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

Trump’s Clemency Came After Displays of Loyalty by Stone

Westlake Legal Group trumps-clemency-came-after-displays-of-loyalty-by-stone Trump’s Clemency Came After Displays of Loyalty by Stone WikiLeaks United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Stone, Roger J Jr Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2016 Mueller, Robert S III Justice Department Barr, William P Amnesties, Commutations and Pardons

Months before F.B.I. agents arrived in darkness at his Florida home to take him into custody, Roger J. Stone Jr. promised that he would remain loyal to his longtime friend. “I will never roll on Donald Trump,” he said.

He did not, and Mr. Stone is now a free man.

The president’s decision on Friday to commute Mr. Stone’s prison sentence for impeding a congressional inquiry and other crimes was extraordinary because federal prosecutors had suspected that Mr. Stone could shed light on whether Mr. Trump had lied to them under oath or illegally obstructed justice. Even Mr. Stone suggested a possible quid pro quo, telling a journalist hours before the announcement that he hoped for clemency because Mr. Trump knew he had resisted intense pressure from prosecutors to cooperate.

It was the latest example of how Mr. Trump has managed to bend America’s legal machinery to his advantage and undermine a criminal investigation that has dominated so much of his presidency.

A jury determined that Mr. Stone, 67, was guilty of seven felonies, including witness tampering and lying to federal authorities, and a judge sentenced him to 40 months in prison. But to some, his brazen taunting of F.B.I. agents, prosecutors and a federal judge for the past three years indicated that he knew how the story would end: His friend Mr. Trump would rescue him.

Mr. Stone has always described the investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 election as bogus. And he has said he refused to help prosecutors because he would not “bear false witness” or “make up lies” about Mr. Trump — not because he was covering up any wrongdoing.

But recently unsealed portions of the Mueller report underscore why investigators were so eager to gain his cooperation. The passages show that prosecutors suspected that the president had lied to them in written answers when he said he did not recall any conversations with Mr. Stone during his 2016 campaign about WikiLeaks. The organization released tens of thousands of emails that Russian government operatives had stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Democratic political organizations and had funneled to it to help Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Although Mr. Trump said he spoke with Mr. Stone occasionally, he had “no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone” for the six months before the November 2016 election.

Mr. Stone might also have shed light on whether the president’s conduct toward him amounted to possible criminal obstruction of justice. The Mueller team investigated — but did not ultimately determine — whether the president had committed that offense, focusing in part on whether he tried to influence Mr. Stone and other witnesses not to cooperate with investigators.

Mr. Trump repeatedly praised Mr. Stone and others for refusing to aid the investigation. In a December 2018 tweet, he singled out Mr. Stone for resisting “a rogue and out of control prosecutor,” adding, “Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’”

“It is possible that, by the time the president submitted his written answers two years after the relevant events had occurred, he no longer had clear recollections of his discussions with Stone or his knowledge of Stone’s asserted communications with WikiLeaks,” the Mueller prosecutors wrote in a passage disclosed last month as a result of a lawsuit.

“But the president’s conduct could also be viewed as reflecting his awareness that Stone could provide evidence that would run counter to the president’s denials and would link the president to Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks,” they wrote.

Andrew Weissmann, one of the special counsel’s prosecutors, suggested on Twitter late Friday that Mr. Stone was hiding information. “Time to put Roger Stone in the grand jury to find out what he knows about Trump but would not tell. Commutation can’t stop that,” he wrote, in a highly unusual public comment about the inquiry by a member of the Mr. Mueller’s team.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 11dc-stone2-articleLarge Trump’s Clemency Came After Displays of Loyalty by Stone WikiLeaks United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Stone, Roger J Jr Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2016 Mueller, Robert S III Justice Department Barr, William P Amnesties, Commutations and Pardons
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

In his voluminous report, Mr. Mueller found that Russia systematically tried to sabotage the 2016 election and used WikiLeaks to help accomplish that goal. He also said Mr. Trump’s advisers had welcomed help from the Kremlin but found insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy. Mr. Mueller also found numerous times when Mr. Trump tried to impede the special counsel’s investigation, but chose not to determine whether the president had illegally obstructed justice.

It is unclear whether the president asked the Justice Department to weigh in on whether Mr. Stone deserved clemency; a department spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. In an interview Thursday with ABC News, Attorney General William P. Barr said he viewed the Stone prosecution as “righteous” but that the president had the prerogative to intervene.

The department’s pardon attorney is expected — but not legally required — to examine requests for clemency in order to guard against politicized decisions, according to Jack L. Goldsmith, a Harvard University law professor and former top Justice Department official during the George W. Bush administration.

In an article posted on the website Lawfare, Mr. Goldsmith wrote that Mr. Trump has not only routinely ignored that process, he has used his powers overwhelmingly to help people with whom he has a personal or political connection.

“No president in American history comes close to matching Trump’s systematically self-serving use of the pardon power,” Mr. Goldsmith wrote.

While he has made no secret of his hope that the president would save him from prison, Mr. Stone said Thursday during an interview on SiriusXM’s “Jim Norton & Sam Roberts” show that he had not talked to Mr. Trump in two years. The president called Mr. Stone on Friday to deliver the news of his commutation personally, an official briefed on the conversation has said.

At his trial, prosecutors asserted that Mr. Stone was so loyal to the president and so contemptuous of federal investigators that he told “whoppers” to a congressional committee investigating how Russia used WikiLeaks to influence the election.

“He knew that if the truth came out about what he was doing in 2016, it would look terrible,” Jonathan Kravis, then an assistant United States attorney, told the jurors. “Roger Stone knew that if this information came out it would look really bad for his longtime associate Donald Trump.”

Both Justice Department and congressional investigators were attempting to determine whether Mr. Stone had acted as the campaign’s intermediary with WikiLeaks, and whether he shared information about the organization with Mr. Trump. The president was anxious to distance himself from WikiLeaks after disclosures that Russia was the source of the stolen information it released to damage Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy.

Two former senior campaign officials, Rick Gates and Stephen K. Bannon, testified at Mr. Stone’s trial that he either claimed or intimated that he had inside information from WikiLeaks. And a third former top campaign official, Paul Manafort, told prosecutors that after he told Mr. Trump that Mr. Stone claimed to have access to WikiLeaks, Mr. Trump had asked him to stay in touch with Mr. Stone and keep him updated.

Both Mr. Gates and Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer, also recounted conversations in which Mr. Trump and Mr. Stone appeared to discuss WikiLeaks.

Mr. Cohen, who is serving a prison term for campaign finance violations and other crimes, told prosecutors that he overheard a conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Stone in the candidate’s Trump Tower headquarters in July 2016, the month that WikiLeaks released its first tranche of Democratic emails stolen by the Russians.

Mr. Cohen said that after Mr. Stone promised that WikiLeaks would soon release more damaging information about Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump responded, “Oh good, all right.” Later, after WikiLeaks published documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Cohen said Mr. Trump told him, “I guess Roger was right,” the Mueller report said.

Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Gates testified that in mid-2016, days after WikiLeaks released a batch of stolen emails, Mr. Trump had a phone call with Mr. Stone, then told Mr. Gates that more information would be coming. Although Mr. Gates did not overhear the conversation, and Mr. Trump did not mention WikiLeaks, the context of the exchange suggested that Mr. Stone briefed Mr. Trump on whatever he had picked up about the website’s plans.

Mr. Stone’s public declarations about WikiLeaks made him an early focus of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation, opened in July 2016. He relished the attention, and sometimes seemed to taunt law enforcement agencies — daring them to find hard evidence linking him to the Russian campaign to sabotage the 2016 election. After he was indicted, he taunted the federal judge overseeing his case with an Instagram post and was penalized with a gag order.

Besides lying to federal authorities, he was convicted of threatening a fragile witness who ultimately refused to cooperate with the congressional committee. He urged that associate, a New York radio host named Randy Credico, to act like Frank Pentangeli, a character in “The Godfather: Part II” who conveniently claimed memory loss when called to testify before a Senate panel, then killed himself to avoid jail and protect a mafia boss.

Mr. Trump’s campaign to undo the legacy of the Mueller investigation has found a willing ally in Mr. Barr. He released an initial summary of Mr. Mueller’s findings that a federal judge later said presented a “distorted” picture, and appointed a prosecutor to examine the origins of the F.B.I. inquiry that the special counsel inherited.

Mr. Barr has also intervened to drop criminal charges against another former Trump adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to F.B.I. agents investigating Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia. And five months ago, Mr. Barr overruled career prosecutors who had handled the Stone case and recommended a lighter sentence than they had sought.

Relying on sentencing guidelines, as is customary, four career prosecutors had requested a sentence of seven to nine years. Mr. Barr decided that was overly harsh and the department asked for a “far less” severe prison term.

Although he insisted he had judged the case independently, Mr. Barr acted after Mr. Trump had criticized the department’s recommendation on Twitter, and the president went on to praise his move as well.

The attorney general’s decision threw the Justice Department into tumult. All four prosecutors on the Stone case withdrew from it in protest, and Mr. Kravis quit the department entirely.

Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, another former member of the prosecution team, told a congressional committee last month that top Justice Department officials wanted Mr. Stone treated leniently because of his ties to the president.

