on Reddit. And I think that became abundantly clear with The_Donald over the years, and even the past few months.

Right now, Facebook is facing an advertiser boycott — companies pulling their ads in protest of the company’s policies and their failures to keep misinformation and hate speech off the platform. Reddit also has advertisers, who presumably have some of the same concerns. Was this a business decision?

No, although, of course, what you say is true — we have advertisers who care about these things. But this was a decision — a series of decisions, really — to make Reddit better.

The mission of Reddit is to bring community and belonging to everybody in the world. And we’ve long had this debate on Reddit and internally, weighing the trade-offs between speech and safety. There’s certain speech — for example, harassment and hate — that prevents other people from speaking. And if we have individuals and communities on Reddit that are preventing other people from using Reddit the way we intend, then that means they’re working directly against our mission.

In a call this week, you said something about how you were struggling to balance your values as an American with your values around human decency. Can you explain more what you meant by that?

I think this is something that a lot of people in the United States are going through right now.

When we started Reddit 15 years ago, we didn’t ban things. And it was easy, as it is for many young people, to make statements like that because: 1) I had more rigid political beliefs; and 2) I lacked perspective and real-world experience.

Over the years, we’ve been increasingly confronted with difficult decisions, and we have to weigh these trade-offs. And so here we are, believing that free speech and free expression are really important, and that’s one of the things that makes Reddit special, but at the same time, seeing that allowing everything is working against our mission.

The way out, for us, has been through our mission: What are we trying to accomplish on Reddit? And what’s the best path to get there?

You used to joke that you were Reddit’s “totally politically neutral C.E.O.” For a long time, it seemed like neutrality was sort of the aspirational goal of being a social media platform. And now it seems like a lot of platform leaders, you included, are admitting that that’s not a good goal, or at least not one that produces good outcomes. Do you think the era of the neutral platform is over?

I’m going to reject that statement just a little bit, in that banning hate and violence and bullying and harassment is less a political statement and more a statement of what are largely common values in this country. And there’s certainly the political debate over how far free speech should go. But just as in the United States, there’s no such thing as unfettered free speech, there are limits. And I will point out that the Supreme Court has also wrestled with this over hundreds of years, because these are really challenging debates.

I’m baiting you a little bit, so don’t ask the obvious follow-up question, but … although I have political views, they don’t surface through Reddit. And nobody, in all of my years on Reddit, has actually asked me my political views.

Well, OK What are your political views?

You’d have to give me a specific case. But I think my previous point stands, which is that working in service of our mission is not a hot take. Banning harassment is not a hot take.

But in today’s political environment, even saying something like “Black Lives Matter” places you on one side of a cultural divide and political divide. So how do you think about the fact that even if you don’t mean for these to be partisan decisions, people will interpret them as such?

You know, I think the answer is in your question. I think making statements, or making changes to our policies in the name of human decency, may be perceived as political statements. But for us, it’s doing the right thing and doing the practical thing.

In the past couple of weeks, the President has threatened to revoke legal protections for online companies, and he’s gone after Snapchat and Twitter and other platforms that have taken action against him. Are you worried about becoming a target of the president and his allies?

Well, I believe the latest thing through the Department of Justice was demanding that these platforms consistently enforce their terms of service. And so we are simply doing what he asked by enforcing our own terms of service.

I’m sure that will be a satisfactory answer to everyone in the Trump administration.

[Laughs] I think we’re good, right?

One thing that was said about social media for a long time, and that some platforms are still saying, is that social media is just a mirror for society. Like, the problems that exist on social media are just a reflection of the problems that exist in society, and the good things are a reflection as well. Do you think that analogy still holds?

Yes, but let me expand on that a little bit.

So when one looks into a mirror, the first thing they do is they see themselves. And the second thing they do is they fix their appearance. They brush their hair a little bit, or whatever. Mirrors aren’t one way, in that sense. It’s an opportunity to see what we really look like and decide, is that what we really want to be?

Nilay Patel, the editor in chief of The Verge, had an interesting tweet. The conversation was all about the political and legal and financial reasons that platforms might want to crack down on objectionable speech. And he said, “sometimes the answer is as simple as people looking at the thing that they’ve made and deciding that they would like to be more proud of it than they are.” Does that resonate with you?

It does. And to be honest, I’ve said those words at Reddit. When I came back my first day of 2015, I told the company “one of my goals is for you to be proud to work here.” Because back then, the company was not in a good place. The people who worked at Reddit simultaneously loved Reddit — you wouldn’t be at Reddit in 2015 unless you loved Reddit — and were not willing to wear their swag in public.

Like, their Reddit sweatshirts and T-shirts?

Precisely. And that made me sad. It’s, I think, a very natural human thing to want to make the world a better place. I know those words are cheap in this town, but some of us believe it.

