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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 2)

Trump’s Go-It-Alone Stimulus Won’t Do Much to Lift the Recovery

Westlake Legal Group merlin_172393002_b15caa8d-bc81-4767-b320-0a71445d953c-facebookJumbo Trump’s Go-It-Alone Stimulus Won’t Do Much to Lift the Recovery United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stimulus (Economic) Schumer, Charles E Republican Party Pelosi, Nancy Meadows, Mark R (1959- ) McConnell, Mitch Executive Orders and Memorandums Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020)

The executive actions President Trump took on Saturday were pitched as a unilateral jolt for an ailing economy. But there is only one group of workers that seems guaranteed to benefit from them, at least right away: lawyers.

Mr. Trump’s measures include an eviction moratorium, a new benefit to supplement unemployment assistance for workers and a temporary delay in payroll tax liability for low- and middle-income workers. They could give renters a break and ease payments for some student loan borrowers. But they are likely to do little to deliver cash any time soon to Americans hit hard by the recession.

Even conservative groups have warned that suspending payroll tax collections is unlikely to translate into more money for workers. An executive action seeking to essentially create a new unemployment benefit out of thin air will almost certainly be challenged in court. And as Mr. Trump’s own aides concede, the orders will not provide any aid to small businesses, state and local governments or low- and middle-income workers.

If the actions signal the death of a congressional deal to provide that aid, economists warn, the economy will limp toward November without the fiscal support that hastened its recovery after its quick dive into a pandemic-induced recession.

The federal government’s aid to small businesses through the Payroll Protection Program was set to expire on Saturday. Executives, trade groups and business lobbyists had pushed hard for a second round of lending — along with new programs to get money to the businesses and industries hit hardest in the crisis — to be included in any congressional stimulus deal. Mr. Trump’s actions do nothing to help those companies.

Low- and middle-income families’ spending power was bolstered in the spring by direct payments of $1,200 per adult that were included in a relief bill Mr. Trump signed into law in March. Lawmakers were pushing for a second round of those checks in a legislative deal. Mr. Trump’s measures will not provide them.

The orders will not provide aid to states and local governments, whose tax revenues have plunged as a direct result of the contraction in economic activity brought on by the virus. Without more money from the federal government, states and local governments will almost certainly have to cut their budgets and lay off workers, increasing the ranks of the unemployed.

Supplemental unemployment benefits of $600 per week, which expired at the end of July, had been supporting consumer spending at a time when about 30 million Americans are unemployed. Mr. Trump’s memo seeking to repurpose other money, including federal disaster aid, to essentially create a $400-a-week bonus payment is likely to be challenged in court and is unlikely to deliver additional cash to laid-off workers any time soon. It, too, raises questions even if it is deemed legal — for instance, whether states that are already struggling with their budgets will be able to afford the 25 percent contribution that Mr. Trump’s memo says they will need to make toward the new benefit.

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, conceded many of those limitations in an interview set to air Sunday on Gray Television’s “Full Court Press With Greta Van Susteren.”

“The downside of executive orders is you can’t address some of the small business incidents that are there,” Mr. Meadows said. “You can’t necessarily get direct payments, because it has to do with appropriations. That’s something that the president doesn’t have the ability to do. So, you miss on those two key areas. You miss on money for schools. You miss on any funding for state and local revenue needs that may be out there.”

The actions will not even provide the payroll tax cut that Mr. Trump has long coveted as a centerpiece of stimulus efforts. They will simply suspend collection of the tax, as one of Mr. Trump’s longtime outside economic advisers, Stephen Moore, has recently urged him to do. Workers will still owe the tax, just not until next year. And while Mr. Moore has said that Mr. Trump could promise to sign a law that would permanently absolve workers of that liability, there is no guarantee that Congress would go along.

The uncertainty raises a host of questions for companies and workers, including a cascade of intricate tax questions, according to a recent analysis published by Joe Bishop-Henchman of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. (For example: If workers owe less payroll tax, they would owe slightly more income tax; would employers change, on the fly and in the middle of the year, how much income tax they withhold?) He concluded that most companies were unlikely to take any risks.

“Without detailed answers to some of these questions,” Mr. Bishop-Henchman wrote, “employers might just steer clear of all of it by continuing to do what they’ve always done, blunting the desired economic impact of reducing taxes.”

Outside of Mr. Moore and the conservative group FreedomWorks, which cheered the payroll tax memorandum even before it was announced, few economists expressed confidence that Mr. Trump’s actions would change the trajectory of an economic recovery that has slowed in the last two months as the virus surged anew in many parts of the nation.

Instead, analysts and lawmakers saw politics at play. Republicans said Mr. Trump was forcing Democrats back to the bargaining table and showing Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, that they had overplayed their hands in pushing for a $3.4 trillion aid package.

“I am glad that President Trump is proving that while Democrats use laid-off workers as political pawns, Republicans will actually look out for them,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Saturday.

But if negotiations falter now and aid remains scarce for people and businesses, Mr. Trump will be making a political bet: that it is better to tell voters he tried to help the economy than to have actually helped it. Mr. Trump is the president, and he has happily claimed credit for the economy’s performance.

If job growth slows further, and millions of unemployed Americans struggle to make ends meet, he will need to make the case for why the symbolism of acting alone won out over the farther-reaching effects of cutting a deal.

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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Sidestepping Congress, Trump Signs Executive Measures for Pandemic Relief

Westlake Legal Group 08virus-briefing-trumplede-facebookJumbo Sidestepping Congress, Trump Signs Executive Measures for Pandemic Relief Trump, Donald J Senate Schumer, Charles E Pelosi, Nancy House of Representatives Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

President Trump took executive action on Saturday to circumvent Congress and try to extend an array of federal pandemic relief, resorting to a legally dubious set of edicts whose impact was unclear, as negotiations over an economic recovery package appeared on the brink of collapse.

It was not clear what authority Mr. Trump had to act on his own on the measures or what immediate effect, if any, they would have, given that Congress controls federal spending. But his decision to sign the measures — billed as a federal eviction ban, a payroll tax suspension, and relief for student borrowers and the unemployed — reflected the failure of two weeks of talks between White House officials and top congressional Democrats to strike a deal on a broad relief plan as crucial benefits have expired with no resolution in sight.

Mr. Trump’s move also illustrated the heightened concern of a president staring down re-election in the middle of a historic recession and a pandemic, and determined to show voters that he was doing something to address the crises. But despite Mr. Trump’s assertions on Saturday that his actions “will take care of this entire situation,” the orders also leave a number of critical bipartisan funding proposals unaddressed, including providing assistance to small businesses, billions of dollars to schools ahead of the new school year, aid to states and cities and a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans.

“Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have chosen to hold this vital assistance hostage,” Mr. Trump said, savaging the two top Democrats during a news conference at his private golf club in New Jersey, his second in two days. A few dozen club guests were in attendance, and the president appeared to revel in their laughter at his jokes denouncing his political rivals.

“We’ve had it,” he added, repeatedly referring to his directives as “bills,” a term reserved for legislation passed by Congress. He accused the Democrats of holding up negotiations with demands for provisions that appeared to had little to do with the pandemic, though he made little mention of similar, seemingly unrelated items — including money for a new building for the F.B.I. — in the $1 trillion proposal Republicans unveiled last month.

Democrats have refused to agree to that plan, pressing instead for a far more expansive economic relief package, at least twice as large, that would extend $600-per-week enhanced federal jobless aid payments the Republicans are seeking to reduce, if revived, and provide billions more for schools, states and cities and food aid.

It was unclear whether the effort to bypass Congress would kill the already-stalled negotiations altogether, though Mr. Trump told reporters he would be open to continuing the discussions and Democratic leaders responded by demanding that the talks resume.

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Updated 2020-08-08T12:04:28.992Z

“We’re disappointed that instead of putting in the work to solve Americans’ problems, the president instead chose to stay on his luxury golf course to announce unworkable, weak and narrow policy announcements to slash the unemployment benefits that millions desperately need and endanger seniors’ Social Security and Medicare,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said in a statement. They called on Republicans to “return to the table” to continue negotiating.

It was unclear whether the aid would even materialize if lawsuits are filed challenging their legality. Mr. Trump walked away from the lectern after just a few questions from reporters about his claim that he had the ability to circumvent Congress.

For Mr. Trump, signing the orders was a familiar tactic from a president who has portrayed himself as the ultimate deal-maker, but in practice has shown little interest in or skill for negotiating with Congress, bristling against the limitations of his power. It recalled his decision in 2018 to shut down the government over his demand for funding for a wall on the southwestern border, his signature campaign promise, in an effort to force Democrats to agree to the money. They never did, and the president ultimately declared a national emergency to divert other federal money to fund it himself, a move that drew legal challenges.

Shortly after the event on Saturday, the White House released texts of the measures — one executive order and three memorandums — which included several flourishes that read like political documents. One invoked the Stafford Act, a federal disaster relief statute, to divert money from a homeland security fund and allow states to use money already allocated by Congress to help people who have been laid off amid the coronavirus pandemic, effectively allowing them to apply for disaster relief to cover lost wages. The mechanism would pull from the same fund that covers natural disasters in the middle of what is expected to be a highly active hurricane season.

Mr. Trump claimed that the action would provide $400 weekly in enhanced unemployment benefits, $200 less than laid-off workers had been receiving under benefits that lapsed at the end of July. But with states being directed to pick up $100 of that aid, the federal amount would be no more than $300 a week.

It was unclear how quickly states, whose unemployment systems had already been overburdened by the record numbers of new jobless claims, would be able to adjust to a new system, or whether they will have the resources to supplement an additional benefit.

“If they don’t, they don’t — that’s going to be their problem,” Mr. Trump said.

He also retroactively signed a memorandum suspending the payroll tax from Aug. 1 through the end of 2020, though the order would just defer the payment of the taxes without congressional action. (Mr. Trump vowed that if re-elected in November, he would extend the deferral and the payments.)

If Mr. Trump tried to make a payroll tax cut permanent, it would have drastic effect on the funding of Social Security, which he has previously vowed not to cut.

The memorandum that Mr. Trump called a moratorium on evictions did not revive the expired moratorium that was part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law. Instead, it said that federal policy was to minimize evictions during the pandemic and that officials should identify statutory ways to help homeowners and renters.

Long before taking office, Mr. Trump criticized Barack Obama for what he described as an overreliance on executive orders to accomplish policy goals that had been blocked by Congress, but in acting unilaterally, Mr. Trump was vastly expanding the use of such measures.

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Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff and a vicious critic of Mr. Obama’s actions while a North Carolina congressman, was among those who recommended that Mr. Trump issue the orders, even as he conceded that an agreement with lawmakers would be more potent for the American economy.

“This is not a perfect answer — we’ll be the first ones to say that,” Mr. Meadows said on Friday, after he and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, emerged from another meeting with congressional Democrats with no deal. “But it is all that we can do and all the president can do within the confines of his executive power and we’re going to encourage him to do it.”

Mr. Trump had told reporters on Friday evening that he would probably sign executive orders to provide economic relief next week if no compromise could be reached with Democrats, but by Saturday morning, officials were already drafting them and planning an afternoon news conference.

After signing the measures, Mr. Trump handed out the black Sharpies he had used, embossed with his name, to members of his golf club standing at the back of the room.

The moves could face legal challenges. And they are unlikely to add much additional fuel to the economic recovery, which has slowed in the summer months as infections surged again in large pockets of the country.

The Labor Department reported on Friday that the economy created 1.8 million jobs in July, a sharp slowdown from May and June, and economic forecasters expect further slowing in August. Many economists have warned that supplemental unemployment benefits, which expired at the end of July, had been propping up consumer spending at a time when about 30 million Americans are unemployed.

Mr. Trump’s memorandum seeking to repurpose other money to cover lost wages is unlikely to deliver additional cash to laid-off workers any time soon. And while some of Mr. Trump’s outside advisers, including the conservative economists Arthur B. Laffer and Stephen Moore, have urged him to suspend payroll tax collections, other economists say the move is unlikely to bolster workers’ paychecks because it is only a delay in tax liability. Many companies are likely to continue withholding the taxes in order to remit them next year on workers’ behalf, they say.

It is an idea that Republican lawmakers have also resisted.

It remains unclear what effect Mr. Trump’s actions will have on the negotiations, either scuttling them altogether or serving as an accelerant toward ending the impasse, which has lasted for more than two weeks.

“They don’t make that much difference,” Ms. Pelosi told members of the Democratic caucus on a private call Saturday afternoon, according to three people familiar with her remarks. She questioned whether Mr. Trump genuinely wanted to reach an agreement, telling lawmakers that the president cared about the markets and having his “name on the letter when those direct payments go out.”

Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.

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The Voting Will End Nov. 3. The Legal Battle Probably Won’t.

Westlake Legal Group 08DC-VOTING-facebookJumbo The Voting Will End Nov. 3. The Legal Battle Probably Won’t. Voter Fraud (Election Fraud) Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Florida Bush, George W absentee voting

The stormy once-in-a-lifetime Florida recount battle that polarized the nation in 2000 and left the Supreme Court to decide the presidency may soon look like a high school student council election compared with what could be coming after this November’s election.

Imagine not just another Florida, but a dozen Floridas. Not just one set of lawsuits but a vast array of them. And instead of two restrained candidates staying out of sight and leaving the fight to surrogates, a sitting president of the United States unleashing ALL CAPS Twitter blasts from the Oval Office while seeking ways to use the power of his office to intervene.

The possibility of an ugly November — and perhaps even December and January — has emerged more starkly in recent days as President Trump complains that the election will be rigged and Democrats accuse him of trying to make that a self-fulfilling prophesy.

With about 85 days until Nov. 3, lawyers are already in court mounting pre-emptive strikes and preparing for the larger, scorched-earth engagements likely to come. Like the Trump campaign, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign and its network of Democratic support groups are stocking up on lawyers, and Democrats are gaming out worst-case scenarios, including how to respond if Mr. Trump prematurely declares victory or sends federal officers into the party’s strongholds as an intimidation tactic.

The emerging battle is the latest iteration of the long-running dispute over voting rights, one shaped by the view that higher participation will improve the Democratic Party’s chances. Republicans, under cover of dubious or unfounded claims about widespread fraud, are trying to prevent steps that would make it easier for more people to vote and Democrats are pressing more aggressively than ever to secure ballot access and expand the electorate.

But that clash has been vastly complicated this year by the challenge of holding a national election in the middle of a deadly pandemic, with a greater reliance on mail-in voting that could prolong the counting in a way that turns Election Day into Election Week or Election Month. And the atmosphere has been inflamed by a president who is already using words like “coup,” “fraud” and “corrupt” to delegitimize the vote even before it happens.

The battle is playing out on two tracks: defining the rules about how the voting will take place, and preparing for fights over how the votes should be counted and contesting the outcome.

“The big electoral crisis arises from the prospect of hundreds of thousands of ballots not being counted in decisive states until a week after the election or more,” said Richard H. Pildes, a constitutional scholar at New York University School of Law.

If the candidate who appears ahead on election night ends up losing later on, he said, it will fuel suspicion, conspiracy theories and polarization. “I have no doubt the situation will be explosive,” he said.

Some flash points have already emerged:

  • A long-troubled Postal Service, now run by a Trump megadonor and seemingly overwhelmed by the prospect of delivering tens of millions more votes cast by mail with an administration resistant to providing substantial new funding.

  • Concern among Democrats that Mr. Trump or Attorney General William P. Barr could use their bully pulpits to raise loud enough alarms about voter fraud to lead sympathetic state and local officials to slow or block adverse results.

  • Fights over whether mailed ballots should be counted if received by Election Day or simply postmarked by Election Day, not to mention what to do if the post office does not postmark them at all.

  • Fights over the use of drop boxes to return ballots and the number of polling places for in-person voting amid the risk of disease.

  • Fights over whether witnesses should still be required for absentee votes in a socially distant moment and what to do if signatures do not match those on file.

Already, by Mr. Pildes’s count, party organizations, campaigns and interest groups have filed 160 lawsuits across the country trying to shape the rules of the election. About 40 have been filed in 17 states by Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, some in response to Democratic lawsuits, as part of an expansive $20 million litigation campaign against policies making it easier to vote on the grounds that they could lead to fraud.

“See you in Court!” Mr. Trump tweeted a few days ago to Nevada, which just passed universal mail-in balloting legislation, under which the state sends a mail-in ballot to every registered voter.

“They are just really efforts to throw tacks in front of the tires to make it so states can’t run their elections this time,” said Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice and a former aide to President Bill Clinton.

Democrats and their allies, led by Marc E. Elias, the general counsel of the Democratic National Committee, are seeking to expand voting options, particularly through mail-in voting. They have active litigation in numerous battleground states, pursuing relief on deadlines, signature and witness requirements, among others.

Republicans said their own court efforts were aimed at preventing Democrats from changing the rules in the middle of the game.

“People are viewing it as an attack on vote-by-mail,” said Justin Riemer, the chief counsel for the Republican National Committee. But in fact, he said, “it’s by and large protecting the safeguards that are in place.”

Mr. Trump, who also made unfounded claims about fraud in the 2016 election even though he won, has signaled that he will not hesitate to go back to court after Election Day if he does not like the result. Unlike in 2000, when the Justice Department largely stayed on the sidelines, Democrats worry that Mr. Barr will intervene with civil suits, investigations or public statements, casting doubt on the result if Mr. Trump appears to lose. And some Democrats say they are not sure how Mr. Trump would respond, with the presidency on the line, to a court ruling against him.

Some Democrats even express fear that Mr. Trump would send federal agents into the streets as he did in recent weeks in Portland, Ore. Democrats have game-planned situations in which Mr. Trump deploys immigration officers into Hispanic neighborhoods to intimidate citizens shortly before the election and suppress turnout.

“It is very, very much a concern,” said Alex Padilla, the secretary of state of California.

Mr. Trump’s advisers dismiss such talk as overheated partisan messaging. Justin Clark, the president’s deputy campaign manager, said states like California and Nevada trying to expand mail-in voting on the fly were the ones setting the stage for a chaotic election.

“Rushing to implement universal vote-by-mail leads to delays in counts, delays in results and uncertainty about who won an election,” he said.

It took six weeks for the New York authorities to determine the winners of two House Democratic congressional primaries as they struggled with 10 times the normal number of absentee ballots, a case study in the potential for a lengthy count in the fall even if not an example of fraud as Mr. Trump has falsely claimed.

Mr. Clark is one of the party’s top warriors on election fraud fights. In a recording from 2019, he told fellow Republicans: “Traditionally, it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places. Let’s start protecting our voters.”

Republicans, he said, should be more aggressive. “Let’s start playing offense a little bit,” he said then. “That’s what you’re going to see in 2020. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.”

He later said he was referring to false accusations made against Republicans. A federal judge in 2018 lifted a consent decree in place since 1982 that barred the Republican National Committee from certain so-called ballot security efforts.

Asked about those comments, Mr. Clark said: “Democrats have always accused Republicans of voter suppression. The fact of the matter is all Democrats have done this year is pushed crazy voting laws.”

The Trump team has also tried to halt another pillar of absentee voting — the drop box. In 2018 in Colorado, one of five states that already votes nearly entirely by mail, 75 percent of ballots were returned through a drop box or at a polling place. In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign sued against expanding the use of drop boxes, an action that has concerned election officials across the country.

Jena Griswold, the secretary of state of Colorado, said the president’s attacks on the Postal Service and his refusal to devote enough resources to fix its problems showed his disingenuous motives.

“You do all that and then you attack drop boxes, the alternative to voting safely, it’s a pattern of voter suppression,” she said. “It’s a pattern of voter suppression and I just think it’s really reprehensible.”

Others are looking to head off disqualifying ballots over procedural issues like postmarks and the date of receipt. “Voting shouldn’t be a game of gotcha,” said Ann Jacobs, the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The Help America Vote Act, passed on large bipartisan votes in 2002 in response to the Florida recount, was meant to help states upgrade and standardize voting procedures. But it gives the attorney general the power to file civil suits to enforce its provisions and some critics said Mr. Barr could use that to step in.

Some Democrats said they were less worried about direct intervention by Mr. Trump or Mr. Barr, but said they could use their positions to prod sympathetic state and local officials to block votes while fostering a narrative undercutting the credibility of a vote count going against the president.

“The president has very little, if any, power with how elections are conducted,” said Mr. Elias, the Democratic lawyer. “Trump’s power is that he has no shame and that shamelessness has infected his entire political party.”

He added, “You cannot imagine the party of George Bush or of John McCain or Mitt Romney or even Reince Priebus saying out loud the things Donald Trump screams out loud on Twitter, in the Oval Office and the Rose Garden on daily and weekly basis.”

With the prospect of an extended and messy count lasting long past Election Day, new attention is focusing on deadlines set by federal law. Under the so-called safe harbor provision, states have until Dec. 8 to resolve disputes over the results, meaning only five weeks — the same deadline that led to the Florida recount being called off in 2000 with George W. Bush in the lead.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, warning about “a nightmare scenario for our nation,” introduced legislation on Thursday extending that deadline to Jan. 1, giving states three-and-a-half more weeks to count. The Electoral College would then meet Jan. 2 instead of Dec. 14, still in time to provide their results to Congress to ratify the outcome on Jan. 6 as scheduled.

In the end, it may depend on how close the count really is.

If “it’s clear one candidate or the other has a clear majority in the Electoral College, then I don’t think there’s much Trump could do if he’s the loser except to complain,” said Trevor Potter, the president of the Campaign Legal Center and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “But if it’s close, then I think there is the potential for lots of mischief.”

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How Kristi Noem, Mt. Rushmore and Trump Fueled Speculation About Pence’s Job

WASHINGTON — Since the first days after she was elected governor of South Dakota in 2018, Kristi Noem had been working to ensure that President Trump would come to Mount Rushmore for a fireworks-filled July 4 extravaganza.

After all, the president had told her in the Oval Office that he aspired to have his image etched on the monument. And last year, a White House aide reached out to the governor’s office with a question, according to a Republican official familiar with the conversation: What’s the process to add additional presidents to Mount Rushmore?

So last month, when the president arrived in the Black Hills for the star-spangled spectacle he had pined for, Ms. Noem made the most of it.

Introducing Mr. Trump against the floodlit backdrop of his carved predecessors, the governor played to the president’s craving for adulation by noting that in just three days more than 125,000 people had signed up for only 7,500 seats; she likened him to Theodore Roosevelt, a leader who “braves the dangers of the arena”; and she mimicked the president’s rhetoric by scorning protesters who she said were seeking to discredit the country’s founders.

In private, the efforts to charm Mr. Trump were more pointed, according to a person familiar with the episode: Ms. Noem greeted him with a four-foot replica of Mount Rushmore that included a fifth presidential likeness: his.

But less than three weeks later, Ms. Noem came to the White House with far less fanfare — to meet not with Mr. Trump, but with Vice President Mike Pence. Word had circulated through the Trump administration that she was ingratiating herself with the president, fueling suspicions that there might have been a discussion about her serving as his running mate in November. Ms. Noem assured Mr. Pence that she wanted to help the ticket however she could, according to an official present.

She never stated it directly, but the vice president found her message clear: She was not after his job.

There is no indication Mr. Trump wants to replace Mr. Pence. Mr. Trump last month told Fox News that he’s sticking with Mr. Pence, whom he called a “friend.”

Yet with polls showing the president trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Republicans at risk of being shut out of power in Congress, a host of party leaders have begun eyeing the future, maneuvering around a mercurial president.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas was in New Hampshire late last month, Senator Rick Scott of Florida is angling to take over the Senate Republican campaign arm to cultivate donors, and Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming is defending Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading expert on infectious disease, while separating herself from Mr. Trump on some national security issues.

At the same time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is attempting to shore up his conservative credentials by pushing a hard line on China, and Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky are attempting to reclaim their standing as fiscal hawks by loudly opposing additional spending on coronavirus relief.

Drawing less attention, but working equally hard to burnish her national profile, is Ms. Noem. The governor, 48, has installed a TV studio in her state capitol, become a Fox News regular and started taking advice from Mr. Trump’s former 2016 campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who still has the president’s ear.

Next month, she’ll address a county Republican dinner in Iowa.

“There seems like there might be some interest on her part — it certainly gets noticed,” Jon Hansen, a Republican state representative in South Dakota, said of Ms. Noem’s positioning for national office.

Her efforts have paid off, as evidenced by the news-driving celebration at Mount Rushmore. Yet Ms. Noem’s attempts to raise her profile have not been without complications. And they illustrate the risks in political maneuvering with a president who has little restraint when it comes to confidentiality, and a White House that shares his obsession about, and antenna for, palace intrigue.

To the surprise of some of her own advisers, Ms. Noem flew with Mr. Trump to Washington on Air Force One late in the evening after his Mount Rushmore speech. Joined by Mr. Lewandowski, she and the president spoke for over an hour privately during the flight — a fact that Mr. Trump and some of his aides soon shared with other Republicans, according to officials familiar with his disclosure.