He testified: “What happened here was wrong.”

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In Commuting Stone’s Sentence, Trump Goes Where Nixon Was Not Willing

WASHINGTON — President Trump has said he learned lessons from President Richard M. Nixon’s fall from grace, but in using the power of his office to keep his friend and adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. out of prison he has now crossed a line that even Mr. Nixon in the depths of Watergate dared not cross.

For months, some of Mr. Trump’s senior White House advisers warned him that it would be politically self-destructive if not ethically inappropriate to use his clemency power to help Mr. Stone, who was convicted of lying to protect the president. But in casting aside their counsel on Friday, Mr. Trump indulged his own sense of grievance over precedent and restraint to reward an ally for his silence.

Democrats immediately condemned the commutation of Mr. Stone’s 40-month prison term and vowed to investigate, just as Mr. Trump’s advisers had predicted they would. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling the move an act of “staggering corruption,” said she would pursue legislation to prevent the president from using his power to protect those convicted of a cover-up on his own behalf, although that would face serious constitutional hurdles and presumably would never be signed into law by Mr. Trump.

Still, Mr. Trump’s action was too much even for some Republican critics of the president, who called it an abuse of power intended to subvert justice on his own behalf. “Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” Senator Mitt Romney of Utah wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump had long publicly floated the possibility of clemency for a variety of his associates caught in the cross hairs of prosecutors, including Mr. Stone, his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. That by itself was interpreted by some critics as an act of witness tampering, in effect promising intervention to allies as long as they did not cooperate with investigators against Mr. Trump.

By contrast, one former associate who did cooperate, Michael D. Cohen, his former lawyer who arranged to pay hush money to women claiming extramarital affairs with Mr. Trump, was sent back to prison this past week after federal authorities demanded that he agree not to publish a tell-all book in September, deeming it a violation of the terms of his early release.

While Mr. Trump has enthusiastically used his clemency power to help political allies and others with connections to his White House, he had until now deferred to advisers urging him not to use it for Mr. Stone or others caught up in investigations of the president’s campaign ties to Russia, recognizing that it would be politically explosive.

But with Mr. Stone due to report to prison in the next few days, Mr. Trump opted not to wait any longer and the commutation could be a test case for what he could do next. If he judges that the political cost was not too high, he may be emboldened to help out others, although it may not be necessary since Mr. Manafort has now been released early and Mr. Trump’s Justice Department has moved to drop the case against Mr. Flynn even though he pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_174441162_1d1544d9-8d2c-4753-b736-703250bf9e6c-articleLarge In Commuting Stone’s Sentence, Trump Goes Where Nixon Was Not Willing Watergate Affair Trump, Donald J Stone, Roger J Jr Romney, Mitt Rich, Marc (1934-2013) Nixon, Richard Milhous Clinton, Bill Amnesties, Commutations and Pardons
Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

While most elected Republicans remained silent about Mr. Stone’s commutation, some of the president’s staunch supporters who have likewise attacked the legitimacy of the underlying investigations into Mr. Trump and his associates cheered him on.

“In my view it would be justified if President @realDonaldTrump decided to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote on Twitter. “Mr. Stone is in his 70s and this was a nonviolent, first-time offense.” (Mr. Stone is actually 67.)

Other presidents have also generated blowback through disputed pardons, including some involving people close to them.

Just days before the 1992 election, Lawrence E. Walsh, the independent counsel investigating the Iran-contra affair, filed a new indictment against former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger that made public notes contradicting President George Bush’s account of his involvement. Mr. Bush’s team considered that a dirty trick by Mr. Walsh intended to influence the election and indeed the president was defeated days later.

Mr. Bush responded the next month to what he considered an illegitimate prosecution by pardoning Mr. Weinberger and five others in the investigation on Christmas Eve, prompting Mr. Walsh to complain that “the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.”

His successor, President Bill Clinton, waited until the final hours of his tenure in January 2001 to issue a raft of more than 175 pardons or commutations, including for his own half brother Roger Clinton, the financier Marc Rich and several former administration officials.

Among those Mr. Clinton pardoned on his last day in office was Susan H. McDougal, a friend and former business partner from his Arkansas days who spent 21 months behind bars for refusing to cooperate with the independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation of the Whitewater land venture.

Unlike the case with Mr. Stone, Mr. Clinton acted only after Ms. McDougal had already served her sentence and been released. With Mr. Starr no longer in office and the Whitewater investigation shut down, Mr. Clinton faced no additional legal risk at that point.

Credit…Kamenko Pajic/Associated Press

The bigger furor at the time was over his pardon of Mr. Rich, who had fled the country to avoid charges of evading $48 million in taxes and obtained his clemency after his ex-wife, Denise Rich, a prominent Democratic donor, contributed money to Mr. Clinton’s presidential library. Democrats joined Republicans in roundly condemning the pardon and Mr. Clinton later expressed regret because of “the terrible politics.”

Jack L. Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor and former top Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, said those cases could be seen as parallels to Mr. Stone’s commutation but pointed to the larger pattern under Mr. Trump. In 31 of 36 pardons or commutations Mr. Trump has issued, the act advanced the president’s political goals or benefited someone he had a personal connection to, whose case had been brought to his attention by television or was someone he admired for their celebrity.

“This has happened before in a way,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “But there has been nothing like Trump from a systematic perspective.”

One president who dared not use his pardon power to help his friends was Mr. Nixon, although not for lack of thinking about it. Mr. Nixon’s associates paid hush money and dangled the prospect of executive clemency to the Watergate burglars to buy their silence but that was off the table once the Watergate story broke open.

Likewise, Mr. Nixon secretly promised a pardon to H.R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, on the day after Senate hearings opened. “I don’t give a shit what comes out on you or John, even that poor damn dumb John Mitchell,” he told Mr. Haldeman, in a conversation captured on his Oval Office taping system. “There is going to be a total pardon.”

But he never followed through. Mr. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, another top Nixon White House aide, and John Mitchell, his former attorney general and campaign chairman, were indicted in 1974 and accused of making “offers of leniency, executive clemency, and other benefits” to obstruct justice. All three eventually went to prison.

Mr. Nixon was made an unindicted co-conspirator and resigned that August without ever using his pardon pen. But he received one himself a few months later from President Gerald R. Ford, who wanted to spare the country the spectacle of a former president put on trial.

Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting.

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Democrats Want Joe Biden to Go Big to Beat Trump

WASHINGTON — With President Trump’s poll numbers sliding in traditional battlegrounds as well as conservative-leaning states, and money pouring into Democratic campaigns, Joseph R. Biden Jr. is facing rising pressure to expand his ambitions, compete aggressively in more states and press his party’s advantage down the ballot.

In a series of phone calls, Democratic lawmakers and party officials have lobbied Mr. Biden and his top aides to seize what they believe could be a singular opportunity not only to defeat Mr. Trump but to rout him and discredit what they believe is his dangerous style of racial demagogy.

This election, the officials argue, offers the provocative possibility of a new path to the presidency through fast-changing states like Georgia and Texas, and a chance to install a generation of lawmakers who can cement Democratic control of Congress and help redraw legislative maps following this year’s census.

Mr. Biden’s campaign, though, is so far hewing to a more conservative path. It is focused mostly on a handful of traditional battlegrounds, where it is only now scaling up and naming top aides despite having claimed the nomination in April.

At the moment, Mr. Biden is airing TV ads in just six states, all of which Mr. Trump won four years ago: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida. The campaign included perennially close Florida only after some deliberations about whether it was worth the hefty price tag, and when Mr. Trump’s struggles with older populations made it clearly competitive, according to Democrats familiar with their discussions.

The campaign’s reluctance to pursue a more expansive strategy owes in part to the calendar: Mr. Biden’s aides want to see where the race stands closer to November before they broaden their focus and commit to multimillion-dollar investments, aware that no swing states, let alone Republican-leaning states, have actually been locked up.

Yet they are increasingly bumping up against a party emboldened by an extraordinary convergence of events. Mr. Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, his self-defeating rhetorical eruptions and the soaring liberal enthusiasm — reflected in the sprawling social justice protests and Democrats’ unprecedented Senate fund-raising — have many officeholders convinced they must act boldly.

Public and private polling shows Mr. Trump not only trailing badly in swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin, but running closely with Mr. Biden in traditionally conservative bastions like Kansas and Montana.

“Trump’s abominable presidency, especially in the context of the total failure to confront coronavirus, makes Texas very winnable,” said Representative Filemon Vela, an early Biden supporter. He said he is “getting bombarded” with pleas from Texas Democrats who are similarly convinced the state could turn blue with a substantial commitment.

Mr. Vela, who represents a long stretch of South Texas, said he had repeatedly made his case in recent weeks with Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon. He argued that the former vice president’s strength with Black voters and suburbanites, and his ability to shave the party’s rural losses, gave him the party’s best chance in decades to claim the state’s 38 electoral votes.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164800155_11130b30-f65c-462c-a612-a4b7a98330aa-articleLarge Democrats Want Joe Biden to Go Big to Beat Trump Trump, Donald J Texas Presidential Election of 2020 Polls and Public Opinion Politics and Government Ohio Georgia Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

Some Democrats remain chastened by 2016, when there were similar bursts of optimism, and believe this moment is so turbulent, and Mr. Trump so willing to break through political guardrails, that the party should not grow overconfident. The president retains strong support among Republican voters, and is hoping a backlash to the defacing of statues will allow him to successfully portray Democrats as radicals.