Your general counsel said on Monday that there’s a place for President Trump on Reddit. But given how the president has been testing the limits and rules of all the platforms that he’s on, and creating all these headaches for their leaders, do you really want Mr. Trump on Reddit?

Look, nobody wants to be in an echo chamber, right? It’s boring and unhelpful to read a one-sided view of any issue. So we welcome political views across the spectrum. I think Trump’s rhetoric and campaign style is deliberately antagonistic, and that makes it easy to run afoul of our policies. But we have many conservatives on Reddit, and we have Trump supporters on Reddit who are perfectly capable of staying within our rules. And we hope that continues to be the case going forward.

Your co-founder Alexis Ohanian recently stepped down from Reddit’s board, saying that he wanted to make space for a Black board member. And when he made that announcement, he said that part of the reason that he did that was so that he’d have an answer when his daughter asked, “What did you do?” I don’t think you have kids, but when you’re making decisions like these, how much are you thinking about how future generations will look back on Reddit?

You know, when I look back on this time, and — hopefully — if I get to tell my kids about it, I can say that I didn’t quit, I was a part of this, and I did everything I could to stand up for my and our values, even though at times it’s very difficult.

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John Roberts Was Already Chief Justice. But Now It’s His Court.

WASHINGTON — In a series of stunning decisions over the past two weeks, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has voted to expand L.G.B.T.Q. rights, protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers and strike down a Louisiana abortion law. In all three decisions, he voted with the court’s four-member liberal wing.

Those decisions heartened progressives and infuriated the chief justice’s usual conservative allies. But those reactions obscured a larger truth about Chief Justice Roberts: 15 years into his tenure, he now wields a level of influence that has caused experts to hunt for historical comparisons.

“Roberts is not only the most powerful player on the court,” said Lee Epstein, a law professor and political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis. “He’s also the most powerful chief justice since at least 1937.”

An incrementalist and an institutionalist, the chief justice generally nudges the court to the right in small steps, with one eye on its prestige and legitimacy. He is impatient with legal shortcuts and, at only 65, can well afford to play the long game.

Chief Justice Roberts has replaced Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who retired in 2018, as the member of the court at its ideological center, and his vote is now the crucial one in closely divided cases. To be both the chief justice and the swing vote confers extraordinary power.

But his pivotal role on the court could be fleeting. Were President Trump able to appoint a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 87, or Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who is 81, the chief justice would almost certainly be outflanked by a conservative majority on his right.

And if Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, he may have fewer opportunities to reshape the court in the short term, as the oldest member of the court’s conservative wing, Justice Clarence Thomas, is 72, which is relatively young by the standards of the court.

But for now, Chief Justice Roberts assigns the majority opinion when he is in the majority, which these days is almost always. He uses that power strategically, picking colleagues likely to write broadly or narrowly and saving important decisions for himself.

In his first 14 terms, he was in the majority about 88 percent of the time. So far this term, that number has shot up to 98 percent, Professor Epstein found. “Even more stunning,” she said, “is that Roberts voted with the majority in 96 percent of the non-unanimous decisions, compared to his average of 80 percent. This is the best showing by a chief justice since at least the 1953 term.”

But this may be the most striking statistic: He has been in the majority in every one of the 10 rulings decided by 5-to-4 or 5-to-3 votes so far this term. No chief justice has been in the majority in every closely divided case over an entire term since Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes in the term that ended in 1938 — and that was in only four cases.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 30dc-chief2-articleLarge John Roberts Was Already Chief Justice. But Now It’s His Court. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Supreme Court (US) Roberts, John G Jr Presidential Election of 2020 Kennedy, Anthony M Hughes, Charles Evans Courts and the Judiciary
Credit…Associated Press

Chief Justice Roberts has spoken admiringly of Chief Justice Hughes and his deft management of a clash with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It arose in 1937, when Roosevelt, unhappy with Supreme Court decisions striking down his New Deal programs, announced a plan to add justices to the court.

“One of the greatest crises facing the Supreme Court since Marbury v. Madison was F.D.R.’s court-packing plan,” Chief Justice Roberts said in 2015 at New York University, “and it fell to Hughes to guide a very unpopular Supreme Court through that high-noon showdown against America’s most popular president since George Washington.”

“There are things to learn from it,” Chief Justice Roberts said, and he has seemed to apply those lessons to his relationship with Mr. Trump, who has attacked the very idea of judicial independence.

Chief Justice Roberts was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005, and he was, back then, thought to be a reliable product of the conservative legal movement. Over the years, he occasionally disappointed his supporters and allies, notably in twice voting to sustain the Affordable Care Act and in rejecting the Trump administration’s efforts to add a question on citizenship to the census.

But those disappointments do not compare with the fury that followed the recent decisions. Conservatives said the chief justice has abandoned principle in an effort to protect the court’s reputation — and his own — from accusations that it is a political institution.