An aide to Ms. Noem, Maggie Seidel, said she did not raise the vice presidency with Mr. Trump. Mr. Lewandowski, who is a paid adviser to the Pence-aligned Great America PAC, also denied that he or the governor ever raised the subject of replacing Mr. Pence on the ticket.

Mr. Lewandowski, in a brief interview, described Ms. Noem as a star who “has a huge future in Republican politics.”

A White House official laughed at the notion that Mr. Trump is open to replacing Mr. Pence, a move that, among other things, would exude desperation. And regarding the phone call about adding the president’s image to Mt. Rushmore, the official noted that it is a federal, not state, monument.

Still, word of the Air Force One conversation quickly reached White House officials, including those in Mr. Pence’s office.

A short time later, Ms. Noem was jetting back to the capital, this time in less grand fashion, after requesting a meeting with Mr. Pence.

White House aides kept Ms. Noem from meeting with Mr. Trump again, one person familiar with the planning said. But Mr. Pence’s office gladly put his session with the governor on his public schedule and the vice president tweeted about it afterward. Ms. Noem’s aides, hoping to tamp down questions about the second trip, emphasized that she had also met with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies while she was in the capital.

One official close to the vice president said that Ms. Noem did not discuss her Air Force One flight with Mr. Pence but used the conversation to say she wanted to help the campaign however she could. The official suggested that the vice president’s team has an opportunity for her in mind: helping Mr. Pence prepare to debate whichever woman Mr. Biden selects as his running mate.

Yet one senior Trump adviser has recently lamented to others that Mr. Trump could have boosted his re-election campaign had he replaced Mr. Pence with a woman, according to people familiar with the conversations. One potential candidate mentioned was Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador who is close to the president’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

However, Mr. Pence has been an unstinting ally of Mr. Trump, and the vice president retains a number of allies in the president’s orbit.

“I think we’ll win South Dakota either way,” Brian Ballard, a lobbyist close to Mr. Trump, said.

That these kinds of speculative conversations about a different running mate have taken place at all, though, illustrates the depth of frustration in Mr. Trump’s inner circle over his political fortunes.With early voting starting in less than two months in some states, the president’s ineffectual response to the coronavirus has alienated voters and made the election primarily a referendum on him.

Speculation has long lingered in Republican circles that Mr. Trump could swap out Mr. Pence for Ms. Haley, partly because of the president’s own musings about it.

For a time in 2018, Mr. Trump queried people about Mr. Pence’s loyalty. And officials in the administration, including some close to Mr. Pence, said they believed that Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump were angling to replace him with Ms. Haley.

In his memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” the former national security adviser John R. Bolton recounts how, flying to Iraq on Christmas night in 2018, the president asked him for his opinion on jettisoning Mr. Pence.

Ms. Noem, the daughter of a rancher who took over her family’s property after her father died, has insisted that she has little appetite to return to Washington, where she served as South Dakota’s sole House member for eight years before becoming governor.

“She’s focused on being the governor of South Dakota,” said Ms. Seidel, her senior adviser.

The president’s transition team contacted her about interviewing for a cabinet post after the 2016 election, but she was already planning to run for governor then. Some of her allies believe she’d also be open to the interior or agricultural secretary roles in a second Trump term ahead of the 2024 race.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163867125_33a1e450-da99-4ce7-9cb4-a31f0c45c68c-articleLarge How Kristi Noem, Mt. Rushmore and Trump Fueled Speculation About Pence’s Job Vice Presidents and Vice Presidency (US) Trump, Donald J South Dakota Presidential Election of 2020 Pence, Mike Noem, Kristi Mount Rushmore National Memorial (SD) Lewandowski, Corey (1975- ) Haley, Nikki R
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Ms. Noem’s poll numbers have increased after a difficult first year in office. But to some of her aides, Mr. Lewandowski, a hard-charging New Englander, has been a disruptive presence in Pierre, South Dakota’s small state capital. He appeared as a guest speaker at one luncheon with cabinet officials and pressed the governor’s appointees to make a more aggressive case for her, irritating the state officials, according to a person briefed on the events.

The governor is now on her third chief of staff because the last one, Joshua Shields, left in part because of the increased role of Mr. Lewandowski, according to South Dakota Republicans.

Mr. Lewandowski has sought opportunities that could benefit both Mr. Trump and Ms. Noem. He recently discussed with the president’s advisers sending Mr. Trump to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., where there would be a big crowd and where the two might have appeared together again; Mr. Trump’s aides did not want him in the same politically safe state twice in two months.

Ms. Noem has been a steadfast ally of Mr. Trump and has mirrored his handling of the virus.

She has pushed for schools to reopen for in-person classes, denounced mask mandates and had South Dakota participate in a study on hydroxychloroquine, the malaria treatment Mr. Trump has trumpeted.

It was her star turn at Mount Rushmore, though, that has gotten Republicans talking and been a boon to South Dakota tourism, the state’s second-largest industry.

Recognizing the president’s immense interest in the monument, Ms. Noem worked with his Interior Department to ensure there would be fireworks for the celebration, a longstanding priority for Mr. Trump. There had been no fireworks there for the previous decade because of environmental and fire-risk concerns.

In the weeks leading up to the event, Ms. Noem went on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News to make clear she was expecting to “have a large event” for the president and would not require social distancing or masks.

Then, as the president sat watching her remarks in a bunting-wrapped box just offstage, she praised America as a place where someone who was “just a farm kid” could become “the first female governor of South Dakota.”

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Pelosi Is Playing Hardball on Coronavirus Relief. She Thinks She’ll Win.

WASHINGTON — As the clock ticked down Thursday on a self-imposed deadline for a breakthrough in coronavirus relief talks with no deal in sight, Jim Cramer, the brash CNBC host, had an on-air proposal for Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

Why not try invoking the memory of the late civil rights icon John Lewis to try to persuade Republicans to agree to help the most vulnerable Americans, including “minorities” struggling to weather a pandemic and a recession?

Ms. Pelosi flashed a forced smile. “Perhaps,” she deadpanned, “you mistook them for somebody who gives a damn for what you just described.”

The comment — unusually coarse for Ms. Pelosi, 80, who was educated by nuns — was part insult, part dare and part slogan for a woman who believes she has the upper hand in crisis negotiations and does not intend to lose it. And it reflected how, two weeks into stalled talks over another round of federal assistance to prop up a battered economy, and less than three months before Election Day, the speaker of the House is going for the jugular.

She has publicly heaped disdain on her White House negotiating partners as she plays hardball in daily private meetings in her Capitol office suite, convinced that she has political leverage to force Republicans to agree to far more generous aid than they have offered. She has been unwilling to bow to the Trump administration’s demands for a much narrower bill or a stopgap solution.

“We’re not doing short-term action, because if we do short-term action, they’re not going to do anything else,” she said of Republicans Friday afternoon during an interview in her office, after negotiators blew past their own deadline without a deal. “That’s it — like a sucker punch, you know — ‘Let us just do this little bit,’ and then you know what? We’ll never see them again.”

Instead, Ms. Pelosi is pushing for a sweeping package that includes billions of dollars for state and local governments and schools, food and rental assistance, and additional aid for election security and the Postal Service.

All the while, Ms. Pelosi has made it clear that she does not much trust President Trump’s advisers — she has taken to asking negotiators to turn over their electronic devices before entering sessions in her office — nor does she think highly of their ability to forge a compromise. “You’ve never done a deal,” she has reminded Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff and former congressman, according to a person familiar with the talks who described them on the condition of anonymity.

Ms. Pelosi’s strategy carries substantial political risk and real collateral damage, at least in the short term. In holding out for a sweeping relief package, Democrats have swatted away Republican pleas to pass weeklong extensions of the expired $600-per-week in extra federal jobless pay that millions of Americans have relied upon, drawing Republican charges of obstruction.

The impasse has prompted Mr. Trump to threaten unilateral action in the coming days to provide relief on his own — though it remains unclear if he has the legal authority to do so. And it has sown uneasiness even among some rank-and-file Democrats, particularly those who represent politically competitive districts and are eager to show voters their party is capable of bipartisan compromise on pressing issues.

“We cannot let desperate Americans and small businesses be used as pawns — even in the face of a president and Senate majority leader who appear incapable of empathy,” said Representative Dean Phillips, a first-term Democrat from Minnesota.

Republicans have been far sharper in their criticism of her tactics, blaming Ms. Pelosi for the lapse in jobless aid even though she included a full extension of the payments in her May legislation, which Republicans are trying to make deep cuts to.

“Speaker Pelosi has refused, again and again and again, to do what’s right for the country, to work together in a bipartisan way to come up with a package to help provide relief in terms of Covid and the economic crisis,” Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican, told Fox News Radio last week.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 08DC-Pelosi2-articleLarge Pelosi Is Playing Hardball on Coronavirus Relief. She Thinks She’ll Win. United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stimulus (Economic) Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T Meadows, Mark R (1959- ) Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020)
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

But Ms. Pelosi, in her second term as speaker and arguably as powerful as she has ever been, has seen little reason to change course. Instead, with public opinion she says is in favor of expansive government intervention and polls showing Republicans up and down the ballot sagging under the weight of Mr. Trump’s coronavirus response, the speaker and Democrats have been emboldened to press their advantage.

“At the core of her negotiations are values, and that steers her right,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader. “It’s real. What she says out there, she says inside.”

Ms. Pelosi’s hand has been strengthened by the divisions among Republicans, many of whom do not want to provide any additional aid, meaning that the White House will need broad support from Democrats to push through any stimulus plan.

Ms. Pelosi set the stage for the dynamic in May, when — quick on the heels of the enactment of nearly $3 trillion in pandemic aid bills — she corralled the Democratic votes needed to approve an additional $3.4 trillion in relief. Senate Republicans waited until late last month to unveil their own $1 trillion plan, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly undercut their position.

White House officials say it is Ms. Pelosi who has hamstrung the talks.

“It’s interesting just to hear the comments from Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi saying that they want a deal,” Mr. Meadows declared on Friday, after negotiations broke up with no resolution and Ms. Pelosi addressed the news media. “Their actions do not indicate the same thing.”

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said Ms. Pelosi and Democrats were motivated not by substantive policy differences, but by politics. They “still think it’s politically beneficial for nothing to happen,” he said.

It is not the first time that Ms. Pelosi has found herself with considerable leverage in a high-stakes negotiation with Republicans at a time of crisis. During the financial meltdown of 2008, as Republicans balked at a $700 billion bailout package that George W. Bush’s administration had requested to stave off further financial ruin, Henry M. Paulson Jr., then the Treasury secretary, famously went down on one knee at the White House to beg Ms. Pelosi not to pull her support from the plan.

“It’s not me blowing this up. It’s the Republicans,” Ms. Pelosi told him then, adding bitingly, “I didn’t know you were Catholic.”

This time, though, it has become progressively less clear whether Mr. Trump — who has been more an irritant than an active participant in the negotiations — even wants the deal that he needs Ms. Pelosi to deliver.

“Up and until now, she has rationally assumed there was some self-interest on the part of Trump that would lead to a deal,” said former Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, who joined Ms. Pelosi that day at the White House in 2008. “If, in fact, that turns out not to be the case, you have a whole new ballgame to think about.”

Though she acknowledges political differences with Mr. Bush, Ms. Pelosi is far more blunt about her disdain for Mr. Trump, with whom she has developed a toxic relationship.

“This president is the biggest failure in our history,” she said on Friday. “I can’t think of anybody worse.”

He appears to return the sentiment, referring again to Ms. Pelosi this week as “Crazy Nancy.”

While she said she has had productive negotiations with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary — so much so that Mr. Mnuchin has felt compelled to privately answer complaints from Republicans that he has given too much — she is more skeptical of Mr. Meadows, who made his name in Congress blowing up bipartisan deals from the right, not constructing them. Talks have been “less efficient” than the discussions that led to the first phases of pandemic relief, she said.

“Mark Meadows is in the room as an enforcer,” she said, adding that she was not sure whether “he’s a clone for the president, or the president’s a clone for him.”

Ms. Pelosi said she also questioned the overall approach of the administration, comparing their negotiating tactics to “Sophie’s Choice,” a film in which a mother must choose which of her children to send to their death.

At one point during one of the negotiations, Mr. Mnuchin had inquired what WIC, a nutritional program specifically for women, infants and children, was, according to a person familiar with the talks.