Texas is not the only traditionally conservative state agitating for attention from Mr. Biden’s campaign. Georgia Democrats are especially eager for him to compete in the state because it has two Senate seats up for grabs this year. More consequential, they argue, 2020 could kick-start a long-term realignment, allowing the party to build an enduring electoral advantage.

“The Sun Belt expansion is what will drive the next 30 years of elections,” said Stacey Abrams, the state’s former House Democratic leader, noting that Georgia has the most Black voters by percentage of any potential swing state.

The pressure on Mr. Biden, however, is not coming just from the South, where the virus’s resurgence has put Mr. Trump and Republican governors on the defensive.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is pushing the former vice president’s aides to compete in his state, a longstanding political battleground that, after Mrs. Clinton’s dismal showing, many Democrats had concluded was out of reach.

“Ohio was a bellwether until 2016,” Mr. Brown said, arguing that Ohioans, unlike Sun Belt voters who’ve backed only Republicans, can be lured back because they’ve long voted for Democrats like Mr. Biden.

Mr. Biden’s advisers point out that he needs only 270 electoral votes to win and that remains their first objective. Their caution reflects the sobering possibility that, in the end, none of the conservative-leaning states will flip to Mr. Biden, and that his lead in Florida and the critical Midwestern states is tenuous.

“When you look under the hood, we are ahead in the majority of the battleground states, but we expect them to tighten because these are battleground states in a pretty polarized electorate,” Ms. O’Malley Dillon said in an interview.

In addition to the pressure to go on the offensive, she’s also being warned not to lose sight of potentially vulnerable blue states: Harry Reid, the former Senate Democratic Leader, is pushing Mr. Biden’s aides to keep a close watch on Nevada, a state Mrs. Clinton carried but where unemployment is soaring.

While Mr. Biden’s aides assess the landscape, though, Mr. Trump is signaling where he thinks the race is headed.

Last week, the president spent just over $150,000 on television ads in Michigan, where polls have him significantly trailing, while he poured over $1.3 million into commercials in Georgia and over $600,000 in Ohio, where surveys show a dead heat, according to the firm Advertising Analytics.

No state offers as big a temptation, and potential payoff, as Texas, with its increasingly Democratic, and diverse, urban centers. Beyond its importance in the presidential race, Texas provides House Democrats more pickup opportunities than any other state and the prospect of claiming a majority in the state House and on the state Supreme Court, both of which could prove pivotal for redistricting.

Recent Texas polls show a close race, with neither candidate leading by more than the margin of error.

Representative Joaquin Castro said Mr. Trump’s turn toward racial politics only made the state more alluring for Democrats.

“In Texas you have a very diverse group of voters who reject that kind of message and approach,” said Mr. Castro, predicting that Mr. Biden “could do better in Texas this time than some of the states that have been considered swing states for a generation.”

“Now is the best time we’ve had since Jimmy Carter to win Texas,” said Representative Marc Veasey, a Fort Worth-area Democrat, recalling the party’s 44-year drought.

This week Ms. O’Malley Dillon and other Biden aides spoke by telephone with Texas Democrats, including Mr. Vela, Mr. Veasey and the state party chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa.

The former vice president’s advisers were interested in Texas but “noncommittal,” Mr. Hinojosa said. “Their hesitation is that it’s so big and there is no history of this state ever being in play like it is now,” he said, conceding that the sheer girth and high costs of a state with 20 media markets makes it “a scary proposition” for a national campaign.

Mr. Vela said “the campaign is cautiously optimistic about Texas, but those of us on the ground are more optimistic than they are.”

This gap between the party’s energy and ambition, and Mr. Biden’s still-developing organization, is growing wider with every poll showing Mr. Trump slipping, and every new fund-raising report indicating Democrats are far outraising their Republican rivals.

Credit…Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post, via Associated Press

While the campaign has made a flurry of hires in recent weeks, its pace of building out regional desks and state teams has prompted some private grumbling from party operatives. They worry the Biden camp isn’t yet positioned to capitalize on this year’s opportunities — or adequately prepared for the organizational demands of a massive vote-by-mail push made necessary by the pandemic.

Long-tenured Democrats, however, say there are more profound reasons to contest a broad array of states.

“An Electoral College landslide gives Biden the ability to move on major issues,” Mr. Brown said. “Second, it’ll give him a stronger majority in the Senate and give the party more state legislators.”

More broadly, Mr. Brown posited, a resounding repudiation of Mr. Trump would make it more likely that Republicans will discard his politics. “They’ve got to reject their plays to race if they’re going to be a national party that can compete in the future,” he said.

Paul Begala, the veteran Democratic strategist, was even blunter about the need for a convincing win.

“It used to be that anything past 270 electoral votes was useless because it doesn’t matter how far you run past the goal line in football,” said Mr. Begala. “But for the first time in American history there’s a legitimate concern that the incumbent president will not surrender power.”

Lawmakers in both parties are also increasingly focused on down-ballot races, and how much damage to Republicans Mr. Trump might leave in his wake.

Senate Democrats are hopeful that they can not only claim a majority but gain enough seats to survive a potential backlash in 2022, should a President Biden suffer the same losses most presidents do in their first midterm elections.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, expressed restrained optimism about Democrats’ prospects — he emphasized he was “not taking anything for granted” — but was confident Mr. Biden would work to deliver the Senate.

“Joe Biden has told me that his goal is to help us in the Senate in every way he can, even if it’s a state not on his target list,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview.

Mr. Schumer is especially intent on nudging Mr. Biden into Maine, Georgia and Iowa, where polls show Senator Joni Ernst, is narrowly trailing her Democratic opponent, according to Democrats familiar with his thinking, and has found the former vice president fully receptive.

Besides Arizona, where Democrats have made incursions in recent years, no state may be more ripe for the poaching than Georgia, which Mr. Trump is visiting next week.

Democrats lost there by eight percentage points in 2012, five percentage points in 2016 and then by only 1.4 in Ms. Abrams’s 2018 race for governor.

Jennifer Jordan, a state senator from Atlanta, noted that two potentially vulnerable Republican senators were up for election: David Perdue, and Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat last year.

“As the presidential goes I think that’s how the Senate seats are going to go,” she said. “So why wouldn’t you play — it’s a three-for-one.”

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President Trump’s Pardons: Stone, Blagojevich and More

Westlake Legal Group president-trumps-pardons-stone-blagojevich-and-more President Trump's Pardons: Stone, Blagojevich and More United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Stone, Roger J Jr Stanton, Angela Safavian, David H Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 Politics and Government Milken, Michael R Lorance, Clint A Libby, I Lewis Jr Kerik, Bernard B Johnson, Alice Marie Ex-Convicts Blagojevich, Rod R Black, Conrad M Arpaio, Joseph M Amnesties, Commutations and Pardons

President Trump on Friday commuted the sentence of Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime friend and former campaign adviser who had openly expressed loyalty to him throughout a congressional investigation into ties between Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

“The simple fact is that if the special counsel had not been pursuing an absolutely baseless investigation, Mr. Stone would not be facing time in prison,” the White House said in a statement on Friday evening.

Mr. Stone had been days away from reporting to a federal prison to serve a 40-month sentence for seven felonies, including lying to federal investigators, tampering with a witness and impeding a congressional inquiry. He had aggressively lobbied for clemency, both in the courts and on social media.

The commutation, which was immediately criticized by Democrats, adds Mr. Stone to a list of beneficiaries of Mr. Trump’s clemency in cases that resonate with him personally — or with people who have a direct line to him through friends or family — over thousands of other cases awaiting his review.

According to the Justice Department, Mr. Trump has commuted the sentences of 10 people, not including Mr. Stone, but he has received 7,786 petitions for commutation. This puts him far behind his most recent predecessor, President Barack Obama, who commuted the sentences of 1,715 people, but closer to President George W. Bush, who commuted the sentences of 11 people.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution gives presidents unlimited authority to grant pardons, which excuse or forgive a federal crime. A commutation, by contrast, makes a punishment milder without wiping out the underlying conviction — in Mr. Stone’s case, the White House did not argue that he was innocent. Both are forms of presidential clemency.

Here are some of the pardons and commutations issued by Mr. Trump:

Pardon: Aug. 25, 2017

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_169654206_ea5ad79b-00b2-448f-8df3-078b4efe4f62-articleLarge President Trump's Pardons: Stone, Blagojevich and More United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Stone, Roger J Jr Stanton, Angela Safavian, David H Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 Politics and Government Milken, Michael R Lorance, Clint A Libby, I Lewis Jr Kerik, Bernard B Johnson, Alice Marie Ex-Convicts Blagojevich, Rod R Black, Conrad M Arpaio, Joseph M Amnesties, Commutations and Pardons
Credit…Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Joe Arpaio, an anti-immigration crusader who enjoyed calling himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” was the first pardon of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Once one of the most popular — and divisive — figures in Arizona, Mr. Arpaio was elected sheriff of Maricopa County five times before he was ultimately charged with criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop detaining people solely on the suspicion that they were undocumented immigrants.

