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

Westlake Legal Group the-supreme-court-stopped-anti-abortion-momentum-for-now The Supreme Court Stopped Anti-Abortion Momentum. For Now. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Supreme Court (US) Roe v Wade (Supreme Court Decision) Louisiana Law and Legislation Abortion
Westlake Legal Group 29ABORTION-ANALYSIS-facebookJumbo The Supreme Court Stopped Anti-Abortion Momentum. For Now. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Supreme Court (US) Roe v Wade (Supreme Court Decision) Louisiana Law and Legislation Abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twitch Suspends Trump’s Channel for ‘Hateful Conduct’

Westlake Legal Group merlin_166032078_7b7f0694-2106-4e72-abed-f5f55a39d880-facebookJumbo Twitch Suspends Trump’s Channel for ‘Hateful Conduct’ Video Recordings, Downloads and Streaming Twitch Interactive Inc Trump, Donald J Social Media Presidential Election of 2020 Computers and the Internet

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

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

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

It was unclear how long the suspension would last.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Roose contributed reporting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Michael Flynn’s Defense Team Found Powerful Allies

WASHINGTON — Sidney Powell, a firebrand lawyer whose pugnacious Fox News appearances had earned her numerous private phone conversations with President Trump, sent a letter last year to Attorney General William P. Barr about her soon-to-be new client, Michael T. Flynn.

Asking for “utmost confidentiality,” Ms. Powell told Mr. Barr that the case against Mr. Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser who had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I., smacked of “corruption of our beloved government institutions for what appears to be political purposes.” She asked the attorney general to appoint an outsider to review the case, confident that such scrutiny would justify ending it.

Mr. Barr did what she wanted. He appointed a U.S. attorney six months later to scour the Flynn case file with a skeptical eye for documents that could be turned over as helpful to the defense. Ultimately, Mr. Barr directed the department to drop the charge, one of his numerous steps undercutting the work of the Russia investigation and the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

The private correspondence between Ms. Powell and Mr. Barr, disclosed in a little-noticed court filing last fall, was the first step toward a once-obscure lawyer and a powerful attorney general finding common cause in a battle to dismantle the legacy of the investigations into President Trump and his allies.

Ms. Powell’s slash-and-burn approach — accusing the federal law enforcement machinery of concocting a case against her client — failed in the courtroom last year when a judge rejected her claims. But the same strategy, which she amplified in frequent media appearances, succeeded in turning Mr. Flynn’s case into a cause for Mr. Trump’s supporters and in securing the review ordered by Mr. Barr that provided her with fresh ammunition.

Mr. Barr’s subsequent decision to drop the charge against Mr. Flynn threw the Justice Department into turmoil and set up a high-stakes battle pitting the attorney general and Ms. Powell against the trial judge, Emmet G. Sullivan, who opened a review of the move.

Ms. Powell and her client won a significant victory on Wednesday when a divided appeals court panel — in a surprise ruling written by Judge Neomi Rao, a former White House official whom Mr. Trump appointed to the bench — ordered Judge Sullivan to drop the case without scrutiny. Judge Sullivan suspended his review but has not dismissed the charge, suggesting that the extraordinary legal and political saga is not yet over.

Ms. Powell declined to discuss her conversations with the White House or her correspondence with Mr. Barr. But she said in an email that she had long considered “prosecutorial misconduct and overreach” a problem and that she viewed Mr. Flynn as a victim of it.

At its core, Mr. Flynn’s case is a drama about who gets to mete out justice in the Trump era, upending the prosecution of a man who twice had admitted guilt.

“It’s hard to think of anything remotely like this,” said David Alan Sklansky, a Stanford University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “The Justice Department has taken somebody who has twice pleaded guilty, in a case where the trial judge has considered and already rejected claims of government wrongdoing, and prosecutors now say we’d like to dismiss the case and don’t think it should have been brought in the first place.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00dc-flynn2-articleLarge How Michael Flynn’s Defense Team Found Powerful Allies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sullivan, Emmet G Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Powell, Sidney (Attorney) Mueller, Robert S III Justice Department Flynn, Michael T Ethics and Official Misconduct Decisions and Verdicts Barr, William P Attorneys General
Credit…Dominic Bracco II/The Washington Post, via Getty Images

When Mr. Flynn stood in Judge Sullivan’s courtroom on Dec. 18, 2018, his legal odyssey appeared to be over. He had struck a favorable deal with Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors to cooperate after admitting to lying to F.B.I. agents about conversations with the Russian ambassador in late 2016. In exchange, prosecutors were recommending he receive no prison time and not be prosecuted for separate offenses related to his lobbying for Turkish government without registering as an agent of a foreign power.

But he did not go quietly. His defense team, in a memo laying out what sentence he should receive, also floated the notion that Mr. Flynn had been set up. F.B.I. agents had used several different tactics to essentially trick Mr. Flynn, a retired Army three-star general, into making false statements, the memo suggested.

The Flynn defense team was trying to have it both ways, and Judge Sullivan was furious. He grilled Mr. Flynn about whether he was truly taking responsibility for his crimes and even suggested — before retracting the notion — that Mr. Flynn had been a traitor to his country. When it appeared that Judge Sullivan might send Mr. Flynn to prison, going beyond the original recommendation of prosecutors, Mr. Flynn and his lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, decided to postpone the sentencing so he could continue to cooperate with prosecutors.

Judge Sullivan, appointed to the Federal District Court by President Bill Clinton, has a reputation as a hard-nosed jurist with a disdain for prosecutorial misconduct. He is known for taking guilty pleas seriously, and he reminded Mr. Kelner that he had never accepted one from someone who maintained he was not guilty and that he didn’t “intend to start today.”

In his legal pivot, Mr. Flynn had channeled the campaign led by Mr. Trump and his allies that had portrayed the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” and a plot to sabotage his presidency. Since Mr. Flynn had first pleaded guilty in 2017, Republicans in Congress had taken up a campaign to undermine the case against him and portray him as a victim of overzealous prosecutors.

Some legal experts speculated at the time that Mr. Flynn was accepting guilt to pocket a sentence without prison time while also preserving the possibility that Mr. Trump might pardon him. His legal strategy would, soon enough, become even more radical: that he was innocent all along.

Credit…Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

One of Mr. Flynn’s most vocal defenders was Ms. Powell, a Texas-based former federal prosecutor who had made no secret about her view that the Russia investigation was a sham. She appeared frequently on Fox News and had a website hawking T-shirts mocking Mr. Mueller’s team as “creeps on a mission.”

In early 2018, not long after Mr. Flynn’s original guilty plea, Ms. Powell wrote an op-ed alleging that “extraordinary manipulation by powerful people led to the creation of Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation and prosecution of General Michael Flynn.” She exhorted Mr. Flynn to drop his guilty plea and, ironically, praised Judge Sullivan, who had just taken over the case.

She called him the “perfect judge” for it because of his handling years earlier of the corruption case against former Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska. In that case, Judge Sullivan had been so furious after the Justice Department disclosed that it had failed to turn over evidence potentially helpful to the defense that he opened an ethics investigation into the prosecutors.

The department ended up asking Judge Sullivan to dismiss the case despite having won a guilty verdict — an outcome Ms. Powell seemed to view as a road map for Mr. Flynn.

Her television advocacy on behalf of Mr. Flynn appears to have had an influential viewer: the president. The two spoke five times in 2019, during the months before she officially took on Mr. Flynn as a client, according to a person familiar with the calls.

It is unclear what they discussed, but when Ms. Powell persuaded Mr. Flynn and his family to drop his original legal team and allow her to take up the case, the president was thrilled.

“General Michael Flynn, the 33 year war hero who has served with distinction, has not retained a good lawyer, he has retained a GREAT LAWYER, Sidney Powell,” Mr. Trump tweeted on June 13, 2019. “Best Wishes and Good Luck to them both!”

She previewed her defense strategy in the secret letter to Mr. Barr, asking him to begin a hunt for materials that the department could turn over. “At the end of this internal review, we believe there will be ample justification for the department to follow the precedent of the Ted Stevens case and move to dismiss the prosecution of General Flynn in the interest of justice,” she wrote.

As Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, she began demanding that the Justice Department turn over more files, including documents that were tangential to her client’s case but promoted other right-wing conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation.

She accused the F.B.I. and prosecutors of engaging in a litany of misconduct that “impugned their entire case against Mr. Flynn, while at the same time putting excruciating pressure on him to enter his guilty plea and manipulating or controlling the press to their advantage to extort that plea.”

Exasperated prosecutors attacked Ms. Powell’s legal strategy, saying the “defendant and his new counsel are in search of a result, not the facts.”

She also made clear that her client was done helping the Justice Department. Almost immediately after she began representing Mr. Flynn, he changed his story in a prosecution in Virginia against his former business partner about their work for Turkey. Prosecutors decided against calling him as a witness, significantly weakening their case.

Credit…Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Months later, it was Ms. Powell’s defense of Mr. Flynn that was collapsing.

In December, Judge Sullivan delivered a stinging rebuke to her wide-ranging claims of prosecutorial misconduct and other accusations. In a 92-page opinion, he marched through her allegations and rejected each one.

It turned out that Judge Sullivan was not the savior that Ms. Powell was looking for; he even ruled that Mr. Flynn was no Ted Stevens.

But in a different way, her strategy had been a success: The case had become a political cause. While Judge Sullivan rejected Ms. Powell’s claims of material law enforcement misconduct as baseless, Fox News and other conservative news outlets had amplified them along the way.

“One of the things that General Flynn wanted to do, he thought it was critically important that we empty out the swamp of all the senior intelligence folks that are in Washington, D.C.,” Representative Devin Nunes, the California Republican on the Intelligence Committee who has been a staunch supporter of Mr. Trump and his theories, said to applause at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. “So they had a real reason to get rid of General Flynn.”

This political chorus had already been hard at work trying to undermine the conclusions of the voluminous special counsel’s report. Mr. Mueller concluded that Russia systematically tried to sabotage the 2016 election and that Mr. Trump’s advisers had welcomed the help — even if he concluded there was insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy. He also found numerous times when Mr. Trump tried to impede the Russia investigation, but chose not to determine whether the president had illegally obstructed justice.

Weeks after Judge Sullivan rejected Ms. Powell’s assertions of prosecutorial misconduct and was preparing to sentence Mr. Flynn, Ms. Powell persuaded her client to ask to withdraw his guilty plea and declare to the judge that he was innocent.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Meanwhile, Mr. Barr was moving to take direct control over the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which was handling several politically charged matters.

Mr. Barr maneuvered the Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney, Jessie K. Liu, into leaving early, and imposed his own aide, Timothy J. Shea, as the acting head of the office. At the same time, he appointed the U.S. attorney for St. Louis, Jeffrey B. Jensen, to examine the Flynn case.

It was exactly what Ms. Powell had asked Mr. Barr to do in her secret letter six months earlier.

Mr. Jensen scoured F.B.I. files in search of anything that could be construed as so-called Brady material — information Mr. Flynn could use to argue that he was not guilty — which had been withheld from the defense. He found several files.

Many fell into a category of things that made the F.B.I. look heavy-handed, but did not change the narrow issue of whether Mr. Flynn made false statements to the agents who questioned him.

But Ms. Powell seized on the revelations as proof that prosecutors had improperly withheld exculpatory evidence, justifying a dismissal of the case. Mr. Barr directed his department to file a motion to dismiss the charge.

The remarkable decision infuriated some Justice Department officials and stunned legal experts. Mr. Barr defended it last week in an interview with NPR as appropriate.

It also forced a showdown with Judge Sullivan, who had no intention of abandoning the case so easily.

The judge ordered a new review, appointing John Gleeson, a former mafia prosecutor and a retired federal judge from Brooklyn, to argue against the Justice Department’s motion. In a scathing memo, Mr. Gleeson urged Judge Sullivan to sentence Mr. Flynn anyway, over prosecutors’ objections.

Trying to head that off, Ms. Powell asked an appeals panel to order Judge Sullivan to end the case without any review of the motivation or legitimacy of the request. Legal experts widely scoffed at her tactic, noting that such orders are supposed to be reserved for rare problems where no other option exists.

But Ms. Powell’s gambit led to a stroke of luck. The case was randomly assigned to a three-judge panel that included Judge Rao and Judge Karen L. Henderson, a 1990 appointee of President George Bush, who have both proved more willing than most of their colleagues to interpret the law in Mr. Trump’s favor in politically charged cases.

In a 2-to-1 ruling, the panel ordered Judge Sullivan to shut down the case immediately, saying he had no authority to scrutinize the basis for Mr. Barr’s decision. The dissenting judge on the panel accused his colleagues of “grievously” overstepping their authority.

The ruling turned on a technical question rather than the merits of the case, and it remains to be seen whether the full appeals court will let it stand.

But Mr. Trump and his allies have already declared victory, inaccurately portraying the decision as proof that Mr. Flynn has been exonerated and should never have been charged.

Maggie Haberman and Katie Benner contributed reporting.

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How the Trump Campaign Is Drawing Obama Out of Retirement

Just after Donald J. Trump was elected president, Barack Obama slumped in his chair in the Oval Office and addressed an aide standing near a conspicuously placed bowl of apples, emblem of a healthy-snacking policy soon to be swept aside, along with so much else.

“I am so done with all of this,” Mr. Obama said of his job, according to several people familiar with the exchange.

Yet he knew, even then, that a conventional White House retirement was not an option. Mr. Obama, 55 at the time, was stuck holding a baton he had wanted to pass to Hillary Clinton, and saddled with a successor whose fixation on him, he believed, was rooted in a bizarre personal animus and the politics of racial backlash exemplified by the birther lie.

“There is no model for my kind of post-presidency,” he told the aide. “I’m clearly renting space inside the guy’s head.”

Which is not to say that Mr. Obama was not committed to his pre-Trump retirement vision — a placid life that was to consist of writing, sun-flecked fairways, policy work through his foundation, producing documentaries with Netflix and family time aplenty at a new $11.7 million spread on Martha’s Vineyard.

Still, more than three years after his exit, the 44th president of the United States is back on a political battlefield he longed to leave, drawn into the fight by an enemy, Mr. Trump, who is hellbent on erasing him, and by a friend, Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is equally intent on embracing him.

The stakes of that re-engagement were always going to be high. Mr. Obama is nothing if not protective of his legacy, especially in the face of Mr. Trump’s many attacks. Yet interviews with more than 50 people in the former president’s orbit portray a conflicted combatant, trying to balance deep anger at his successor with an instinct to refrain from a brawl that he fears may dent his popularity and challenge his place in history.

That calculus, though, may be changing in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by the police in Minneapolis. As America’s first black president, now its first black ex-president, Mr. Obama sees the current social and racial awakening as an opportunity to elevate a 2020 election dictated by Mr. Trump’s mud-wrestling style into something more meaningful — to channel a new, youthful movement toward a political aim, as he did in 2008.

He is doing so very carefully, characteristically intent on keeping his cool, his reputation, his political capital and his dreams of a cosseted retirement intact.

“I don’t think he is hesitant. I think he is strategic,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a top adviser for over a decade. “He has always been strategic about using his voice; it’s his most valuable commodity.”

Mr. Obama is also mindful of a cautionary example: Bill Clinton’s attacks against him in 2008 backfired so badly that his wife’s campaign staff had to scale back his appearances.

Many supporters have been pressing him to be more aggressive.

“It would be nice, for a change, if Barack Obama could emerge from his cave and offer — no wait, DEMAND — a way forward,” the columnist Drew Magary wrote in a much-shared Medium post in April titled “Where the Hell is Barack Obama?