“On any given day, you might say, why am I even talking to these people? They don’t care,” Ms. Pelosi said.

“But the fact is, we’re there — we have an opportunity to do something.”

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How Russia Findings Divided Trump and Intelligence Agencies

Westlake Legal Group how-russia-findings-divided-trump-and-intelligence-agencies How Russia Findings Divided Trump and Intelligence Agencies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sanner, Beth Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Presidential Election of 2020 National Intelligence Estimates Maguire, Joseph (1952- ) Grenell, Richard Espionage and Intelligence Services Coats, Dan Appointments and Executive Changes

A little more than a year ago, American intelligence agencies drafted a classified document reporting that the Russian government favored President Trump in the 2020 presidential election, a finding that fit with their consensus that the Kremlin tried to help him in 2016.

The director of national intelligence was asked to modify the assessment — he did not — and not long afterward, Mr. Trump declared the director was out.

Soon after the new acting director arrived, an intelligence official changed the document, softening the claim that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia wanted Mr. Trump to win, according to an article published on Saturday by The New York Times Magazine. The investigation includes details not previously reported about the fears of officials in U.S. intelligence agencies under the Trump administration, who described struggling to brief the president without provoking his anger or losing their jobs.

Read the entire article from The New York Times Magazine here.

Following are some key takeaways, based on the reporter Robert Draper’s conversations with 40 current and former intelligence officials, lawmakers and congressional staff.

The early draft of the classified document assembled last year, a National Intelligence Estimate, touched on a chronic sore point between intelligence officials and the White House.

Among other things, the draft concerned Russia’s efforts to influence American elections in 2020 and 2024, according to multiple officials who saw it.

A “key judgment” of the document was that in the 2020 election, Russia favored the current president. To allay any speculation that Mr. Putin’s interest in Mr. Trump had cooled, the judgment was supported by information from a highly sensitive foreign source described as “100 percent reliable” by someone who read the draft.

The intelligence used by the analysts also indicated that Russia had worked in support of Senator Bernie Sanders, then running for the Democratic nomination for president. A veteran national intelligence officer explained to his colleagues, according to notes taken by one participant in the process, that this did not reflect a genuine preference for Mr. Sanders, but instead an effort “to weaken that party and ultimately help the current U.S. president.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_142672992_5a9f68a7-18ba-4bc4-a34d-e0610ea19848-articleLarge How Russia Findings Divided Trump and Intelligence Agencies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sanner, Beth Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Presidential Election of 2020 National Intelligence Estimates Maguire, Joseph (1952- ) Grenell, Richard Espionage and Intelligence Services Coats, Dan Appointments and Executive Changes
Credit…Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Later, a suggestion was made to the director of national intelligence at the time, Dan Coats, that the draft be modified. Coats, who recalled the request coming from a staff member, refused. On July 28, Mr. Trump announced that Mr. Coats’s last day in office would be Aug. 15, over a month before he had expected to resign.

In September, a new version of the document was circulated with edits. It no longer clearly said that Russia favored the current president. Instead, in a summary, it said, “Russian leaders probably assess that chances to improve relations with the U.S. will diminish under a different U.S. president.”

The changes reflected what Mr. Draper calls “a sobering development of the Trump era” that has alarmed some current and former officials, lawmakers and congressional staff members: “the intelligence community’s willingness to change what it would otherwise say straightforwardly so as not to upset the president.”

By firing top officials and replacing them with loyalists, said Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, “it’s had the effect of wearing the intelligence community down, making them less willing to speak truth to power.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

On Feb. 13, Shelby Pierson, an analyst for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, testified in a classified hearing to the House Intelligence Committee that Russia preferred the current president to win in the 2020 election.

A number of Republicans objected, and Ms. Pierson’s testimony was relayed to Mr. Trump. The next day, on Feb. 14, he interrupted a routine briefing on election security, according to one of the meeting’s participants. He asked the director of national intelligence at the time, retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire: “Hey, Joe, I understand that you briefed Adam Schiff and that you told him that Russia prefers me. Why did you tell that to Schiff?”

Although Mr. Maguire tried to explain that it was another official, Mr. Trump continued to question him and the meeting broke up. On Feb. 19, Mr. Maguire was informed that his likely replacement should be let into his office’s headquarters the following morning.

Mr. Trump named his replacement as Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a former United Nations ambassador’s spokesman, media consultant and Fox News commentator.

Mr. Trump’s speech on the first day of his presidency, in front of the C.I.A.’s Memorial Wall, a tribute to agency officers killed in service, drew intense anger for some in the agency. At the event, Mr. Trump repeated false claims about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, attacked the news media and asked why the lobby of C.I.A. headquarters had so many columns.

One agency veteran called the speech “a near desecration of the wall.”

The president’s penchant for bargaining and gossiping on his private cellphone, and for inviting billionaires into his circle, created anxiety in the intelligence agencies. Intelligence officials of at least one country, a NATO ally, were discouraged by their president from interacting with American counterparts for fear that Mr. Trump would blurt out information to Russians, one former senior intelligence official said.

Mr. Trump also stocked the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board with wealthy businesspeople who, when briefed, “would sometimes make you uncomfortable,” because at times “their questions were related to their business dealings,” one intelligence official said.

Under Mr. Grenell, fears grew that, under the pretext of downsizing, the services might be purged of people like the C.I.A. analyst who filed the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint last year.

“It seems pretty clear to me that, in the wake of the whistle-blower complaint, he’d put a bunch of political hacks in charge, so that he’d never have to worry about the truth getting out from the intelligence community,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

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Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump’s Battles With U.S. Intelligence Agencies

In early July of last year, the first draft of a classified document known as a National Intelligence Estimate circulated among key members of the agencies making up the U.S. intelligence community. N.I.E.s are intended to be that community’s most authoritative class of top-secret document, reflecting its consensus judgment on national-security matters ranging from Iran’s nuclear capabilities to global terrorism. The draft of the July 2019 N.I.E. ran to about 15 pages, with another 10 pages of appendices and source notes.

According to multiple officials who saw it, the document discussed Russia’s ongoing efforts to influence U.S. elections: the 2020 presidential contest and 2024’s as well. It was compiled by a working group consisting of about a dozen senior analysts, led by Christopher Bort, a veteran national intelligence officer with nearly four decades of experience, principally focused on Russia and Eurasia. The N.I.E. began by enumerating the authors’ “key judgments.” Key Judgment 2 was that in the 2020 election, Russia favored the current president: Donald Trump.

The intelligence provided to the N.I.E.’s authors indicated that in the lead-up to 2020, Russia worked in support of the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as well. But Bort explained to his colleagues, according to notes taken by one participant in the process, that this reflected not a genuine preference for Sanders but rather an effort “to weaken that party and ultimately help the current U.S. president.” To allay any speculation that Putin’s interest in Trump had cooled, Key Judgment 2 was substantiated by current information from a highly sensitive foreign source described by someone who read the N.I.E. as “100 percent reliable.”

On its face, Key Judgment 2 was not a contentious assertion. In 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the umbrella entity supervising the 16 other U.S. intelligence agencies, released a report drawing on intelligence from the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency that found Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election and aspired to help Trump. At a news conference with Trump in Helsinki in July 2018, President Vladimir Putin of Russia denied interfering in the election. But when asked by a reporter if he had wanted Trump to win, he replied bluntly: “Yes, I did.”

Yet Trump never accepted this and often actively disputed it, judging officials who expressed such a view to be disloyal. As a former senior adviser to Trump, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told me, “You couldn’t have any conversation about Russia and the election without the president assuming you were calling his election into question. Everyone in the White House knew that, and so you just didn’t talk about that with him.” According to this former adviser, both John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, who were Trump’s national security adviser and acting chief of staff in 2019, went to considerable lengths to keep the subject of Russian election interference off the president’s agenda. (Bolton and Mulvaney declined to comment for this article.)

The president’s displeasure with any suggestion that he was Putin’s favorite factored into the discussion over the N.I.E. that summer, in particular the “back and forth,” as Dan Coats, then the director of national intelligence, put it, over the assessment that Russia favored Trump in 2020. Eventually, this debate made it to Coats’s desk. “I can affirm that one of my staffers who was aware of the controversy requested that I modify that assessment,” Coats told me recently. “But I said, ‘No, we need to stick to what the analysts have said.’”

Coats had been director of national intelligence since early in Trump’s presidency, but his tenure had been rocky at times, and earlier that year, he and Trump agreed to part ways; Coats expected to resign near the end of September. So it surprised him when on July 28, not long after he was approached about the change to the N.I.E., Trump announced via Twitter that Coats’s last day in office would be Aug. 15. In the days to come, Coats’s regular meetings with Trump on intelligence matters continued. During those conversations, Coats told me, the president never explained what prompted his sudden decision.

Coats’s interim successor would be retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire, who at the time was director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Maguire had served under eight presidents in a military or government capacity. Within the intelligence community, his appointment elicited relief but also worry: “From the very beginning,” one former senior intelligence official told me, “there was a lot of consternation over not getting Maguire fired.” One issue looming over the new acting director was the fact that the N.I.E., which had yet to be finalized, contained a conclusion that the president had often railed against.

One of the intelligence officials most directly acquainted with Trump’s opinions on the agencies’ work was Beth Sanner. A veteran of the C.I.A., Sanner now serves as the O.D.N.I.’s deputy director for mission integration. Her responsibilities include delivering the president’s daily brief, the regular presentation of new intelligence findings of pressing importance that Trump, like his predecessors, receives.

Delivering the P.D.B., as it is known, requires an astute understanding of the briefer’s audience. Sanner, who earlier in her C.I.A. career was flagged for promotions by managers who viewed her as an exceptional talent, was tough but also outgoing. In a rare public appearance at an online conference hosted by the nonprofit Intelligence & National Security Alliance last month, Sanner offered a window onto her experience as Trump’s briefer. “I think that fear for us is the most debilitating thing that we face in our personal or professional lives,” she said. “And if every time I went in and talked with the president I was afraid, I would never get anything done. You might be afraid right before you get there. But then you’re there; let it go. You are there because you’re good.” She had learned over time how to put Trump at ease with self-deprecating humor. Encountering the limits of his attention, she once said (according to someone familiar with this particular briefing), “OK, I can see you’re not interested — I’m not interested, I don’t even know why I brought this up — so let’s move on.”

In early September, an email went out from an O.D.N.I. official to the N.I.E.’s reviewers with the latest version attached — which, according to the email, “includes edits from D.M.I. Beth Sanner. We have highlighted the major changes in yellow; they make some of the KJ language clearer and highlight … Russia’s motivation for its influence activities.”

No longer did Key Judgment 2 clearly state that Russia favored the current president, according to an individual who compared the two versions of the N.I.E. side by side. Instead, in the words of a written summary of the document that I obtained, the new version concluded that “Russian leaders probably assess that chances to improve relations with the U.S. will diminish under a different U.S. president.” The National Intelligence Board approved the final version at a meeting on the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2019.

Such a change, a former senior intelligence official said, would amount to “a distinction without a difference and a way to make sure Maguire doesn’t get fired.” But the distinction was in fact both real and important. A document intended to explain Russia’s playbook for the upcoming elections no longer included an explanation of what Russia’s immediate goal was. Omitting that crucial detail would later allow the White House to question the credibility of the testimony of intelligence and law-enforcement officials who informed lawmakers of Russia’s interest in Trump’s re-election in a closed-door congressional committee briefing early this year. It would also set in motion Maguire’s own departure, in spite of the efforts to protect him.

Relationships between presidents and the intelligence agencies they command are often testy, and Trump is hardly the first president to ignore or mischaracterize intelligence. But the alarm in the intelligence community over Russian interference on behalf of Trump’s election in 2016, and Trump’s reciprocal suspicion of the intelligence community, immediately marked their relationship as categorically different from those with past presidents. “Trump’s first encounter with the intelligence community as president-elect was in meetings with James Comey, John Brennan and James Clapper, all of whom turned out to be involved with spying on President Trump’s campaign,” Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said in a statement responding to a list of factual queries for this article. The investigation of Trump’s campaign, McEnany said, was “the greatest political scandal and crime in U.S. history.” (Although the F.B.I. investigated links between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials, a 2019 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that it had tried to place informants inside the campaign. No claims of spying on the campaign by other American intelligence agencies have ever been substantiated.)