In a move that drew outrage from Democrats and immigration advocates, Mr. Trump, who has staked much of his political capital around zero-tolerance immigration policies, pardoned Mr. Arpaio less than a month after he was found guilty.

Pardon: May 15, 2019

Conrad M. Black, a former press baron and friend of Mr. Trump’s, was granted a full pardon 12 years after his sentencing for fraud and obstruction of justice.

Mr. Black, who once owned The Chicago Sun-Times, The Jerusalem Post and The Daily Telegraph of London, among other newspapers, was convicted of fraud in 2007 with three other former executives of Hollinger International. They had been accused of skimming millions of dollars from the media company.

Mr. Black, who was released from prison in 2012, is the author of several pro-Trump opinion articles as well as a flattering book, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.”

COMMUTATION: Feb. 18, 2020

Credit…Laura McDermott for The New York Times

Former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison for trying to sell or trade to the highest bidder the Senate seat that Mr. Obama vacated after he was elected president. Mr. Blagojevich’s expletive-filled remarks about his role in choosing a new senator — “I’m just not giving it up for nothing” — were caught on government recordings of his phone calls and became punchlines on late-night television.

Pardon: May 31, 2018

Dinesh D’Souza received a presidential pardon after pleading guilty to making illegal campaign contributions in 2014. Mr. D’Souza, a filmmaker and author whose subjects often dabble in conspiracy theories, had long blamed his conviction on his political opposition to Mr. Obama.

“What happened here is Obama and his team — Eric Holder, Preet Bharara in New York — these guys decided to make an example of me, and I think that the reason for this was Obama’s anger over my movie that I made about him,” Mr. D’Souza said on “Fox and Friends,” one of Mr. Trump’s favorite shows.

His reasoning seemed to strike a nerve with the president: In issuing his pardon, Mr. Trump said that Mr. D’Souza had been “treated very unfairly by our government,” echoing a claim the commentator has often made himself.

Pardon: Feb. 18, 2020

Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, pleaded guilty in 1998 to concealing an extortion plot. Mr. DeBartolo was prosecuted after he gave Edwin W. Edwards, the influential former governor of Louisiana, $400,000 to secure a riverboat gambling license for his gambling consortium.

The 49ers won five Super Bowl championships in a 14-year span while Mr. DeBartolo was serving as the team’s principal owner. Although Mr. DeBartolo avoided prison, he was fined $1 million and was suspended for a year by the N.F.L.

commutation: June 6, 2018

Credit…Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Alice Marie Johnson was serving life in a federal prison for a nonviolent drug conviction before her case was brought to Mr. Trump’s attention by the reality television star Kim Kardashian West.

The president’s decision to commute her sentence freed Ms. Johnson, who had been locked up in Alabama since 1996 on charges related to cocaine distribution and money laundering.

Since her release, the Trump campaign has used her as the face of its outreach to Black voters: In February, Ms. Johnson was featured in the campaign’s Super Bowl ad, which was viewed by about 102 million people during the game.

“I’ve been such a source of pride for him,” Ms. Johnson said at the time. “Who doesn’t want to show something they’re proud of during an election year? That’s what all the candidates do. For him to highlight me, it makes me know he’s not only proud, he’s super proud.”

Pardon: May 24, 2018

Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight boxing champion, was tarnished by a racially tainted criminal conviction in 1913 — for transporting a white woman across state lines. It haunted him even well after his death in 1946.

Politicians and celebrities alike tried for years to secure a pardon, but in the end, Mr. Trump was swayed by a friendly phone call from Rambo.

“Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter just weeks before announcing his decision. “His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”

Pardon: Feb. 18, 2020

Credit…Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press

Ten years ago, Bernard B. Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to eight felony charges, including tax fraud and lying to White House officials. Around the time of his sentencing, federal prosecutors denounced Mr. Kerik as a corrupt official who sought to trade his authority for lavish benefits.

Mr. Trump said he heard from more than a dozen people about pardoning Mr. Kerik, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer. Mr. Kerik’s rise to prominence dates to the 1993 campaign for mayor in New York City, when he served as Mr. Giuliani’s bodyguard and chauffeur. After the pardon was announced, Mr. Kerik expressed his gratitude to Mr. Trump on Twitter. “With the exception of the birth of my children,” he wrote, “today is one of the greatest days in my life.”

Pardon: April 13, 2018

I. Lewis Libby Jr. was Vice President Dick Cheney’s top adviser before Mr. Libby was convicted in 2007 of four felony counts, including perjury and obstruction of justice, in connection with the disclosure of the identity of a C.I.A. officer, Valerie Plame.

Mr. Libby had maintained his innocence for years, and his portrayal as a victim of an unfair prosecution ultimately found favor with Mr. Trump.

“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Mr. Trump said in a statement, “but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”

Pardon: Nov. 15, 2019

Mr. Trump’s decision to clear three members of the armed services who had been accused or convicted of war crimes signaled that the president intended to use his power as the ultimate arbiter of military justice.

He ordered full pardons of Clint Lorance, a former Army lieutenant who was serving a 19-year sentence for the murder of two civilians, and Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer who was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan he believed was a Taliban bomb maker.

The president also reversed the demotion of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who had been acquitted of murder charges but convicted of a lesser offense in a high-profile war crimes case.

All three had been championed by prominent conservatives who had portrayed them as war heroes unfairly prosecuted for actions taken in the heat and confusion of battle.

Pardon: Feb. 18, 2020

Credit…Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Michael R. Milken was the billionaire “junk bond king” and a well-known financier on Wall Street in the 1980s. In 1990, he pleaded guilty to securities fraud and conspiracy charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, though his sentence was later reduced to two. He also agreed to pay $600 million in fines and penalties. After his release, Mr. Milken created the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

Mr. Milken did not have a pardon or commutation application pending at the Justice Department’s pardons office, meaning that the president made that decision entirely without official department input. Among those arguing for Mr. Milken to be pardoned were Mr. Giuliani, who as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York prosecuted Mr. Milken.

Pardon: Feb. 18, 2020

Credit…Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

David H. Safavian, the top federal procurement official under President George W. Bush, was sentenced in 2009 to a year in prison for covering up his ties to Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist whose corruption became a symbol of the excesses of Washington influence peddling. Mr. Safavian was convicted of obstruction of justice and making false statements.

“Having served time in prison and completed the process of rejoining society with a felony conviction, Mr. Safavian is uniquely positioned to identify problems with the criminal justice system and work to fix them,” the White House said in the statement announcing his pardon.

Pardon: Feb. 18, 2020

Credit…Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Angela Stanton — an author, television personality and motivational speaker — served six months of home confinement in 2007 for her role in a stolen-vehicle ring. Her book “Life of a Real Housewife” explores her difficult upbringing and her encounters with reality TV stars.

Before her pardon, she gave interviews in which she declared her support for Mr. Trump. In announcing her pardon, the White House credited her with working “tirelessly to improve re-entry outcomes for people returning to their communities upon release from prison.”

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Trump Commutes Sentence of Roger Stone in Case He Long Denounced

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WASHINGTON — President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. on seven felony crimes on Friday, using the power of his office to help a former campaign adviser days before Mr. Stone was to report to a federal prison to serve a 40-month term.

In a lengthy statement released late on a Friday evening, the White House denounced the prosecution against Mr. Stone on what it called “process based charges” stemming from “the Russia Hoax” investigation. “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” the statement said. “He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”

Punctuated by the same sort of inflammatory language and angry grievances characteristic of the president’s Twitter feed, the official statement assailed “overzealous prosecutors” working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the “witch hunts” aimed at the president and his associates. It attacked the “activist juror” who led the panel that convicted Mr. Stone and went on to complain about the show of force used by federal law enforcement agents when he was arrested.

“These charges were the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice,” the statement said. “This is why the out-of-control Mueller prosecutors, desperate for splashy headlines to compensate for a failed investigation, set their sights on Mr. Stone.”

It added: “The simple fact is that if the special counsel had not been pursuing an absolutely baseless investigation, Mr. Stone would not be facing time in prison.”

Mr. Stone, 67, a longtime Republican operative, was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and has been openly lobbying for clemency, maintaining that he could die in prison and emphasizing that he had stayed loyal to the president rather than help investigators.

“He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him,” Mr. Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman on Friday shortly before the announcement. “It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”

After the commuGrant Smith, a lawyer for Mr. Stone, said, “Mr. Stone is incredibly honored that President Trump used his awesome and unique power under the Constitution of the United States for this act of mercy. Mr. and Mrs. Stone appreciate all the consideration the President gave to this matter.”

Granting clemency to Mr. Stone is certain to prompt new complaints that the Trump administration is thwarting the federal justice system to help the president’s friends. The Justice Department moved in May to dismiss its own criminal case against Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. And last month Mr. Trump fired Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney whose office prosecuted Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, and has been investigating Rudolph W. Giuliani, another of his lawyers.

Mr. Trump has used his power to issue pardons or commutations to a variety of political allies, supporters or people with connections to his own circle, like the former New York police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, the financier Michael R. Milken and former Governor Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois. But Mr. Stone is the first figure directly connected to the president’s campaign to benefit from his clemency power. While Mr. Trump has publicly dangled pardons for associates targeted by investigators, that was a line he had been wary of crossing until now amid warnings from adviser concerned about the possible political damage.