The counterargument: He did his job and deserves to be left alone.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_115707257_44ee1a9d-c059-4d5a-8d1d-1afcff6e5510-articleLarge How the Trump Campaign Is Drawing Obama Out of Retirement Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sharpton, Al Schmidt, Eric E Presidents and Presidency (US) Presidential Election of 2020 Obama, Michelle Manigault, Omarosa Kushner, Jared Holder, Eric H Jr Hoffman, Reid Garrett George Floyd Protests (2020) Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Bush, George W Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Al Drago/The New York Times

“Obama has now been out of office for three and a half years, and he is still facing this kind of scrutiny — no one is pressuring white ex-presidents like George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter the same way,” said Monique Judge, news editor of the online magazine The Root and author of a 2018 article arguing that Mr. Obama no longer owed the country a thing.

Mr. Obama’s head appears to be somewhere in the middle. He is not planning to scrap his summer Vineyard vacation and is still anguishing over the publication date of his long-awaited memoir. But last week he stepped up his nominally indirect criticism of Mr. Trump’s administration — decrying a “shambolic, disorganized, meanspirited approach to governance” during an online Biden fund-raiser. And he made a pledge of sorts, telling Mr. Biden’s supporters: “Whatever you’ve done so far is not enough. And I hold myself and Michelle and our kids to that same standard.”

On Thursday, during an invitation-only Zoom fund-raiser, Mr. Obama expressed outrage at the president’s use of “kung flu” and “China virus” to describe the coronavirus. “I don’t want a country in which the president of the United States is actively trying to promote anti-Asian sentiment and thinks it’s funny. I don’t want that. That still shocks and pisses me off,” Mr. Obama said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by a participant in the event.

Mr. Obama speaks with the former vice president and top campaign aides frequently, offering suggestions on staffing and messaging. Last month, he bluntly counseled Mr. Biden to keep his speeches brief, interviews crisp and slash the length of his tweets, the better to make the campaign a referendum on Mr. Trump and the economy, according to Democratic officials.

He has taken a particular interest in Mr. Biden’s work-in-progress digital operation, the officials said, enlisting powerful friends, like the LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and the former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, to share their expertise, they said.

Yet he continues to slow-walk some requests, especially to headline more fund-raisers. Some in Mr. Obama’s camp suggest he wants to avoid overshadowing the candidate — which Mr. Biden’s people aren’t buying.

“By all means, overshadow us,” one of them joked.

Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

From the moment Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Obama adopted a minimalist approach: He would critique his policy choices, not the man himself, following the norm of civility observed by his predecessors, especially George W. Bush.

But norms are not Mr. Trump’s thing. He made it clear from the start that he wanted to eradicate any trace of Mr. Obama’s presence from the West Wing. “He had the worst taste,” Mr. Trump told a visitor in early 2017, showing off his new curtains — which were not terribly different from Mr. Obama’s, in the view of other people who tramped in and out of the office during that chaotic period.

The cancellation was more pronounced when it came to policy. One former White House official recalled Mr. Trump interrupting an early presentation to make sure one staff proposal was not “an Obama thing.”

During the transition, in what looks in hindsight like a preview of the presidency, one Trump aide got the idea of printing out the detailed checklist of Mr. Obama’s campaign promises from the official White House website to repurpose as a kind of hit list, according to two people familiar with the effort.

“This is personal for Trump; it is all about President Obama and demolishing his legacy. It’s his obsession,” said Omarosa Manigault Newman, an “Apprentice” veteran and, until her abrupt departure, one of the few black officials in Mr. Trump’s West Wing. “President Obama will not be able to rest as long as Trump is breathing.”

When the two men met for a stilted postelection sit-down in November 2016, the president-elect was polite, so Mr. Obama took the opportunity to advise him against going scorched-earth on Obamacare. “Look, you can take my name off of it; I don’t care,” he said, according to aides.

Mr. Trump nodded noncommittally.

As the transition dragged on, Mr. Obama became increasingly uneasy at what he saw as the breezy indifference of the new president and his inexperienced team. Many of them ignored the briefing binders his staff had painstakingly produced at his direction, former Obama aides recalled, and instead of focusing on policy or the workings of the West Wing, they inquired about the quality of tacos in the basement mess or where to find a good apartment.

As for Mr. Trump, he had “no idea what he’s doing,” Mr. Obama told an aide after their Oval Office encounter.

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, made an equally indelible impression. During a tour of the building he abruptly inquired, “So how many of these people are sticking around?”

The answer was none, his escort replied. (West Wing officials serve at the president’s pleasure, as Mr. Trump would amply illustrate in the coming months.)

When the Kushner story was relayed to Mr. Obama, aides recalled, he laughed and repeated it to friends, and even a few journalists, to illustrate what the country was up against.

A White House spokesman did not deny the account, but suggested Mr. Kushner might have been talking about security and maintenance personnel rather than political appointees.

During other conversations with editors he respected, including David Remnick of The New Yorker and Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Mr. Obama was more ruminative, according to people familiar with the interactions. At times, he would float some version of this question: Was there anything he could have done to blunt the Trump backlash?

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Obama eventually came to the conclusion that it was a historic inevitability, and told people around him the best he could do was “set a counterexample.”

Others thought he needed to do more. During the transition, Paulette Aniskoff, a veteran West Wing aide, began assembling a political organization of former advisers to help Mr. Obama defend his legacy, aid other Democrats and plan for his deployment as a surrogate in the 2018 midterms.

He was open to the effort, but his eye was on the exits. “I’ll do what you want me to do,” he told Ms. Aniskoff’s team, but mandated they carefully screen out any appearances that would waste time or squander political capital.

Mr. Obama was, then as now, so determined to avoid uttering the new president’s name that one aide jokingly suggested they refer to him as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” — Harry Potter’s archenemy, Lord Voldemort.

Mr. Trump had no trouble naming names. In March 2017, he falsely accused Mr. Obama of personally ordering the surveillance of his campaign headquarters, tweeting, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

It was an inflection point of sorts. Mr. Obama told Ms. Aniskoff’s team he would call out his successor by name in the 2018 midterms. But not a lot.

It was telling how Mr. Obama talked about Mr. Trump that fall: He referred to him less as a person than as a kind of epidemiological affliction on the body politic, spread by his Republican enablers.

“It did not start with Donald Trump — he is a symptom, not the cause,” he said in his kickoff speech at the University of Illinois in September 2018. The American political system, he added, was not “healthy” enough to form the “antibodies” to fight the contagion of “racial nationalism.”

The pandemic has, if anything, made him more partial to the comparison.

The virus, he said during his appearance with Mr. Biden last week, “is a metaphor” for so much else.

Credit…Andrew Milligan/Press Association Images, via Getty Images

Mr. Obama felt one of the best ways to safeguard his legacy was by writing his book, which he envisioned as both a detailed chronicle of his presidency and as a serious literary follow-up to his widely praised 1995 memoir, “Dreams From My Father.”

In late 2016, Mr. Obama’s agent, Bob Barnett, began negotiating a package deal for Mr. Obama’s memoir and Michelle Obama’s autobiography. Random House eventually won the bidding war with a record-shattering $65 million offer.

The process has been a gilded grind. One former White House official who checked in with Mr. Obama in mid-2018 was told the project “was like doing homework.”

Another associate, who ran into the former president at an event last year, remarked at how fit he looked. Mr. Obama replied, “Let’s just say my golf game is going a lot better than my book.”

It was not especially easy for the former president to look on as his wife’s book, “Becoming,” was published in 2018 and quickly became an international blockbuster.

“She had a ghostwriter,” Mr. Obama told a friend who asked about his wife’s speedy work. “I am writing every word myself, and that’s why it’s taking longer.”

The book’s timing remains among the touchiest of topics. Mr. Obama, a deliberate writer prone to procrastination — and lengthy digression — insisted that there be no set deadline, according to several people familiar with the process.

In an interview shortly after Mr. Obama left office, one of his closest advisers had predicted that the book would be out in mid-2019, before the primary season began in earnest, an option preferred by many working on the project.

But Mr. Obama did not finish and circulate a draft of between 600 and 800 pages until around New Year’s, too late to publish before the election, according to people familiar with the situation.

He is now seriously considering splitting the project into two volumes, in the hope of getting some of it into print quickly after the election, perhaps in time for the Christmas season, several people close to the process said.