Credit…Richard Perry/The New York Times

“Americans hoping for justice for women and unborn babies were let down again today by John Roberts,” said Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas. “The chief justice may believe that he’s protecting the institutional integrity of the court, but in reality, his politicized decision-making only undermines it.”

Conservatives said they suspected the chief justice was acting at least partly based on a distaste for Mr. Trump, who has for years lashed out at federal judges who rule against him and his policies. They cited the chief justice’s majority opinions rejecting the administration’s rationales in the cases on the census and the Dreamers.

A pair of cases concerning Mr. Trump’s efforts to block disclosure of his financial records are among those that remain to be decided by the court this term. They will test Chief Justice Roberts’s leadership, and his votes in them will add important details to the portrait of him that has emerged thus far.

Chief Justice Roberts has tangled with the president before, issuing an extraordinary statement in 2018 after Mr. Trump criticized a ruling from an “Obama judge.”

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” the chief justice said. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

In other settings, the chief justice has insisted that the justices do not act as partisans. “We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans,” he said in 2016.

Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard, said Monday’s abortion decision vindicated Chief Justice Roberts’s statements.

“The chief is sending a broader message to both parties, and this time in this case it is the Republicans who take the hit,” Professor Lazarus said. “But the message would be the same if it were the Democrats and their favored position had lost.”

The message was this, Professor Lazarus said: “You cannot expect us to behave like partisan legislators.”

The abortion case concerned a Louisiana law that was essentially identical to one from Texas that the court had struck down just four years ago, before Mr. Trump appointed two new justices. In dissent in 2016, Chief Justice Roberts had voted to uphold the Texas law.

Professor Lazarus said he suspected the chief justice was offended by the idea that a change in the composition of the court should warrant a different outcome in what was, at bottom, the identical case.

This term, Professor Epstein found, Chief Justice Roberts has voted with liberal and conservative justices at roughly equivalent rates.

“In a day and age of ‘fear and loathing’ between opposing partisans,” she said, “this is pretty extraordinary.”

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University, said she had considered alternative explanations for Chief Justice Roberts’s vote in the abortion case. One was that he was “a closet liberal.” The other was that he was “a deep-seated institutionalist intent on preserving the court’s legitimacy and rule-of-law values.”

She said the second explanation was more likely to be true, though she said his concurring opinion in the abortion case had in some ways limited the force of the 2016 precedent he said he was upholding.

Mike Davis, a former Senate Judiciary Committee counsel who is now head of the conservative Article III Project, said he was puzzled by Chief Justice Roberts’s votes.

“The chief rules on these cases in such a way where he believes he is protecting the integrity of the Supreme Court,” Mr. Davis said. “And only the chief understands the method to this madness.”

But he added that the rulings would motivate conservative voters in the coming election to back Mr. Trump and Republican Senate candidates in hopes of cementing a more reliable conservative majority on the court.

“Over the next four years, the president of the United States could appoint four or more justices to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Davis said. “And that is why it is so critically important that conservatives turn out and vote.”

Professor Lazarus said that sort of thinking missed a distinction between politics and law.

“The chief’s clear message is that is not how justices do their work,” he said. “It is a shot across the bow at presidential candidates who campaign with lists of nominees based on the assumption that, if confirmed, they will of course necessarily vote based on the preferences of the majority who supported that candidate.”

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Trump Got Written Briefing in February on Possible Russian Bounties, Officials Say

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American officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, two officials familiar with the matter said.

The investigation into the suspected Russian covert operation to incentivize such killings has focused in part on an April 2019 car bombing that killed three Marines as one such potential attack, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter.

The new information emerged as the White House tried on Monday to play down the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to encourage and reward killings — including reiterating a claim that Mr. Trump was never briefed about the matter and portraying the conclusion as disputed and dubious.

But that stance clashed with the disclosure by two officials that the intelligence was included months ago in Mr. Trump’s President’s Daily Brief document — a compilation of the government’s latest secrets and best insights about foreign policy and national security that is prepared for him to read. One of the officials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump’s brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27, specifically.

Moreover, a description of the intelligence assessment that the Russian unit had carried out the bounties plot was also seen as serious and solid enough to disseminate more broadly across the intelligence community in a May 4 article in the C.I.A.’s World Intelligence Review, a classified compendium commonly referred to as The Wire, two officials said.

A National Security Council spokesman declined to comment on any connection between the Marines’ deaths and the suspected Russian plot. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, did not answer when pressed by reporters on Monday whether the intelligence was included in the written President’s Daily Brief, and the security council spokesman pointed to her comments when asked later about the February written briefing.

Late Monday, John Ratcliffe, the recently confirmed director of national intelligence, issued a statement warning that leaks about the matter were a crime.