Mr. Stone made no secret of his desire for clemency from the president. While it was not immediately clear when the two last spoke, Mr. Stone has given several interviews in which he said he was “praying” for a reprieve from Mr. Trump. He cited health concerns, including asthma, and a fear of the coronavirus.

“I think I’ll be the last person to know” if there is an action from the president, Mr. Stone told Fox News earlier this week. “He hates leaks, and he hates to be told what to do. I have instructed my lawyers not to contact the lawyers at the White House.”

Mr. Stone added: “The president, who I’ve known for 40 years, has an incredible sense of fairness. He is aware that the people trying to destroy Michael Flynn, now trying to destroy me, are the people trying to destroy him.”

Mr. Stone has been one of the most colorful figures in American politics for decades, cheerfully engaging in tactics that others would disavow. He made political contributions to a Republican challenger to President Richard M. Nixon in 1972 under the name of the Young Socialist Alliance and hired an operative to try to infiltrate the campaign of George McGovern, the Democratic candidate.

He was accused of leaving a threatening, profanity-laced voice mail message for the father of Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York, resulting in his resignation. But he later got his revenge on Mr. Spitzer by claiming credit for spreading the rumor that the governor wore black dress socks during sexual escapades with prostitutes.

An unapologetic admirer of Mr. Nixon who even had the disgraced president’s face tattooed on his back, Mr. Stone also worked for other major Republican candidates including former Gov. Tom Kean of New Jersey and Senator Bob Dole, the party’s 1996 nominee for president.

Mr. Stone’s history of scandals and dirty tricks did not trouble Mr. Trump. Mr. Stone is not only Mr. Trump’s longest-serving political adviser, but he has been integral to most of the president’s political activities over the past 33 years. He was there when the celebrity real estate developer first wrote “The Art of the Deal” in 1987 and a makeshift effort in New Hampshire was made to draft Mr. Trump to run for president.

He helped organize Mr. Trump’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee in 2011, where he declared himself against abortion rights. And he helped map out the first days of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign before leaving after several weeks over the direction of the campaign.

Mr. Stone quit as an adviser to Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign; Mr. Trump later claimed he fired Mr. Stone. Either way, the falling out was sour. Mr. Trump later called him a “stone-cold loser” and aides said the president viewed him as self-promoter.

But after Mr. Stone was indicted, the president repeatedly hinted that he might pardon him. “Roger Stone and everybody has to be treated fairly,” he said after Mr. Stone was sentenced. “This has not been a fair process.”

The debate over clemency for Mr. Stone has raged within the White House for months. Among those who advocated on behalf of it from outside the building were Tucker Carlson, the influential Fox News anchor, and Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Within the White House itself, Mr. Stone had few allies. Many Trump aides who knew him from the campaign did not like him, were envious of his long relationship with Mr. Trump or thought clemency would be bad politics.

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, expressed concern about possible political damage, according to two people familiar with the discussions, although he has left people with different impressions about where he stands. The same is true of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been involved in most of the clemency discussions throughout the last three years.

Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, was concerned about intervening on Mr. Stone’s behalf, according to the people close to the discussions. One of the few within the White House who backed clemency was Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser and an old friend of Mr. Stone. Mr. Kudlow spends more time with Mr. Trump than many other advisers.

Mr. Stone was convicted last year of obstructing a congressional inquiry into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Prosecutors convinced jurors that he lied under oath, withheld a trove of documents and threatened an associate with harm if he cooperated with congressional investigators. Mr. Stone maintained his innocence and claimed prosecutors wanted him to offer information about Mr. Trump that he said did not exist.

Mr. Stone was sentenced against a backdrop of upheaval at the Justice Department not seen for decades. First, four career prosecutors recommended that he be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, citing advisory sentencing guidelines that generally govern the department’s sentencing requests.

After Mr. Trump attacked the prosecutors’ recommendation on Twitter, Attorney General William P. Barr overruled it. Mr. Trump then publicly applauded him for doing so, even though the attorney general said he made the decision on his own and criticized the president on national television for undercutting his credibility.

The prosecutors withdrew from the case in protest, and one quit the department entirely. At Mr. Stone’s sentencing hearing in February, United States District Judge Amy Berman Jackson called the situation “unprecedented.” Without naming him, she suggested that the president had tried to influence the course of justice by publicly attacking her, the jurors and the Justice Department lawyers.

“The dismay and disgust at any attempt to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party,” she said.

In an interview with ABC News this week, Mr. Barr defended both the original prosecution of Mr. Stone as well as his own intervention to reduce the punishment, saying the case itself was “righteous” but the sentencing recommendation “excessive.”

Mr. Stone, who lives in Florida, had been ordered earlier to report to the Bureau of Prisons by June 30 to begin serving his sentence. He sought a two-month delay, citing the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through federal prisons, but Judge Jackson granted him only a two-week reprieve, noting that the prison he was to report to was “unaffected” by the outbreak.

Two other former aides to Mr. Trump who were convicted of federal crimes were released from prison to serve out their sentences under home arrest because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Cohen, who broke with Mr. Trump and publicly accused him of vast wrongdoing, was released from a federal prison camp in May, but taken back into custody this week after refusing to agree to terms of his probation that would have forced him to scrub a tell-all book he planned to publish in September. He was serving a three-year sentence for campaign finance violations and other crimes related a scheme to pay hush money during the 2016 presidential race to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump, which the president has denied.

Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, was also released in May from a central Pennsylvania prison, where he was serving a seven-and-a-half year sentence for bank and tax fraud. He is now confined at home.

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How ICE Helped Spread the Coronavirus

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Using evidence that’s hidden in plain sight, our investigative journalists present a definitive account of the news — from the Las Vegas massacre to a chemical attack in Syria.

Using evidence that’s hidden in plain sight, our investigative journalists present a definitive account of the news — from the Las Vegas massacre to a chemical attack in Syria.

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How a Conservative Supreme Court and Trump’s Appointees Declared Their Independence

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-court-sub-facebookJumbo How a Conservative Supreme Court and Trump's Appointees Declared Their Independence United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump Tax Returns Supreme Court (US) Roberts, John G Jr Kavanaugh, Brett M Gorsuch, Neil M Decisions and Verdicts Courts and the Judiciary Appointments and Executive Changes

WASHINGTON — At his campaign rally last month in Tulsa, Okla., President Trump ranked his Supreme Court appointments among his biggest achievements. “Two great Supreme Court judges!” he boasted. “So, we have two justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Gorsuch, Justice Kavanaugh, they’re great. They are — they’re great.”

He might not have felt so warmly on Thursday after Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh categorically dismissed his claim to “absolute immunity” from investigators seeking his tax returns. In a pair of far-reaching rulings, Mr. Trump’s two appointees joined a unanimous conclusion that the president went too far by pronouncing himself exempt from legal scrutiny.

The forceful decisions represented a declaration of independence not only by Mr. Trump’s own justices but by the Supreme Court as an institution, asserting itself as an equal branch of government in the Trump era. No matter how often Mr. Trump insists that he has complete authority in this instance or that, the justices made clear on Thursday that there were in fact limits, just as they did in landmark executive power cases involving Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.

That a conservative court including two of his own appointees would so decisively slap down a Republican president’s expansive claim of constitutional power served as a reminder that institutional prerogatives still matter in Washington, even in a time of extreme partisanship. The court remains broadly conservative on important issues like religious freedom, but in cases on gay rights, immigration, abortion and now executive power, it has defied the president repeatedly in recent weeks.

By forging a unanimous consensus on Mr. Trump’s immunity claim, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. seemed to underline the point he made two years ago when he rebuked Mr. Trump by saying there were no “Obama judges or Trump judges.” Even on the overall votes on the two cases, both decided 7 to 2, he brought together four liberals and three conservatives, echoing the firm lines drawn by the court against other overreaching presidents.

“The truth is, President Trump’s arguments for immunity were so sweeping that it was almost impossible for any justice to really embrace them,” said Tom Goldstein, a prominent Supreme Court litigator and the publisher of Scotusblog, a website that tracks the court.

Still, the justices cut Mr. Trump a break by sending the two cases back to lower courts to consider the merits of the subpoenas according to standards set by the court, additional litigation that will most likely keep his tax returns shielded from public view through the general election on Nov. 3.

Many legal experts predicted that Mr. Trump ultimately could still stave off congressional demands for his returns because the justices in Trump v. Mazars USA seemed dubious about their legitimacy and put the onus on the House to justify its need for the documents. But experts said Mr. Trump was likely to eventually lose the effort to block a New York prosecutor because the justices in Trump v. Vance put the burden on the president to come up with a compelling rationale for why the returns should not be turned over.

The president lashed out on Twitter minutes after the court’s rulings, once again presenting himself as a victim. “This is all a political prosecution,” Mr. Trump wrote. “I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”

“Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference,’” he added. “BUT NOT ME!”

In fact, Mr. Trump was the one seeking special treatment. Every president since Jimmy Carter has voluntarily released his tax returns, but Mr. Trump has refused since 2015 when he began running for the White House and said he was being audited. While he promised to make them public once the audit was over, he never has.