Mr. Obama’s other big creative enterprise, a multimillion-dollar 2018 contract with Netflix to produce documentaries and scripted features with his wife, has been a tonic, and quick work by comparison.

Mr. Obama got a kick out of screening dozens of potential projects and offered specific suggestions — scrawled onto the yellow legal pad he used to write his book — to directors and writers. His production firm, Higher Ground Productions, is run out of a small bungalow on a Hollywood studio lot once home to Charlie Chaplin’s company, and he spent a day kibbitzing with its small staff during a visit in November.

One of the first efforts was “Crip Camp,” an award-winning documentary about a summer camp in upstate New York, founded in the early 1970s, that became a focal point of the disability rights movement.

Mr. Obama saw the project as a vehicle for his vision of grass-roots political change, and provided feedback during the 18 months the movie was in production.

“We saw footage that the filmmakers had just begun to cut together and sent it to the president to look at,” said Priya Swaminathan, co-head of Higher Ground. “He wanted to know how we could help the filmmakers make this the best telling of the story and they were into the collaboration. We watched many, many cuts together.”

Credit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

Part of what Mr. Obama finds so appealing about filmmaking is that it allows him to control the narrative. In that respect, the 2020 campaign has been a disorienting experience: His political career is supposed to be over, yet he has a semi-starring role in a production he has not written or directed.

Nowhere has that low-grade frustration been more apparent than in his complicated relationship with Mr. Biden, who is concurrently covetous of his support and fiercely determined to win on his own.

Mr. Obama was supportive of Mr. Biden, personally, from the start of the campaign, but he promised Senator Bernie Sanders, in one of their early chats, that his public profession of neutrality was genuine and that he was not working secretly to elect his friend, according to a party official familiar with the exchange.

Moreover, Mr. Obama has always been cleareyed about his friend’s vulnerabilities, urging Mr. Biden’s aides to ensure that he not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy,” win or lose.

When a Democratic donor raised the issue of Mr. Biden’s age late last year — he is 77 — Mr. Obama acknowledged those concerns, saying, “I wasn’t even 50 when I got elected, and that job took every ounce of energy I had,” according to the person.

Still, he is an enthusiastic supporter, and played a central role in pushing Mr. Sanders to “accelerate the endgame” that led to Mr. Biden’s earlier-than-expected victory in April. He spent the next few weeks tidying up a few messy political loose ends, working to improve his chilly relationship with Senator Elizabeth Warren, who irked him by criticizing his Wall Street speaking fees as emblematic of the scourge of money in politics, calling it a “snake that slithers through Washington.”

He has never seen Mr. Biden’s campaign as a proxy war between himself and Mr. Trump, his aides insist. But he is, nonetheless, tickled by the lopsided metrics of their competition of late.

Mr. Obama monitors their respective polling numbers closely — he gets privately circulated data from the Democratic National Committee — and takes pride in the fact that he has millions more Twitter followers than a president who relies on the platform far more than he does, people close to him said.

The former president devours online news, scouring The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlantic sites on his iPad constantly, and keeps to his White House night-owl hours, sending texts and story links to friends between midnight and 2 a.m. Even during the pandemic he does not sleep late, at least on weekdays, and is often on his Peloton bike by 8 a.m., sending off a new round of texts, often about the latest Trump outrage.

Mr. Obama was already stepping up his criticism of Mr. Trump before Mr. Floyd’s killing in May. Ms. Aniskoff organized an online meeting with 3,000 former administration officials whose purpose, in part, was to soft-launch his tougher line. (Democrats close to Mr. Obama helpfully leaked the recording of his remarks.)

Yet the rising cries for racial justice have lent the 2020 campaign a coherence for Mr. Obama, a politician most comfortable cloaking his criticism of an opponent — be it Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump — in the language of movement politics.

Credit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

Mr. Obama’s first reaction to the protests, people close to him said, was anxiety — that the spasms of rioting would spin out of control and play into Mr. Trump’s narrative of a lawless left.

But peaceful demonstrators took control, igniting a national movement that challenged Mr. Trump without making him its focal point.

Soon after, in the middle of a strategy call with political aides and policy experts at his foundation, an excited Mr. Obama pronounced that “a tailor-made moment” had arrived.

Mr. Obama has lately been in close contact with his first attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., sharing his outrage over the way the current attorney general, William P. Barr, personally inspected the phalanx of federal law enforcement officers who tear-gassed demonstrators to clear the path for Mr. Trump’s walk to a photo op at a historic church near the White House.

Mr. Holder has few qualms about calling Mr. Trump a racist in the former president’s presence. Mr. Obama has never contradicted him, but he avoids the term, even in private, preferring a more indirect accusation of “racial demagoguery,” according to several people close to both men.

His response to the Floyd killing was less about hammering Mr. Trump than about encouraging young people, who have been slow in embracing Mr. Biden, to vote. When he chose to speak publicly, it was to host an online forum highlighting a slate of policing reforms that went nowhere in Congress in his second term.

In that sense, the role he is most comfortable occupying is the job he was once so over.

On June 4, an hour or so before Mr. Floyd’s memorial service in Minneapolis, the former president called his brother, Philonise Floyd — a reprise of the calls he made to grieving families over his eight years in office.

“I want you to have hope. I want you to know you are not alone. I want you to know that Michelle and I will do anything you want me to do,” Mr. Obama said during the emotional 25-minute conversation, according to the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was on the call. Two other people with knowledge of the call confirmed its contents.

“That was the first time, I think, that the Floyd family really experienced solace since he died,” Mr. Sharpton said in an interview.

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Marty Baron Made The Post Great Again. Now, the News Is Changing.

Westlake Legal Group marty-baron-made-the-post-great-again-now-the-news-is-changing Marty Baron Made The Post Great Again. Now, the News Is Changing. Washington Post Undefeated, The (Web Site) Trump, Donald J Starr, Kenneth I Social Media Roman Catholic Church Race and Ethnicity Pulitzer Prizes Newspapers News Sources, Confidential Status of News and News Media New York Times miami herald Lowery, Wesley Los Angeles Times Khashoggi, Jamal Kavanaugh, Brett M Graham, Katharine George Floyd Protests (2020) ESPN discrimination Boston Globe Black People Bezos, Jeffrey P Baron, Martin D

Almost anyone who works in The Washington Post newsroom can look inside its publishing system, Methode, to see what stories are coming. And at the height of the furor over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2018, some who did saw a shocking article awaiting publication.

In the article, Bob Woodward, The Post legend who protected the identity of his Watergate source, Deep Throat, for 30 years, was going to unmask one of his own confidential sources. He was, in particular, going to disclose that Judge Kavanaugh had been an anonymous source in his 1999 book “Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate.”

Mr. Woodward was planning to expose Mr. Kavanaugh because the judge had publicly denied — in a huffy letter in 1999 to The Post — an account about Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton that he had himself, confidentially, provided to Mr. Woodward for his book. (Mr. Kavanaugh served as a lawyer on Mr. Starr’s team.)

The article, described by two Post journalists who read it, would have been explosive, arriving as the nominee battled a decades-old sexual assault allegation and was fighting to prove his integrity.

The article was nearly ready when the executive editor, Martin Baron, stepped in. Mr. Baron urged Mr. Woodward not to breach his arrangement with Mr. Kavanaugh and to protect his old source’s anonymity, three Post employees said. (The three, as well as other Post journalists who spoke to me, insisted on anonymity because The Post prefers that its employees not talk to the media.)

Mr. Baron and other editors persuaded Mr. Woodward that it would be bad for The Post and “bad for Bob” to disclose a source, one of the journalists told me. The piece never ran.

And the steadfast adherence to the longstanding rules of newspaper journalism and the defense of the institution, which have defined Mr. Baron’s tenure at The Post, prevailed.

Happy newsrooms are all alike but every unhappy newsroom is unhappy in its own way. And in this moment of cultural reckoning, most American newsrooms are unhappy places. They’re reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and under attack from the president of the United States even as they reckon with America’s racial inequalities in their own institutions. At The Post, black staff members’ discontent burst onto Twitter, as a set of high-profile journalists who have left the paper discussed how they felt pushed aside or pushed out. Their complaints, along with previously untold stories recently shared with me, paint a picture of an essential American institution caught in fierce cultural crosscurrents.