“We are still investigating the alleged intelligence referenced in recent media reporting, and we will brief the president and congressional leaders at the appropriate time,” he said. “This is the analytic process working the way it should. Unfortunately, unauthorized disclosures now jeopardize our ability to ever find out the full story with respect to these allegations.”

The disclosures came amid a growing furor in Washington over the revelations in recent days that the Trump administration had known for months about the intelligence conclusion but the White House had authorized no response to Russia.

Top Democrats in the House and Senate demanded all members of Congress be briefed, and the White House summoned a small group of House Republicans friendly to the president to begin explaining its position.

The lawmakers emerged saying that they were told the administration was reviewing reporting about the suspected Russian plot to assess its credibility, and that the underlying intelligence was conflicting, echoing comments from Ms. McEnany that the information in the assessment had not been “verified” because, she said without detail, there were “dissenting opinions” among analysts or agencies.

“There was not a consensus among the intelligence community,” Ms. McEnany said. “And, in fact, there were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community, and it would not be elevated to the president until it was verified.”

But in denying that Mr. Trump was briefed, administration officials have been coy about how it is defining that concept and whether it includes both oral briefings and the President’s Daily Brief. “He was not personally briefed on the matter,” Ms. McEnany told reporters when asked specifically about the written briefing. “That is all I can share with you today.”

Mr. Trump is said to often neglect reading that document, preferring instead to receive an oral briefing summarizing highlights every few days. Even in those face-to-face meetings, he is particularly difficult to brief on national security matters. He often relies instead on conservative media and friends for information, current and former intelligence officials have said.

American intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan began raising alarms as early as January, and the National Security Council convened an interagency meeting to discuss the problem and what to do about it in late March, The Times has previously reported. But despite being presented with options, including a diplomatic protest and sanctions, the White House authorized no response.

The administration’s explanations on Monday, in public and in private, appeared to be an attempt to placate lawmakers, particularly Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans, alarmed by news reports in recent days revealing the existence of the intelligence assessment and Mr. Trump’s insistence he had not been warned of the suspected Russian plot.

The assessments pointing to a Russian scheme to offer bounties to Taliban-linked militants and criminals were based on information collected in raids and interrogations on the ground in Afghanistan, where military American commanders came to believe Russia was behind the plot, as well as more sensitive and unspecified intelligence that came in over time, an American official said.

Officials said there was disagreement among intelligence officials about the strength of the evidence about the suspected Russian plot and the evidence linking the attack on the Marines to the suspected Russian plot, but they did not detail those disputes.

Notably, the National Security Agency, which specializes in hacking and electronic surveillance, has been more skeptical about interrogations and other human intelligence, officials said.

Typically, the president is formally briefed when the information has been vetted and seen as sufficiently credible and important by the intelligence professionals. Such information would most likely be included in the President’s Daily Brief.

Former officials said that in previous administrations, accusations of such profound importance — even if the evidence was not fully established — were conveyed to the president. “We had two threshold questions: ‘Does the president need to know this’ and ‘why does he need to know it now,’” said Robert Cardillo, a former senior intelligence official who briefed President Barack Obama from 2010 to 2014.

David Priess, a former C.I.A. daily intelligence briefer and the author of “The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America’s Presidents,” said: “Many intelligence judgments in history have not had the consensus of every analyst who worked on it. That’s the nature of intelligence. It’s inherently dealing with uncertainty.”

Both Mr. Cardillo and Mr. Priess said previous presidents received assessments on issues of potentially vital importance even if they had dissents from some analysts or agencies. The dissents, they said, were highlighted for the president to help them understand uncertainties and the analytic process.

Lawmakers demanded to see the underlying material for themselves.

“This is a time to focus on the two things Congress should be asking and looking at: No. 1 Who knew what, when, and did the commander in chief know? And if not, how the hell not?” said Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, each requested that all lawmakers be briefed on the matter and for C.I.A. and other intelligence officials to explain how Mr. Trump was informed of intelligence collected about the plot.

The White House began explaining its position directly to lawmakers in a carefully controlled setting. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence; and Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, briefed a handful of invited House Republicans. A group of House Democrats was scheduled to go to the White House on Tuesday morning to receive a similar briefing.

There was no indication after the session with Republicans whether they had been told that the information was included in Mr. Trump’s written briefing four months ago. But afterward, two of the Republicans — Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Mac Thornberry of Texas — said that they “remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces” and would need additional briefings.

“It has been clear for some time that Russia does not wish us well in Afghanistan,” they said in a joint statement. “We believe it is important to vigorously pursue any information related to Russia or any other country targeting our forces.”

Other Republicans who attended the briefing were more sanguine. In an interview, Representative Chris Stewart of Utah said that he saw nothing unusual about the purported decision not to orally inform Mr. Trump, particularly when the situation did not require the president to take immediate action.