Five years later, the White House said on Thursday that he was still being audited but did not identify which years of tax returns were being reviewed. Once in office, every sitting president’s returns are audited automatically, so if that remains his standard, he presumably will never release them voluntarily.

Similarly, Mr. Trump was seeking court protection beyond that enjoyed by any other president, claiming “absolute immunity.”

That flew in the face of the principles set by the court when Mr. Nixon in 1974 lost his bid to shield tape recordings that implicated him in the Watergate cover-up. In that case, U.S. v. Nixon, the court ruled against the president 8 to 0, including three of his appointees, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justices Harry A. Blackmun and Lewis F. Powell Jr. A fourth appointee, Justice William H. Rehnquist, recused himself because he had served in Mr. Nixon’s Justice Department.

Twenty-three years later, the court rebuffed Mr. Clinton’s immunity claim while in office against a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state worker. Both of Mr. Clinton’s appointees, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, rejected his position in the 9-to-0 decision in that case, Clinton v. Jones.

Like his predecessors, Mr. Trump was unhappy with the rulings, although aides sought to calm him by assuring him that he could continue fighting in lower courts. But he expressed deep anger at Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, seeing their votes as a betrayal, according to a person familiar with his reaction.

But the two justices only followed in the footsteps of their predecessors by rejecting the president who put them on the court. While each of them has generally sided with Mr. Trump since taking office, in this case they drew a line. Neither is personally close to Mr. Trump nor is either thought to be much of an admirer of the president, so some saw the decision as a way to distance themselves.

“My guess is their feeling about him is, ‘We intend to be on this court long after he is a bad memory, and if his administration is about to come crashing down, we might as well have been people who weren’t willing to completely blow up the Constitution for him,’” said Richard Primus, a constitutional scholar at the University of Michigan Law School, adding that they would do so only if they also saw it as “the right legal answer.”

Mike Davis, who as a congressional aide helped confirm both of Mr. Trump’s justices and now leads the Article III Project to support his other judicial nominees, said the president should not be too disappointed in his appointees.

“I would say, ‘Mr. President, you appointed judges, not puppets, and they’re going to follow the law and it doesn’t matter who appointed them,’” Mr. Davis said. “Despite perceived setbacks here and there, President Trump’s transformation of the federal judiciary is his biggest accomplishment.”

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said she did not ask Mr. Trump specifically for his reaction to the position taken by Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, but insisted that “his justices did not rule against him.”

Like the president’s other aides, she focused on the fact that the court sent the cases back to lower courts for further proceedings with standards for Mr. Trump to meet if he wants to avoid subpoenas, and she cited cautions in the ruling against fishing expeditions. “That language made it pretty clear that this was a win for the president,” Ms. McEnany said. “The justices did not rule against him.”

In a concurrence in the New York case, joined by Justice Gorsuch, Justice Kavanaugh flatly dismissed Mr. Trump’s constitutional argument. “In our system of government, as this court has often stated, no one is above the law,” he wrote. “That principle applies, of course, to a president.”

But he added that “a court may not proceed against a president as it would against an ordinary litigant,” and so state prosecutors must still justify their demands for documents like his tax returns. He said he would apply the same standard articulated in the Nixon case, that prosecutors have to provide a “demonstrated, specific need” for the information, a formulation that Chief Justice Roberts did not adopt in his majority opinion.

Justice Kavanaugh’s position perhaps should not come as much of a surprise. While known as an advocate of executive authority, he expressed reverence for the Nixon ruling during his confirmation hearings in 2018, calling it “one of the greatest moments in American judicial history.”

“I would say all the people who opposed Kavanaugh on the grounds that he somehow believed in an imperial presidency and thought the president is above the law ought to reconsider and apologize for how incorrectly they read his past,” said Carrie Campbell Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a group that supports conservative judicial nominees. “This is totally consistent with what he’s said before.”

Liberal activists, however, were hardly rushing to give him much credit. “The claim of absolute immunity was too far out there to endorse with a straight face,” said Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive group fighting Mr. Trump’s judicial nominations. “It is hardly reassurance about the types of justices that Kavanaugh and Gorsuch are.”

Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have been supportive of the Trump administration, but not across the board. Justice Kavanaugh has voted for the position espoused by the administration 67.6 percent of the time, making him the second-most reliable ally behind Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., according to figures compiled by Adam Feldman, a statistician for Scotusblog. Justice Gorsuch has agreed with the administration’s point of view 56.1 percent of the time, making him fifth, behind Justice Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts.

Justice Gorsuch has broken with Mr. Trump other times in recent weeks. He wrote the majority opinion last month establishing that federal civil rights law bars workplace discrimination against L.G.B.T. workers, and he wrote another majority opinion released on Thursday ruling that much of eastern Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation.

Mr. Trump has attacked Chief Justice Roberts for his votes against the president’s positions in recent weeks, but not his own appointees up until now. Ms. McEnany said some of the rulings of recent weeks bolster the president’s determination to remake the judiciary. “We need more conservative justices on the court,” she said. “That’s been the big takeaway.”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York.

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A Conservative Court and Trump’s Own Appointees Declare Their Independence

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-court-sub-facebookJumbo A Conservative Court and Trump’s Own Appointees Declare Their Independence United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump Tax Returns Supreme Court (US) Roberts, John G Jr Kavanaugh, Brett M Gorsuch, Neil M Decisions and Verdicts Courts and the Judiciary Appointments and Executive Changes

WASHINGTON — At his campaign rally last month in Tulsa, Okla., President Trump ranked his Supreme Court appointments among the biggest achievements of his tenure. “Two great Supreme Court judges!” he boasted. “So, we have two justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Gorsuch, Justice Kavanaugh, they’re great. They are — they’re great.”

He might not have felt so warmly on Thursday after Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh categorically dismissed his claim to “absolute immunity” from investigators seeking his tax returns. In a pair of far-reaching rulings, Mr. Trump’s two appointees joined a unanimous conclusion that the president went too far by pronouncing himself exempt from legal scrutiny.

The forceful decisions represented a declaration of independence not only by Mr. Trump’s own justices but by the Supreme Court as an institution, asserting itself as an equal branch of government in the Trump era. No matter how often Mr. Trump insists that he has complete authority in this instance or that, the justices made clear on Thursday that there were in fact limits, just as they did in landmark executive power cases involving Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.

That a conservative court including two of his own appointees would so decisively slap down a Republican president’s expansive claim of constitutional power served as a reminder that institutional prerogatives still matter in Washington, even in a time of extreme partisanship. The court remains broadly conservative on a variety of important issues like religious freedom, but in cases on gay rights, immigration, abortion and now executive power, it has defied the president repeatedly in recent weeks.

By forging a unanimous consensus on Mr. Trump’s immunity claim, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. seemed to underline the point he made two years ago when he rebuked Mr. Trump by saying there were no “Obama judges or Trump judges.” Even on the overall votes on the two cases, both decided 7 to 2, he brought together four liberals and three conservatives, echoing the firm lines drawn by the court against other overreaching presidents.

“The truth is, President Trump’s arguments for immunity were so sweeping that it was almost impossible for any justice to really embrace them,” said Tom Goldstein, a prominent Supreme Court litigator and the publisher of Scotusblog, a website that tracks the court.

Still, the justices cut Mr. Trump something of a break by sending the two cases back to lower courts to now consider the merits of the subpoenas according to standards set by the court, additional litigation that seems likely to keep his tax returns shielded from public view at least through the general election on Nov. 3.

Many legal experts predicted that Mr. Trump ultimately could still stave off congressional demands for his returns because the justices in Trump v. Mazars USA seemed more dubious about their legitimacy and put the onus on the House to justify its need for the documents. But experts said Mr. Trump was likely to eventually lose the effort to block a New York prosecutor because the justices in Trump v. Vance put the burden on the president to come up with a compelling rationale for why the returns should not be turned over.

The president lashed out on Twitter in the minutes after the court’s rulings, once again presenting himself as a victim. “This is all a political prosecution,” Mr. Trump wrote. “I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”

“Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference,’” he added. “BUT NOT ME!”

In fact, Mr. Trump was the one seeking special treatment. Every president since Jimmy Carter has voluntarily released his tax returns, but Mr. Trump has refused since 2015 when he first began running for the White House and said he was being audited. While he promised to eventually make them public once the audit was over, he never has.

Five years later, the White House said on Thursday that he was still being audited but did not identify which years of tax returns were being reviewed. Once in office, every sitting president’s returns are audited as a matter of course, so if that remains his standard, he presumably will never release them voluntarily.

Similarly, Mr. Trump was seeking court protection beyond that enjoyed by any other president, arguing that he had “absolute immunity.”

That flew in the face of the principles set by the court since Mr. Nixon in 1974 lost his bid to shield tape recordings that implicated him in the Watergate cover-up. In that case, U.S. v. Nixon, the court ruled against the president 8 to 0, including three of his appointees, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justices Harry A. Blackmun and Lewis F. Powell Jr. A fourth appointee, Justice William H. Rehnquist, recused himself because he had served in Mr. Nixon’s Justice Department.

Twenty-three years later, the court rejected a bid by Mr. Clinton claiming immunity while in office against a civil sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state worker. Both of Mr. Clinton’s appointees, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, rejected his position in the 9-to-0 decision in that case, Clinton v. Jones.