The revival of The Post by Mr. Baron and its owner, the Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, is perhaps the greatest news business success story of the past decade. But that journalistic revival has in some ways masked a messier story, one of many contradictions.

The Post has published some of the best reporting in the 20th century American newspaper tradition that’s ever been done like the sprawling exposé of America’s war in Afghanistan — all wrapped in a digital marketing, advertising and publishing machine that The Post licenses lucratively to news organizations around the world. It’s a faceless institution in an era of influencers and personal brands. It’s a place where one of the managing editors, Tracy Grant, still hands new reporters a copy of Katharine Graham’s 1997 memoir, though, of course, The Post is no longer owned by the beloved Graham family, but by the world’s richest man. Mr. Baron’s fearless focus on White House coverage and investigations has put it at the center of the American media’s response to President Trump.

But it’s also a top-down institution whose constrained view of what journalism is today has frustrated some of the industry’s creative young stars.

At the heart of The Post’s identity is Mr. Baron, 65, the ultimate old school editor. He rose through the ranks of The Miami Herald and The Los Angeles Times, then arrived at The New York Times in 1996, where he took over the powerful role of night editor, the stern gatekeeper and final approver of any article headed into the print newspaper.

But he frustrated reporters with his punctiliousness, and didn’t play the internal politics of succession. He left The Times in 2000 to take over The Miami Herald, leading its staff to a Pulitzer Prize, and then The Boston Globe, where he published a historic investigation of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. That showdown became the movie “Spotlight,” in which Liev Schreiber played Mr. Baron as introverted, irascible, and unbending — a depiction that Post employees describe as uncannily accurate.

He arrived at The Post in 2013 “stubbornly retro,” according to a National Journal profile, but when the Amazon founder, Mr. Bezos, bought the paper later that year, Mr. Baron proved the perfect ballast: He wasn’t personally a man of the internet, but he made clear he was all for it. And his journalistic gravitas gave the newsroom comfort during its frantic, overdue shift to the digital age. When other publications seemed unnerved by the election of President Trump, Mr. Baron’s assertion, “We’re not at war with the administration, we’re at work,” seemed to fortify journalists everywhere.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_122260880_271720bf-70e2-4efd-a576-4af8e4bc45b6-articleLarge Marty Baron Made The Post Great Again. Now, the News Is Changing. Washington Post Undefeated, The (Web Site) Trump, Donald J Starr, Kenneth I Social Media Roman Catholic Church Race and Ethnicity Pulitzer Prizes Newspapers News Sources, Confidential Status of News and News Media New York Times miami herald Lowery, Wesley Los Angeles Times Khashoggi, Jamal Kavanaugh, Brett M Graham, Katharine George Floyd Protests (2020) ESPN discrimination Boston Globe Black People Bezos, Jeffrey P Baron, Martin D
Credit…Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

Mr. Baron’s opposition to Mr. Woodward’s story, people who work with him said, wasn’t about favoring Mr. Kavanaugh, or being afraid of a fight. Publishing the article would simply violate the traditional principle that sources should be protected. And it would veer into an uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing new form of journalism, and, in Mr. Baron’s view, imperil the reputation of the institution.

When I asked, repeatedly, for an interview with Mr. Baron, The Post’s spokeswoman, Kris Coratti, instead sent me 4,000 words of excerpts from his many speeches about journalism. The speeches reflected his sophisticated articulation of the importance of open-minded, rigorous and brave journalism. But the speech excerpts didn’t include the credo that stuck with me from a recent memo written by Mr. Baron.

“The Post is more than a collection of individuals who wish to express themselves,” Mr. Baron wrote. “The reputation of The Post must prevail over any one individual’s desire for expression.”

This principle reflects Mr. Baron’s frequently expressed frustration that his reporters’ tweets could undermine The Post’s journalism. It sometimes seems that Mr. Baron is standing athwart Twitter yelling, “Stop!” and nobody’s listening.

The intensity of the debate inside The Post over its journalists’ tweets emerged in an internal survey of reporters’ attitudes, commissioned by the national editor, Steven Ginsberg, without Mr. Baron’s participation. The report, which was circulated in April, described Post management as “ill-equipped to deal with social media in the modern era” and suggested that managers are more forgiving of mistakes “by white men and newsroom stars than they are of women, minorities and less high-profile reporters.”

(The Times, where management has cultivated stars and taken a relatively softer line on Twitter, has its own challenges, and was forced last week to try to purge the vitriol from its internal conversations on Slack. Its chief executive, Mark Thompson, asked employees to avoid “saying insulting and threatening things about co-workers.”)

The Post survey presaged the more intense concerns expressed this month by current and former black journalists about the news industry, in general, and The Post, in particular. Such concerns are not new.

But many Posties (which is how some on the staff refer to themselves) date the current gap between black staff members and leaders of The Post — Mr. Baron and his three managing editors, Cameron Barr, Ms. Grant and Emilio Garcia-Ruiz — to the departure in 2015 of Kevin Merida, then The Post’s managing editor, to lead the ESPN sports and culture site The Undefeated. A handful of black journalists followed him.

The union that represents newsroom employees, The Washington Post Guild, now says it has assembled 32 pages of concerns from current and former black journalists. Black staff members active with the union are pushing for a Twitter campaign to highlight the issues, modeled after a similar recent demonstration at The Los Angeles Times. But such a step would be more provocative at The Post, given the paper’s institutional unease about expressing opinions on Twitter.

Some have already surfaced. Kimbriell Kelly, who left The Post last year for The Los Angeles Times after being passed over for an editing job, tweeted that she was the “only black investigative reporter on WaPo’s Investigative Unit for most of my 7 years there.”

“The notion that only you had to prove yourself as an editor, while sooo many others who didn’t look like you, never did, steamed many of us,” replied Dana Priest, a white veteran national security reporter.

Questions have also arisen within The Post’s video operation which, like other areas outside Mr. Baron’s core obsessions, has suffered from a lack of clear strategy. Employees said in a meeting earlier this month that personal favoritism has substituted for clear goals, according to detailed notes of the meeting by a participant. One employee said black video editors felt they had to ask permission to get up even to go to the bathroom, when white producers didn’t. Two black editors, who spoke on the condition they not be named, said they’d felt that difference in treatment.

“Staff are always free to take breaks,” Ms. Coratti said. “They are just asked to give others a heads-up that they will be away to ensure that the video hub is not unoccupied in the event of unanticipated news developments.”

Credit…Alex Wong/Getty Images

A particularly striking issue arose from the coverage of the 2018 killing of a Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, by Saudi agents. Karen Attiah, Mr. Khashoggi’s editor, who rallied support for him on Twitter, on television and on The Post’s op-ed pages. But when it came time to apply for a Pulitzer Prize — an unscientific process that often serves as an X-ray of newsroom politics and power — Ms. Attiah’s work wasn’t among the 20 pieces submitted. The exclusion, she told me, “stung,” and surprised people who had been following The Post’s work closely.

“I was appalled,” said Mohamed Soltan, a former Egyptian political prisoner and friend of Mr. Khashoggi, who described Ms. Attiah as one of the key journalists on the story.

The Post’s editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, defended the decision in an email to me: “What you have to leave out in such situations, in this case including excellent work by Jackson Diehl, Karen Attiah and several others, is never easy.”

One thing that is clear is that The Post — which prides itself on providing not just jobs for its staff but long enriching careers — has lost some people any newsroom would want to keep, including Ms. Kelly and Wesley Lowery, who left to become a correspondent for a new “60 Minutes” project on the streaming service Quibi. Another is Soraya Nadia McDonald, who said she had hoped to stretch beyond blogging twice a day on pop culture, which she did at The Post, and wanted “permission and support to be ambitious.” She followed Mr. Merida to The Undefeated, where she was a Pulitzer finalist this year for “essays on theater and film that bring a fresh, delightful intelligence to the intersections of race and art.”

