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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 10)

Obama Criticizes Trump Administration in Private Call With Allies

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-obama-facebookJumbo Obama Criticizes Trump Administration in Private Call With Allies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Obama, Barack Justice Department Jarrett, Valerie Flynn, Michael T Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama said on Friday that the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn jeopardized the “rule of law,” adding his voice to the criticism of the extraordinary move.

“There is no precedent that anybody can find for somebody who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free,” Mr. Obama said on a call with thousands of supporters who worked in his administration or campaigns.

Attorney General William P. Barr dropped the charges against Mr. Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying in a January 2017 interview with the F.B.I. about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to Washington during the presidential transition. Mr. Obama has told friends that it represented a step toward lawlessness, according to two people close to the former president, who described him as deeply angered.

Mr. Obama said the attorney general’s decision has been “somewhat downplayed” in the news media, and that it added to the urgency of electing Joseph R. Biden Jr., his former vice president and the presumptive Democratic nominee.

The former president’s comments on Mr. Flynn, which were first reported by Yahoo News and confirmed by several people who heard them, appeared to be extemporaneous and came near the end of the event, which was held in order to mobilize Mr. Obama’s supporters on behalf of Mr. Biden.

Mr. Obama and his team are seeking to mobilize 13,000 former administration officials and campaign veterans to fortify Mr. Biden’s relatively bare-bones, cash-starved campaign.

The former president spoke for about 15 to 20 minutes and at the end answered questions from those on the call. Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama, said the call involved about 3,000 members of the Obama Alumni Association.

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Mr. Obama devoted most of his remarks to praising Mr. Biden, recalling his service as vice president overseeing the administration’s economic stimulus program and its responses to the H1N1 and ebola outbreaks. Mr. Obama described Mr. Biden as the right person to pull together the country in a moment of crisis.

But Mr. Obama also included what one person on the call termed “very pointed” criticisms of the White House’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This election that’s coming up on every level is so important because what we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party,” Mr. Obama said, according to a brief audio excerpt posted online by Yahoo.

“What we’re fighting against is these long term trends where being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy. That has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way we’re seeing that internationally as well.”

“It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty,” Mr. Obama continued. “It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mind-set — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mind-set is operationalized in our government.”

Former aides stressed that the call did not signal the beginning of a more sustained public involvement by the former president, although that will clearly come later in the year.

Mr. Obama has adopted a public posture of muted disapproval of his successor during his post-presidency, although he has spoken out at moments calculated to have high impact. In the weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, Mr. Obama decried “crazy stuff” happening at the Justice Department under Mr. Trump and warned that “our democracy is at stake.”

He has told friends he is deeply concerned that Mr. Trump, despite his recent stumbles, will be able to successfully leverage the bully pulpit of the presidency at a time when Mr. Biden is confined to campaigning from his basement in Delaware.

That anxiety has now spurred Mr. Obama to take a more active advisory role with Mr. Biden campaign, according to former aides. Mr. Obama has been in regular communication with his former vice president, discussing matters ranging from policy issues to the question of when Mr. Biden and eventually Mr. Obama can hit the campaign trail in person.

He has been especially involved in the Biden team’s effort to quickly build a strong digital operation. Mr. Obama has said he views the effort as central to competing against Mr. Trump’s small-donor fund-raising machine.

David Axelrod, who served as Mr. Obama’s senior adviser in the White House and now runs the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, said the former president was unlikely to begin speaking out more publicly about day-to-day events in the news but would become an active promoter of Mr. Biden closer to the election.

“He has really been assiduous about not being a commentator about events in Washington and I don’t think he’s going to start now,” said Mr. Axelrod, who was not on the call and is not advising any campaign. “But he’s going to be very involved in the campaign and if you look at what he did in 2017 in the governors’ races and 2018 in the midterms when he was very active, I think you see a template for what you can expect here.”

One thing that is unlikely to change is Mr. Obama’s reluctance — at least for now — to call out his successor by name.

Mr. Obama did mention Mr. Trump, albeit in passing, during 11 rallies he held in late 2018 on behalf of Democratic congressional candidates but has only sporadically done so since then. No one interviewed about his event Friday could recall hearing the president’s name except when a moderator asked Mr. Obama how Democrats could defeat Mr. Trump.

People around Mr. Obama said he preferred not to say Mr. Trump’s name, both out of disdain and a strategic desire not to get “dragged down” into a personal fight with his successor, as one former aide put it.

The practice has become so ingrained, Mr. Obama’s aides and friends have joked, that it reminds them of the Harry Potter novels in which most characters refused to even utter the name of the arch-villain Voldemort, instead referring to him as “He Who Must Not Be Named.”

Peter Baker contributed reporting.

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Michael Flynn’s Exoneration Was Latest in Life Full of Reversals

WASHINGTON — There have always been two sides to Michael T. Flynn. There was the rebellious teenager who surfed during hurricanes and spent a night in juvenile reformatory. Then there was the adult who buckled down, joined the Army and rose to become a three-star general.

Mr. Flynn was a lifelong Democrat who served President Barack Obama as a top intelligence officer. He also called Mr. Obama a “liar” after being forced out of the job and reinvented himself as a Republican foreign policy adviser.

Mr. Flynn criticized retired generals who used their stars “for themselves, for their businesses.” He appeared to do the same thing as a consultant.

But the two sides of Mr. Flynn were perhaps never so stark as in the criminal case against him that ended abruptly on Thursday to the astonishment of much of official Washington.

After pleading guilty in 2017 to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with a Russian diplomat, Mr. Flynn cooperated with the special counsel, saying he was “being a good soldier” and earning prosecutors’ praise. Then he recanted his confession and began what some allies saw as a reckless gamble to recast himself as an innocent victim of a justice system run amok.

That gamble paid off this week when, in an extraordinary reversal, the Justice Department abandoned his prosecution, saying he never should have been charged. Current and former federal law enforcement officials expressed disbelief and dismay, calling the move an unprecedented blow to the Justice Department’s integrity and independence. Former President Barack Obama, in remarks to former members of his administration, said he feared that “not just institutional norms, but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.”

Mr. Flynn transformed his case into a political cause that resonated in the conservative echo chamber. Led by his lawyer, Sidney Powell, and Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and a close ally of the president’s, Mr. Flynn’s backers worked to wipe away the mistrust of some Republicans over his cooperation with law enforcement and turn him into a right-wing hero. Ms. Powell dug up documents she insisted showed that her client was as much of a victim of malfeasance by the F.B.I. as Mr. Trump had been.

Ultimately Attorney General William P. Barr joined the battle, granting Mr. Flynn another turnabout in a life filled with them.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_115432391_9173e1ae-19fe-41ed-b350-352e0b8d59fa-articleLarge Michael Flynn’s Exoneration Was Latest in Life Full of Reversals United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2016 Powell, Sidney (Attorney) Mueller, Robert S III Justice Department Flynn, Michael T Flynn Intel Group Federal Bureau of Investigation False Arrests, Convictions and Imprisonments Defense Intelligence Agency Barr, William P
Credit…Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times, via Getty Images

Michael T. Flynn, 61, grew up in Middleton, R.I., the sixth of nine children. His father was an Army sergeant who became a banker. His mother ran a secretarial school before earning a law degree at age 63.

The family was squeezed into a three-bedroom, one-bathroom oceanfront cottage. Finances were tight.

“I was one of those nasty tough kids hellbent on breaking rules for the adrenaline high and hard-wired just enough not to care about the consequences,” Mr. Flynn wrote in his 2016 book, “The Field of Fight.” “Some serious and unlawful activity,” he wrote, led to his arrest.

He nearly flunked out of his freshman year at the University of Rhode Island, earning a 1.2 grade-point average. But the R.O.T.C. awarded him a three-year scholarship, and he found his calling in the military.

For much of Mr. Flynn’s career, former colleagues said, his mentors and superior officers let his talents flourish and kept his disruptive tendencies in check. In his book, he described himself as a rebel at heart. “I’m a maverick, an atypical square peg in a round hole,” he wrote.

As a young officer in 1983, he talked his way onto the military force that invaded Grenada. There, he dove off a 40-foot cliff to rescue two soldiers foundering in waters off the coast. He was scolded for the unauthorized rescue but also earned respect.

His partnership with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of American-led forces in Afghanistan at the time, shielded him from critics. General McChrystal also acted as a brake, ensuring that Mr. Flynn’s most outlandish ideas were confined to brainstorming sessions.

By the time Mr. Flynn arrived at the Defense Intelligence Agency as a three-star general in 2012, cracks were beginning to show. Mr. Obama had fired General McChrystal, a move that deeply distressed Mr. Flynn.

He executed a reorganization of the agency that is still in effect. But his chaotic management style and increasingly hard-edged views about counterterrorism gave colleagues pause, and his superiors viewed him as insubordinate, former Pentagon officials said. His defenders said the Obama administration bristled at his tough line on Iran.