“It just didn’t reach the level of credibility to bring it to the president’s attention,” he said, adding that military and intelligence agencies should continue to scrutinize Russia’s activities.

.

The Associated Press first reported that the intelligence community was examining the deaths of the three Marine reservists: Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Del.; Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, N.Y.; and Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa.

They were killed when a vehicle laden with explosives hit their truck, wounding an Afghan contractor as well. The huge blast set fire to the truck, engulfing those inside in flames, while their fellow Marines tried to extricate them, a defense official said. A brief firefight ensued.

Gen. Zaman Mamozai, the former police chief of Parwan Province, where Bagram Airfield is, said that the Taliban there hire freelancers from local criminal networks, often blurring the lines of who carried out what attacks. He said the Taliban’s commanders were only based in two districts of the province, Seyagird and Shinwari, and from there they coordinate a more extensive network that largely commissions the services of criminals.

The Taliban have denied involvement. And a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Dmitry Peskov, told NBC News on Monday that reports of the Russian scheme were incorrect. He said that “none of the American representatives have ever raised this question with their Russian counterparts through government or diplomatic channels.”

The Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, declined to comment on any connection between the Marines’ deaths and the suspected Russian plot. Mr. Hoffman also declined to say whether or when Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper was briefed on the intelligence assessment and whether the deaths of American troops in Afghanistan resulted from the Russian bounties. Col. DeDe Halfhill, a spokeswoman for Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also declined to comment on the same questions.

Reporting was contributed by Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Fahim Abed, Annie Karni and Emily Cochrane.

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

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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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The Supreme Court Stopped Anti-Abortion Momentum. For Now.

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For anti-abortion activists, Monday’s Supreme Court ruling against a Louisiana law delivered a stinging and surprising setback.

But perhaps not for long. The anti-abortion movement has a long pipeline of new cases that, if taken up by the Supreme Court, could present a more direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established federal protection for abortion. As of June, there were at least 16 abortion cases before United States appeals courts, the last step before the Supreme Court, according to lawyers at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The Louisiana case, over a 2014 law that required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, was never envisioned as a way to upend Roe v. Wade. It was one small piece of a broader strategy to restrict abortion through myriad state laws that put together could chip away at overall access.

That political project has already significantly narrowed abortion access in large areas of the South and the Midwest. And five states have only one abortion clinic each left: Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia.

The decision on Monday, the first major abortion case since President Trump shifted the court’s balance of power to the right, also showed for the first time that Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh sided with the anti-abortion cause, as hoped by longtime activists. The ruling will only further the push by social conservatives to re-elect Mr. Trump so he might have a third opportunity to nominate a justice in time to rule on more significant abortion cases working their way up to the Supreme Court. Many of those laws would have a far greater reach than the Louisiana case.

While legal challenges to abortion often take years to reach the Supreme Court, states have continued to add to the list, passing dozens of new laws in recent years. This month, Tennessee passed an abortion bill that would outlaw the procedure as early as six weeks in pregnancy without exceptions for rape or incest.

The president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, called Monday’s ruling a “bitter disappointment,” but, looking ahead to the November election, praised Mr. Trump for appointing Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, who dissented in the decision.

“It is imperative that we re-elect President Trump and our pro-life majority in the U.S. Senate so we can further restore the judiciary, most especially the Supreme Court,” the group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, said. “President Trump, assisted by the pro-life Senate majority, is keeping his promise to appoint constitutionalist Supreme Court justices and other federal judges.”

For the abortion-rights movement, which has faced a number of disappointments in recent years, the ruling was the best outcome that advocates could have hoped for, given the new conservative tilt of the court. Monday’s decision allows Louisiana’s three remaining abortion clinics to stay open.

Abortion-rights advocates said the win would preserve access for a clientele that is disproportionately poor and of color. There were about 8,000 abortions performed in the state in 2018, according to state statistics. More than two-thirds of abortion patients in Louisiana are women of color.

“It’s crazy times, and it’s a wonderful good thing,” said Kathaleen Pittman, the director of the Hope Medical Group for Women, the Shreveport-based clinic at the center of the case. On Monday morning, the clinic was seeing patients, and she described the mood after the ruling as “absolute giddiness.”

November is an important juncture for the fight over abortion. Mr. Trump’s bid for re-election will test the depth of his backing among white evangelicals and Catholics who support the president for how much he has advanced anti-abortion policies.

Control of state legislatures is also on the table. Nearly 80 percent of state seats are up for election this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Whichever party gets majority control will have tremendous power to reshape the legal landscape for abortion for years to come.

The anti-abortion movement has made tremendous gains in state legislatures around the country, which has allowed them to pass a flurry of bans in recent years. Reclaiming power on the state level for the abortion-rights movement will require painstaking grass-roots work.

For conservatives, Monday’s ruling is a political opportunity to energize Mr. Trump’s conservative religious base at a moment when he trails former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in six key states, including in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania where white Catholics may be important swing voters. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, called the ruling “unfortunate.”