”I don’t think any of that would have been published there,” she said of The Post. “This place just seems to run off its best people.”

Credit…Laurent Chevalier

The last time Mr. Baron faced sustained complaints from his black staff was in 2016, after Mr. Merida left. Then, a group of black Posties sent Mr. Baron a memo making the case for a new deputy managing editor for diversity. Mr. Baron responded that The Post was relatively diverse compared with other newsrooms and that Ms. Grant had diversity issues in hand. “They represent the bulk of her work and the most rewarding aspects of her job.’’ Mr. Baron wrote in the memo. “I can’t imagine taking them away from her.”

This time, as The Post rushed to quell the kind of staff uprising that broke out at The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, that role suddenly held appeal to Mr. Baron. The Post announced on June 18 that it would hire for the role, and an internal email says the deadline for applying is July 3. Mr. Baron would vet applications himself, and he reached out to Shani O. Hilton, now a deputy managing editor at The Los Angeles Times who oversees The Times’s Washington bureau, its national coverage and its foreign desk, suggesting she apply.

“You may have seen the announcement of our new initiatives focused on race, ethnicity and identity,” Mr. Baron wrote to Ms. Hilton.

Ms. Hilton was not interested.

“I have seen over the years that diversity roles, particularly for black women, are the fastest way to be sidelined out of the most important conversations about coverage and hiring,” she wrote back. “The moniker lets other managers think the work of improving representation and newsroom culture doesn’t fall on them.”

Mr. Barr, one of the managing editors, said the job would, in fact, focus on coverage, even if it may not involve directly managing reporters. “This is a job that brings together the journalism and the leadership of the room,” he said.

That new editor will face questions about identity and journalism that extend beyond race. Two Post employees said editors have barred a Post reporter who publicly accused another journalist of sexual assault, Felicia Sonmez, from writing about the subject, citing the appearance of conflict of interest in her public comments. But it’s hard to imagine reporters are expected to be neutral on the issue of sexual assault — and the decision seems almost a caricature of the old idea that only people imagined to have no stake in an issue, often white men, can cover it.

It can, in this fraught moment, be difficult to untangle the forces driving the arguments about newsroom culture, objectivity and fairness. There are, no doubt, real disagreements  around the issue of how much journalists’ opinions, identities and experiences should shape coverage and be shared with their audience, and when “objectivity” simply means a dominant point of view.

But one clear strain in the tensions at The Post is simply, and sometimes hilariously, generational. In the happier times of early January 2020, the writer Maura Judkis blew up the internet with the article, “People are seeing ‘Cats’ while high out of their minds.” It featured irresistible testimonials from people who described watching the Andrew Lloyd Webber film while on marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms or other substances, such as: “The most terrifying experience of my life. I swear to God my soul escaped me.”

Mr. Baron, who had not seen the piece before it was published, erupted, two Post employees said, furious that the story was “glorifying recreational drug use,” one of them said.

Ms. Coratti said that Mr. Baron was not “upset” but did “advise that we should be careful not to be seen as celebrating or championing recreational use of drugs.” So the dispute seems to be less about journalistic principle than about whether you like edibles.

Even those who are frustrated by Mr. Baron’s strong-willed style of management speak with reverence of his obsessive commitment to reporting. Still, some of The Post’s challenges will probably be left to his successor. Mr. Baron has told colleagues he will be around through next year’s presidential inauguration, but perhaps not much longer. “Marty will give us a great deal of notice before he retires, and that notice has not been given,” Ms. Coratti said.

But what separates today’s cultural conflicts inside newsrooms from previous generations’ is that they now play out, in real time, in public on social media. And they offer a window into an industry, and society, struggling to find its moral footing around issues of racism.

That seemed a painful takeaway from the recent Post article about a white woman who came as Megyn Kelly-in-blackface to a Halloween party at the home of a Washington Post cartoonist in 2018. The woman lost her job when she told her employer about the coming article, which readers reacted to with outrage and questions about its news value.

“Was this ⁩story intended to be a spoof of our culture?” Patrick Gaspard, who served as ambassador to South Africa during the Obama administration and is now the president of the grant-making Open Society Foundations, asked on Twitter. “Did they really invest all this Investigatory resource on this piece to shame this average person who holds no discernible power?”

The story’s handling inside The Post underscores some of the paper’s underlying tensions.

After a guest at the party who believed the woman was a Post employee complained to the paper, editors assigned it to two trusted veterans: Sydney Trent, an experienced former editor, and Marc Fisher, a reporter whom The Post also turned to when someone had to write about Mr. Bezos’s explicit text messages. Mr. Fisher, who is white, reportedly told people he had doubts about the news value of the costume party story, though he led the reporting and writing. Ms. Trent, who is black, saw it as worth doing, three Post journalists said.

White senior editors, including Mr. Baron and Mr. Barr, signed off on the story and sided with Ms. Trent on some questions of tone. That played to old reflexes and new ones: They chose to address a complex moment with the most traditional reportorial form, and they trusted the judgment of a black reporter with a long history of writing and reporting about race. And while many Posties were conspicuously silent about the story on social media, Ms. Trent stood by it, and posted it to her Facebook page to a positive reception.

But black reporters are, of course, not monolithic, and many reporters of all backgrounds at The Post found the 3,000-word investigation puzzling. A random person “dressing like a famous lady in blackface at a party 2 years ago seems the least of our concerns right now,” Ms. Attiah tweeted.

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New Numbers Showing Coronavirus Spread Intrude on a White House in Denial

WASHINGTON — In the past week, President Trump hosted an indoor campaign rally for thousands of cheering, unmasked supporters even as a deadly virus spread throughout the country. He began easing up on restrictions that had been in place at the White House since Washington instituted a stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus in March, and he invited the president of Poland to a day of meetings. Then, on Thursday, he flew to Wisconsin to brag about an economic recovery that he said was just around the corner.

But by Friday, it was impossible to fully ignore the fact that the pandemic the White House has for weeks insisted was winding down has done just the opposite.

The rising numbers in Texas, Florida and Arizona made that clear, as well as the reality that those are all states where the president and his Republican allies had urged people to return to normal.

In a reflection of a growing sense of anxiety over the new numbers, Vice President Mike Pence and members of the coronavirus task force held a public briefing for the first time in two months. But ever loyal to Mr. Trump’s desire for good news, Mr. Pence tried to tiptoe around the statistics that Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the task force coordinator, pointed to, showing surging cases and hospitalizations in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states.

“We have made a truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward,” the vice president said. “We’ve all seen the encouraging news as we open up,” he added, dismissing any suggestion that the outbreaks across the South should prompt a return to the shutdowns that Mr. Trump so badly wants to be over. “The reality is we’re in a much better place.”

Refusing to wear a mask even as the health officials next to him did, Mr. Pence described the recent outbreaks across the country as little more than the product of increased testing among younger, more healthy Americans who should be less likely to get seriously ill from the coronavirus even as they spread it to others.

“Very encouraging news,” he said.

But Mr. Pence’s comments came against the backdrop of a very different message from Dr. Birx and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who warned of a broken testing system and said the outbreaks could engulf the country.

“If we don’t extinguish the outbreak, sooner or later, even ones that are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread,” he warned. “So we need to take that into account because we are all in it together. And the only way we’re going to end it is by ending it together.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_173956896_2def4fed-28e7-431d-8785-64b3b5526ba6-articleLarge New Numbers Showing Coronavirus Spread Intrude on a White House in Denial United States Politics and Government Tulsa (Okla) Trump, Donald J Texas Presidential Election of 2020 Pence, Mike Florida Fauci, Anthony S Disease Rates Coronavirus Reopenings Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Birx, Deborah L Arizona
Credit…Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

The return of the televised task force news conference — at which reporters were limited to only a handful of questions — revived the deep disconnect between Washington and the states where local officials spent Friday sounding the alarm and, in some cases, halting the reopening that Mr. Trump has so often encouraged.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has resisted rolling back the economic reopening, banned drinking in bars after saying that patrons were not abiding by social distancing rules. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican, went further, ordering all bars closed in the state. And Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, the largest county in Texas, reimposed stay-at-home orders on Friday, calling the rise in cases there “a catastrophic and unsustainable situation.”