His two-year term was not extended, thrusting him into the civilian world at age 55, an embittered man.

Mr. Flynn had flourished with the special operation forces in Iraq where his colleagues could “tolerate, adjust, and manage what was functional and dysfunctional with Mike Flynn,” said Douglas H. Wise, a former C.I.A. officer who became Mr. Flynn’s deputy at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“In the political arena,” Mr. Wise said, “he no longer had this kind of adult supervision.”

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

As a military man, Mr. Flynn seemed oblivious to wealth, un-self-consciously parking his 1986 Buick Park Avenue in a Pentagon parking lot dotted with Cadillacs and Lexuses.

But as a civilian, he founded a consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, that attracted high-paying clients. In a decision that appalled some friends, he agreed to give a speech in 2015 to RT, Russia’s state-controlled television network, for about $45,000. He was seated at the head table next to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The next year, he pulled in at least $1.8 million from private intelligence and security services, consulting and speeches. About $530,000 came for work to discredit an enemy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Mr. Flynn did not register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent, as required under lobbying disclosure laws, until the following spring when he was under federal scrutiny.

Mr. Flynn’s politics seemed to shift even more than his finances. He heavily criticized the Obama administration, especially over Iran policy.

His pragmatic approach of old gave way in private conversations with reporters and students to almost hostile views to Islam. In his book, he called for the destruction of the Iranian government. Publicly, he sneered at Mr. Obama for avoiding the term “radical Islam”and implied that Mr. Obama was a secret Muslim.

“I’m not going to sit here and say he’s Islamic,” he told one of the country’s largest anti-Muslim groups, ACT for America, in 2016. But, he said, the president “didn’t grow up as an American kid,” and held values “totally different than mine.”

Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, called Mr. Flynn “right-wing nutty.” But his views resonated with Mr. Trump. Their initial mid-2015 meeting, scheduled for a half-hour, lasted 90 minutes and prompted Mr. Flynn to begin advising the campaign.

He enthralled conservatives at the Republican National Convention in July 2016 when he led a chorus of “Lock her up!” chants against Hillary Clinton.

Within weeks, Mr. Flynn became the subject of an F.B.I. counterintelligence inquiry into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. His code name was “Razor.”

By January 2017, with Mr. Trump’s inauguration imminent, the F.B.I. had decided that insufficient evidence existed that Mr. Flynn conspired with the Russians, wittingly or unwittingly.

But the F.B.I.’s interest was rekindled when agents learned that in late December during the presidential transition, Mr. Flynn had advised the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, that the Kremlin refrain from reacting to the Obama administration’s imposition of sanctions for Russia’s election interference. Mr. Flynn also asked that Russia delay or defeat an upcoming United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel.

Those phone calls were problematic because Mr. Flynn was attempting to intervene in foreign policy as a private citizen, a potential violation of a federal law — albeit one rarely enforced.

Mr. Flynn also told the incoming vice president, Mike Pence, that he had not discussed sanctions with Russia. Mr. Pence repeated that assertion on television, raising concerns at the Justice Department that Mr. Flynn had lied to him and that the Russians could use the truth to blackmail Mr. Flynn.

At the F.B.I., his file had lingered in abeyance, not yet formally closed. “Our utter incompetence actually helps us,” Peter Strzok, an F.B.I. counterintelligence agent, texted a bureau lawyer. Because of a bureaucratic oversight, agents would not have to justify a reopening of the inquiry.

Four days after the inauguration, the F.B.I. sent two agents to question Mr. Flynn at the White House. Caught off-guard, Justice Department officials “hit the roof” when they found out, one said.

Mr. Flynn told the agents he had not asked Russia to act in any specific way in response to the U.N. resolution or the imposition of sanctions. Those denials did not save his job: He was soon forced to resign.

Even then, Mr. Trump tried to protect him from further investigation. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” he told James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director whom Mr. Trump later fired.

That December, Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his conversations with the Russian official and pledged to cooperate with the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

About a year later, Mr. Flynn had second thoughts. After a federal judge warned that he might not be sentenced to probation, he fired his legal team. His legal bills had amounted to nearly $3 million, forcing him to sell his Alexandria, Va., house and move to his Rhode Island home.

In a court filing, Mr. Flynn said he had only pleaded guilty because his lawyers advised him to. “One of the ways a person becomes a three-star general is by being a good soldier, taking orders, being part of a team and trusting people who provide information and support,” he wrote.

Even before she formally took over Mr. Flynn’s defense last June, Ms. Powell put together a public relations and legal campaign to exonerate him, making the case on Capitol Hill and in conservative media.

In appearances on Fox News, Ms. Powell linked her client’s plight to other examples of what she saw as government overreach. She also stitched Mr. Flynn’s story to conspiracy theories about career government officials’ efforts to undermine Mr. Trump, both in court filings and conversations with journalists.

Mr. Nunes, a longtime friend of Mr. Flynn and close ally of Mr. Trump, joined Ms. Powell in a full-throated defense. Together, they reoriented the view of Mr. Flynn on the right from an object of suspicion for cooperating with the special counsel into a conservative cause.

“Sidney Powell brilliantly shifted the narrative and shrewdly found new allies in the House Freedom Caucus and Fox News commentators,” said Michael Pillsbury, an informal adviser to Mr. Trump and a scholar at the Hudson Institute.

In a letter to Mr. Barr, Ms. Powell accused prosecutors and investigators of withholding documents, improperly leaking to the media and seeking to entrap her client.

Her evidence included what Mr. Flynn’s backers called a smoking gun: handwritten notes from Bill Priestap, then the head of F.B.I. counterintelligence. “What is our goal?” he asked before the White House interview. “Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

The bureau’s defenders said the notes proved the F.B.I.’s impartiality, not its bias. But they provoked a fresh wave of indignation from the right.

The campaign shifted Mr. Trump’s thinking, as well. Initially he seemed inclined to believe that Mr. Flynn had done something wrong — at least by lying to Mr. Pence. More recently, he has privately voiced regrets about firing him.

By the time the Justice Department dropped the charges against Mr. Flynn on Thursday, Mr. Trump was calling the investigators who pursued Mr. Flynn “human scum.” The next day, he praised Mr. Nunes’s relentless efforts to take them on.

“Devin Nunes, he wouldn’t stop,” Mr. Trump said. “He saw it before anybody.”

The president has begun musing about rehiring Mr. Flynn. But some advisers to Mr. Trump said they viewed Mr. Flynn as too much of a loose cannon for the campaign trail or the White House.

In the end, that side of Mr. Flynn may prevent him from finding that final bit of redemption.

Adam Goldman contributed reporting from Washington, and Maggie Haberman and Jeremy W. Peters from New York.

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Fight Over Virus’s Death Toll Opens Grim New Front in Election Battle

The claim was tailor-made for President Trump’s most steadfast backers: Federal guidelines are coaching doctors to mark Covid-19 as the cause of death even when it is not, inflating the pandemic’s death toll.

That the claim came from a doctor, Scott Jensen, who also happens to be a Republican state senator in Minnesota, made it all the more alluring to the president’s allies. Never mind the experts who said that, if anything, the death toll was being vastly undercounted.

“SHOCKING,” tweeted Chris Berg, a conservative television show host on KX4, a Fox affiliate in Fargo, N.D., after interviewing Dr. Jensen last month. Soon after, Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host, invited Dr. Jensen onto her show. His assertions were picked up by Infowars, the conspiracy-oriented website founded by Alex Jones. They were shared by followers of Qanon, who subscribe to a web of vague, baseless theories that a secret cabal in the government is trying to take down the president.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172331409_a7eba88a-4701-4be9-b867-c7eafb3e2ca0-articleLarge Fight Over Virus’s Death Toll Opens Grim New Front in Election Battle washington dc Trump, Donald J Spicer, Sean M (1971- ) Presidential Election of 2020 Point of View Oreskes, Naomi New York City Minnesota Mann, Michael E Jones, Alex (1974- ) Ingraham, Laura A Hume, Brit Heartland Institute Global Warming Fringe Groups and Movements Fox News Channel Fauci, Anthony S Emanuel, Ezekiel J Democratic Party Deaths (Fatalities) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“What is the primary benefit to keep public in mass-hysteria re: Covid-19? Think voting. Are you awake yet?” a Qanon follower known as John the White wrote on Twitter, saying the pandemic was being used to manipulate the electorate.

The likes of John the White may view the world through the most conspiratorial of lenses, but they are hardly the only people weighing the political impact of the virus’s death toll. With implications for how quickly businesses and their employees return to something like normalcy, the fight to shape the official record is adding a grim new front to the presidential campaign.

Since the outset of the crisis, elements of the right have sought to bolster the president’s political standing and justify reopening the economy by questioning the death toll. Climate-change skeptics have employed techniques perfected in the fight over global warming to raise doubts about the deadliness of the virus. Others, including Mr. Trump’s media allies as well as some in the anti-vaccine movement, have repurposed fringe theories about “deep state” bureaucrats undermining the president to argue that the official numbers should not be trusted.