“Instead of valuing fundamental democratic principles, unelected justices have intruded on the sovereign prerogatives of state governments by imposing their own policy preference in favor of abortion to override legitimate abortion safety regulations,” she said in a statement.

The abortion-rights movement had been using Mr. Trump’s appointments of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh as rallying calls for campaigns to take Senate seats, such as those held by Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa. Monday’s ruling seemed to reinforce that strategy.

“This is great news, but the battle continues, folks,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, in a tweet. “As long as Kavanaugh is on the bench, our rights are on the line—and we need your help to flip the Senate.”

Lawyers for the clinic argued their victory was resounding because it involved the Supreme Court ruling in their favor for the second time in four years on a case involving admitting privileges. The law was almost identical to a Texas law, large parts of which the Supreme Court struck down in 2016, and Justice Stephen G. Breyer said as much in his opinion. Even Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who sided against the abortion-rights groups in the 2016 case, gave his qualified support in Monday’s ruling.

“Two strikes, you’re out,” said T.J. Tu, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights and a lawyer for the clinic. The message, he said, was that “states should really knock this off.”

But in many ways the ruling was narrow — putting to rest merely one of many legal strategies used by the anti-abortion movement to reduce access. Legislatures, largely in red states, passed dozens of anti-abortion laws last year alone.

Nor is it a given that the 5-to-4 decision means that Chief Justice Roberts will always side with the court’s liberal wing on abortion cases. Though he was the deciding vote for Monday’s ruling, the chief justice specified in his concurring opinion that he believed the 2016 precedent that Monday’s ruling was based on was “wrongly decided.”

Lawyers for the Louisiana clinic conceded that Chief Justice Roberts had not come down conclusively on their side.

“The opinion did muddy the waters a little bit,” said Julie Rikelman, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights who represented the clinic. “It will lead to more litigation, not less.”

While the toughest bans — ones prohibiting abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected — have drawn considerable attention, Ms. Rikelman said she did not expect those to be taken up by the Supreme Court. More likely, she said, would be any number of cases that diminish access piece by piece. The next major case could be over bans on the dilation and evacuation procedure that is common in the second trimester of pregnancy, or on abortion based on a Down syndrome diagnosis.

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Twitch Suspends Trump’s Channel for ‘Hateful Conduct’

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Twitch, the livestreaming platform, said on Monday that it was suspending President Trump’s channel for “hateful conduct,” in what appeared to be the first deliberate suspension of one of Mr. Trump’s social media accounts.

The site, which is owned by Amazon, said two recent streams on Mr. Trump’s channel violated its rules. One stream was of a rebroadcasted 2015 campaign event in which Mr. Trump made comments about Mexico sending drugs, crime and rapists over the border. The other was of his recent rally in Tulsa, Okla., where he talked about a “very tough hombre” breaking into a woman’s house at 1 a.m.

“Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” a Twitch spokeswoman said in a statement. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”

It was unclear how long the suspension would last.

With its move, Twitch went further than other social media platforms. In recent months, some tech companies have become more proactive in handling speech issues by Mr. Trump and his supporters. Twitter began adding labels to some of the president’s tweets; Snap has said it will stop promoting Mr. Trump’s Snapchat account; and Reddit on Monday said it would ban “The_Donald” community, which had been a highly influential digital gathering place for Mr. Trump’s acolytes.

But unlike those efforts, Twitch directly clamped down on the president himself, temporarily shutting down his ability to post videos on a channel. The only other time Mr. Trump had one of his social media accounts suspended was by accident in 2017, when his Twitter account was unexpectedly disabled by a rogue contractor who was leaving Twitter that day.

One company that has maintained it does not want to police free speech is Facebook. Last week, the social network announced it would expand its hate speech policies and label posts from political figures who violate rules as “newsworthy.” But the labels, which do not explain what is inaccurate or hateful about a post, fall short of what Twitter and other companies have done.

Twitch’s suspension of Mr. Trump comes as the platform, which is popular with gamers, is under fire for other instances of hateful rhetoric. Streamers have accused it of allowing racist and sexist comments to thrive unchecked, and the company said last week it would permanently suspend a handful of users after a torrent of sexual harassment and assault allegations rocked the video game industry.

Cindy Otis, a disinformation expert and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, said Twitch’s suspension of the president might pressure other companies to ratchet up their actions.

“You have to sort of wonder, if smaller platforms start taking more aggressive or harder action on what they consider harmful content or on the disinformation side — will that end up pressuring the larger platforms to do more as well?” Ms. Otis asked.

But, she added, “if stuff gets removed from one platform, it simply migrates to another.”