Taken together, it was grim news about a pandemic that is still a threat to the public’s health, the nation’s economy and the president’s political future.

At a time when his poll numbers now call into question whether he can win a second term in November, Mr. Trump faces the prospect that his efforts to boost the economy by shrugging off the virus have backfired. Rather than head into the summer with a country on the mend, the president will be forced to explain how his response to the coronavirus contributed to a resurgence of it that may force some Americans back into a painful shutdown.

And yet Mr. Trump made no appearance at the task force briefing to demonstrate concern. Instead, an hour after it was over, the president addressed a panel of industry officials, political allies and White House economic advisers for a self-congratulatory session about how successful the economic recovery has been.

In taking his victory lap, Mr. Trump made no mention of the increase in cases around the country, underscoring a message that he posted on Twitter late Thursday night: “Our Economy is roaring back and will NOT be shut down. ‘Embers’ or flare ups will be put out, as necessary!”

All spring, Mr. Trump expressed his impatience and annoyance with the social distancing measures that various states, and his own aides, were taking.

He showed some concern when his personal valet, who serves his food, was diagnosed with the coronavirus and Mr. Pence’s press secretary tested positive. But since then, Mr. Trump has maintained a posture of denial and dismissiveness.

Credit…Callaghan O’Hare for The New York Times

He has been enabled by a handful of advisers, some of whom share his desire to focus on the economy and some of whom are afraid of the president’s reaction if they press him too hard about the public health crisis unfolding once again in large chunks of the country.

The White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has been among the chief proponents of keeping the administration’s public health experts largely out of sight, according to several senior administration officials.

But he is not alone. Even though they are aware that Mr. Trump’s mishandling of the virus presents a threat to his re-election, his campaign advisers agreed to his demand for the rally last Saturday at an arena in Tulsa, Okla., hoping the adulation he would receive there would snap the president out of a funk he has been in for months.

But at least eight staff members — including two Secret Service agents — tested positive for the virus before the rally, which was lightly attended and attracted none of the overflow crowd that Mr. Trump’s advisers had promised. Since then, dozens of campaign aides who were in Oklahoma for the event have been told to quarantine.

His advisers are now trying to figure out how to give Mr. Trump the traveling road show he wants while acknowledging the widespread fears about the coronavirus and allowing for proper health measures. At the same time, the White House has stopped employing the health checks it had been using for several weeks, like temperature checks for people entering the complex.

One of the states where the cases are rising drastically is Florida, where Mr. Trump insisted the Republican National Convention at the end of August be relocated to meet his desire for a large-scale event free of social distancing measures. As of now, Republicans hope to put on a show celebrating Mr. Trump, the first lady and Mr. Pence with three nights of crowds as large as 12,000 people in Jacksonville.

Some of the president’s political allies have signaled in recent days that they intend to take the threat of the virus more seriously.

Speaking to a group of health care workers in Morehead, Ky., Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, held up a simple face mask.

“Until we find a vaccine, these are really important,” the senator said. “This is not as complicated as a ventilator. This is a way to indicate that you want to protect others. We all need during this period until we find a vaccine to think of us as protecting not only ourselves but others.”

And Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, had a not-so-subtle message for Mr. Pence in a tweet she posted not long after the vice president refused to wear a mask during the task force briefing on Friday. Her tweet included a picture of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

“Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK,” she wrote, adding the hashtag: #realmenwearmasks.

But if anything, Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence and the rest of the senior members of the administration have seemed determined in the past 24 hours to embrace a previrus political reality — even if the medical facts contradict it.

On Thursday night, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, a move that, if successful, would bring a permanent end to the health insurance program popularly known as Obamacare and wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans.

In an 82-page brief, the administration joined Republican officials in Texas and 17 other states in arguing that in 2017, Congress, then controlled by Republicans, had rendered the law unconstitutional when it zeroed out the tax penalty for not buying insurance — the so-called individual mandate.

The president’s argument is sure to reignite Washington’s bitter political debate over access to affordable health care even as the accelerating pandemic has left millions of unemployed Americans without employer-provided health coverage.

Sheryl Stolberg contributed reporting.

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Facebook Adds Labels for Some Posts as Advertisers Pull Back

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Westlake Legal Group 26facebook-facebookJumbo Facebook Adds Labels for Some Posts as Advertisers Pull Back Zuckerberg, Mark E Voter Registration and Requirements Trump, Donald J Social Media Rumors and Misinformation Political Advertising Online Advertising Facebook Inc Corporate Social Responsibility Boycotts

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook rolled out measures on Friday to add more context to problematic political posts on its site, as the social network grappled with a growing outcry from some of its largest advertisers over the issue of hateful speech.

Facebook said it would attach labels to all posts across its network that discuss the subject of voting, in a move intended to hamper any disenfranchisement of voters in the November election. The labels will direct users to accurate voting information, the company said.

In addition, Facebook said it would expand its policies around hate speech and prohibit a wider category of hateful language in ads on the site. A post that violates Facebook’s rules but is from an important political figure, such as President Trump, will get a label saying it was deemed “newsworthy” enough to remain, the company said.

Facebook has been trying to deal with its role in spreading disinformation and divisive content. The Silicon Valley company has been under fire for allowing inaccurate or inflammatory posts from Mr. Trump to remain unaltered on its site, even as Twitter has attached fact checks and warnings to the same content on its service.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has said that he believes in supporting free speech and that posts from political leaders should not be policed because they are in the public’s interests to view and read. But critics have said Mr. Zuckerberg is simply allowing hateful speech to flourish on the social network with few limits.

In recent weeks, Facebook has faced increasing opposition to its position on hateful speech from one of its most important constituents: advertisers, which generate the bulk of its $70.7 billion in annual revenue. Brands like Eddie Bauer, Ben & Jerry’s and Magnolia Pictures have announced that they will cease buying advertising on Facebook until it reconsiders its stance.

On Friday, more companies said they would pull back from advertising on Facebook because of hateful speech remaining on the site. They included Unilever, the British-Dutch maker of consumer goods and one of Facebook’s largest advertisers. On Thursday, Verizon also said it was pausing its advertising on Facebook.

“The stakes are too high,” said Steve Lesnard, vice president of marketing at the North Face, a clothing brand that is participating in the ad boycott. “The platform needs to evolve.”

Facebook has also been grappling with an internal uproar over Mr. Trump’s inflammatory posts. Employees staged a virtual walkout this month in protest of Mr. Zuckerberg’s position of allowing the posts to remain. Some of the company’s earliest workers have also implored the chief executive to change his mind in an open letter.

Mr. Zuckerberg has refused to budge, though he said he and others on his policy team will review the company’s rules.

Since then, Facebook has made modifications that do not require it to pull down hateful speech but that give people more options with such posts. The company said this month that it would allow people in the United States to opt out of seeing social-issue, electoral or political ads from candidates or political action committees in their Facebook or Instagram feeds, for example.

On Friday, Mr. Zuckerberg said in a livestreamed address to his employees, “I’m committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues, because I believe we can make more progress when we hear each other.”

He added, “But I also stand against hate, or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and we’re committed to removing that no matter where it comes from.”

He said the definition of hate speech would grow to prohibit ads that claim “people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others.” He said the policy would expand to protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers “from ads suggesting these groups are inferior or expressing contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them.”

For posts on voting, the company said it would attach links to what Facebook calls its “voter information center,” an initiative it has pushed in recent weeks to provide users with more data on elections.

Yael Eisenstat, a visiting fellow at Cornell Tech, who in 2018 headed the elections integrity team for political ads at Facebook, said the changes “are important and good steps.”

“They should have come a long time ago, but clearly there has been an incredible amount of pressure,” she said.

She added that it was still an “open question” as to whether Facebook would “enforce these polices against the less clear-cut posts by the president that are intentionally sowing distrust in the electoral process.”