They have a found a receptive audience, and a booster of their ideas, in Mr. Trump himself. For the president, the death toll has become a pivotal political indicator, as important to his re-election prospects as his approval ratings and his standing against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in swing-state polls.

Late last month, with the number of dead in the United States approaching 75,000, according to figures compiled by The New York Times, projections foresaw another spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths as social-distancing rules relaxed. One draft government report projected as many as 3,000 deaths a day by the end of May. Yet according to administration officials, Mr. Trump has begun privately questioning the models and the official death statistics.

His skepticism is shared by others in an administration that has regularly disregarded the advice of scientists. On Tuesday, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a model that showed deaths dropping to zero by the middle of May. The projection, which the council suggested was to ”inform policymakers,” appeared to ignore the conventions used by epidemiologists and was roundly dismissed by experts. But it did provide a useful counterpoint to those who argue it is too soon to reopen the economy.

At the same time, the president has increasingly picked up on talk from the political fringes of inflated death counts and plots to ensure his defeat in November.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In late April, as the toll approached 60,000, Mr. Trump retweeted a post by a former New York City police official that claimed the number was being inflated by the same people behind the “failed coup attempts” of the Mueller investigation and Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

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“Do you really think these lunatics wouldn’t inflate the mortality rates by underreporting the infection rates in an attempt to steal the election?” the post said.

At the forefront of the fight are a number of climate skeptics who have long exploited the imperfections of scientific research — statistical margins of error, the subjective elements of projective modeling — to cast doubt on the conclusive finding that humans have contributed to global warming.

Steven J. Milloy, a fervent denier of that scientific consensus, was early to play down the coronavirus threat. He compared it to the flu, an argument that public health officials say dangerously underestimates how deadly the virus is.

One policy group that has expressed skepticism about climate change, the Heartland Institute, pointed to a widely used projection of 60,000 deaths to attack earlier models predicting up to two million fatalities. The critique, posted on its website on April 17, ignored the fact that the lower estimate took into account social-distancing measures, and that the high estimate and others close to it were presented as worst-case scenarios if no steps were taken to mitigate the virus’s spread. (The 60,000-death projection was rendered null and void 13 days later, when the death toll surpassed that number.)

Few of those who tacked from climate skepticism to Covid-19 denialism have any real expertise in tracking pandemics. But several are funded by industries that have long sought to question the work of scientists, such as big oil companies like Exxon Mobil and tobacco companies like Philip Morris. They are also backed by conservative groups like the Mercer Family Foundation that hold immense sway inside the Trump White House, and are deeply invested in the president’s political future.

Credit…Oliver Contreras/The Washington Post, via Getty Images

“It’s the same individuals. It’s the same modus operandi, the same organizations and the same backers,” said Michael E. Mann, who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “Right-wing conservative interests that are benefiting from the Trump presidency obviously want to see a continuation with the Trump presidency.”

The lines of attack against the conclusions of health experts are familiar to those who have studied the climate-change denial movement, which has long relied on what Naomi Oreskes, a science historian at Harvard, called “motivated reasoning.”

“It’s, ‘I don’t like what this implies; therefore I’m going to deny the evidence, and I’m going to question the models, and I’m going to question the motivations of the people who do it,”’ Dr. Oreskes said.

For instance, Todd Starnes, a conservative radio host who has likened climate change to “the Tooth Fairy,” fed the virus “truther” movement when he argued that the crisis was overstated because he did not see crowds outside the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York. It was the pandemic-era equivalent of pointing to a snowstorm as evidence that the planet is not warming. Days later, reporting from inside the hospital found a staff overwhelmed by critical Covid cases.

Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

In an interview, James Taylor, who wrote the Heartland critique, drew a direct line between problems he saw in the modeling of Covid-19 deaths and climate science, arguing that in both instances “we don’t have perfect information” with which to make projections. “The coronavirus models’ failure to make accurate predictions to this point should be instructive when we are told to blindly accept certain climate models,” he said.

Mr. Trump, for his part, has at times sought to use the uncertainty to his advantage. Last month, after his most ardent supporters had attacked the worst-case death estimates for weeks as evidence of hysteria, Mr. Trump began calling attention to the two million figure — as a benchmark against which to judge his handling of the crisis.

Then he went further, pointing to 100,000 deaths as the number against which to judge him.

“We will be lower than that number,” Mr. Trump told reporters as the death count kept by Johns Hopkins University approached 38,000. “But I really believe it could have been millions of people had we not done what we did.”

Last Sunday, though, Mr. Trump acknowledged that the toll could hit 100,000. Still, he said, it could have been much worse had his administration not acted. “If we didn’t do it, the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, that’s the minimum. We would have lost probably higher. It’s possible higher than 2.2.”

Even under the best circumstances, modeling how a pandemic will play out, like modeling the pace and impact of climate change, is an imperfect science. And there is indeed great uncertainty about what the death toll is now — and what it will be — given limited data about the new coronavirus and the different counting methods jurisdictions are using.

“There’s a real set of challenges around the statistics — let’s be clear,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania, who helped design Obamacare.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

But in his estimation, conservatives questioning official statistics are mostly seeking evidence that the numbers are exaggerated. “They’re not looking at the full range of data, and if anything, there’s an undercount, not an overcount,” he said.

Many of those conservatives have zeroed in on a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add Covid-19 as a “presumed” cause of death even if the diagnosis is not confirmed by a test. The recommendation was partly necessitated by the nationwide lag in testing. Public health officials across the country say that even with the additional “presumed” classifications on death certificates, the actual toll is probably much higher.

It was those recommendations that Dr. Jensen, the Minnesota state senator, seized on when he questioned the death toll in a series of social media posts. He also questioned whether hospitals were overreporting cases because Medicare was offering higher payments for treating coronavirus patients.

The posts, and subsequent media appearances, prompted the Minnesota health commissioner, Jan Malcolm, to call Dr. Jensen’s claim “misinformation.” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s leading infectious disease specialist, called it a conspiracy theory.

Dr. Jensen has continued to question the death toll. In a recent interview, he bristled at being called a conspiracy theorist. “I’m surprised by the vehemence, surprised by the viciousness,” he said.

Yet Dr. Jensen chose to air his concerns in partisan venues that are hardly known for measured and thoughtful debate. After his first television appearance, the host, Mr. Berg, pointedly asked on Twitter, “Why is #MN inflating Covid-19 death numbers?”

Ms. Ingraham invited Dr. Jensen on Fox News to repeat his claim and address Dr. Fauci’s charge, asking incredulously, “Conspiracy theories, doctor — so you’re engaging in conspiracy theories?”

Fox News’s prime-time lineup has often been a clarion for doubt about the pandemic’s severity and the credibility of the nation’s leading health experts.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Beyond her segment with Dr. Jensen, Ms. Ingraham gave a platform to a false and misleading claim by Dr. Phil McGraw, the television therapist, that Covid-19 posed less of a public health threat than swimming pools. While calling for reopening the economy, she has seized on discrepancies in projections to argue that social-distancing measures have gone too far.

Others on Fox, like Brit Hume, have pointed to New York as evidence that numbers were being inflated, citing the city’s decision to add presumed cases to its count.

While Mr. Trump has proved receptive to such arguments, they appear to be having less of an impact on public opinion. The vast majority of Americans — Republicans and Democrats alike — are following social-distancing guidelines, and recent polls have found broad support for restrictions on businesses imposed by state governments.

To Dr. Mann, the seeming inability of Covid skeptics to sow doubts among the public is cause for optimism. “This is sort of a test case for combating denialism and exposing the danger of denialism,” he said.

Dr. Jensen, though, has stayed true to his skepticism in his own life. Last week, he plugged into a remote State Senate hearing on easing restrictions on telemedicine for addiction disorders while playing a round of golf, without a mask.

“I just want to ask the senator — how’s he hitting them out there?” a Democratic senator, Jeff Hayden, broke in to ask him.

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Two White House Coronavirus Cases Raise Question of if Anyone Is Really Safe

Westlake Legal Group two-white-house-coronavirus-cases-raise-question-of-if-anyone-is-really-safe Two White House Coronavirus Cases Raise Question of if Anyone Is Really Safe Workplace Hazards and Violations White House Building (Washington, DC) Veterans United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Tests (Medical) secret service Quarantines Pence, Mike Miller, Stephen (1985- ) McEnany, Kayleigh Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — In his eagerness to reopen the country, President Trump faces the challenge of convincing Americans that it would be safe to go back to the workplace. But the past few days have demonstrated that even his own workplace may not be safe from the coronavirus.

Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tested positive for the virus on Friday, forcing a delay in the departure of Air Force Two while a half-dozen other members of his staff were taken off the plane for further testing. That came only a day after word that one of the president’s own military valets had been infected.

