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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 29)

Trump to Withdraw U.S. From ‘Open Skies’ Treaty

President Trump has decided to withdraw from another major arms control accord, he and other officials said Thursday, and will inform Russia that the United States is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, negotiated three decades ago to allow nations to fly over each other’s territory with elaborate sensor equipment to assure that they are not preparing for military action.

Mr. Trump’s decision may be viewed as more evidence that he is preparing to exit the one major arms treaty remaining with Russia: New START, which limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. It expires in February, weeks after the next presidential inauguration, and Mr. Trump has insisted that China must join what is now a U.S.-Russia limit on nuclear arsenals.

Even as the administration disclosed Mr. Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Open Skies agreement, the president held out the possibility of negotiations with the Russians that could save American participation in the accord.

“There’s a chance we may make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together,” he said outside the White House. “I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to pull out and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal.”

That seems unlikely, even his own aides said. Yet at the same time, his newly appointed arms negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, said the administration planned to hold detailed conversations with the Russians over the future of New START. But the Chinese do not appear to be participating in that first meeting, even though Mr. Billingslea insisted that he was “confident” they would ultimately join.

So far, though, the Chinese have indicated no interest in limitations on their own nuclear arsenal, which is about a fifth of the size of the United States’ and Russia’s, and some critics of the administration’s approach say the insistence on Beijing’s participation is a poison pill to scuttle the treaty.

American officials have long complained that Moscow was violating the Open Skies accord by not permitting flights over a city where it was believed Russia was deploying nuclear weapons that could reach Europe, as well as forbidding flights over major Russian military exercises. (Satellites, the main source for gathering intelligence, are not affected by the treaty.)

“You reach a point at which you need to say enough is enough,” Mr. Billingslea said. “The United States cannot keep participating in this treaty if Russia is going to violate it with impunity.”

American officials also note that Mr. Trump was angered by a Russian flight directly over his Bedminster, N.J., golf estate in 2017. And in classified reports, the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies have contended that the Russians are also using flights over the United States to map out critical American infrastructure that could be hit by conventional weapons or cyberattacks.

William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in a statement that the surveys of such civilian targets were “posing an unacceptable risk to our national security.”

But such collection was not prohibited under the treaty and much of the information is now publicly available on Google Earth and from commercial imagery.

Mr. Trump’s decision, rumored for some time, is bound to further aggravate European allies, including those in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, who are also signatories to the treaty.

They are likely to remain in the accord, which has nearly three dozen signatories, but have warned that with Washington’s exit, Russia will almost certainly respond by also cutting off their flights, which the allies use to monitor troop movements on their borders — especially important to the Baltic nations.

For Mr. Trump, the decision is the third time he has renounced a major arms control treaty.

Two years ago, he abandoned the Iran nuclear accord negotiated by President Barack Obama. Last year he left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, again saying that he would not participate in a treaty that he said Russia was violating. When he announced his intention to withdraw, he said, as he did today, that he thought the Russians would seek a new deal; they did not.

The Open Skies Treaty was negotiated by President George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

At the time — a moment of relative warmth between the two countries that proved fleeting — the idea was to reduce the chances of accidental war by making troop movements and the placement of new missiles and armaments evident. It was hardly a new idea: It was first presented by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the summer of 1955 and rejected by Nikita S. Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, as an elaborate plan to spy on a weaker foe.

Video

transcript

Eisenhower Describes Treaty on Open Skies

Archival footage of President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposing that the United States and the Soviet Union conduct surveillance of each other’s territory as a defense against a surprise attack.

Announcer: “At his White House press conference, the president’s comments on the Power’s spy case and on America’s foreign intelligence activities.” “No one wants another Pearl Harbor. This means that we must have knowledge of military forces and preparations around the world, especially those capable of massive surprise attack. Secrecy in the Soviet Union makes this essential. In most of the world, no large-scale attack could be prepared in secret. But in the Soviet Union, there is a fetish of secrecy and concealment. This is a major cause of international tension and uneasiness, today. Our deterrence must never be placed in jeopardy. The safety of the whole free world demands this. We prefer and work for a different kind of world, and a different way of obtaining the information essential to competence and effective deterrence. Open societies in the day of present weapons are the only answer. This was the reason for my Open Skies proposal in 1955 which I was ready, yes indeed, to put into effect to permit aerial observation over the United States and the Soviet Union, which would assure that no surprise attack was being prepared against anyone. I shall bring up the Open Skies proposal again at Paris. It is a means of ending concealment.”