The actions are likely to revive charges by conservatives that social media platforms are suppressing and censoring their speech. Whitney Phillips, who researches disinformation at Syracuse University, said the moves were “definitely going to be weaponizable by people on the far right who can point to this” and say that online platforms were biased against conservatives.

Some backlash began on Monday after YouTube announced it was barring six channels for violating its hate speech policies, including one by Stefan Molyneux, a podcaster and internet commentator who has discussed his far-right politics. Far-right YouTubers quickly accused the Google-owned site of bias.

Mr. Molyneux, who had nearly one million YouTube subscribers and more than 300 million video views on the platform since starting his channel more than a decade ago, said on Twitter that YouTube had “just suspended the largest philosophy conversation the world has ever known.”

The Trump campaign did not directly address the actions by Twitch and Reddit on Monday. Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, said in a statement that people should download the Trump campaign app or text the campaign’s automated number to “hear directly from the president.”

Twitch is not one of Mr. Trump’s top social media channels. His channel began streaming on the service last October, amassing more than 125,000 followers and 113 streams, compared with his more than 83 million followers on Twitter.

The platform did not address whether any of Mr. Trump’s other past streams had violated its rules. It said it told Mr. Trump’s campaign last year that it did not “make exceptions for political or newsworthy content” that violated its guidelines.

By Monday afternoon, the URL for Mr. Trump’s Twitch channel displayed a message: “That content is unavailable.”

Kevin Roose contributed reporting.

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Spies and Commandos Warned Months Ago of Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops

Westlake Legal Group spies-and-commandos-warned-months-ago-of-russian-bounties-on-u-s-troops Spies and Commandos Warned Months Ago of Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops United States Special Operations Command United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Taliban Russia National Security Council Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense Department Classified Information and State Secrets central intelligence agency Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan
Westlake Legal Group 28dc-intel-pix-facebookJumbo Spies and Commandos Warned Months Ago of Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops United States Special Operations Command United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Taliban Russia National Security Council Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense Department Classified Information and State Secrets central intelligence agency Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — United States intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan alerted their superiors as early as January to a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, according to officials briefed on the matter. They believed at least one U.S. troop death was the result of the bounties, two of the officials said.

The crucial information that led the spies and commandos to focus on the bounties included the recovery of a large amount of American cash from a raid on a Taliban outpost that prompted suspicions. Interrogations of captured militants and criminals played a central role in making the intelligence community confident in its assessment that the Russians had offered and paid bounties in 2019, another official has said.

Armed with this information, military and intelligence officials have been reviewing American and other coalition combat casualties over the past 18 months to determine whether any were victims of the plot. Four Americans were killed in combat in early 2020, but the Taliban have not attacked American positions since a February agreement to end the long-running war in Afghanistan.

The details added to the picture of the classified intelligence assessment, which The New York Times reported Friday has been under discussion inside the Trump administration since at least March, and emerged as the White House confronted a growing chorus of criticism on Sunday over its apparent failure to authorize a response to Russia.

Mr. Trump defended himself by denying the Times report that he had been briefed on the intelligence, expanding on a similar White House rebuttal a day earlier. But leading congressional Democrats and some Republicans demanded a response to Russia that, according to officials, the administration has yet to authorize.

The president “needs to immediately expose and handle this, and stop Russia’s shadow war,” Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote on Twitter.

Appearing on the ABC program “This Week,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had not been briefed on the intelligence assessment and had asked for an immediate report to Congress. She accused Mr. Trump of wanting “to ignore” any charges against Russia.

“Russia has never gotten over the humiliation they suffered in Afghanistan, and now they are taking it out on us, our troops,” she said of the Soviet Union’s bloody war there in the 1980s. “This is totally outrageous. You would think that the minute the president heard of it, he would want to know more instead of denying that he knew anything.”

Spokespeople for the C.I.A., the director of national intelligence and the Pentagon declined to comment on the new findings. A National Security Council spokesman, John L. Ullyot, said in a statement on Sunday night, “The veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated.”

Mr. Trump said Sunday night on Twitter that “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP.” One senior administration official offered a similar explanation, saying that Mr. Trump was not briefed because the intelligence agencies had come to no consensus on the findings.

But another official said there was broad agreement that the intelligence assessment was accurate, with some complexities because different aspects of the intelligence — including interrogations and surveillance data — resulted in some differences among agencies in how much confidence to put in each type.

Though the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, claimed on Saturday that Mr. Trump had not been briefed about the intelligence report, one American official had told The Times that the report was briefed to the highest levels of the White House. Another said it was included in the President’s Daily Brief, a compendium of foreign policy and national security intelligence compiled for Mr. Trump to read.

Ms. McEnany did not challenge The Times’s reporting on the existence of the intelligence assessment, a National Security Council interagency meeting about it in late March and the White House’s inaction. Multiple other news organizations also subsequently reported on the assessment, and The Washington Post first reported on Sunday that the bounties were believed to have resulted in the death of at least one American service member.