All of which raised an obvious question: If it is so hard to maintain a healthy environment at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the most famous office address in the world, where staff members are tested regularly, some as often as every day, then how can businesses across the country without anywhere near as much access to the same resources establish a safe space for their workers?

“The virus is in the White House, any way you look at it,” said Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama. “Whether it’s contained or not, we will know soon enough. But the fact that a place — secured, with access to the best means to mitigate harm — is not able to stop the virus has the potential of undermining confidence in any capacity to defeat it.”

The presence of the virus in both the West Wing and the residential floors of the White House brings home the dilemma facing the nation at a pivotal point in the pandemic. With more than 76,000 deaths in the United States so far and cases rising by the day, states and employers are wrestling with when and how to reopen without putting workers, customers and clients at risk.

But the federal government has not detailed the best way to minimize risk, much less avoid more deaths. Even as it has experienced positive tests of its own, the White House has so far blocked the release of a set of recommendations developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deeming them overly prescriptive. As a result, businesses have been left to make their best guesses with lives on the line.

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence are now tested daily, and both tested negative after the latest infections were discovered. Staff members in proximity to them are also tested daily, as are guests. Congressional Republicans who visited Mr. Trump on Friday were spaced out around the table.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172319895_826c41a3-d802-4c8b-9e49-07f8de7edc77-articleLarge Two White House Coronavirus Cases Raise Question of if Anyone Is Really Safe Workplace Hazards and Violations White House Building (Washington, DC) Veterans United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Tests (Medical) secret service Quarantines Pence, Mike Miller, Stephen (1985- ) McEnany, Kayleigh Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told reporters that “we’ve put in some additional protocols over the last 48 hours” to reduce the risk and expressed confidence that the president could be protected. “This is probably the safest place you can come to,” he said.

But neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Pence regularly wears a mask, nor do most of their aides. The president hosted a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington on Friday to mark the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany by inviting several veterans aged 95 and over, even though they were in the most vulnerable age group.

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The latest positive test further rattled a White House already on edge after the president’s military valet came down with the virus. Katie Miller, the vice president’s press secretary and a top spokeswoman for the White House coronavirus efforts, had tested negative on Thursday but then tested positive on Friday morning.

The result forced Mr. Pence’s scheduled flight to Des Moines to be delayed for more than an hour, even though she was not traveling with him, so that six other aides who had been in contact with her could be escorted from the plane at Joint Base Andrews before its departure. All six later tested negative but were sent home out of caution, officials said. Ms. Miller is married to Stephen Miller, the president’s senior adviser, and he too was tested again on Friday and the results came back negative.

White House officials initially asked reporters not to identify Ms. Miller as the aide who tested positive, but Mr. Trump blew the secret when he identified her publicly during his meeting with the congressional Republicans as “Katie” and “the press person” for Mr. Pence.

“She tested very good for a long period of time. And then all of a sudden today, she tested positive,” Mr. Trump said. “She hasn’t come into contact with me. Spent some time with the vice president.”

But Ms. Miller has been in the vicinity of the president in recent days, including during his Fox News appearance on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial and again on Thursday in the Rose Garden. Her husband is in meetings with the president even more frequently as the architect of his crackdown on immigration, although he and other aides have sat farther away than they have in the past.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Multiple presidential aides are now tested daily, as are about 10 members of Mr. Pence’s staff, an official said. But tests are conducted less frequently on other White House officials who work next door in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and have regular contact with West Wing aides even if not the president himself.

A government official said Friday that the Secret Service has 11 active cases of the coronavirus, but it was unclear whether any were agents or served in the White House. The service, which has 150 offices across the country responsible for protecting a variety of dignitaries and investigating financial crimes, also has 23 employees who have recovered and 60 others undergoing self-quarantine, Yahoo News reported. While tested regularly, agents in the president’s detail have not been wearing masks, and new faces have shown up in recent days.

The White House infections further inflamed the national debate about testing even as many states begin lifting restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. Mr. Trump has said testing is adequate for reopening even as public health experts said it must be much more robust to have a better map of the outbreak. The Harvard Global Health Institute estimated this week that the United States needs to do at least 900,000 tests a day by May 15, but is only doing about 250,000 now.

“One of the most important ways to protect our workers is by conducting more tests,” said Lorraine M. Martin, the president of the National Safety Council, a nonprofit advocacy group. “Increased access to Covid-19 testing for our work force will help flatten the curve by removing people with coronavirus from the workplace and better ensure the safety and health of employees who are maintaining operations during this pandemic.”

But on Friday, Mr. Trump cast doubt on testing as a panacea, saying Ms. Miller’s case at the White House demonstrated the limits of its utility.

“This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great,” the president said. “The tests are perfect, but something can happen between the test where it’s good and then something happens all of a sudden” it is not.

Some experts said he has a point. “People need to understand the limitations of testing,” said Nellie Brown, the director of workplace health and safety programs at the Worker Institute at Cornell University, who is advising businesses on how to reopen safely. “When you take a test you’re basically getting a slice in time. You know what is happening at that moment, but you don’t know what may happen even soon after that.”

Even so, she said, the president should be setting an example for the rest of the country, like by wearing a mask. “You need to model the behavior you want others to exhibit because you’re so powerful an example,” she said. “It’s so important for others to see we’re all doing this because we’re all in this together.”

No one in the White House seems to expect Mr. Trump to wear a mask anytime soon. His aides said it was not necessary because a mask is worn to protect others in case its wearer is infected, and the president is tested regularly. But privately they acknowledge that he has expressed concern that it would make him look bad.

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, disputed the idea that the new cases in the White House reflected continuing risk to Americans who are being asked to return to work, with less testing and monitoring than the White House receives.

“The guidelines that our experts have put forward to keep this building safe — which means contact tracing, all of the recommended guidelines we have for businesses that have essential workers — we’re now putting in place here in the White House,” she said at a briefing.

Asked about the veterans in their 90s who joined Mr. Trump for the World War II anniversary, she said the men “made the choice to come here because they’ve chosen to put their nation first.” Asked why the president, who briefly addressed them from a distance of several feet, had not worn a mask, Ms. McEnany said, “This president will make the decision as to whether to wear a mask or not.”

Calling into “Fox & Friends” earlier in the day, Mr. Trump provided additional details about the White House valet who tested positive for the coronavirus. He said that the aide, who is in the Navy, had not worked for several days before Tuesday, when he was “in the room” with the president for an unspecified amount of time before discovering that he was carrying the virus. “I don’t think any contact,” Mr. Trump added of his interactions with the aide.

After some prompting, the president cheekily offered to send a test kit from the White House to his likely Democratic opponent in the general election, former Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. That, he said, would allow Mr. Biden to “get out of the basement so he can speak,” adding that “every time he talks, it’s, like, a good thing.”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Washington.

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Trump Says He’s ‘Torn’ on China Deal as Advisers Signal Harmony on Trade

WASHINGTON — President Trump criticized China for failing to hold up its end of the trade deal on Friday and said he was “very torn” about the fate of the agreement signed in January, even as his closest economic advisers released a statement reassuring the world that the truce was intact.

“Look, I’m having a very hard time with China,” Mr. Trump said in an interview on Fox & Friends, lamenting how recent economic disruptions tied to the coronavirus had overridden “a great trade deal.”

When asked whether the deal might be falling apart, Mr. Trump was noncommittal.

“I have not decided yet, if you want to know the truth,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s comments came just hours after top trade and financial officials held talks via conference call, their first since the coronavirus pandemic ballooned in late January. In separate statements, the two countries signaled that their agreement was on track.

“Both sides agreed that good progress is being made on creating the governmental infrastructures necessary to make the agreement a success,” the Office of the United States Trade Representative said. “They also agreed that in spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner.”

The future of the trade deal, which brought an end to tariff escalations and set the two countries toward a more cordial relationship, has been called into question in recent days by Mr. Trump, who has expressed anger over China’s response to the coronavirus and has suggested the United States could retaliate for its failure to contain the disease.

Those comments had rattled stock markets, and the joint statement released on Friday morning seemed aimed at reassuring businesses and investors that the world’s largest economies were not on the cusp of restarting the trade war.

Yet deep uncertainty surrounding the U.S.-China relationship remains. As the nations spar over the pandemic, misinformation campaigns, Beijing’s policies toward Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea and over trade, relations have reached a level of hostility not seen even in the depths of the trade war last year.

They could fray even more in the coming months. Mr. Trump and many of his advisers continue to see the trade agreement signed with China last year as a signature achievement. But they have been worried and angered by recent data showing that China is falling behind on its promises to buy $200 billion of additional American exports by 2021.

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Chinese negotiators face nationalists at home who favor a more antagonistic relationship. And Mr. Trump’s campaign team and Republican lawmakers see taking a hard stance on China as a way to bolster their prospects ahead of the November elections.