Westlake Legal Group 21vid-eisenhower-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600 Trump to Withdraw U.S. From ‘Open Skies’ Treaty United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Treaties Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Russia Nuclear Weapons Defense and Military Forces Cyberwarfare and Defense China Arms Control and Limitation and Disarmament
Archival footage of President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposing that the United States and the Soviet Union conduct surveillance of each other’s territory as a defense against a surprise attack.CreditCredit…Associated Press

It now has less relevance than it did then or even when it finally went into effect, in 2002, a decade after it was signed. Modern commercial satellite photography is widely and cheaply available, though it cannot replace all the information available through an airplane’s sensors.

“The concept of Open Skies, starting with President Eisenhower, was to give insight and build confidence related to military intentions, among other things,” Mr. Billingslea, a veteran of the George W. Bush Pentagon and considered a hard-liner on Russia, said in an interview. “But it no longer is serving that purpose because of so many Russian violations.”

He cited Russian moves to make it impossible for the United States to send flights over Kaliningrad, Georgia and Russia’s own large military exercises.

Nonetheless, European nations regard the regular flights — conducted by the United States, Britain and smaller powers — as an important continuing engagement with Russia, even if Moscow has increasingly blocked flight plans that seem permissible under the treaty.

Russia has said that the engagement in the treaty is valuable. Mr. Billingslea and his boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, disagree.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, the New York Democrat who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Mr. Trump’s move illegal, noting that the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act requires that the president give Congress 120 days’ notice before beginning the withdrawal process. Mr. Trump signed that act.

“There is something particularly dangerous about a president, a secretary of state and a secretary of defense knowingly breaking the law in ways that jeopardize our safety and national security,” Mr. Engel said in a statement. “With this decision, that is exactly what they’ve chosen to do.”

Under the terms of the treaty, Mr. Trump’s formal notice to Russia and the other signatories starts a six-month clock toward final withdrawal. It requires a meeting of all the signatories within 60 days.

To the extent that foreign policy becomes an issue in the presidential campaign, the withdrawal from this treaty, along with the previous two, could become a debating point. On Monday, Antony J. Blinken, the top foreign policy adviser to Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said that “I would be very much in favor of staying engaged in Open Skies.”

Conservatives have been pressing Mr. Trump to withdraw for some time, despite his own periodic musings about his friendship with President Vladimir V. Putin, which he repeated on Thursday. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a longtime proponent of withdrawal, said in a statement, “It was long past time for the United States to withdraw from this treaty and stop allowing Russia to use our skies to spy on the American people.”

But that was the entire premise of the Eisenhower plan: that the “spying” would, in fact, build confidence that neither side was preparing for military action. The treaty was imagined as a way to verify the movement and exercises of conventional forces, though it also played some role in tracking the movement of tactical nuclear weapons as the Russians placed more aimed at targets in Western Europe.

“The transparency it provides has helped prevent miscalculation and misunderstandings that could have otherwise led to conflict,” said John F. Tierney, a former Democratic representative from Massachusetts who is the executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. “This has become a reckless pattern” for the Trump administration.

Open Skies is a comparatively small treaty; the bigger issue will be the fate of New START.

For more than a year, Mr. Trump has said he would not renew the New START treaty, negotiated by Mr. Obama in 2010, unless China also joined. Beijing has rejected the idea. And it is unclear how that might work even if China agreed to enter the treaty. With 1,550 deployed nuclear weapons each, the United States and Russia would never be willing to reduce their arsenals to the 300 or so held by China. And allowing China to build up to American and Russian levels seems to defeat the purpose of arms control.

Mr. Pompeo has suggested that not all nuclear powers need to have the same number of nuclear weapons. But the idea that China would willingly agree to a small arsenal, especially at a moment of great tension with the United States, seems hard to imagine.

In a briefing for reporters Thursday afternoon, Mr. Billingslea said that he and his Russian counterparts had agreed to meet on the future of the New START treaty, and that the United States would insist that any negotiations include the Chinese. He said he was confident the Chinese would participate.

“The Chinese have an obligation to negotiate with us in good faith,” he said. “We also know they want to be treated as a great power, and what better way to do so” than entering into negotiations with Moscow and Washington.

“We will have to have very tough verification measures” for any new accord, he said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

For Spy Agencies, Briefing Trump Is a Test of Holding His Attention

Mr. Trump has insisted that the intelligence agencies gave him inadequate warnings about the threat of the virus, describing it as “not a big deal.” Intelligence officials have publicly backed him, acknowledging that Beth Sanner, the analyst who regularly briefs the president, underplayed the dangers when she first mentioned the virus to him on Jan. 23.

But in blaming Ms. Sanner, a C.I.A. analyst with three decades of experience, Mr. Trump ignored a host of warnings he received around that time from higher-ranking officials, epidemiologists, scientists, biodefense officials, other national security aides and the news media about the virus’s growing threat. Mr. Trump’s own health secretary had alerted him five days earlier to the potential seriousness of the virus.