Both of those cases had cataclysmic results for the presidents involved. The disclosure of the Watergate tapes led to Mr. Nixon’s resignation, and the Jones case led to Mr. Clinton’s impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Like his predecessors, Mr. Trump was unhappy with the rulings, although aides sought to calm him by assuring him that he could continue fighting in lower courts. But he expressed deep anger at Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, seeing their votes as a betrayal, according to a person familiar with his reaction.

But the two justices only followed in the footsteps of their predecessors by rejecting the president who put them on the court. While each of them has generally sided with Mr. Trump since taking office, in this case they drew a line. Neither is personally close to Mr. Trump nor is either thought to be much of an admirer of the president, so some saw the decision as a way to distance themselves.

“My guess is their feeling about him is, ‘We intend to be on this court long after he is a bad memory, and if his administration is about to come crashing down, we might as well have been people who weren’t willing to completely blow up the Constitution for him,’” said Richard Primus, a constitutional scholar at the University of Michigan Law School, adding that they would do so only if they also saw it as “the right legal answer.”

Mike Davis, who as a congressional aide helped confirm both of Mr. Trump’s justices and now leads the Article III Project to support his other judicial nominees, said the president should not be too disappointed in his appointees.

“I would say, ‘Mr. President, you appointed judges, not puppets, and they’re going to follow the law and it doesn’t matter who appointed them,’” Mr. Davis said. “Despite perceived setbacks here and there, President Trump’s transformation of the federal judiciary is his biggest accomplishment.”

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said she did not ask Mr. Trump specifically for his reaction to the position taken by Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, but insisted that “his justices did not rule against him.”

Like the president’s other aides, she focused on the fact that the court sent the cases back to lower courts for further proceedings with standards for Mr. Trump to meet if he wants to avoid subpoenas. “That language made it pretty clear that this was a win for the president,” Ms. McEnany said. “The justices did not rule against him.”

In a concurrence in the New York case, joined by Justice Gorsuch, Justice Kavanaugh flatly dismissed Mr. Trump’s constitutional argument. “In our system of government, as this court has often stated, no one is above the law,” he wrote. “That principle applies, of course, to a president.”

But he added that “a court may not proceed against a president as it would against an ordinary litigant,” and so state prosecutors must still justify their demands for documents like his tax returns. He said he would apply the same standard articulated in the Nixon case, that prosecutors have to provide a “demonstrated, specific need” for the information, a formulation that Chief Justice Roberts did not adopt in his majority opinion.

Justice Kavanaugh’s position perhaps should not come as much of a surprise. While known as an advocate of executive authority, he expressed reverence for the Nixon ruling during his confirmation hearings in 2018, calling it “one of the greatest moments in American judicial history.”

“I would say all the people who opposed Kavanaugh on the grounds that he somehow believed in an imperial presidency and thought the president is above the law ought to reconsider and apologize for how incorrectly they read his past,” said Carrie Campbell Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a group that supports conservative judicial nominees. “This is totally consistent with what he’s said before.”

Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have been supportive of the Trump administration, but not across the board. Justice Kavanaugh has voted for the position espoused by the administration 67.6 percent of the time, making him the second-most reliable ally behind Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., according to figures compiled by Adam Feldman, a statistician for Scotusblog. Justice Gorsuch has agreed with the administration’s point of view 56.1 percent of the time, making him fifth, behind Justice Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts.

Justice Gorsuch has broken with Mr. Trump other times in recent weeks. He wrote the majority opinion last month establishing that federal civil rights law bars workplace discrimination against L.G.B.T. workers, and he wrote another majority opinion released on Thursday ruling that much of eastern Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation.

Mr. Trump has attacked Chief Justice Roberts for his votes against the president’s positions in recent weeks, but not his own appointees up until now. Ms. McEnany said some of the rulings of recent weeks bolster the president’s determination to remake the judiciary. “We need more conservative justices on the court,” she said. “That’s been the big takeaway.”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York.

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In ‘Buy American’ Speech, Biden Challenges Trump on the Economy

Westlake Legal Group 09biden-econ-vid-facebookJumbo In ‘Buy American’ Speech, Biden Challenges Trump on the Economy United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Democratic Party Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Joseph R. Biden Jr. laid out a populist economic vision to revive and reinvest in American manufacturing on Thursday, calling for major new spending and stricter new rules to “Buy American” as part of an effort to more aggressively challenge President Trump on two of his signature issues: the economy and nationalism.

In a speech in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Mr. Biden lacerated Mr. Trump for a bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic that has deepened the economic crisis and a misplaced focus on the stock market, while framing his own economic agenda around a new campaign tagline, “Build Back Better.”

Mr. Biden said his plans would leverage trade, tax and investment policy to spur domestic innovation, reduce the reliance on foreign manufacturing and create five million additional American manufacturing and innovation jobs.

“I do not buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Mr. Biden said, speaking at a metalworks factory in Dunmore not far from this childhood home of Scranton, a place where Mr. Biden often returns rhetorically to emphasize his blue-collar roots.

“When the federal government spends taxpayers’ money, we should use it to buy American products and support American jobs,” he added.

On the same day, Vice President Mike Pence embarked on a Trump campaign bus tour across Pennsylvania, a sign of the state’s significance in the Electoral College calculations of both campaigns.

Mr. Biden’s campaign is riding high in the polls but his advisers, as well as Republican strategists, still see the economy as perhaps his area of greatest vulnerability against Mr. Trump. The president’s campaign — and the president himself when on message — has tried to argue that he oversaw a booming economy until the coronavirus pandemic brought about an “artificial” slowdown.

House Republican leaders recently briefed their members on polling showing Mr. Trump’s enduring advantage on the economy, and a recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed the economy as perhaps a lone bright spot for the president, even as he trailed by 14 percentage points overall.

In some ways, Mr. Biden was seizing the “Buy American” message from Mr. Trump himself, who campaigned on an “America First” agenda in 2016 and wrote on Twitter on his Inauguration Day that “Buy American” was one of “two simple rules” that would guide his administration. (The other was “hire American.”)

Mr. Biden has long cast himself as a champion of the American worker, particularly as vice president, when he led the Obama administration’s Middle Class Task Force and oversaw implementation of the 2009 economic stimulus bill. But he has faced criticism from Mr. Trump and from former liberal rivals like Senator Bernie Sanders over his support for the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s and other trade deals that followed.

On Thursday, the Trump campaign announced a new television ad attacking Mr. Biden’s record as “dangerous and foolish,” highlighting Mr. Biden’s vote for NAFTA in 1993 and his past support for trade relations with China and for the Trans-Pacific Partnership as vice president.

The Pennsylvania speech is the first of several steps Mr. Biden is taking in the coming weeks to detail an expanded economic agenda, beyond what he proposed in the primaries. On Thursday, Mr. Biden specifically proposed a $300 billion increase in government spending on research and development of technologies like electric vehicles and 5G cellular networks, as well as an additional $400 billion in federal procurement spending on products that are manufactured in the United States.

Mr. Biden described it as a level of investment “not seen since the Great Depression and World War II” and emphasized that among his top priorities is to expand prosperity to all corners of the country, both racial and geographic.

“This money will be used purposefully to ensure all of America is in on the deal, including communities that historically have been left out: Black, brown and Native American entrepreneurs, cities and towns everywhere,” he said.

Mr. Biden’s campaign is rallying top surrogates in key battleground states to amplify and showcase his economic message on Friday: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota will hold a roundtable discussion aimed at Arizona voters, Senators Tammy Duckworth and Tammy Baldwin will do one for Wisconsin, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan will headline one for her state and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio will hold one for his state.

His campaign aides cheered on Twitter that the three leading cable news networks — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC — carried Mr. Biden’s speech live, even as his remarks were briefly interrupted by a audible downpour at the plant.

As Mr. Trump has increasingly focused his campaign on stoking white resentment and fears, Mr. Biden and his campaign have stressed their efforts to increase opportunities for Black, Latino, Asian-American and other workers. “An economy for every American,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday.

“Donald Trump may believe that pitting Americans against Americans may benefit him. I don’t,” he said. Later in his speech, he invoked Mr. Trump’s recent comments defending the Confederate flag and accused the president of being “determined to drive us apart.”

While Mr. Biden has said in speeches since he began his campaign more than a year ago that Wall Street is not the true economic engine of America, he sharpened his tone on Thursday, saying it was “way past time to put an end to shareholder capitalism.”

He lashed Mr. Trump, in particular, for his focus on the stock market as a metric of success as tens of millions of Americans have been driven to file jobless claims during the ongoing pandemic. “Throughout this crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow, Nasdaq,” Mr. Biden said. “Not you. Not your families.”

Aides also said that Mr. Biden, the former vice president, would propose additional deficit spending next year to help the economy recover from the recession caused by the pandemic, building on the more than $3 trillion in new borrowing that Congress and Mr. Trump have already approved amid the crisis.

Mr. Biden has thus far proposed to offset the entirety of his spending plans with nearly $4 trillion in tax increases, largely by reversing some of Mr. Trump’s signature tax cuts for high earners and otherwise raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Aides said he would do the same to fund his procurement and research plans.