Two-thirds of Americans now view China unfavorably, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center, a proportion that has climbed sharply in the last few years. Mr. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have painted each other as weak on China in recent campaign ads.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172141347_0dbb628f-2f17-4876-9d2e-cbf6b7e2b696-articleLarge Trump Says He’s ‘Torn’ on China Deal as Advisers Signal Harmony on Trade Xi Jinping United States International Relations United States Economy United States Trump, Donald J International Trade and World Market International Relations Economic Conditions and Trends Customs (Tariff) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China
Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

As he has throughout his presidency, Mr. Trump has continued to alternate between praise and criticism of China. But his optimism about his trade deal appears to have slowly evaporated in recent weeks.

In early April, Mr. Trump said he believed the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, would “honor the deal” he made with the United States “because I know President Xi, who I like and respect,” Mr. Trump said.

The Phase 1 agreement keeps 25 percent tariffs in place on a wide range of imports from China that the Trump administration considers to have strategic or economic value, like cars or nuclear reactor components. It requires China to strengthen intellectual property protection and open its markets to foreign financial services companies.

The agreement also calls for China to increase its imports from the United States by $200 billion this year and next year, compared with levels in 2017, before the trade war began.

The chapter on extra purchases, one of seven chapters in the agreement, mandates specific increases in four categories of China’s imports from the United States: food, manufactured goods, energy and services.

China has increased its imports of American food since the pact was signed. But its overall imports of other American goods have fallen short of the administration’s initial hopes.

China’s total imports from the United States fell 5.6 percent in the first four months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to China’s trade data. According to an analysis by Panjiva, China’s imports in March of the goods it promised to buy in the trade deal were just 44 percent of their target level, and Chinese trade data suggested April might be worse.

Given the economic catastrophe caused by coronavirus, that is no surprise, analysts said.

China is still struggling to recover from its efforts to stamp out the coronavirus, which included shutting vast parts of its industrial machine; its economy shrank for the first time in nearly half a century. The United States is still debating when to end its own lockdowns, which have contributed to the loss of millions of jobs.

“There’s no chance whatsoever that the purchasing targets will be met,” said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Credit…Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Economists said plummeting consumer demand in China would likely translate to fewer purchases of American cars and Boeing aircraft, making it hard for China to meet the target for buying manufactured goods.

Shutdowns in American slaughterhouses could limit the amount of pork, beef and other American agricultural products available for purchase. And the price of oil and gas has collapsed, meaning China would have to buy many more barrels to meet a $50 billion target by the end of the next year.

Brad Setser, an economist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the energy target from the trade deal “assumes a different world.”

Experts in China said Beijing would live up to its commitments, despite a pandemic that negotiators could not have anticipated when the truce was reached in mid-January.

“China sticks to the Phase 1 agreement,” said He Weiwen, a prominent Chinese trade expert and former Commerce Ministry official.

But Mr. He acknowledged that a nose-dive in world oil prices, together with falling Chinese energy usage as the country’s economy slows, would make it hard for China to meet the targets in the Phase 1 accord for energy imports from the United States.

“There is a phenomenal decrease in the demand,” Mr. He said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump said during a White House briefing that by the end of next week he would review whether China was complying with the Phase 1 trade pact. But when asked about putting tariffs on China, he responded, “I don’t want to talk about this.”

Current and former trade officials on both sides of the Pacific have evinced little enthusiasm for a revival of the trade war and predicted that the agreement would survive.

“The Phase 1 agreement will set the rules of engagement even after the pandemic has receded,” said Jamieson Greer, who was chief of staff for Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, until a month ago and is now a partner at King and Spalding, a Washington law firm.

The pact signed in January contains a clause saying the two countries may resume talks if “a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event” prevents them from keeping the terms of the deal. But China has insisted it isn’t exercising that provision.

Against that backdrop, the statements released by both governments after the call — which included Mr. Lighthizer, Vice Premier Liu He and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin — were noticeably upbeat.

“The two sides stated that they should strengthen macroeconomic and public health cooperation, strive to create a favorable atmosphere and conditions for the implementation of the first phase of the Sino-U.S. economic and trade agreement, and promote positive results,” China’s Ministry of Commerce said.

Credit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

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‘Never Seen Anything Like This’: Experts Question Dropping of Flynn Prosecution

Westlake Legal Group merlin_172047546_5e0998f9-d4e5-4f56-aa19-86334789d66e-facebookJumbo ‘Never Seen Anything Like This’: Experts Question Dropping of Flynn Prosecution Trump, Donald J Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Shea, Timothy J (1960- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 Presidential Election of 2016 Justice Department Flynn, Michael T Federal Bureau of Investigation Barr, William P

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, even though he had twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, was extraordinary and had no obvious precedent, a range of criminal law specialists said on Thursday.

“I’ve been practicing for more time than I care to admit and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at Georgetown University.

The move is the latest in a series that the department, under Attorney General William P. Barr, has taken to undermine and dismantle the work of the investigators and prosecutors who scrutinized Russia’s 2016 election interference operation and its links to people associated with the Trump campaign.

The case against Mr. Flynn for lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the Russian ambassador was brought by the office of the former special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. It had become a political cause for Mr. Trump and his supporters, and the president had signaled that he was considering a pardon once Mr. Flynn was sentenced. But Mr. Barr instead abruptly short-circuited the case.

On Thursday, Timothy Shea, the interim U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, told the judge overseeing the case, Emmet G. Sullivan, that prosecutors were withdrawing the case. They were doing so, he said, because the department could not prove to a jury that Mr. Flynn’s admitted lies to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the ambassador were “material” ones.

The move essentially erases Mr. Flynn’s guilty pleas. Because he was never sentenced and the government is unwilling to pursue the matter further, the prosecution is virtually certain to end, although the judge must still decide whether to grant the department’s request to dismiss it “with prejudice,” meaning it could not be refiled in the future.

A range of former prosecutors struggled to point to any previous instance in which the Justice Department had abandoned its own case after obtaining a guilty plea. They portrayed the justification Mr. Shea pointed to — that it would be difficult to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the lies were material — as dubious.

“A pardon would have been a lot more honest,” said Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at Duke University.

The law regarding what counts as “material” is extremely forgiving to the government, Mr. Buell added. The idea is that law enforcement is permitted to pursue possible theories of criminality and to interview people without having firmly established that there was a crime first.

James G. McGovern, a defense lawyer at Hogan Lovells and a former federal prosecutor, said juries rarely bought a defendant’s argument that a lie did not involve a material fact.

“If you are arguing ‘materiality,’ you usually lose, because there is a tacit admission that what you said was untrue, so you lose the jury,” he said.

No career prosecutors signed the motion. Mr. Shea is a former close aide to Mr. Barr. In January, Mr. Barr installed him as the top prosecutor in the district that encompasses the nation’s capital after maneuvering out the Senate-confirmed former top prosecutor in that office, Jessie K. Liu.

Soon after, in an extraordinary move, four prosecutors in the office abruptly quit the case against Mr. Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. They did so after senior Justice Department officials intervened to recommend a more lenient prison term than standard sentencing guidelines called for in the crimes Mr. Stone was convicted of committing — including witness intimidation and perjury — to conceal Trump campaign interactions with WikiLeaks.

It soon emerged that Mr. Barr had also appointed an outside prosecutor, Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney in St. Louis, to review the Flynn case files. The department then began turning over F.B.I. documents showing internal deliberations about questioning Mr. Flynn, like what warnings to give — even though such files are usually not provided to the defense.

Mr. Flynn’s defense team has mined such files for ammunition to portray the F.B.I. as running amok in its decision to question Mr. Flynn in the first place. The questioning focused on his conversations during the transition after the 2016 election with the Russian ambassador about the Obama administration’s imposition of sanctions on Russia for its interference in the American election.

The F.B.I. had already concluded that there was no evidence that Mr. Flynn, a former Trump campaign adviser, had personally conspired with Russia about the election, and it had decided to close out the counterintelligence investigation into him. Then questions arose about whether and why Mr. Flynn had lied to administration colleagues like Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the ambassador.

Because the counterintelligence investigation was still open, the bureau used it as a basis to question Mr. Flynn about the conversations and decided not to warn him at its onset that it would be a crime to lie. Notes from Bill Priestap, then the head of the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division, show that he wrote at one point about the planned interview: “What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

Mr. Barr has let it be known that he does not think the F.B.I. ever had an adequate legal basis to open its Russia investigation in the first place, contrary to the judgment of the Justice Department’s inspector general.

In an interview on CBS News on Thursday, Mr. Barr defended the dropping of the charges against Mr. Flynn on the grounds that the F.B.I. “did not have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn at that stage.”

Anne Milgram, a former federal prosecutor and former New Jersey attorney general who teaches criminal law at New York University, defended the F.B.I.’s decision to question Mr. Flynn in January 2017. She said that much was still a mystery about the Russian election interference operation at the time and that Mr. Flynn’s lying to the vice president about his postelection interactions with a high-ranking Russian raised new questions.