By the time of the Jan. 23 intelligence briefing, many government officials were already alarmed by the signs of a crisis in China, where the virus first broke out, and of a world on the brink of disaster. Within days, other national security warnings prompted the Trump administration to restrict travel from China. But the United States lost its chance to more effectively mitigate the coronavirus in the following weeks when Mr. Trump balked at further measures that might have slowed its spread.

Mr. Trump has not mentioned Ms. Sanner by name when faulting her Jan. 23 briefing. But by focusing on a single briefing, some former officials said, his criticism seemed both personal and misplaced.

“It’s hard for me to imagine her saying something like ‘not so deadly,’” said Greg Treverton, a former National Intelligence Council chairman who worked with Ms. Sanner. “But it is conceivable that is what Trump heard and it wasn’t exactly said.”

Mr. Trump, who has mounted a yearslong attack on the intelligence agencies, is particularly difficult to brief on critical national security matters, according to interviews with 10 current and former intelligence officials familiar with his intelligence briefings.

The president veers off on tangents and getting him back on topic is difficult, they said. He has a short attention span and rarely, if ever, reads intelligence reports, relying instead on conservative media and his friends for information. He is unashamed to interrupt intelligence officers and riff based on tips or gossip he hears from the former casino magnate Steve Wynn, the retired golfer Gary Player or Christopher Ruddy, the conservative media executive.

Mr. Trump rarely absorbs information that he disagrees with or that runs counter to his worldview, the officials said. Briefing him has been so great a challenge compared with his predecessors that the intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to study how better to present information to him.

Working to keep Mr. Trump’s interest exhausted and burned out his first briefer, Ted Gistaro, two former officials said. Mr. Gistaro did not always know what to expect and would sometimes have to brief an erratic and angry president upset over news reports, the officials said.

Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, said that the idea that Mr. Trump was difficult in intelligence briefings was “flat wrong.” “When you are there, you see a president questioning the assumptions and using the opportunity to broaden the discussion to include real-world perspectives,” Mr. Grenell said.

White House officials disputed the characterization of Mr. Trump as inattentive. “The president is laser-focused on the issues at hand and asks probing questions throughout the briefings — it reminds me of appearing before a well-prepared appellate judge and defending the case,” Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, said in response to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump’s demeanor is hardly judicial, former officials said, but they acknowledged he occasionally asks good questions.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_171071223_02557d25-2b8a-4fef-92ad-56cb1f5f253a-articleLarge For Spy Agencies, Briefing Trump Is a Test of Holding His Attention United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sanner, Beth Presidents and Presidency (US) Office of the Director of National Intelligence Espionage and Intelligence Services Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Classified Information and State Secrets central intelligence agency
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

An official with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to make Ms. Sanner available for an interview, citing the sensitive nature of her work.

Mr. Trump has long harbored a suspicion of the intelligence agencies, viewing them as part of the so-called deep state intent on undermining his victory in 2016 by revealing that Russia developed a preference for his campaign as it interfered in the election. His distrust has persisted; he publicly belittled his intelligence chiefs last year after a congressional hearing where they offered assessments at odds with the White House, directing them to “go back to school.”

Other presidents have had, at times, contentious relationships with their intelligence briefers. But unlike George W. Bush, who questioned assumptions underlying the analysis, or Barack Obama, who cited analysis from deep in his written briefing, Mr. Trump does not appear to read the document or to otherwise prepare beyond bringing in information he picked up from personal sources.

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“How do you know?” is Mr. Trump’s common refrain during his 30- to 50-minute briefings two or three times a week. He counters with his own statistics on issues where he has strong views, like trade or NATO. Directly challenging him, even when his numbers are wrong, appears to erode Mr. Trump’s trust, according to former officials, and ultimately he stops listening.

H.R. McMaster, the former national security adviser, would sometimes interject during intelligence briefings to correct Mr. Trump, but the president would ignore him. The corrections contributed to the president’s growing irritation with Mr. McMaster, according to people familiar with the briefings. Mr. McMaster, who was replaced in 2018 after 13 months in the post, declined to comment.

Think of Mr. Trump as a performer who is always on, even in the confines of a classified briefing, Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence, has advised other officials. Mr. Maguire has told briefers they need to know their audience and understand that Mr. Trump honed his style on reality television, said a former senior intelligence official. Mr. Maguire declined to comment.

Intelligence briefings are among the most important entries on a president’s calendar. The briefer, always a top C.I.A. analyst, delivers the latest secrets and best insights from the 17 intelligence agencies. The oral briefings to Mr. Trump are based on the President’s Daily Brief, the crown jewels of intelligence reports, which draws from spywork to make sophisticated analytic predictions about longstanding adversaries, unfolding plots and emerging crises around the world.