The depth of Trump’s animosity has been known since before his inauguration. What has not been known is the full extent of how this suspicion has reshaped the intelligence community and the personal and professional calculations of its members, forcing officials to walk a fine line between serving the president and maintaining the integrity of their work. The brunt of Trump’s discontent has been borne by those who work in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was established in late 2004 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to facilitate better communication among the intelligence agencies. The O.D.N.I.’s directors and briefers, like Sanner, have been the community’s most direct point of contact with the president. In the past, that proximity was straightforward. A briefing would be given, and then the briefer would leave the Oval Office so that the president could discuss policy options with his advisers.

Under Trump, intelligence officials have been placed in the unusual position of being pressured to justify the importance of their work, protect their colleagues from political retribution and demonstrate fealty to a president. Though intelligence officials have been loath to admit it publicly, the cumulative result has been devastating. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, compared the O.D.N.I.’s decline under Trump to that of the Justice Department, where “they have, step by step, set out to destroy one of the crown jewels of the American government,” he told me. “And they’re using the same playbook with the intelligence community.”

The O.D.N.I.’s erosion has in turn shaped the information that flows out of the intelligence community to the White House — or doesn’t. The softening of Key Judgment 2 signified a sobering new development of the Trump era: the intelligence community’s willingness to change what it would otherwise say straightforwardly so as not to upset the president. “To its credit, the intelligence community resisted during the earlier part of the president’s term,” Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told me. “But by casting out Dan Coats and then Maguire, and replacing them with loyalists, I think over time it’s had the effect of wearing the intelligence community down, making them less willing to speak truth to power.”

This “wearing down” has extended well beyond the dismissal of a few top intelligence officials whom the president perceived to be disloyal. It has also meant that those who remain in the community are acutely mindful of the risks of challenging Trump’s “alternative facts,” as the White House counselor Kellyanne Conway once memorably described them — with consequences that are substantive, if often hidden from view.

That concern was palpable among nearly all of the 40 current and former intelligence officials, lawmakers and congressional staff with whom I spoke — among them more than 15 people who worked in, or closely with, the intelligence community throughout Trump’s presidency. Though these people would discuss their experiences only in exchange for anonymity out of fear of reprisal or dismissal, the unusual fact of their willingness to discuss them at all — and the extent to which their stories could be confirmed by multiple sources, and in many cases by contemporaneous documents — itself was a testament to how profoundly Trump has reordered their world and their work. As one of them told me: “The problem is that when you’ve been treated the way the intelligence community has, they become afraid of their own shadow. The most dangerous thing now is the churn — the not knowing who’s going to be fired, and what it is you might say that could cost you your job. It’s trying to put out something and not get creamed for it.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 16mag-intelligence-02-articleLarge-v2 Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump’s Battles With U.S. Intelligence Agencies United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sanner, Beth Sanders, Bernard Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Ratcliffe, John Lee (1965- ) Presidential Election of 2020 Pierson, Shelby Patel, Kashyap Office of the Director of National Intelligence Maguire, Joseph (1952- ) Haspel, Gina Grenell, Richard Coats, Dan central intelligence agency
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Like the rest of America, the thousands of people making up the U.S. intelligence community were divided by the election of Donald Trump. Many were wary of a candidate who pledged to bring back waterboarding and assassinate families of ISIS members, who praised WikiLeaks and played down Putin’s extrajudicial assassinations by observing, “What, you think our country’s so innocent?” Three weeks after beginning to receive his first intelligence briefings as a candidate, Trump publicly offered the dubious claim that his briefers “were not happy” that President Obama and his administration “did not follow what they were recommending.” Listening to Trump throughout the campaign, Michael Hayden, who directed the C.I.A. under both George W. Bush and Obama, told me, “I was really scared for my country.” But others in the community were rankled by what they saw as Obama’s passivity in global affairs and were receptive to the prospect of a change.

On Jan. 21, 2017, his first full day in office, Trump addressed an audience of agency employees at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va. Standing in front of the agency’s Memorial Wall, an austere slab of marble engraved with more than a hundred stars commemorating the agency officers who died in service to their country — three C.I.A. paramilitary officers had recently been killed in Afghanistan — he proceeded to unleash one of his stream-of-consciousness diatribes. “Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me,” he declared. He complimented himself on his pick for secretary of agriculture and admonished the Bush administration for not having seized Iraq’s oil after invading the country. He bragged about his inauguration speech and repeated his false claims about the mammoth crowd it attracted and his record number of appearances on the cover of Time magazine. He questioned the judgment of whoever it was who had chosen to build the C.I.A. headquarters lobby with so many columns.

“I was literally in tears,” one senior agency official at the time told me, “as I watched him standing in the most hallowed place we have — so disconnected, talking about himself, asking why our building had columns.” A second agency veteran angrily characterized Trump’s speech as “a near-desecration of the wall,” adding: “I’m tearing up now just thinking about it.”

Trump bragged to the C.I.A. audience that he would be the agency’s most lavish supporter: “You’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say, ‘Please don’t give us so much backing.’” But in truth, he already had reservations about the intelligence community. The C.I.A. director John Brennan and the former director Hayden had publicly criticized various statements he made during the campaign. The former acting director Michael Morell, who advised Hillary Clinton’s campaign, had described Trump in an op-ed as “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” At Langley headquarters before his speech, Trump met with several of the C.I.A.’s top officials and, according to someone familiar with the conversation, asked several of them individually whether they had voted for him.

Two weeks before his inauguration, the president-elect and his senior aides received a briefing at Trump Tower led by the departing director of national intelligence, James Clapper, outlining the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Trump was friendly and attentive but also dismissive. “Anybody’s going to tell you what they think you want to hear,” Trump told them, according to Clapper.

Toward the end of the briefing, Trump’s new chief of staff, Reince Priebus, began to discuss drafting a press statement. Priebus, Clapper recalled, “wanted to include language in it that we said Russian interference had no impact on the outcome of the election. Well, we didn’t have the authority to make that judgment. The only thing we said was that we saw no evidence of tampering with the votes.”

As the briefing concluded, James Comey, director of the F.B.I., spoke with Trump alone. There was another matter to disclose: a dossier compiled by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which discussed Russia’s entanglements with Trump’s campaign and the candidate himself. (Many of these claims were never substantiated or were later disproved outright.) Fusion GPS, the research firm that was involved in producing the dossier, had confidentially organized briefings on Steele’s findings for a handful of reporters. But when BuzzFeed published the dossier four days after Comey’s briefing, the president-elect blamed intelligence officials. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ out into the public,” he tweeted the following morning. “One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

Clapper spoke with Trump that afternoon and defended the intelligence community. Trump did not apologize, and he instead asked Clapper to release a statement refuting the dossier’s claims. Clapper declined to do so.

Trump’s hostility was not purely a matter of self-interest. As a candidate, he often railed against the foreign policies of his predecessors, Democrat and Republican alike — in particular the Iraq war, a debacle that was inseparable from the failures of the intelligence community. After it was reported in December 2016 that the C.I.A. had concluded that Russia interfered with the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf, his transition team released a press statement declaring, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Once Trump was in the White House, a former Trump-administration official recalls: “I cannot tell you how many times he randomly raised the Iraq war. Like it morally offended him. He believed the intelligence community purposely made it all up.”

But the gross intelligence failures in the run-up to the Iraq war offered a subtler cautionary tale too. The Bush administration had a tendency to see only what it wished to see of that intelligence, to contort and mischaracterize semi-educated guesses as unassailable facts — a tendency that, in Trump, was compulsive to a nearly pathological degree. As one intelligence veteran who occasionally briefed Trump told me: “On a visceral level, his view was, ‘You all are supposed to be helping me.’ But when you’d bring in evidence that Russia interfered, that’s what he’d refer to as not helpful. Or when he’s wanting to turn the screws on NATO, we’d come in with a warning of the consequences of NATO falling apart. And he’d say, ‘You never do things for me.’”

Historically, the C.I.A. has learned to accommodate the individual presidents it serves, though always with the tacit understanding that the “first customer” would not abuse the courtesy. Bill Clinton’s famously fluid schedule made it difficult for him to commit to daily one-on-one briefings. (When a man in a stolen Cessna 150 plane crashed it into the South Lawn of the White House in 1994, the mordant joke around the C.I.A. was that it was the agency’s director, Jim Woolsey, trying to get a meeting with the president.)

Still, Clinton read his briefing material. George W. Bush, whose father had been a C.I.A. director, faithfully took his briefings six mornings a week — though it famously did not result in his heeding the August 2001 briefing titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.” Obama, too, took daily briefings for most of his presidency; Lisa Monaco, his homeland-security adviser, earned the presidential nickname Dr. Doom for her grim counterterrorism updates. The briefings were a ritual through which the intelligence community implicitly made the case for itself as something that transcended partisanship and operated on a time scale beyond mere presidencies.

It was inevitable that some adjustments would prove necessary for Trump, novice as he was to government. The new president’s interests were primarily economic, a field that was never the intelligence community’s strong suit. Under Trump, intelligence officials learned to “up our econ briefings game,” as one of them told me.

But the culture clash posed more serious problems too. Trump was accustomed to cutting deals and sharing gossip on his private cellphone, often loudly. He enjoyed being around billionaires, to whom he would “show off about some of the stuff he thought was cool — the capabilities of different weapons systems,” one former senior administration official recalled. “These were superrich guys who wouldn’t give him the time of day before he became president. He’d use that stuff as currency he had that they didn’t, not understanding the implications.” Trump also stocked his President’s Intelligence Advisory Board with wealthy businesspeople who, when briefed by one intelligence official, “would sometimes make you uncomfortable” because on occasion, “their questions were related to their business dealings,” this individual recalled.

The chairman of that advisory board, Stephen Feinberg, is co-chief executive of Cerberus Capital Management, which owns DynCorp, a major defense contractor that has won several lucrative military contracts. Feinberg was a friend of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose expansive role in the new administration also created unease within the intelligence community. “His attitude,” one former intelligence official recalled of Kushner, “is like that of his father-in-law, who always thought that people who weren’t trying to be wealthy but instead went into public service were lesser.” There were obvious security issues that seemed not to have occurred to Kushner, who “would have the Chinese ambassador and his minions wandering around the West Wing unescorted,” recalled one former senior administration official. (The White House disputes this. “No foreign nationals are allowed to roam freely in the West Wing,” McEnany said in a statement.)

Early in the administration, Kushner and an aide showed up to Langley headquarters — conspicuous in their fitted suits — for a meeting to learn how the C.I.A. functions. The agency accommodated them, but afterward, according to one participant in the meeting, concern developed within the agency about Kushner’s potential conflicts. His complicated international business interests, as well as his evolving friendship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, had raised serious concerns among officials responsible for awarding security credentials. A further concern, another former senior intelligence official said, “was just his cavalier and arrogant attitude that ‘I know what I’m doing,’ without any cultural understanding of why things are classified, that would put our intelligence at risk.”

Trump publicly claimed to know little about Kushner’s security-clearance problem. But in fact, the president “made a huge deal of it and tried to pull all sorts of strings and go around the system,” one former official recalled. Another former official said, “I’d hear the president say, ‘Just do it, just give it to him.’ I’m not sure he understood what it actually meant. He made it sound like Jared was just trying to join a club.”

Some of Trump’s intelligence advisers feared that his carelessness would inevitably get him in trouble when dealing one on one with cannier foreign leaders. “When you’re a president, any slip can be used,” one former national-security aide said. Because of Trump’s indiscretion, one former senior intelligence official told me, the intelligence office of at least one foreign country — a NATO ally that had sent troops to Afghanistan — was discouraged by that country’s president from interacting with its American counterparts, for fear that Trump would be briefed on the information and subsequently blurt it out to the Russians. The president did precisely that four months into his tenure, sharing sensitive intelligence about ISIS with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting in the Oval Office, reportedly exposing a source of Israeli intelligence in the process. Two years later, Trump would tweet a surveillance photograph of a damaged space facility in Iran, a sensitive image that almost certainly came from a U.S. drone or satellite.

Credit…Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Getty Images

Trump’s indiscretion wasn’t the only issue. Officials came to realize that his lack of interest and tendency toward distraction posed their own concerns. His briefers, a former senior administration official said, “were stunned and miffed that he had no real interest in the P.D.B. And it wasn’t just the P.D.B.; it was almost anything generated by his N.S.C.” — Trump’s National Security Council. “He kind of likes the military details but just doesn’t read briefing materials. They’d put all this time and effort into these briefing papers, and he’d literally throw it aside.”