But, she argued, the more important frame for assessing the dropping of the case was to recognize how it fit into the larger pattern of the Barr-era department “undercutting the law enforcement officials and prosecutors who investigated the 2016 election and its aftermath,” which she likened to “eating the Justice Department from the inside out.”

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Trump Blocks C.D.C.’s Coronavirus Reopening Guidelines

Westlake Legal Group trump-blocks-c-d-c-s-coronavirus-reopening-guidelines Trump Blocks C.D.C.'s Coronavirus Reopening Guidelines United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Shutdowns (Institutional) Severino, Roger restaurants Redfield, Robert R Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Civil Rights and Liberties Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Birx, Deborah L

WASHINGTON — As President Trump rushes to reopen the economy, a battle has erupted between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the agency’s detailed guidelines to help schools, restaurants, churches and other establishments safely reopen.

A copy of the C.D.C. guidance obtained by The New York Times includes sections for child care programs, schools and day camps, churches and other “communities of faith,” employers with vulnerable workers, restaurants and bars, and mass transit administrators. The recommendations include using disposable dishes and utensils at restaurants, closing every other row of seats in buses and subways while restricting transit routes among areas experiencing different levels of coronavirus infection, and separating children at school and camps into groups that should not mix throughout the day.

But White House and other administration officials rejected the recommendations over concerns that they were overly prescriptive, infringed on religious rights and risked further damaging an economy that Mr. Trump was banking on to recover quickly. One senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services with deep ties to religious conservatives objected to any controls on church services.

“Governments have a duty to instruct the public on how to stay safe during this crisis and can absolutely do so without dictating to people how they should worship God,” said Roger Severino, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, who once oversaw the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation.

A spokesman for the C.D.C. said the guidance was still under discussion with the White House and a revised version could be published soon.

“Over the last week, C.D.C. has been working on additional recommendations and guidance for reopening communities, returning to public events, and I expect, even today, that we’re going to receive a presentation on that,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday on a radio show broadcast in Pittsburgh. “And C.D.C. will be doing, as they often do, is publishing health care guidance at CDC.gov in the very near future.”

The C.D.C.’s director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, and other leaders of the agency have had almost no public platform during the pandemic, with Dr. Deborah L. Birx, an infectious diseases expert coordinating the White House’s coronavirus response, and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, another member of the coronavirus task force who is the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, handling most of the public speaking on the federal public health response, usually at briefings dominated by Mr. Trump. After the C.D.C. recommended the public wear masks, Mr. Trump said he probably would not do so, even as he announced the guidelines.

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The rejection of the C.D.C.’s guidelines for reopening is the latest confusing signal as the Trump administration struggles to balance the president’s desire to quickly reopen the country against the advice of public health experts, who have counseled reopening methodically through a series of steps tied to reduced rates of infection and expanded efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The mixed signals extend to reopening guidelines: On April 16, Mr. Trump’s coronavirus task force released broad guidance for states to reopen in three phases, based on case levels and hospital capacity. But some members of the task force and other aides saw the more detailed C.D.C. guidance as a document that could slow down the reopening effort, according to several people with knowledge of the deliberations inside the West Wing.

To date, 24 states, mostly in the South, Great Plains and Interior West, have begun allowing certain businesses to reopen, sometimes only in certain counties. Many more have businesses that are set to reopen or stay-at-home orders that could lift in the next week or two.

In a senior staff meeting last week at the White House, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, expressed concern that the guidelines were too uniform and rigid for places with minimal numbers of cases, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_171532191_669a99ae-bf8d-4f68-9c97-87ece96ce2c7-articleLarge Trump Blocks C.D.C.'s Coronavirus Reopening Guidelines United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Shutdowns (Institutional) Severino, Roger restaurants Redfield, Robert R Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Civil Rights and Liberties Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Birx, Deborah L
Credit…Ryan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

Particularly contentious were the C.D.C.’s recommendations for churches and other houses of worship. Mr. Severino vocally opposed them.

“Protections against religious discrimination aren’t suspended during an emergency,” he said in a statement on Thursday. “This means the federal government cannot single out religious conduct as somehow being more dangerous or worthy of scrutiny than comparable secular behavior.”

The recommendations for churches include encouraging all congregants to wear cloth face coverings when inside the building, offering video streaming or drive-in options for services and considering “suspending use of a choir or musical ensemble” during services. It also urges churches to consider “temporarily limiting the sharing of frequently touched objects,” like hymnals, prayer books and passed collection baskets.

A senior Trump administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about internal discussions, said that Dr. Birx also expressed skepticism about the C.D.C. guidelines in task force meetings. The official said that Dr. Birx said she was mistrustful of the data the agency had provided, although the official did not specify what exactly the doctor was concerned about.

The guidance, which the C.D.C. submitted to Dr. Birx in draft form on April 23 and to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget last week, was to help states, local governments and businesses adopt specific precautions to help keep the coronavirus from spreading once they reopened. But several federal agencies that reviewed the draft, including the Labor Department and the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, protested, saying it would be harmful to businesses and the economy and too burdensome for houses of worship.

A federal official who supports the guidance said that Dr. Birx was in favor of publishing them, and that Joe Grogan, the director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, even tried to broker a compromise — but that others in the White House pushed back, especially on the worship section. Dr. Birx was not available for comment.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In one version of the draft guidance, the section titled “Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith” was left blank, with a note in capital letters referring to multiple federal agencies that has to come to agreement. But another version included the guidance for faith communities with the caveat that it “is not intended to infringe on First Amendment rights as provided in the U.S. Constitution.”

“The federal government may not prescribe standards for interactions of faith communities in houses of worship,” the second version states. “C.D.C. offers these suggestions that faith communities may consider and accept or reject.”

Abby Goodnough reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Michael D. Shear and Noah Weiland contributed reporting from Washington.

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Justice Dept. Drops Case Against Michael Flynn

Westlake Legal Group justice-dept-drops-case-against-michael-flynn Justice Dept. Drops Case Against Michael Flynn United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Justice Department Flynn, Michael T Federal Bureau of Investigation Barr, William P
Westlake Legal Group 07dc-flynn-sub-facebookJumbo Justice Dept. Drops Case Against Michael Flynn United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Justice Department Flynn, Michael T Federal Bureau of Investigation Barr, William P

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department dropped its criminal case on Thursday against Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, who had previously pleaded guilty to lying to F.B.I. agents about his conversations with a Russian diplomat.

The extraordinary move comes amid a sustained attack by Mr. Flynn’s lawyers on prosecutors and the F.B.I., accusing them of egregious conduct. In recent days, Mr. Flynn’s lawyers said the Justice Department had uncovered new documents that pointed to misconduct, particularly in investigators’ interview of Mr. Flynn in January 2017 as part of its inquiry into whether Trump advisers conspired with Russia’s election interference.

Law enforcement officials cited that interview in moving to drop the charges, saying in a court filing that the some of newfound documents showed that the questioning “was untethered to, and unjustified by, the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the case did not meet the legal standard that Mr. Flynn’s lies be “materially” relevant to the matter under investigation.

In a possible sign of disagreement with the Justice Department decision, Brandon L. Van Grack, the department lawyer who led the prosecution of Mr. Flynn, abruptly withdrew from the case on Thursday. Mr. Flynn’s lawyers have repeatedly attacked Mr. Van Grack by name in court filings, citing his “incredible malfeasance.”

Responding to the news, Mr. Trump told reporters that Mr. Flynn was “an innocent man,” and said he now views him as an “even greater warrior.”

Mr. Flynn first pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to investigators and cooperated extensively before moving to withdraw his plea and fight the case in court. He had also entered a guilty plea a second time in 2018 at an aborted sentencing hearing.

And in a highly unusual step, Attorney General William P. Barr assigned an outside prosecutor to review the Justice Department’s case. As part of that review, prosecutors turned over documents starting last month that Mr. Flynn’s lawyers said proved the former general had been framed by the F.B.I.

Mr. Flynn’s case grew out of an investigation by law enforcement officials who had reason to suspect that he constituted a national security threat. They learned that he had lied in January 2017 to other White House officials about conversations during the presidential transition with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and they warned the White House that Russia could have blackmailed Mr. Flynn, then the Trump administration’s highest-ranking national security official.

The White House was prepared for the possibility of Mr. Trump pardoning Mr. Flynn last week, according to two people familiar with the discussions. But some advisers urged him to hold off and let the case play out, either with the Justice Department or with the judge in the case, according to the people familiar with the discussions.

So Mr. Trump agreed, and he held off. If he was briefed by Mr. Barr long before the decision, he did not let on to advisers, according to those familiar with the discussions.

After more than a year of cooperating with investigators, Mr. Flynn adopted a more combative stance last year when he hired new lawyers who have accused Mr. Van Grack and other prosecutors in a blizzard of court filings of “bad faith,” pressuring their client to cooperate and withholding exculpatory evidence.