But getting Mr. Trump to remember information, even if he seems to be listening, can be all but impossible, especially if it runs counter to his worldview, former officials said.

When Ms. Sanner replaced Mr. Gistaro in 2019, she tried a new approach. She gives Mr. Trump an agenda to try to keep him on track and deploys a more analytical style than the just-the-facts delivery of Mr. Gistaro.

Over her career, Ms. Sanner, 56, has directed the agency’s training program for new analysts, overseen the assembly of the most sensitive intelligence reports and has expertise in Central Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia. She relies on humor and sarcasm to get her point across and will subtly challenge the president.

If Mr. Trump diverges onto irrelevant topics, she will let him talk before interrupting to confidently ask to move on, said people who have seen Ms. Sanner brief the president.

Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

Mr. Trump, who made his name in real estate, is drawn to subjects like international economic developments. Ms. Sanner highlights that material and tells the president what is in the intelligence for him, according to people familiar with her briefing style. She draws from recent intelligence reports, or that day’s edition of the President’s Daily Brief, to lay out a compelling story around a new piece of intelligence. The technique is effective, according to associates of Ms. Sanner.

Mr. Trump has also shown interest in foreign leaders, particularly autocrats like President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, and Ms. Sanner mentions them to draw in the president on topics that he might otherwise tune out.

While Mr. Trump does not appear to read the intelligence reports he is given, he will examine graphs, charts and tables. Satellite pictures clearly interest him, too: He tweeted one from his intelligence brief, revealing the capabilities of some of the government’s most classified spy assets.


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  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated May 20, 2020

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?

      There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • How can I help?

      Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.


Mr. Trump is hardly the only president to prefer oral briefings. Richard M. Nixon also rarely read his daily intelligence reports, instead receiving updates from Henry A. Kissinger, his national security adviser. Mr. O’Brien updates Mr. Trump on new intelligence throughout the day, including a morning phone call and an end-of-the-day meeting, said a senior administration official.

At the start of Mr. Trump’s tenure, any discussion of Russia could upend the briefing, devolving into complaints by the president that he was unfairly being attacked in the press over Moscow’s election interference campaign.

“There was some venting, which at times made me a little bit frustrated,” Dan Coats, the former director of national intelligence, told congressional investigators. “I thought it was taking away from him getting the intelligence he needed.”

Ms. Sanner mostly sidesteps the risk by broadly covering election threats not just from Russia but also from China, North Korea and Iran.

White House aides have also limited the number of people who attend the intelligence briefings, in part to limit leaks and to restrict the sessions to senior officials that the president is comfortable with, former officials said. Ms. Sanner leads the discussion, and is accompanied most days by Mr. Grenell and often by Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director. Typically, Mr. O’Brien and the White House chief of staff sit in.

On Thursday, a divided Senate voted, 49 to 44, to confirm Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas and a fierce defender of the president, as the new director of national intelligence, the first person to hold the post permanently since Mr. Coats left the administration last summer.

Credit…Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times

Ms. Sanner has cultivated a close relationship with Mr. Trump and has displayed respect for him, former officials said, so some of them were surprised when he and intelligence officials pinned blame for the administration’s coronavirus response on one of her briefings.

“On Jan. 23, I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import,” Mr. Trump said in a recent interview with Fox News at the Lincoln Memorial. “In other words, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to do something.’ It was a brief conversation and it was only on Jan. 23.”

Ms. Sanner did offer limited information in that briefing, an official said, and she compared the virus to SARS, a less contagious coronavirus from China that was more quickly contained. Former officials defended her, saying that the comparison served to help the president understand the threat.

China’s failure to share information, not Ms. Sanner’s presentation, was to blame for the relatively muted warning, according to current and former intelligence officials. Other intelligence officials also noted that public health officials, not spy agencies, were best positioned to sound early warnings about the pandemic.

By February, the intelligence agency warnings were more in line with the increasingly dire predictions of the National Security Council staff and the public health officials. But unlike his aggressive move in January barring travel from China, Mr. Trump later hesitated to act, ignoring increasingly strident warnings from officials who pressed for stronger steps as the threat became clear.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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As Questions Grow Over His Activities, Pompeo Defends Firing of Watchdog

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-pompeo-copy-facebookJumbo-v2 As Questions Grow Over His Activities, Pompeo Defends Firing of Watchdog Trump, Donald J State Department Pompeo, Susan Pompeo, Mike Menendez, Robert Linick, Steve A Inspectors General Ethics and Official Misconduct

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday defiantly defended the firing of an inspector general who had investigated his conduct, and he issued a broadside against a Democratic senator to counter criticism that he had used diplomatic resources for his personal advantage.