Recognizing that Trump responded to visual material, his aides for a time tried to compose briefs out of photos, charts and a limited number of captions, until it became evident that such a presentation would not convey all that a president needed to know. But it remained a challenge to engage Trump, a former adviser said: “Anyone who’s ever briefed him wouldn’t get more than three or four minutes into it, and then the president would go off on tangents.” Such tangents, a former intelligence briefer said, would include Trump’s standing in the polls, Hillary Clinton’s email server and the prospect of holding a military parade in the United States.

For one briefing that concerned an adversarial nation’s weapons system, the C.I.A. briefer arrived with a prop: a portable model of the weapon in question. “Trump held it in his hands, and it’s all he paid attention to,” a former senior intelligence official recalled. “The briefer would be talking about range and deployment, and all the president wanted to know was: ‘What’s this made of? What’s this part here?’”

From the 2016 campaign to early 2019, Trump’s principal briefer was Ted Gistaro, a much-respected C.I.A. veteran whom the president called “my Ted.” Sometime in the spring of 2019, Gistaro accepted a posting overseas, though not before unburdening himself to a former colleague. “I knew you’ve heard how bad it is,” the colleague recalled him saying. “Believe me, it’s worse than that.” (The O.D.N.I. declined requests for an interview with Gistaro.)

By that spring, Trump was souring on Gistaro’s boss, Dan Coats. A 77-year-old former Republican senator who was once in the running to be George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Coats had denounced Trump during his candidacy for his “totally inappropriate and disgusting” comments in the “Access Hollywood” tape. He had not expressed interest in the job of director of national intelligence, and Trump had not even bothered to interview him for it. It was Vice President Mike Pence, a friend from Indiana, who extended the offer on Trump’s behalf and who later swore him in.

Shortly after nominating Coats for the director job, Trump invited him to a dinner gathering at the White House residence. According to the special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into Russian election interference in 2016 and Coats’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Trump asked his guests what they thought of James Comey. When Trump asked if anyone knew Comey personally, Coats replied that Comey had been a good F.B.I. director and advised the president to get to know him better.

According to the same report and testimony, barely a week into Coats’s tenure as director of national intelligence, he was asked by Trump to publicly clear the president of Russia-related wrongdoing. Coats carefully replied that it was not in his purview to do so.

The president repeated his request in an evening phone call. Coats, an avid college-basketball fan, was watching the Final Four N.C.A.A. semi-finals at the time. He was struck by the abjectness of the new president, alone in the White House on a Saturday night, talking to a near-stranger while his family remained in New York. But he did not buckle. He advised Trump to let the investigation run its course. “I made sure that if the information in the briefing was exact and true, it had to be presented to him, regardless of what the consequences might be,” Coats told me. “And I kept reminding people putting together the P.D.B. that they could in no way modify anything for political purposes.”

This was especially perilous when the subject was Russia. In “The Room Where It Happened,” John Bolton’s recently published memoir of his ill-fated stint as Trump’s national security adviser from April 2018 to September 2019, Bolton recalled watching the president chafe over sanctions on Russia. In 2018, the U.S. government initiated a cyberattack against the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm singled out by Mueller for its efforts to influence the 2016 election. Although the Trump administration would later point to this as proof of the president’s toughness on Russia, three individuals who had real-time knowledge of the attack told me that Trump did not specifically order it.

In March 2018, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen warned a gathering of foreign diplomats that there would be harsh consequences for meddling in the 2018 midterm elections — at which point the Russian representative stormed out of the meeting. The White House communications office subsequently complained privately to the Department of Homeland Security that Nielsen’s remarks were off-message. That July, at an N.S.C. meeting convened for the express purpose of discussing election security, Nielsen got only five minutes into her opening presentation before Trump interrupted her with a barrage of questions relating to the wall he wanted built along the Mexico border.

Coats, too, was at the N.S.C. meeting. He had received a more public snubbing on the subject just a few days earlier, when President Trump, standing alongside Putin at the news conference in Helsinki, responded to a question about Russian meddling in the 2016 election by saying, “Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia.” But, Trump went on, “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” Coats responded later that day with a statement reaffirming “our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.” Coats’s defense “added fuel to the fire,” Bolton later wrote.

Despite the president’s aggressive indifference on the subject — or because of it — some of his cabinet officials remained concerned that Russia could throw the upcoming elections into turmoil and perhaps even disrupt the results. To them, the intelligence relating to Putin’s aims was indisputable. So was the president’s intransigence. As Bolton would write, “Trump believed that acknowledging Russia’s meddling in U.S. politics, or in that of many other countries in Europe or elsewhere, would implicitly acknowledge that he had colluded with Russia in his 2016 campaign.”

It was against this backdrop that Coats, Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis worked together to write an executive order in the summer of 2018 that would enable sanctions on foreign countries trying to interfere with the American electoral process. Trump wasn’t briefed on these efforts, because, as one individual involved in the process recalled, “there was a belief that such a meeting would go sideways.” Instead, according to Bolton’s book, on Sept. 12, 2018, as several aides gathered with the president to discuss the border wall, Bolton seized the moment and held out the executive order for Trump to sign. Suspiciously, the president asked whose idea the executive order was. Bolton volunteered that it was his. “Oh,” Trump said, and he signed it.

Among other things, the executive order set in motion the process of drafting the intelligence assessment that Coats would be asked by a subordinate to change 10 months later. But by the time the order was signed, the fraying relationship between the president and his director of national intelligence was already on the verge of unraveling altogether. On Jan. 29, 2019, Coats and other intelligence-agency leaders presented the intelligence community’s annual threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee. As had now become customary for many public statements that might contradict Trump’s own, the O.D.N.I.’s senior staff labored over the draft of the director’s opening statement and then cleared it with the N.S.C. staff. Still, its stark depictions of Russia’s ongoing election meddling, North Korea’s determination to maintain its nuclear arsenal and the resilience of ISIS amounted to a sweeping rebuttal to the president’s claimed foreign-policy accomplishments.

Trump tweeted his displeasure the following day, writing, “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” Two days after their testimony, Coats and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, met with the president, with Bolton in attendance as well. Later, Trump tweeted: “Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media. … We are all on the same page!”

That was far from the truth, Coats told me. “We basically said this is what we said, and it had already been presented to White House personnel because we knew it was sensitive. The president was not happy that Gina and I pushed back on that and that it was approved by the White House. He said, ‘How did this happen?’”

But, Coats added, “when he made the remarks about going back to school, I knew my time was coming to an end.” Behind his back, Trump was referring to Coats as old, lazy, ignorant and, Bolton wrote, “an idiot.”

Coats was not going to become another Jeff Sessions, the attorney general who spent nearly two years twisting in the wind and weathering scorn until the president finally fired him. He prepared a letter of resignation. Trump rejected it, but only because of its timing: He didn’t want Coats to leave while Mueller’s investigation was ongoing. Coats agreed to wait, figuring that a departure date near the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, made sense. He also began suggesting potential replacements to the White House.

A federal statute stipulated that should the position of director become vacant, it should be filled on an acting basis by the O.D.N.I.’s deputy director. In this case, that was Sue Gordon, a well-respected former C.I.A. official and onetime deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. When Coats recruited Gordon to be his deputy and introduced her to Trump in 2017, he informed the president that she had been a captain on the Duke women’s basketball team. Trump commented on her height and then, without discussing Gordon’s qualifications for the job, asked her a series of basketball-related questions, concluding by asking Gordon who was likely to win the N.C.A.A. tournament.

A few months after her initial meeting with Trump, Gordon appeared onstage at an intelligence forum with four former directors of the C.I.A., including Brennan and Hayden. The unprecedented war of words between a sitting president and the two former intelligence czars had continued (and would only intensify a year later, when Trump declared that he had revoked Brennan’s security clearance). On this panel, Brennan said that Trump had “undermined” the intelligence community by refusing to accept its assessment of Russia’s election meddling. Hayden asserted that “the most disruptive element in the world today is the United States.” Gordon, the panel’s moderator, kept the conversation moving.

This would be enough to brand Gordon as disloyal to some in Trump’s inner circle, putting her in the same camp as her boss, Coats, who had won over the intelligence community’s senior officials by protecting their work from the pressures coming from the White House. By contrast, both of Trump’s C.I.A. directors seemed more willing to accommodate the president. His first director, Mike Pompeo, aggressively worked to develop a close relationship with Trump. At the Aspen Security Forum in the summer of 2017, Pompeo said that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election — and “the one before that and the one before that.” A year later, when British intelligence officials requested assistance from the C.I.A. in investigating the apparent poisoning of a double agent by Russian operatives, Pompeo was initially disinclined to offer assistance, saying to a roomful of subordinates, according to someone with knowledge of the conversation, that because Britain had done nothing to help the United States when it came to Iran, he saw no reason the United States should help on this matter.

Haspel, who replaced Pompeo after he was tapped to run the State Department, had previously overseen one of the C.I.A.’s notorious overseas interrogation facilities known as “black sites” — a fact that endeared her to Trump, according to one former intelligence official. “He loved that Gina is a badass,” the official said. “He loved her involvement in the prisons.” Still, the director also felt obliged to show her supportiveness in ways that others in the agency found inappropriate, from applauding during Trump’s State of the Union address to saying publicly of his North Korea policy, “After years of failure, I do think that President Trump has shown a lot of wisdom in reaching out his hand to the North Korean leader.”

Coats exhibited no such pretenses of fealty. “What we were standing up for was the integrity of the intelligence,” he told me. That included the intelligence community’s N.I.E. assessing Russia’s interference campaign. “There was a lot of back and forth on that assessment” relating to Russia’s preference for Trump, Coats acknowledged to me. Still, the director held firm by not modifying the assessment. It would be one of his last acts as director of national intelligence.

On Sunday, July 28, Trump announced via Twitter that Coats would be replaced by Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas, a Republican and an outspoken Trump defender. Just four days earlier, while questioning Mueller at a House Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the special prosecutor’s report, Ratcliffe argued that while Trump shouldn’t be above the law, he “damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volume 2 of this report puts him.” Some speculated at the time that Ratcliffe’s performance was a job audition.

But Ratcliffe’s nomination for director was immediately stalled by accusations that he had inflated his résumé. In the interim, Adam Schiff, by now one of Trump’s most prominent congressional critics, suggested that Sue Gordon would be “superbly qualified” for acting director. Trump’s son Donald Jr. promptly tweeted: “If Adam Schiff wants her in there, the rumors about her being besties with Brennan and the rest of the clown cadre must be 100% true.” Gordon elected to resign.

Joseph Maguire was named acting director instead — a relief to those in the intelligence community who had recoiled at the thought of a Trump loyalist like Ratcliffe overseeing them. But Trump himself made clear that their relief would be temporary. Explaining to the White House press corps why Ratcliffe was his preference, he said: “I think we need somebody like that that’s strong and can really rein it in. As you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They’ve run amok.”

Credit…Jussi Nukari/Xinhua, via Getty Images

On July 19, 2019, nine days before Trump announced Coats’s departure, Coats created a new post within the intelligence community: election-threats executive. He awarded the job to an analyst named Shelby Pierson, who had worked in the community for over two decades, most recently as a Russia issues manager, before Coats asked her in 2018 to serve as the O.D.N.I.’s crisis manager for election security.

Less than a month later, a C.I.A. whistle-blower reported to the O.D.N.I. inspector general that Trump and members of his administration had pressured Volodymyr Zelensky, the recently elected president of Ukraine, to investigate the activities of Joe Biden, by then the likely Democratic presidential nominee, and his son Hunter. The nation was soon consumed with the impeachment proceedings against Trump over the Ukraine affair. Beneath the din, Pierson and other senior intelligence officials continued to meet and review Russia’s influence campaign, past and present. They learned that in the 2016 election, Russian cyberattacks compromised voter-registration databases in Illinois and Florida and hacked a Florida-based election-software vendor. They learned as well that Russia would be focusing its 2020 efforts on the battleground states. It was during this same period that the N.I.E. was finalized. In early February of this year, Pierson and other intelligence officials gave a classified briefing on prospective election threats to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Nothing about the contents of this briefing made its way into the press.

On the morning of Feb. 13, Pierson testified before the House Intelligence Committee in the secure hearing room beneath the Capitol Visitor Center that the committee uses for classified briefings. The committee had recently held hearings on the grounds for Trump’s impeachment; tempers were raw and partisan confrontations inevitable. The day before the hearing, a White House official called the committee staff to ask whether someone from the West Wing could sit in on the top-secret hearing. Denied permission to do so, an employee from the White House Office of Legal Counsel nonetheless showed up that morning and was denied entry.

The conference room was full, and nearly every committee member was present. Pierson sat at the witness table, alongside senior officials from the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the N.S.A. and the Department of Homeland Security. Upward of two dozen support staff sat behind them. Pierson began with a routine prepared statement about Russia’s ongoing efforts.