But the federal judge in Washington overseeing the case, Emmet G. Sullivan, forcefully rejected most of the defense’s claims in a 92-page ruling in December.

Mr. Flynn, a decorated lieutenant general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s campaign, joining the crowd in a “lock her up” chant about Hillary Clinton at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations during the presidential transition with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak.

The F.B.I. had interviewed Mr. Flynn four days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration. Less than a month later, Mr. Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser. According to the White House at the time, the reason Mr. Flynn was forced to resign was because he was not forthcoming with Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Mr. Kislyak.

Mr. Flynn eventually admitted that those discussions were part of a coordinated effort by the president’s aides to make foreign policy before they were in power, which undermined the policy of President Barack Obama.

Mr. Flynn also lied in federal filings about his lobbying work for the Turkish government, court papers show. Two of his former business associates were charged with conspiring to violate federal lobbying rules in cases related to the special counsel inquiry.

Mr. Trump raised concerns about the F.B.I.’s scrutiny of Mr. Flynn during the early days of his presidency, asking the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, to end any investigation into Mr. Flynn. Details about the president’s request became public a few months later after Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey and helped prompt Mr. Mueller’s appointment as special counsel.

After firing Mr. Flynn, the president thought he had put an end to the Russia inquiry that had been dogging him for months.

“Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over,” Mr. Trump said, according to a book published by former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, an ally of the president’s.

The special counsel’s prosecutors considered Mr. Flynn a key early cooperator as “one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight” into their inquiry into whether any Trump associates criminally conspired with Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York.

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Knock, Knock, Who’s There? No Political Canvassers, for the First Time Maybe Ever

Joseph R. Biden Jr. went door-to-door in his first Senate race in 1972, and had volunteers hand-deliver mailers. In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walked across her district until rainwater seeped through the soles of her sneakers. This past winter, Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign mobilized an army of supporters to hit more than 800,000 doors ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

But in the fall of 2020, volunteers might have to knock on a door and then sprint 10 feet away, making a pitch from a safe social distance. That is one tactic some strategists have floated as they consider a pandemic-safe update to a fundamental political tool: the humble door knock.

For decades, showing up on a voter’s doorstep has been one of the most reliable ways to get people to the polls. Now political parties and candidates that put tens of millions of dollars into training and deploying door knockers are grappling with costly, consequential and imminent decisions about whether they should even invest in traditional brick-and-mortar infrastructure that powers such operations.

Campaigns face a dilemma, even as they put on a happy face about their seamless transitions to a forced all-digital reality: Don’t invest and risk falling behind on a field operation (if door knocking does become realistic). Or spend money now on offices, computers, clipboards that could sit idle in October, and waste time training traditional canvassers.

For now, nearly every campaign at every level is rushing to fill the breach with virtual programs that no one has ever depended on like this — or tested at such a scale.

“Campaigns don’t need a new ‘Plan B’ for field. They need a new ‘Plan A’ because door-to-door canvassing is not going to happen at scale in the 2020 election,” said Becky Bond, a Democratic strategist who worked on Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 Senate campaign and specializes in developing field programs that use technology.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_168344637_b1aeca97-a5cc-4bef-8dc7-75a47a0778a2-articleLarge Knock, Knock, Who’s There? No Political Canvassers, for the First Time Maybe Ever Volunteers and Community Service Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Democratic Party democratic national committee Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Computers and the Internet Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Or, as Ari Rabin-Havt, deputy campaign manager for Mr. Sanders’s 2020 campaign, put it, “Even if there are official pronouncements of the country opening back up again, are people going to open the door for strangers at their houses?”

What physical campaigning will look like this fall is especially important for Mr. Biden, the likely Democratic nominee, who has a far less robust digital presence than President Trump. Mr. Trump enters the race with other advantages of incumbency, including a vast financial edge, a unique ability to command attention and a supporter base that has proved particularly enthusiastic and durable. Mr. Biden won the primary in spite of a field operation that had a more limited presence on the ground than his leading rivals almost everywhere.

“They really didn’t have much of an operation as far as I could tell,” said Claire Sandberg, the national organizing director for Mr. Sanders. “They were way behind.”

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Contacting voters by the millions does not happen overnight, and late spring is often when hiring ramps up. Campaigns typically must rent field offices, train organizers and recruit volunteers. That first wave of volunteers recruits the next wave and so on, ideally a gradual build that grows exponentially.

“It’s not something where you can flick a light switch. It is more like a ship you have to launch early,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, who said the party had shifted to an all-digital field program.

That cycle — at least the in-person portion — has been halted for the foreseeable future as volunteer recruitment and organizing have migrated fully online. But Ms. Bond warned Democrats against any disinvestment in “human-to-human interactions” — even if done virtually. “We’ve already seen Trump beat a Democrat that failed to run a big enough voter-contact campaign in enough states to win the Electoral College,” she said.

Up and down the ballot, campaigns in battleground states are assessing the effectiveness of texting efforts, Zoom calls for volunteers and remote organizing.

In Minnesota, the chairman of the state Democratic Party said it had put on hold plans for 30 additional offices in a state that President Trump has vowed to contest. “There’s no reason to incur the expense,” said the chairman, Ken Martin, who leads the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and is vice-chair of the national Democratic National Committee, citing the uncertainty of the fall.

In Florida, the executive director of the state Democratic Party, Juan Peñalosa, said the party already had nearly two dozen offices but was adding new skills and social-media account information to its job listings. “We need to get used to the new abnormal,” he said. More than 100 campaign staff members have shifted to all-virtual organizing.

In Wisconsin, Ben Wikler, the state Democratic chairman, called an April election held during the pandemic a “dress rehearsal” for November. He said that election fundamentally “changed the role of volunteers from being a reminder service to a tech-support team,” helping voters request vote-by-mail ballots.

“We’ve converted one of the country’s most intensive door-knocking operations into one of the country’s most intensive screen-pinging operations,” he said, adding that the focus now was on new hires’ having laptops and high-speed internet, rather than on opening new offices.

Credit…Emily Elconin/Reuters

The Republican National Committee said that the party had more than 800 field organizers spread across battleground states already, but that it had started moving away from organizing in physical offices after 2016. “That traditional brick-and-mortar just didn’t make sense anymore,” said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the committee, adding that volunteers had made 20 million voter contacts by phone since mid-March.

Groups that specialize in door-to-door campaigning must figure out how to make up for lost time.

Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America, a political organizing arm linked to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said his group, with a $70 million budget goal, suspended canvassing operations in mid-March and projected that delaying restarting until June with the same level of investment would mean only 700,000 conversations by Election Day instead of two million.

He is worried about what that means for Democrats. “Trying to beat Trump at the earned media game hasn’t really worked out so great,” Mr. Morrison said. “If anything, having face-to-face and relationship-based interactions becomes disproportionately valuable.”

Door knocking is not just some romanticized notion of how campaigns should work. Strategists point to political science research showing that in-depth and in-person conversations are particularly effective tools at moving votes.

“We definitely know that door-to-door canvassing can meaningfully impact voter turnout,” said David Broockman, a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Because of that, “if there is any way to do it safely and responsibly, we will door knock in the fall,” said Jessica Post, the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is devoted to winning seats in state legislatures.

Similarly, campaigns have turned to what is known as relational organizing, asking supporters to plumb their own contact lists to make calls instead of phone-banking strangers.

In March, Mr. Biden installed a new campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, who had overseen the 2012 field operations of President Barack Obama’s re-election. People who have worked with Ms. Dillon describe her as a particularly field-focused tactician.

The Biden campaign has tried to swiftly shift its outreach to be fully digital in recent weeks, empowering volunteers to create their own pro-Biden content via Slack channels, organizing remote phone-banking and starting to form like-minded communities of supporters online.

“Obviously this is one of the odder times people have ever lived through,” said Molly Ritner, Mr. Biden’s states director, adding that the campaign was planning for a range of possibilities this fall. “I think that connecting with people on a one-on-one level will be incredibly important in this campaign.”

Making those connections can be complicated. The Biden campaign still has not begun using some of the more modern dialing technology on the market, which automates the calling process and helps connect volunteers immediately to real supporters.

Instead, the campaign is using a system that multiple operatives described as slow, cumbersome and clunky.

Credit…Travis Dove for The New York Times

One big decision for the Biden campaign, Ms. Dillon and the Democratic National Committee: what to do about an unusual group called Organizing Together. The organization formed this year with the explicit mission to build an enormous field program in six key battleground states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and then disband after handing its staff and office leases over to the Democratic nominee.

“We’ll stop operating as soon as their field operations are set up,” said Jane Slusser, the group’s national director.

The effort was an outgrowth of frustrations from Hillary Clinton in 2016 that she inherited so little from the D.N.C. and of fears that a prolonged 2020 primary would hobble whoever emerged as the nominee.