In seething comments to reporters, Mr. Pompeo said he wished he had recommended earlier that President Trump dismiss the State Department’s inspector general, Steve A. Linick. He called it “patently false” that his request sought to retaliate for inquiries into his potential misuse of government resources or the Trump administration’s decision to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over Congress’s objections.

But he refused to explain why he wanted Mr. Linick fired, as Mr. Trump ordered on Friday night. Mr. Linick has been locked out of his office, despite a law mandating a 30-day waiting period for Congress to raise objections.

The investigations have fueled concerns that Mr. Pompeo has used the State Department to further his political ambitions, including a possible future presidential campaign. Over the last two years, Mr. Pompeo has privately met with political donors and supporters while on official State Department travel, and used speeches and interviews in Iowa, New Hampshire and other important election states to advance foreign policy.

Mr. Pompeo dismissed allegations of improper acts during his leadership, and he spoke of separate investigations by the inspector general in one breath in an effort to ridicule them.

“I’ve seen the various stories that someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner,” he said in response to journalists’ questions at the State Department. “It’s all just crazy. It’s all crazy stuff.”

He lashed out against Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has opened an inquiry into Mr. Linick’s firing after learning of the inspector general’s investigations into whether Mr. Pompeo or his wife, Susan, used State Department resources for their political or personal gain.

“I don’t get my ethics guidance from a man who was criminally prosecuted,” Mr. Pompeo said, referring to 2015 federal bribery charges that were brought, but led to no conviction, against Mr. Menendez.

“The facts speak for themselves,” Mr. Menendez said in a response Wednesday. “Secretary Pompeo now faces an investigation into both this improper firing and into his attempt to cover up his inappropriate and possibly illegal actions.”

Mr. Menendez said the attack against congressional oversight was not surprising. “The fact that Secretary Pompeo is now trying diversion tactics by attempting to smear me is as predictable as it is shameful,” he said.

Mr. Trump had previously fired or demoted three other inspectors general this spring, and the dismissal of Mr. Linick led Democrats in the House and Senate to begin an inquiry into the ouster.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Menendez reached out to Stephen E. Biegun, the deputy secretary of state, for details on a series of lavish dinners at the State Department that the Pompeos have hosted for hundreds of guests, including American business leaders and conservative political officials. Mr. Menendez had been aware for months of the dinners and sent a private letter to Mr. Biegun demanding to know whether they were legal, how they were funded and who had attended.

The Foreign Affairs Manual, which outlines State Department regulations, prohibits the “use, or allowing use, of U.S. government funds, property or other resources for unofficial proposes or for private benefit.”

Congressional officials have said Mr. Linick, who has served as the State Department inspector general since 2013, was examining several areas of policy and potential misuse of government resources that had raised concerns.

In one, officials said, Mr. Linick’s office had opened an investigation into whether the Pompeo family had assigned a State Department employee to work on issues unrelated to diplomatic business. Part of that inquiry has examined whether government aides were told to do personal chores, including picking up dry cleaning and walking the family dog, Sherman.

A focus of that inquiry is the role of Toni Porter, a longtime aide to Mr. Pompeo, who is on the State Department payroll as a senior adviser and who helped set up domestic travel and events inside the United States for Mr. Pompeo and his wife.

Ms. Porter worked for Mr. Pompeo when he was a Republican congressman from Kansas, heading his district office in Wichita. She also worked for a year as a lobbyist and program manager at the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, which had a relationship with Mr. Pompeo, as a congressman, that “was very important to us,” said Gary Plummer, its president and chief executive.

In 2017, Mr. Pompeo hired Ms. Porter to run the C.I.A. protocol office when he was the spy agency’s director. While there, she also helped Mrs. Pompeo’s outreach efforts to families of C.I.A. officers overseas. Ms. Porter followed the couple to the State Department when Mr. Pompeo became the top American diplomat in 2018.

Ms. Porter declined to comment on the investigations. People familiar with her duties said she helped Mrs. Pompeo, an agency volunteer, with a wide range of tasks, including organizing the private “Madison Dinners” in a historic room at the State Department.

A report published late Tuesday by NBC outlined details of the taxpayer-funded dinners, citing guest lists and other documents to demonstrate the extent that government resources were used. The report found that contact information for the dinner guests — including known political donors and potential supporters of any future campaign by Mr. Pompeo for higher office — were sent to Mrs. Pompeo’s personal email address.

A State Department spokeswoman defended the dinners as an opportunity for the guests — nearly 500 invitees from the corporate, political and diplomatic communities at about two dozen events since 2018 — to discuss foreign policy.