After she finished, Schiff pointedly asked Pierson if the available intelligence suggested whether Russia had a preference in this November’s outcome. Pierson replied that it did, and that Russia’s preference was for the current president. This was in keeping with Key Judgment 2 of the previous July’s N.I.E. draft — the finding that was softened in the final version issued five months before the hearing. Pierson turned to the F.B.I. official seated beside her at the witness table. The bureau official concurred with Pierson’s assessment.

The congressional questioning that followed “was very contentious,” one attendee recalled. A number of Republican members of Congress vehemently objected to Pierson’s assertion that Putin favored Trump. Representative Will Hurd of Texas, a former C.I.A. case officer, expressed doubt about the sourcing of Pierson’s assessment. Asked by one of the Republicans about the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, Pierson acknowledged that there was recent evidence in the primaries of pro-Sanders activity from Russian trolls and bots. Still, as Coats had, Pierson stood behind the intelligence community’s original judgment. The hearing was adjourned before noon.

Pierson reported to Maguire that the briefing had been heated. Indeed, sometime later that day, according to a former senior intelligence official with knowledge of the events, the House committee’s ranking minority member, Representative Devin Nunes, relayed to Trump what Pierson said in her testimony. The following day, Feb. 14, Trump was given a routine intelligence briefing on election security. Three subject-matter briefers, along with Haspel, Beth Sanner and Maguire, were in attendance.

In the middle of the briefing, according to one participant, Trump interrupted and said to Maguire: “Hey, Joe, I understand that you briefed Adam Schiff and that you told him that Russia prefers me. Why did you tell that to Schiff?” Trump went on to say that he heard this from several members of the committee and wanted to know why Maguire had not informed Trump.

Maguire tried to explain that it was another intelligence official who had given the testimony, during a routine bipartisan hearing. But Trump continued to question Maguire, and the meeting then broke up. According to the participant, as they were leaving, Sanner said: “Mr. President, Joe is not out to undermine you.”

Maguire left the Oval Office knowing that he would soon be fired. On the evening of Feb. 19, he was informed by Robert O’Brien, who succeeded Bolton as national security adviser, that Maguire’s likely replacement would need to be let into O.D.N.I. headquarters the following morning. That morning, Maguire greeted his successor, wished him well and left the building for good.

The new acting director was Richard Grenell, Trump’s ambassador to Germany. A 53-year-old former United Nations ambassador’s spokesman, media consultant and Fox News commentator with no previous experience in the intelligence community, Grenell was best known as a pugnacious Trump loyalist who made undiplomatic comments about his host country’s unwillingness to contribute more to NATO.

Grenell assured Pierson that her job was safe, as Pierson herself later acknowledged to The Times and other media outlets. At the same time, Pierson would have to sit by in silence as administration officials insisted to the media that in the Feb. 13 briefing, she had misrepresented the U.S. intelligence community’s assessments about Russia’s preference for president. On ABC’s “This Week” three days after Maguire’s departure, O’Brien told the host, George Stephanopoulos, “I haven’t seen any evidence that Russia is doing anything to get President Trump re-elected.”

Instead, O’Brien said — echoing a talking point Trump delivered at a rally two days beforehand, and which Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, would also use that same morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press” — that Russia’s likely preference would be Bernie Sanders, a socialist who “honey-mooned in Moscow.” (Sanders visited Russia around the time of his wedding, though not on a honeymoon.) Unnamed “people familiar with the matter” leaked to The Washington Post a classified briefing that took place over a month earlier on Jan. 8, in which the F.B.I. informed Sanders that Russia appeared to be aiding his campaign — omitting the N.I.E. authors’ view that the aid was seen in Moscow as a means to the end of re-electing Trump.

Grenell’s staff, meanwhile, instructed Maguire’s chief of staff, Viraj Mirani, to clear out his office. Other departures would follow during Grenell’s tenure: the O.D.N.I.’s principal deputy, Andrew Hallman; its chief of operations, Dierdre Walsh; its inspector general, Michael Atkinson, who had delivered the Ukraine whistle-blower’s complaint to the House Intelligence Committee after Maguire declined to do so; and Russell Travers, Maguire’s acting replacement as director of the National Counterterrorism Center. An adviser assigned to Grenell, the former Nunes protégé and Trump N.S.C. staff member Kashyap Patel, undertook a thorough reorganization of the O.D.N.I. Even Grenell was wary of Patel, who had expectations of being the acting director’s deputy and who while on Nunes’s staff reportedly shared dubious information about Ukraine with Trump, though that was not his field of expertise. (Patel has denied this.)

With Coats and Maguire both gone, Patel set about fulfilling a White House request to cut the O.D.N.I.’s staff, according to someone familiar with the events. The concern within the intelligence community was that downsizing could offer a pretext for purging individuals like the anonymous C.I.A. analyst who filed the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint. As Sean Patrick Maloney of the House Intelligence Committee told me, “It seems pretty clear to me that in the wake of the whistle-blower complaint, he’d put a bunch of political hacks in charge, so that he’d never have to worry about the truth getting out from the intelligence community.”

In May, Ratcliffe was confirmed as director in spite of the earlier concerns about his résumé. Grenell returned to Germany. In response to detailed questions regarding this article, Grenell offered a statement blasting “the typical Washington types that hate the fact that Donald Trump is a Washington outsider unwilling to play the Washington game.” Trump “won’t just let the system do its thing and give us another Iraq W.M.D.-style assessment,” continued Grenell, who served as a spokesman in the State Department during George W. Bush’s presidency.

Schiff believes that the decision by Joseph Maguire, an apolitical official with the respect of the intelligence community’s rank and file, not to forward the Ukraine whistle-blower’s complaint to Congress was an instructive moment. “Looking back on Director Maguire’s decision to withhold the complaint,” he told me, “I don’t think that would have been done, but for being aware that the administration would have been unhappy had he not.”

The options faced by the intelligence community during Trump’s presidency have been stark: avoid infuriating the president but compromise the agencies’ ostensible independence, or assert that independence and find yourself replaced with a more sycophantic alternative.

But Schiff argues that this is a false choice. For Maguire, “Withholding it was not enough to keep his job,” Schiff said. “And I think people need to understand this about Donald Trump: It will never be enough when you attempt to do his bidding. He’ll bring in personnel who are more malleable, and the result is a degradation in the quality of the information. Maguire is now an object lesson for those in the intelligence community.”

I spoke with Schiff on Friday, July 24. Earlier that day, the O.D.N.I. released an official statement about election security threats by William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center and a Trump appointee. “At this time,” Evanina’s statement said, “we’re primarily concerned with China, Russia and Iran — although other nation states and nonstate actors could also do harm to our electoral process.”

Once again, the compromise was small but hardly meaningless: As several retired intelligence officials pointed out to me, it conflated the aboveboard “influence” campaign conducted by China — pressuring politicians, countering criticism — with the clandestine “interference” efforts by Russia to subvert the voting process. A week later during a classified briefing, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, upbraided Evanina for his misleading statement.

Just as this article was going to press — and shortly after I submitted a list of questions to the O.D.N.I. relating to its struggle to avoid becoming politically compromised — Evanina put out a new statement. In it, the O.D.N.I. at last acknowledged publicly that Russia “is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’” In the same statement, however, Evanina also asserted for the first time that both China and Iran were hoping to defeat Trump. As with the preceding statement, the O.D.N.I. made no distinction between Russia’s sophisticated election-disrupting capabilities and the less insidious influence campaigns of the two supposedly anti-Trump countries. Like its predecessor, the statement seemed to be tortured with political calculation — an implicit declaration of anguish rather than of independence.

It called to mind something the former C.I.A. acting director Michael Morell said several months before, when we were discussing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. “This is the only time in American history when we’ve been attacked by a foreign country and not come together as a nation,” Morell said. “In fact, it split us further apart. It was an inexpensive, relatively easy to carry out covert mission. It deepened our divisions. I’m absolutely convinced that those Russian intelligence officers who put together and managed the attack on our democracy in 2016 all received medals personally from Vladimir Putin.”

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Trump Threatens to Bypass Congress as Stimulus Talks Fail Again

WASHINGTON — Crisis negotiations between the White House and top Democrats teetered on the brink of collapse on Friday, as both sides said they remained deeply divided on an economic recovery package and President Trump threatened to bypass Congress and act on his own to provide relief if no deal could be reached.

In a hastily called evening news conference after talks on Capitol Hill broke up without a compromise, Mr. Trump said he could sign executive orders within a week to delay payroll tax collections, extend an eviction moratorium, give flexibility to Americans who owe student loans and supplement unemployment benefits through the end of the year.

“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” Mr. Trump said in a ballroom at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., where dozens of club members, some sipping wine, gathered to watch as the president claimed that the economy was quickly bouncing back.

It was not clear what power Mr. Trump might have to move unilaterally to extend jobless aid or otherwise redirect federal relief money as he sees fit because Congress controls spending. And Mr. Trump conceded that such a move was likely to be met with a legal challenge that would block any help from reaching the tens of millions of Americans who have depended for months on $600 weekly federal jobless payments that vanished last week in the absence of a deal to extend them.

“Probably, we’ll get sued,” Mr. Trump said.

But his threat to do so reflected the failure of days of marathon talks on Capitol Hill to reach a bipartisan compromise to pump more aid into the slowing economic recovery — and the president’s determination to be seen as acting in the face of the gridlock.

It came after another in a string of unproductive meetings between Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Democratic leaders, which ended with no agreement and no additional talks scheduled.

Lawmakers and lobbyists said Mr. Trump was looking at possibly invoking a law that governs federal response to natural disasters like hurricanes to unilaterally restore enhanced jobless benefits that expired last week. Administration officials have suggested Mr. Trump might seek to repurpose funds that Congress allocated for coronavirus relief this year that have not yet been spent by states or federal agencies.

Critical issues continue to divide the negotiators, including the overall price tag of the bill and whether to help states and localities across the country bridge budget shortfalls that are a direct result of the pandemic recession. The central tension point has been how much additional assistance to send to unemployed Americans. Democrats are pressing to extend the $600 weekly benefit, while Republicans have sought to cut it.

Mr. Trump declined to say how much jobless aid he would seek to provide by executive order.

Republicans have shifted position on the additional unemployment benefits, first proposing to extend them at a much lower rate, then raising their bid in negotiations with Democrats. But Mr. Trump has remained steadfast in his public opposition to any money for states and local governments, which he has falsely said would go only to states run by Democrats and does not have any relationship to the current crisis.

It was not clear whether any unilateral move by the president would effectively scuttle further talks, or serve to accelerate them. Democrats emerged from what they called a “disappointing” afternoon negotiating session accusing the administration of refusing to compromise.

“This isn’t about negotiating or leverage or anything,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “It’s about meeting the needs of the American people.”

Even as they said they would advise Mr. Trump to issue executive orders to provide economic relief, administration officials held out the possibility that further negotiations could yet yield an agreement.

“I don’t want to speculate as to whether there is an agreement or not,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “We will continue to try to get an agreement that’s in the best interest of the people, and that’s why we’re here.”

Mr. Meadows conceded that executive orders were not “a perfect answer — we’ll be the first ones to say that.”

“But it is all that we can do and all the president can do within the confines of his executive power,” he added, “and we’re going to encourage him to do it.”

Democrats, who had earlier said they would be willing to lower their spending demands to $2.4 trillion from $3.4 trillion, said the White House needed to return with a higher overall price tag, after Mr. Trump’s negotiators declined to accept that offer. Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion plan.

“The House is Democratic, they need a majority of Democratic votes in the Senate,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “Meet us in the middle — for God’s sake, please — for the sake of America, meet us in the middle.”

Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Meadows demanded that Democrats agree to lower the amount of aid for state and local governments, and provide more specifics about how they were proposing to revive lapsed unemployment benefits.

A jobs report on Friday that found that the United States economy added 1.8 million jobs in July further muddled the talks, giving each side support for its talking points. Democrats seized on it as a call to action, quickly issuing a statement calling for a face-to-face meeting to continue negotiations on the stimulus package.

But the White House and Republicans, who are pressing for a narrower recovery measure, cheered the report, which beat economists’ expectations, and were likely to see it as confirmation of their argument that it is time to scale back federal help.