But now it is not clear, given the current conditions, if the joint Biden-and-D.N.C. operation — which entered April with $187 million less in cash on hand than Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee — will even want to absorb the cost of these field organizers. The D.N.C. is understandably partial to its own field program, according to people familiar with the matter. Ms. Slusser said in late April that Organizing Together had already hired more than 230 organizers with plans to roughly double that figure by the end of May.

The Biden campaign and D.N.C. declined to comment on any plans for the Organizing Together corps. Other organizers competing for jobs include alumni of the Michael R. Bloomberg campaign; Mr. Bloomberg gifted $18 million in leftover funds to the D.N.C.

Ms. Slusser said her group had fully transitioned to online organizing but acknowledged the challenge ahead. “There is an electricity that exists in a field office that you just can’t deny,” she said. “How do you recreate that energy and excitement in an online space?”

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Betsy DeVos Completes Sexual Assault Rules

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-titleix-facebookJumbo Betsy DeVos Completes Sexual Assault Rules Trump, Donald J Title IX (Gender Discrimination Legislation) sexual harassment Sex Crimes School Discipline (Students) Education Department (US) DeVos, Elizabeth (1958- ) Colleges and Universities

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday issued final regulations on sexual misconduct in education, delivering colleges and schools firm new rules on how they must deal with one of the biggest issues that have roiled their campuses for decades.

The rules fulfill one of the Trump administration’s major policy goals for Title IX, the 48-year-old federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in programs that receive federal funding, bolstering due-process protections for accused students while relieving schools of some legal liabilities. But Ms. DeVos extended the reach of the law in other ways, establishing dating violence as a sexual misconduct category that must be addressed and mandating supportive measures for alleged victims of assault.

But enforcement of the law has also grown contentious, especially since the Obama administration issued guidance documents in 2011 and 2014 that advised schools to ramp up investigations of misconduct and warned that their failure to do so could bring serious consequences. Critics said schools felt pressured to side with accusers without extending sufficient rights to the accused. And dozens of students have won court cases against their colleges for violating their rights under the Obama-era rules.

When Ms. DeVos announced in 2017 that she was rescinding the Obama-era guidance, she said she would give schools, from kindergarten to college, regulations with the force of law that balanced those rights. Her final rules, which she called a “historic” break from the “kangaroo courts” of the past, take effect Aug. 14.

“Today we release a final rule that recognizes we can continue to combat sexual misconduct without abandoning our core values of fairness, presumption of innocence and due process,” Ms. DeVos said on a call with reporters.

Victims’ rights groups promised they would challenge the new rules in court.

“We refuse to go back to the days when rape and harassment in schools were ignored and swept under the rug,” said Fatima Goss Graves, the president of the National Women’s Law Center.

The new regulations adopt the Supreme Court’s definition of sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive,” and they require colleges to hold live hearings during which accusers and accused can be cross-examined to challenge their credibility. The rules also limit the complaints that schools are obligated to investigate to only those filed through a formal process and brought to the attention of officials with the authority to take corrective action, not other authority figures like residential advisers.

Schools will also be responsible for investigating only episodes said to have occurred within their programs and activities, not, for instance, apartments not affiliated with a university. And they will have the flexibility to choose which evidentiary standard to use to find students responsible for misconduct — “preponderance of evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence.”

To find a school legally culpable for mishandling accusations, it would have to be proved “deliberately indifferent” in carrying out mandates to provide support to victims and investigate complaints fairly. The 2,000-page document emphasizes “equitable” treatment and the presumption of innocence.

The rules are the most concrete and wide-reaching policy measure of Ms. DeVos’s tenure and were pushed by President Trump. Groups that have long fought the Obama-era rules claimed victory on Wednesday.

“The department’s new regulations require schools to provide students with a fundamentally fair process before imposing these life-altering consequences,” said Samantha Harris, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a higher-education group.

The Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter of 2011 and supplementary policy clarification in 2014 defined sexual harassment broadly and held schools liable for episodes they knew about or “reasonably should” have known about. They asked schools to adopt a “preponderance of evidence” standard in adjudicating cases and discouraged cross-examination and mediation between accusers and accused.

Victims’ rights groups said that approach shepherded in a new era of accountability at colleges, putting schools on notice that Title IX did not only address equal access to sports teams. The Obama administration found a pattern of cover-ups and rampant mishandling of Title IX proceedings in both higher education and elementary and secondary schools, and it initiated high-profile investigations at schools that carried the threat of losing federal funding.

Arne Duncan and John B. King Jr., President Barack Obama’s secretaries of education, said in a joint statement that the rules were “part of an egregiously troubling pattern to continue to rollback civil rights for students, especially those most underserved.”

“We believe, as noted in the 2011 Obama administration guidance, that institutions should hold those who violate Title IX accountable for their actions and protect victims’ rights,” the former secretaries said. “To do otherwise is simply unacceptable.”

Ms. DeVos’s initial proposals, released in November 2018, elicited more than 120,000 public comments and prompted hundreds of meetings between Education Department officials and advocacy groups.

The final rules were changed to address at least some concerns. The department amended provisions that would have allowed schools to ignore virtually all accusations of misconduct that occurred off campus, and officials changed proceedings that critics argued would have re-traumatized victims.

For instance, the department did extend responsibility beyond campus, saying that schools would be obliged to investigate accusations of misconduct that occur in “a building owned or controlled by a student organization that is officially recognized by a postsecondary institution,” like a fraternity or sorority.

Jurisdiction also extends to “locations, events or circumstances” over which the school exercised “substantial control” over students and activities, like field trips or academic conferences. However, the rules exclude actions that happen to students studying abroad.

It also softens initial proposals for cross-examination. It prohibits students from questioning each other in personal confrontations, leaving that to advisers and lawyers. A hearing officer must first decide if the questions are relevant, and questions about a person’s sexual history are generally not.

Lawyers for accused students pressed for cross-examination, which they believed a crucial tool for rooting out the truth and frivolous complaints.

Justin Dillon, a lawyer at KaiserDillon, which has represented more than 100 accused students at more than 100 schools, said the rules were a “huge victory for basic fairness and long overdue.”

“It was a process that resembles almost nothing that the administration has done — it was honest, it was thorough,” he said. “If the Trump administration had put half the thought into the coronavirus as they did into the Title IX regulations, we’d all be going back to work now.”

The final regulations also make exceptions for primary, secondary and other specialized schools amid concerns that the draft regulations would have subjected small children to the same treatment as young adults. Those schools are not required to hold a hearing or cross-examinations, though parties must be able to submit written questions. And students in primary and secondary schools can report their claims to any staff member, unlike colleges, where reports must be made to a high-ranking official.

The department maintained that the Supreme Court’s strict definition of harassment was so severe and pervasive that it effectively denies a person access to a school’s education program or activity. But the final rule added that conduct could be harassment if “a reasonable person” would say it was. The department also clarified that sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking are also sexual harassment, and those accusations would not have to meet a severe and pervasive standard.

The rules still mandate that schools dismiss complaints that do not meet the sexual harassment definition, even if the accusations are proved true.

The rules bolster the role and visibility of the Title IX coordinator, the main point person for facilitating the complaint process, and allow schools to appoint several staff members to the position. Those staff members are now required to provide “supportive measures” to accusers even if they choose not to go through with a formal complaint. The department added an extensive section to combat retaliation against people who bring forward complaints of sexual misconduct.

Meredith Smith, the assistant provost for Title IX and Clery compliance at Tulane University, said she worried how her students would respond to the rules, including those accused of misconduct.

“They’re going to see this incredibly legalistic way of responding to the harms that they’ve experienced, including being accused of horrible things, and instead of thinking of us as people who can help, we’re now here to litigate,” she said. “I thought I was working in civil rights and ensuring access to education, but instead I’m going to be running a courtroom.”

The rules require that accused students be given written assurance that they are presumed innocent. Schools would not be able to impose any disciplinary actions on students accused of misconduct until the end of the case, though they retain the ability to remove students from campus if they are found to pose a risk. Cases involving students can be resolved through mediation, but those involving both staff and students cannot.

The rules could be reversed in Congress, should Democrats win back the Senate and keep the House in November.

“Democrats will not stand silently as the Trump administration attacks the civil rights of students and will fight to ensure that every college campus is free from the fear and threat of discrimination, harassment or violence,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement.

Republicans praised the rules as fair.

“Under the previous administration, a single official at the U.S. Department of Education was issuing edicts, without the proper public input,” said Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

College and public school leaders urged Ms. DeVos to hold off on issuing the regulations during the coronavirus pandemic, and with most of their schools closed, they have called on her to at least postpone their effective date.

​“The Department of Education is not living in the real world,” said Ted Mitchell, the president of the American Council on Education, which represents college presidents and administrators. “Choosing this moment to impose the most complex and challenging regulations the agency has ever issued reflects appallingly poor judgment.”

Ms. DeVos defended her decision, saying schools have known the rules were coming and have ample time to prepare.

“The reality is civil rights really can’t wait,” she said.

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