A person who attended one of the dinners last year called it “classic soft diplomacy,” describing it as geared toward offering an informal take on American political and business issues with a foreign dignitary as the featured guest. Other attendees included another Trump cabinet official, the chief executive of an American business and some conservative journalists and political operatives, the person said.

The Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee said in a statement Wednesday that “reports that Secretary Pompeo misused taxpayer dollars for lavish entertainment are very concerning, and these serious questions are compounded by Secretary Pompeo’s penchant for secrecy.”

Secretaries of state have used the diplomatic reception rooms atop the State Department, home to Thomas Jefferson’s desk and featuring an outdoor patio with a commanding view of Washington, to seek advice and to impress potential supporters. Condoleezza Rice held dinners there on promoting democracy, and John Kerry on the future of the Middle East.

But Mr. Pompeo finds himself in the position Hillary Clinton was a decade ago: every event scrutinized for the presence of potential donors to a future presidential campaign, and a suspicion that the sessions were about more than just foreign policy.

President Bill Clinton used overnight stays in the White House Lincoln Bedroom as a way to reward major donors, and Vice President Mike Pence courted influential donors, corporate executives and conservative political leaders at a string of private dinners at his official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington. President Barack Obama also entertained donors at the White House, as did former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. when he lived at the Naval Observatory residence.

When such efforts are exposed, they inevitably raise questions about the use of taxpayer-funded resources for the political or personal benefit of the politician. The president and vice president are broadly exempt from laws prohibiting the use of government resources for political purposes, and cabinet secretaries are generally allowed to participate in some political activities while on the clock, as long as they are not funded by tax dollars.

Questions over the possible misuse of taxpayer funds by Mr. Pompeo, including on frequent trips aboard department aircraft to his adopted home state, Kansas, have dogged the secretary since he began his current job.

On Monday, the person appointed by Mr. Trump as acting inspector general, Stephen J. Akard, an ally of Mr. Pence’s, came into the inspector general’s office to start his new job, even though the 30-day review period for Congress to examine Mr. Linick’s firing is still in effect, a congressional aide said. Mr. Akard is not quitting his job as head of the department’s foreign missions office, the aide said, and doing both jobs is an obvious conflict of interest.

David E. Sanger, Kenneth P. Vogel and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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Trump Steps Up Attacks on Mail Vote, Making False Claims About Michigan

Westlake Legal Group trump-steps-up-attacks-on-mail-vote-making-false-claims-about-michigan Trump Steps Up Attacks on Mail Vote, Making False Claims About Michigan Voter Registration and Requirements Trump, Donald J States (US) Michigan Benson, Jocelyn absentee voting
Westlake Legal Group 20trump-voting-facebookJumbo Trump Steps Up Attacks on Mail Vote, Making False Claims About Michigan Voter Registration and Requirements Trump, Donald J States (US) Michigan Benson, Jocelyn absentee voting

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday incorrectly accused Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state of mailing ballots to all of the state’s registered voters, falsely claiming that it was illegal, as he escalated his assault against mail voting.

The president also threatened to withhold federal funds to Michigan and Nevada if the states proceed in expanding vote-by-mail efforts.

“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of primaries and the general election,” the president tweeted. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue secretary of state. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this voter fraud path!”

The Twitter post was the latest in a series of broadsides the president has aimed at the vote-by-mail process that has become the primary vehicle for voting in an electoral system transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, announced on Tuesday that she will send absentee ballot applications — and not actual ballots, as the president claimed — to the state’s voters, replicating an effort that elections officials across the country have made during the health crisis.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday, Ms. Benson, said that the state “sent applications, not ballots. Just like my G.O.P. colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.” The president is scheduled to visit Michigan on Thursday.

Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and municipal officials in Milwaukee have also said they will send vote-by-mail applications to registered voters in hopes of easing stress on in-person voting locations.

Mr. Trump, along with many of his Republican allies, have during the coronavirus pandemic launched a series of false attacks to demonize mail voting as fraught with fraud and delivering an inherent advantage to Democratic candidates — despite there being scant evidence for either claim.

The president himself, along with the first lady, Melania Trump, voted by mail in Florida’s presidential primary in March.

Mr. Trump’s attacks on mail voting have come largely in states with little history of large numbers of people casting absentee ballots, like Wisconsin. But he has not addressed mail voting in states where it has long been popular, such as Florida and Arizona, and often used to great success by Republican campaigns. Nor has Mr. Trump denigrated mail voting in the five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — that conduct elections entirely by mail.

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More Than 900 Children Have Been Expelled Under a Pandemic Border Policy

The last time Sandra Rodríguez saw her son Gerson, she bent down to look him in the eye. “Be good,” she said, instructing him to behave when he encountered Border Patrol agents on the other side of the river in the United States, and when he was reunited with his uncle in Houston.