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‘TikTok Grandma’ Who Helped Tank Trump Rally Now Works for Biden

Last weekend, Mary Jo Laupp was enjoying a quiet night at a birthday party for her granddaughter — until she picked up her phone and her world flipped upside down.

A TikTok video she had made urging people to reserve tickets to President Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa, Okla. — and then not show up — had gone viral. Rally attendance had turned out to be far lower than billed by the Trump campaign, and TikTok teens and Korean pop music fans were taking a victory lap online. Ms. Laupp’s phone was blowing up with calls, messages and notifications.

Now Ms. Laupp, 51, who has become known as “TikTok Grandma,” has been recruited by the Biden Digital Coalition, a grass-roots organization, to put her TikTok skills to work supporting the presidential campaign of Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The coalition, made up of about 100 people — many of whom are alumni of other Democratic presidential campaigns — works to amplify pro-Biden messages and build engagement on social media. While it is not part of Mr. Biden’s campaign, it is in contact with Biden staff members. Coalition members, who are all volunteers, said they brought on Ms. Laupp for her ability to turn a viral moment into a call to action.

“Cleary, something she had done had worked out really well, so we wanted to harness that energy,” said Caitlin Gilbert, a coalition co-director.

Ms. Laupp, who works in the music department at her local high school in Fort Dodge, Iowa, said she was delighted to join the Biden group.

“The offer was completely unexpected, but I’m excited to be a part of a team that is embracing social media technology as a campaign tool,” she said on Friday.

She said her first task was to help build a “political hype house” for Mr. Biden, which is essentially a group of content creators on TikTok who will make pro-Biden videos and explore the viability of campaign organizing on the app.

“My platform has kind of become this bizarre gathering place for people who want to try to make change,” Ms. Laupp said. Young people are “absolutely energized and ready to go.”

Ms. Laupp, who has four children and six grandchildren, is an unlikely TikTok star. The entertainment app, which is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, is known for its audience of teens and even younger viewers and for making celebrities of 16-year-olds. Ms. Laupp, who is married to a minister, first started using the app in May.

Raised in a Christian household in Michigan and a graduate of the conservative Cornerstone University, Ms. Laupp said she had become more liberal over time. In the 2016 presidential election, she voted for the Libertarian Party nominee, Gary Johnson. This year, she volunteered for Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., in the Iowa caucuses.

“When asked to name the greatest commandment, Jesus mentioned two — love God with everything you have, and love everyone else,” Ms. Laupp said. “As it stands right now, one party does a far better job in showing love, compassion and empathy than the other.”

Denise Aptekar, who also worked on the Buttigieg campaign, said Ms. Laupp was responsible for getting young people at her high school engaged with it.

“She called herself a most unusual Pete supporter given the conservative social circles she grew up in,” Ms. Aptekar said.

The inspiration for the viral TikTok video came from a friend, Ms. Laupp said. For years, the friend had staged solo protests against political candidates she disliked by registering for their rallies under a fake name and not showing up.

Ms. Laupp wondered what would happen if masses of people did the same for the Trump rally in Tulsa. So she made a video urging viewers who “want to see this 19,000-seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now, and leave him standing there alone on the stage” — and was “overwhelmed” by the response.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_173955621_1a445b31-dde1-419c-af3b-2e31dac3253d-articleLarge ‘TikTok Grandma’ Who Helped Tank Trump Rally Now Works for Biden Trump, Donald J TikTok (ByteDance) Social Media Presidential Election of 2020 Political Advertising Laupp, Mary Jo Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden Digital Coalition

Since Mr. Trump’s rally, Ms. Laupp has been inundated with media requests. Teens have also contacted her online, offering suggestions for more ways to prank Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Some young people have been “clicking the daylights” out of Trump campaign ads on Facebook, she said, reasoning that the ads will expire after a certain number of clicks and cost money to be renewed. Others are loading up their digital shopping carts in the Trump campaign merchandise store and abandoning them in an attempt to temporarily reduce inventory.

One idea that gets “bounced around” quite often is another attempt at flooding a Trump rally with ticket reservations and then not showing up, she added. She said she was not sure the feat could be repeated.

“Can we really pull the same magic trick twice?” she asked.

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Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court to Strike Down Affordable Care Act

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late Thursday to overturn the Affordable Care Act — a move that, if successful, would bring a permanent end to the health insurance program popularly known as Obamacare and wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans.

In an 82-page brief submitted an hour before a midnight deadline, the administration joined Republican officials in Texas and 17 other states in arguing that in 2017, Congress, then controlled by Republicans, had rendered the law unconstitutional when it zeroed out the tax penalty for not buying insurance — the so-called individual mandate.

The administration’s argument, coming in the thick of an election season — as well as a pandemic that has devastated the economy and left millions of unemployed Americans without health coverage — is sure to reignite Washington’s bitter political debate over health care.

In his brief, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco argued that the health law’s two remaining central provisions are now invalid because Congress intended that all three work together.

“Nothing the 2017 Congress did demonstrates it would have intended the rest of the A.C.A. to continue to operate in the absence of these three integral provisions,” the brief said, using the abbreviation for the name of the health care law. “The entire A.C.A. thus must fall with the individual mandate.”

The Texas case is by far the most serious challenge to date for the 10-year-old health care law, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. The Supreme Court has already ruled on two legal challenges to the act, and both times it has left most of the law in place.

The court has not said when it will hear oral arguments, but they are most likely to take place in the fall, just as Americans are preparing to go to the polls in November.

Republicans have long said their goal is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but have yet to agree on an alternative. They are bracing for the possibility that the effort to overturn the health law will cost them. Joel White, a Republican strategist, said in a recent interview that he considered it “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”

Democrats, who view health care a winning issue and who reclaimed the House majority in 2018 on their promise to expand access and bring down costs, are trying to use the Supreme Court case to press their advantage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote for Monday on a measure to expand the health care law, in an effort to draw a sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans.

“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday night, after the administration’s brief was filed.

“If President Trump gets his way,” she added, “130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the A.C.A.’s lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely.”

The case the court will hear grows out of a lawsuit that Republican officials in 20 states, led by Texas, filed against the Department of Health and Human Services in February 2018, seeking to have the health law struck down. After Democratic victories in the 2018 midterm elections, two states, Wisconsin and Maine, withdrew.

When the case was argued in the trial court, the Trump administration, though a defendant, did not defend the law, siding instead with the plaintiffs. But unlike Texas and the other states, the administration argued at the time that only the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be struck down, but that the rest of the law, including its expansion of Medicaid, should survive.

Last year, however, the administration expanded its opposition, telling a federal appeals court that the entire law should be invalidated. In the meantime, another 17 states, led by California, intervened to defend the law, as did the House, now controlled by Democrats.

“Now is not the time to rip away our best tool to address very real and very deadly health disparities in our communities,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California said in a statement on Thursday, adding: “This fight comes at the most crucial time. The death toll from the coronavirus today is greater than the death toll of the Vietnam War.”

The Supreme Court has agreed to consider three legal questions in the case: whether Texas and two individual plaintiffs who have joined the suit have standing; whether Congress rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional; and, if it did, whether the rest of the law must fall with it.

If the court strikes down only the mandate, not much will change, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which wrote that the “practical result will be essentially the same as the A.C.A. exists today, without an enforceable mandate.” But if the court decides that all or part of the law must be overturned, it would affect “nearly every American in some way,” the foundation wrote.

The Texas suit has created great uncertainty for the roughly 20 million people covered by the law, as well as for millions of others who have lost their jobs and health coverage during the coronavirus pandemic. A recent analysis by the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress estimated that 23 million people would lose coverage if the Affordable Care Act is abolished — including nearly two million in Texas and more than four million in California.

The lawsuit has also drawn opposition from hospitals and doctors, including the American Medical Association. In a friend of the court brief filed last month, it wrote that striking down the law “at a time when the system is struggling to respond to a pandemic that has infected nearly 1.4 million Americans and killed more than 80,000 at the time of this writing would be a self-inflicted wound that could take decades to heal.”

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