Mr. Biden proposed the smallest amount of new federal spending among the major Democratic contenders during the presidential primary race, and his plan, despite its new spending, remains far less expensive than those proposed by his former rivals, like Mr. Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Mr. Biden has sought to straddle the line on economic policy and elsewhere between his moderate political instincts and a progressive wing of the party that lined up in the primaries behind candidates, like Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, who promised sweeping and systemic change.

On Wednesday, a Biden-Sanders “unity task force” published 110 pages of platform recommendations, including plans on the economy. Its recommendations included more sweeping proposals than Mr. Biden has embraced in the campaign, including a New Deal-style federal jobs program to use government funds to put Americans to work on infrastructure and other projects. The recommendations also included a so-called baby bonds proposal that would seek to reduce wealth disparities between Black and white Americans by giving every child in the country a government-funded savings account.

Mr. Biden is planning four rollouts ahead of the Democratic National Convention in August on his plans to “mobilize the American people” for challenges in a future Biden administration. The speech on Thursday was the first in the series.

The next three, according to a campaign document, will be on “modern infrastructure and an equitable, clean energy future,” then a plan “to build a 21st-century caregiving and education work force” followed by a plan “to advance racial equity in America.”

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U.S. Weighs Early Vaccine Access for Minorities and Others at Risk

Federal health officials are already trying to decide who will get the first doses of any effective coronavirus vaccines, which could be on the market this winter but could require many additional months to become widely available to Americans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an advisory committee of outside health experts in April began working on a ranking system for what may be an extended rollout in the United States. According to a preliminary plan, any approved vaccines would be offered to vital medical and national security officials first, and then to other essential workers and those considered at high risk — the elderly instead of children, people with underlying conditions instead of the relatively healthy.

Agency officials and the advisers are also considering what has become a contentious option: putting Black and Latino people, who have disproportionately fallen victim to Covid-19, ahead of others in the population.

In private meetings and a recent public session, the issue has provoked calls for racial justice. But some medical experts are not convinced there is a scientific basis for such an option, foresee court challenges or worry that prioritizing minority groups would erode public trust in vaccines at a time when immunization is seen as crucial to ending the pandemic.

“Giving it to one race initially and not another race, I’m not sure how that would be perceived by the public, how that would affect how vaccines are viewed as a trusted public health measure,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, a group represented on the committee.

While there is a standard protocol for introducing vaccines — the C.D.C. typically makes recommendations and state and local public health departments decide whether to follow them — the White House has pressed the agency at times to revise or hold off on proposals it found objectionable. President Trump, who has been pushing to reopen schools, fill workplaces and hold large public events, has been acutely focused on the political consequences of public health guidance.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, almost every aspect of the administration’s response has involved scarce resources, high demand and claims that the privileged were receiving unfair advantage. The White House recently created Operation Warp Speed, a multiagency effort to accelerate vaccine development that has invested billions of federal dollars in a growing number of companies. At the public advisory committee hearing, held in mid-June, a Defense Department representative said the operation would address the distribution plans in coming weeks.

To speed distribution, the most promising vaccines will start being made even before they have cleared the final stages of clinical trials and been authorized for public use by the Food and Drug Administration.

But there will be a gap between the first doses coming off the manufacturing lines and a stockpile large enough to vaccinate the U.S. population. “I would say months,” Dr. José R. Romero, the chairman of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, predicted.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_174315897_9b51dd17-0bc9-4b57-b38e-48d645b7c864-articleLarge U.S. Weighs Early Vaccine Access for Minorities and Others at Risk Vaccination and Immunization United States Trump, Donald J Redfield, Robert R Race and Ethnicity Hispanic-Americans Food and Drug Administration Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Black People Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
Credit…Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The committee, which reports to the C.D.C. director, has long played a key role in determining how to implement new vaccines. The group includes 15 voting members selected by the health secretary who come from immunology, infectious disease and other medical specialties, 30 nonvoting representatives from across the health field, and eight federal officials focused on vaccines. Still, it operates largely out of sight.

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Updated 2020-07-09T10:04:11.935Z

“It’s a back-room kind of thing,” said Dr. Nancy Bennett, a health professor at the University of Rochester who led the advisory committee from 2015 to 2018.

Dr. Romero is among four committee members who have been deliberating on the plans since this spring alongside doctors at the C.D.C., representatives from the health field, ethicists and other outside consultants. In June, they briefed the full committee on their work, offering a glimpse of the questions being considered.

As they come up with a multitiered schedule for the first 1.2 million vaccine doses and then the next 110 million, they have focused on who should be considered essential workers, what underlying conditions should be taken into account and what kinds of living environments — nursing homes, homeless shelters — put people at high risk. Among the questions: What should be done about pregnant women? Should teachers go toward the front of the line? Should prisoners be in a top tier?

But for the broader committee, questions of whether to prioritize race and ethnicity sparked the most debate.

Black and Latino people have become infected with the virus at three times the rate of whites, and have died nearly twice as frequently. Many of them have jobs that keep them from working at home, rely on public transportation or live in cramped homes that increase their risk of exposure. They are more likely to suffer from underlying health problems, including diabetes and obesity, that raise the risk of hospitalization and death. Not only do the groups have less access to health services, they have a documented history of receiving unequal care.

The questions come amid a national uproar over the United States’ racist past, which stretches into its response to infectious disease — including the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study, when the government deliberately let hundreds of Black men go untreated even when there was a known cure for the disease.

Dr. Sharon Frey, a professor of infectious diseases at St. Louis University, pointed to health disparities among Black and Latino people at the recent meeting.

“I think it’s very important that the groups get into a high tier,” she said. “Maybe not an entire group, but certainly to address people who are living in the urban areas in these crowded conditions.”

Dr. Peter Szilagyi, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, said he was “really struggling with what to do about race and ethnicity.”

He wondered if a lot could be accomplished for minority groups by prioritizing people in general with underlying conditions and by trying to improve their access to health care.

Dr. Romero, the chairman, was doubtful. “This will not address the problem that exists now,” he said. “I think we need to deal with this issue at this time with the information that we have. And it is: They are groups that need to be moved to the forefront, in my opinion.”

Dayna Bowen Matthew, dean of the George Washington University Law School, who has focused on racial inequality in health care and is serving as a consultant on the prioritization issue, agreed.

“It’s racial inequality — inequality in housing, inequality in employment, inequality in access to health care — that produced the underlying diseases,” Dr. Matthew said in an interview. “That’s wrong. And it’s that inequality that requires us to prioritize by race and ethnicity.”

Harald Schmidt, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, is not a member of the committee, but has been suggesting other ways vaccine prioritization could work. He predicts that courts would strike down any guidelines explicitly based on race and ethnicity. Instead, he has proposed using an index that takes into account education, income, employment and housing quality to rank neighborhoods by socioeconomic disadvantage that he says could serve as a good proxy.

“It’s imperative that we pay attention to how Covid has impacted the health of minorities differently; otherwise it compounds the inequalities we’ve seen,” Dr. Schmidt said.

There may be substantial differences in how racial and ethnic groups view vaccines. A recent Pew survey found that a little over half of Black adults said they would definitely or probably get a coronavirus vaccine if one were available today, while 44 percent said they would not. Among Hispanic and white adults, 74 percent said they would get the vaccine, while around a quarter said they would not.

“Because of Tuskegee and structural racism within the health care system, you have to make a case much more strongly to the African-American population,” Dr. Schmidt said.

Whoever is prioritized for the first doses, it will not matter if the vaccines don’t work for those demographics. And that will not be determined unless the vaccine trials themselves include those groups. So far, several vaccine candidates have entered final Phase 3 trials.

At a Senate hearing last week, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, and Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes for Health, emphasized the need for racial and other diversity within the trials.

“The last thing we want to be is trying to recommend who gets the vaccine and we don’t have any data on how the vaccine works in the population that we think really needs this vaccine,” Dr. Redfield said.

Credit…Pool photo by Saul Loeb

“This has got to be a really high priority,” Dr. Collins said. “This may make it more challenging to run a Phase 3 vaccine trial. When you’re trying to enroll a very diverse set of volunteers, it would be much easier just to line up a bunch of 20-somethings who happen be from the white population, but that is not the only answer. We need to really have this diversity.”

Dr. Collins said he and Dr. Redfield had pushed to bring the National Academy of Medicine, an independent nonprofit, into the advisory committee’s work because people were “uneasy about the government calling the shots here.”

Dr. Romero said that the advisory committee would start holding more frequent public meetings on prioritization later this summer, and that it would eventually involve representatives of the communities being considered in its deliberations.

“If we feel that minority populations are important, then certainly we would look at the perceptions of those target groups,” he said.

At the committee’s recent meeting, Col. Matthew Hepburn, the Defense Department’s vaccine coordinator in Operation Warp Speed, said the multiagency effort was preparing to focus on prioritization.

“From an Operation Warp Speed standpoint, in our first few weeks, we really focused on the earlier product development and making some of those important decisions to get to accelerate the product development pipeline,” said Colonel Hepburn, who is also a physician.

But now, he said, there were other questions to consider: “How would these vaccines be distributed based on their induction? Which populations benefit most from vaccinations? Those are critical issues that need to be addressed, and our intention is to address those in the coming weeks.”

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