The 10-year-old nodded, giving his mother one last squinty smile. Tears caught in his dimples, she recalled, as he climbed into a raft and pushed out across the Rio Grande toward Texas from Mexico, guided by a stranger who was also trying to reach the United States.

Ms. Rodríguez expected that Gerson would be held by the Border Patrol for a few days and then transferred to a government shelter for migrant children, from which her brother in Houston would eventually be able to claim him. But Gerson seemed to disappear on the other side of the river. For six frantic days, she heard nothing about her son — no word that he had been taken into custody, no contact with the uncle in Houston.

Finally, she received a panicked phone call from a cousin in Honduras who said that Gerson was with her. The little boy was crying and disoriented, his relatives said; he seemed confused about how he had ended up back in the dangerous place he had fled.

Hundreds of migrant children and teenagers have been swiftly deported by American authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic without the opportunity to speak to a social worker or plea for asylum from the violence in their home countries — a reversal of years of established practice for dealing with young foreigners who arrive in the United States.

The deportations represent an extraordinary shift in policy that has been unfolding in recent weeks on the southwestern border, under which safeguards that have for decades been granted to migrant children by both Democratic and Republican administrations appear to have been abandoned.

Historically, young migrants who showed up at the border without adult guardians were provided with shelter, education, medical care and a lengthy administrative process that allowed them to make a case for staying in the United States. Those who were eventually deported were sent home only after arrangements had been made to assure they had a safe place to return to.

That process appears to have been abruptly thrown out under President Trump’s latest border decrees. Some young migrants have been deported within hours of setting foot on American soil. Others have been rousted from their beds in the middle of the night in U.S. government shelters and put on planes out of the country without any notification to their families.

The Trump administration is justifying the new practices under a 1944 law that grants the president broad power to block foreigners from entering the country in order to prevent the “serious threat” of a dangerous disease. But immigration officials in recent weeks have also been abruptly expelling migrant children and teenagers who were already in the United States when the pandemic-related order came down in late March.

Since the decree was put in effect, hundreds of young migrants have been deported, including some who had asylum appeals pending in the court system.

Some of the young people have been flown back to Central America, while others have been pushed back into Mexico, where thousands of migrants are living in filthy tent camps and overrun shelters.

In March and April, the most recent period for which data was available, 915 young migrants were expelled shortly after reaching the American border, and 60 were shipped home from the interior of the country.

During the same period, at least 166 young migrants were allowed into the United States and afforded the safeguards that were once customary. But in another unusual departure, Customs and Border Protection has refused to disclose how the government was determining which legal standards to apply to which children.

“We just can’t put it out there,” said Matthew Dyman, a public affairs specialist with the agency, citing concerns that human smugglers would exploit the information to traffic more people into the country if they knew how the laws were being applied.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration extended the stepped-up border security that allows for young migrants to be expelled at the border, saying the policy would remain in place indefinitely and be reviewed every 30 days.

Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the policy had been “one of the most critical tools the department has used to prevent the further spread of the virus and to protect the American people, D.H.S. front-line officers and those in their care and custody from Covid-19.”

An agency spokesman said its policies for deporting children from within the interior of the country had not changed.

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Amid Mr. Trump’s efforts to block migrants from seeking refuge in the United States, the administration has been scrutinized especially for its treatment of the most vulnerable among them — children.

Democratic members of Congress argue that the swift deportations taking place now violate the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a 20-year-old federal law that lays out standards for the treatment of foreign children who arrive at the American border without an adult guardian.

In a letter last month to Mr. Wolf, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said the moves had “no known precedent or clear legal rationale.”

Immigrant advocates say their pleas for help ensuring that the children have somewhere safe to go when they land have been ignored. Since the coronavirus was first discovered in the United States in January, 239 unaccompanied minors have been returned to Guatemala, and 183 have been returned to Honduras, according to government figures.

“The fact that nobody knows who these kids are and there are hundreds of them is really terrifying,” said Jennifer Nagda, policy director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “There’s no telling if they’ve been returned to smugglers or into harm’s way.”

Before daybreak one morning late last month, Pedro Buezo Romero, 16, was taken from his bed in a shelter in New York and told to pack a suitcase so he could be taken to a court appearance in Florida.

Instead, the teenager ended up on four flights over two days. He was able to sleep for a few hours in a hotel room in Miami shared by three adult employees of a private security company hired to transport him and two other migrant teenagers.

Only before boarding his final flight to Honduras from Texas did the adults reveal to Pedro that he was being deported. When he arrived in Honduras, he had to borrow the cellphone of an immigration official to ask his cousin for a place to stay.