The overall scope and cost of any agreement remains one of the most significant sticking points, along with how much aid should be provided to state and local governments. Republicans have offered $150 billion in new relief, arguing that a significant portion of aid allocated in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law has not yet been spent, while Democrats included nearly $900 billion in their opening proposal.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_175437309_e765af09-6663-4ca5-9fa1-7d9f8ec8a856-articleLarge Trump Threatens to Bypass Congress as Stimulus Talks Fail Again United States Politics and Government United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Trump, Donald J Stimulus (Economic) Schumer, Charles E Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T Meadows, Mark R (1959- ) Executive Orders and Memorandums Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020)
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In a private call with Republican senators on Friday morning, Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Meadows indicated that the funding for state and local governments remained one of the most stark divisions between the two parties, according to two people familiar with the discussion, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose the details of a private phone call. One person said that the two administration officials singled out education funding as another sticking point, given that Democrats were pressing for far more relief to send to schools, as well as a Democratic demand for additional relief for the Postal Service and election protections ahead of the general election in November.

Mr. Trump has threatened all week to act on his own if no deal can be reached, telling reporters that he could move as soon as Friday or Saturday. At his news conference on Friday night, he said the action could come next week.

Any move to reprogram unspent federal dollars for unemployment could prompt legal challenges that could stall its delivery. Even without those challenges, overburdened state unemployment offices could need weeks or as much as a month to begin supplementing traditional benefit checks again with federal dollars. The orders would do nothing to help small businesses that have already exhausted federal assistance or state and local governments bracing for layoffs amid declining tax revenues.

Suspending the payroll tax will do nothing to help unemployed Americans, and analysts warn it could likely not help workers, either. That is because workers would still be on the hook to pay the deferred taxes next year, and many employers will choose to continue to withhold the taxes to guard against workers owing penalties on unpaid taxes.

Economic forecasters expect the job market to cool even further this month and in September, particularly if consumer spending declines because of the expiration of unemployment benefits.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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Trump’s Orders on WeChat and TikTok Are Uncertain. That May Be the Point.

Westlake Legal Group 07DC-ORDER-facebookJumbo Trump’s Orders on WeChat and TikTok Are Uncertain. That May Be the Point. WeChat (Mobile App) United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J TikTok (ByteDance) Tencent Holdings Ltd Social Media Mobile Commerce and Payments Mobile Applications International Trade and World Market

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s sudden decision late Thursday to restrict two popular Chinese social media services from the United States has created confusion about how broad the bans on doing business with China could ultimately be.

That confusion may be part of the point.

Citing national security concerns, the Trump administration announced that it would bar people and property within U.S. jurisdictions from carrying out “transactions” with WeChat and TikTok, the two Chinese-owned apps, after 45 days. But the White House did not define what those transactions included, leaving companies bewildered about whether they may be forced to fundamentally change their business within a matter of weeks.

Stoking this kind of uncertainty is something that the Trump administration has not been apologetic about in the past. Some White House advisers see it as a feature rather than a bug of their policy process, arguing that the risk of further crackdowns will dissuade American companies from operating in China.

That, they said, is a good thing because Chinese policies like “civil-military fusion” have undermined the ability of both Chinese and American companies to operate independently in China.

“Mobile apps like TikTok and WeChat that collect your personal or business information and that can track, surveil or monitor your movements put you and your family in the cross hairs of an Orwellian regime.” Peter Navarro, the White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, said in an interview. He posed a question to the mothers of America, “It’s 10 p.m. Does the Chinese Communist Party know where your children are at?”

Mr. Navarro acknowledged that some multinationals might oppose the measures, but said that “the American public is tired of the corporate greed that, before the Age of Trump, sent our jobs overseas and now endangers our national security and privacy.”

Critics countered that the Trump administration’s unpredictable actions threaten to compromise the secure business environment that the United States is known for, in which rule of law prevails and the government rarely interferes in the market.

“The government inserting this much uncertainty into the business landscape and into the user landscape is deeply problematic,” said Matt Perault, a professor of Duke University’s Center for Science & Technology Policy.

On Friday, TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet conglomerate ByteDance, said in a statement that it was “shocked by the recent executive order, which was issued without any due process.” It said it had sought to work with the U.S. government for nearly a year but instead found the White House “paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”

A spokesman for Tencent, the parent company of WeChat, which is widely used in China and around the world as a messaging and payments app, said it was “reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding.”

The Trump administration has steadily ramped up its actions in a broader economic and geopolitical fight with China, starting with a trade war that put tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese products in 2018 and 2019. It also introduced restrictions on other kinds of Chinese technology, including clamping down on exports to the Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

The sudden, vaguely worded order from the White House on Thursday night, which came without further explanation or a media briefing, followed a familiar model for some of the other policy announcements on China from the Trump administration. Many have left multinational companies in suspense for days or weeks about the specifics.

With policy moves like tariffs and export controls, the Trump administration wielded uncertainty as a source of leverage, using it to frighten companies into compliance and leaving themselves room to back down or escalate the situation.

The executive orders on WeChat and TikTok leave the determination of what constitutes a “transaction” up to the secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross. According to the language of the orders, Mr. Ross will make that determination in 45 days, meaning it would not be clear to businesses what will be included in the ban until it actually goes into effect.

“It may be that it’s won’t be nearly as bad as people might fear,” said Jason M. Waite, a partner at the law firm Alston & Bird, adding that the administration might discover legal or practical concerns with putting the order in place in the interim. “It is a 45-day surprise.”

People familiar with the deliberations said administration officials clearly intended to target the presence of WeChat and TikTok on the Google and Apple app stores, cutting off downloads and updates for the Chinese apps. It is unclear if the restrictions could affect other parts of the Chinese companies’ sprawling portfolios and business dealings, particularly for Tencent.

The order appears to bar transactions with Tencent or its subsidiaries that are specifically related to WeChat. That suggests it would not affect Tencent’s sprawling investment relationships and business dealings with companies like Tesla; the Snapchat owner Snap; the National Basketball Association; Activision Blizzard, the maker of video game World of Warcraft; and Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite.

But many American companies, including Visa, Mastercard and Starbucks, have more direct partnerships with WeChat in China to use its payment platform and e-commerce functions. Whether those kinds of activities would be barred in China or around the world, or whether phone makers like Apple would be allowed to sell mobile phones installed with WeChat, remain up in the air.

“The Trump administration has left itself a lot of wiggle room in terms of what is covered, how quickly prohibitions will be carried out, and how the order will be enforced,” said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Relations.

Other Chinese tech companies could find themselves as the next target of the Trump administration. U.S. officials viewed the executive orders on TikTok and WeChat as a template that could be applied to other Chinese companies, and some have discussed whether services like Alibaba’s Alipay pose a similar national security concern, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

“There’s definitely a chilling effect,” said Samm Sacks, a fellow in cybersecurity policy and China’s digital economy fellow at New America, a think tank. But she said that companies like Alibaba and Tencent had long understood the risks of operating in the United States.

“This latest move may have come as a surprise, but their real growth strategies have never focused in the U.S.” she said. “They’ve always known it was a hostile environment.”

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Russia Continues Interfering in Election to Help Trump, U.S. Intelligence Says

Westlake Legal Group russia-continues-interfering-in-election-to-help-trump-u-s-intelligence-says Russia Continues Interfering in Election to Help Trump, U.S. Intelligence Says Trump, Donald J State Department Russia Presidential Election of 2020 Office of the Director of National Intelligence Iran Espionage and Intelligence Services Classified Information and State Secrets China Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — Russia is using a range of techniques to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr., American intelligence officials said Friday in their first public assessment that Moscow continues to try to interfere in the 2020 campaign to help President Trump.

At the same time, the officials said China preferred that Mr. Trump be defeated in November and was weighing whether to take more aggressive action in the election.

Those conclusions were included in a statement released by William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

But officials briefed on the intelligence said that Russia was the far graver, and more immediate, threat. While China seeks to gain influence in American politics, its leaders have not yet decided to wade directly into the presidential contest, however much they may dislike Mr. Trump, the officials said.

The assessment by Mr. Evanina suggested the intelligence community was treading carefully, reflecting the political heat generated by previous findings: The White House has objected to conclusions that Moscow is working to help Mr. Trump, and Democrats on Capitol Hill have expressed concern that the intelligence agencies are not being forthright enough about Russia’s preference for him and that the agencies are introducing China’s anti-Trump stance to balance the scales.

The assessment appeared to draw a distinction between what it called the “range of measures” being deployed by Moscow to influence the election and its conclusion that China prefers that Mr. Trump be defeated

It cited efforts coming out of pro-Russia forces in Ukraine to damage Mr. Biden and Kremlin-linked figures who “are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.”

China, it said, has so far signaled its position mostly through increased public criticism of the administration’s tough line on China on a variety of fronts.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_175407054_9a9b0d69-0170-45e3-b16e-925039855ed2-articleLarge Russia Continues Interfering in Election to Help Trump, U.S. Intelligence Says Trump, Donald J State Department Russia Presidential Election of 2020 Office of the Director of National Intelligence Iran Espionage and Intelligence Services Classified Information and State Secrets China Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

It is not clear how much China is doing to interfere directly in the presidential election. Intelligence officials have briefed Congress in recent days that much of Beijing’s focus is on state and local races. But Mr. Evanina’s statement Friday suggested China was on weighing an increased effort.

“Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current administration’s Covid-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate and actions on other issues,” Mr. Evanina said.

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Updated 2020-08-07T21:25:09.936Z

Mr. Evanina pointed to growing tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea, Hong Kong autonomy, the TikTok app and other issues.

The release was short on specifics, but that was largely because the intelligence community is intent on trying to protect the sources of their information, said Senator Angus King, the Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

“The director has basically put the American people on notice that Russia in particular, also China and Iran, are going to be trying to meddle in this election and undermine our democratic system,” said Mr. King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

While both Beijing and Moscow have a preference to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, the Chinese and Russian influence campaigns are very different, officials said.

Outside a few scattered examples, it is hard to find much evidence of intensifying Chinese influence efforts that could have a national effect.

Much of what China is doing currently amounts to using its economic might to influence local politics, officials said. But that is hardly new. Beijing is also using a variety of means to push back on various Trump administration policies, including tariffs and bans on Chinese tech companies, but those efforts are not covert and it is unclear if they would have an effect on presidential politics.

The administration is overstating the immediacy of the China threat, said an American official briefed on the underlying intelligence.

Russia, but not China, is trying to “actively influence” the outcome of the 2020 election, the official said.

Democrats see the interference campaign run by Russia as a far more direct and urgent threat.

“The fact that adversaries like China or Iran don’t like an American president’s policies is normal fare. What’s abnormal, disturbing and dangerous is that an adversary like Russia is actively trying to get a Trump re-elected,” said Jeremy Bash, a former Obama administration official.

Russia, tried to use influence campaigns during the 2018 midterm voting to try and sway public opinion, but did not successfully tamper with voting infrastructure.

Mr. Evanina said it would be difficult for adversarial countries to try to manipulate voting results on a large scale. But nevertheless, the countries could try to interfere in the voting process or take steps aimed at “calling into question the validity of the election results.”

The new release comes on the heels of congressional briefings that have alarmed lawmakers, particularly Democrats. Those briefings have described a stepped-up Chinese pressure campaign, as well as efforts by Moscow to paint Mr. Biden as corrupt.

“Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” Mr. Evanina said in a statement.

Democrats have pushed intelligence officials to release more information to the public, arguing that only a broad declassification of the foreign interference attempts can inoculate voters against attempts by Russia, China or other countries to try to influence voting.

In meetings on Capitol Hill, Mr. Evanina and other intelligence officials have expanded their warnings beyond Russia and have included China and Iran, as well. Earlier this year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence put Mr. Evanina in charge of election security briefings to Congress and the campaigns.

Intelligence and other officials in recent days have been stepping up their releases of information about foreign interference efforts, and the State Department has sent text messages to cellphones around the world advertising a $10 million reward for information on would-be election hackers.

How effective China’s campaign has been, or Russia’s efforts to smear Mr. Biden as corrupt, is not clear. Intelligence agencies focus their work on the intentions of foreign governments, and steer clear of assessing if those efforts have had an effect on American voters.

The first reactions from Capitol Hill to the release of the assessment were positive. A joint statement by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee praised the release, and asked colleagues to refrain from politicizing Mr. Evanina’s statement.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the acting Republican chairman of the committee, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic vice-chairman, said they hoped Mr. Evanina continued to make more information available to the public. But they praised him for responding to calls for more information.

“Evanina’s statement highlights some of the serious and ongoing threats to our election from China, Russia, and Iran,” the two men’s joint statement said. “Everyone — from the voting public, local officials, and members of Congress — needs to be aware of these threats.”

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