The officials briefed on the matter said that the assessment had been treated as a closely held secret but that the administration expanded briefings about it over the last week — including sharing information about it with the British government, whose forces were among those said to have been targeted.

Republicans in Congress demanded more information from the Trump administration about what happened and how the White House planned to respond.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, said in a Twitter post on Sunday: “If reporting about Russian bounties on U.S. forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB? 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?”

Multiple Republicans retweeted Ms. Cheney’s post. Representative Daniel Crenshaw, Republican of Texas and a former member of the Navy SEALs, amplified her message, tweeting, “We need answers.”

In a statement in response to questions, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said he had long warned about Russia’s work to undermine American interests in the Middle East and southwest Asia and noted that he wrote an amendment last year rebuking Mr. Trump’s withdrawal of forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

“The United States needs to prioritize defense resources, maintain a sufficient regional military presence and continue to impose serious consequences on those who threaten us and our allies — like our strikes in Syria and Afghanistan against ISIS, the Taliban and Russian mercenary forces that threatened our partners,” Mr. McConnell said.

Aides for other top Republicans either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday, including Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican; Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; and Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In addition to saying he was never “briefed or told” about the intelligence report — a formulation that went beyond the White House denial of any formal briefing — Mr. Trump also cast doubt on the assessment’s credibility, which statements from his subordinates had not.

Specifically, he described the intelligence report as being about “so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians”; the report described bounties paid to Taliban militants by Russian military intelligence officers, not direct attacks. Mr. Trump also suggested that the developments could be a “hoax” and questioned whether The Times’s sources — government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity — existed.

Mr. Trump then pivoted to attack former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who criticized the president on Saturday for failing to punish Russia for offering bounties to the Taliban, as well as Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, who is the target of unsubstantiated claims that he helped a Ukrainian energy firm curry favor with the Obama administration when his father was vice president.

“Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine — Where’s Hunter?”

American officials said the Russian plot to pay bounties to Taliban fighters came into focus over the past several months after intelligence analysts and Special Operations forces put together key pieces of evidence.

One official said the seizure of a large amount of American cash at one Taliban site got “everybody’s attention” in Afghanistan. It was not clear when the money was recovered.

Two officials said the information about the bounty hunting was “well known” among the intelligence community in Afghanistan, including the C.I.A.’s chief of station and other top officials there, like the military commandos hunting the Taliban. The information was distributed in intelligence reports and highlighted in some of them.

The assessment was compiled and sent up the chain of command to senior military and intelligence officials, eventually landing at the highest levels of the White House. The Security Council meeting in March came at a delicate time, as the coronavirus pandemic was becoming a crisis and prompting shutdowns around the country.

A former American official said the national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, and the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, would have been involved in any decision to brief Mr. Trump on Russia’s activities, as would have the intelligence analyst who briefs the president.. The director of the C.I.A., Gina Haspel, might have also weighed in, the former official said.

Ms. McEnany cited those three senior officials in her statement saying the president had not been briefed.

National security officials have tracked Russia’s relationship with the Taliban for years and determined that Moscow has provided financial and material support to senior and regional Taliban leaders.

While Russia has at times cooperated with the United States and appeared interested in Afghan stability, it often seems to work at crosscurrents with its own national interest if the result is damage to American national interests, said a former senior Trump White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security assessments.

Revenge is also a factor in Russia’s support for the Taliban, the official said. Russia has been keen to even the scales after a bloody confrontation in 2018 in Syria, when a massive U.S. counterattack killed hundreds of Syrian forces along with Russian mercenaries nominally supported by the Kremlin.

“They are keeping a score sheet, and they want to punish us for that incident,” the official said.

Both Russia and the Taliban have denied the American intelligence assessment.

Ms. Pelosi said that if the president had not, in fact, been briefed, then the country should be concerned that his administration was afraid to share with him information regarding Russia.

Ms. Pelosi said that the episode underscored Mr. Trump’s accommodating stance toward Russia and that with him, “all roads lead to Putin.”

“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score, denies being briefed,” she said. “Whether he is or not, his administration knows, and some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan have been briefed and accept this report.”

John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, said on “This Week” that he was not aware of the intelligence assessment, but he questioned Mr. Trump’s response on Twitter.

“What would motivate the president to do that, because it looks bad if Russians are paying to kill Americans and we’re not doing anything about it?” Mr. Bolton said. “The presidential reaction is to say: ‘It’s not my responsibility. Nobody told me about it.’ And therefore to duck any complaints that he hasn’t acted effectively.”

Mr. Bolton said this summed up Mr. Trump’s decision-making on national security issues. “It’s just unconnected to the reality he’s dealing with.”

Reporting was contributed by Julian E. Barnes, Charlie Savage, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Michael Schwirtz and Michael D. Shear.

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