Pedro’s mother has not been seen since the shelter in Mexico where they had been staying together was ransacked by gang members. He and his mother were separated during the ordeal, after which Pedro decided to cross the border alone.

While Pedro was in transit, his lawyers had worked frantically to try to locate him but did not receive any response from the federal government. “There were two or three days we had no idea where he was,” said Katty Vera de Fisher, a supervising migration counselor for Catholic Charities of New York.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172451310_d51bd67b-4a6d-4d35-9f8f-e84b3e74a66d-articleLarge More Than 900 Children Have Been Expelled Under a Pandemic Border Policy United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Immigration Detention Immigration and Emigration Immigration and Customs Enforcement (US) Illegal Immigration Deportation Customs and Border Protection (US) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Children and Childhood Border Patrol (US) Asylum, Right of
Credit…via Pedro Buezo Romero

Some of the children who have been expelled from the United States were previously ordered deported. But historically, even children with prior deportation orders have been given new opportunities to request asylum if they entered the United States again. Now, that appears to have changed.

Lawyers representing children threatened with deportation say they are having to engage in 11th-hour legal maneuvers to try to prevent deportations from happening.

Last week, Hannah Flamm, an immigration lawyer in New York, had only hours to try to stop the repatriation of a 14-year-old client after learning the girl had been booked by ICE on a 3 a.m. flight to Honduras.

The girl’s family had not been notified of her imminent arrival. Ms. Flamm managed to secure an emergency stay of the deportation at 11:47 p.m., at which point the girl was allowed to go back to sleep in the shelter where she was staying.

Ricardo Rodríguez Galo, the uncle of the 10-year-old boy who was deported this month, said he was shocked to learn that Gerson had been sent back to Honduras alone.

Mr. Rodríguez said he worried about the boy’s safety in Honduras, where his sister’s former partner had beaten the boy and his mother and withheld food from them. Mr. Rodríguez also wondered about the judgment of American authorities who chose to put a child on a plane without notifying any of his family members, including those who had been waiting in the United States to take the boy into their home.

“I’m not going to tell you that we were going to shower him with riches,” Mr. Rodríguez said. “We’re poor, but we were going to fight to support him. We were going to welcome him like he deserved.”

Kirk Semple contributed reporting.

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What to Know About Hydroxychloroquine

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President Trump revealed on Monday that he had been taking an anti-malaria drug as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, the same medicine that he has been promoting for two months with scant evidence of its efficacy and despite several warnings of dangerous side effects.

The drug, hydroxychloroquine, has been invoked by Mr. Trump repeatedly since March during White House briefings on the coronavirus pandemic despite the reservations of doctors and scientists, including some advising the president. He even called the drug, which has been promoted by some conservative pundits, a “game changer.”

Mr. Trump said he started taking the once-a-day pill about a week and a half ago. It was not immediately clear if Mr. Trump began the regimen in response to two White House staff members’ testing positive for the virus — one of the president’s personal valets and Katie Miller, the spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence.

And last week, a federal agency head who had been involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine testified to Congress that he had been removed from the post because he had pressed for a rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine. The official, Rick Bright, who led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, also said he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine.

Here is what we know about the drug:

What is hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription medicine that was approved decades ago to treat malaria. It is also used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It is sometimes referred to by its brand name, Plaquenil, and is closely related to chloroquine, which is also used to treat malaria.

Why has hydroxychloroquine been considered as a possible treatment for the coronavirus?

There are several reasons. A promising laboratory study, with cultured cells, found that chloroquine could block the coronavirus from invading cells, which it must do to replicate and cause illness. However, drugs that conquer viruses in test tubes or petri dishes do not always work in the human body, and studies of hydroxychloroquine have found that it failed to prevent or treat influenza and other viral illnesses.

Reports from doctors in China and France have said that hydroxychloroquine, sometimes combined with the antibiotic azithromycin, seemed to help patients. But those studies were small and did not use proper control groups — patients carefully selected to match those in the experimental group but who are not given the drug being tested. Research involving few patients and no controls cannot determine whether a drug works. And the French study has since been discredited: The scientific group that oversees the journal where it was published said the study did not meet its standards.

A study from China did include a control group and suggested that hydroxychloroquine might help patients with mild cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But that study had limitations: It was also small, with a total of 62 patients, and they were given various other drugs as well as hydroxychloroquine. The doctors evaluating the results knew which patients were being treated, and that information could have influenced their judgment. Even if the findings hold up, they will apply only to people who are mildly ill. And the researchers themselves said more studies were needed.

Another reason the drug has been considered for coronavirus patients is that it can rein in an overactive immune system, which is why it is used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. In some severe cases of Covid-19, the immune system seems to go into overdrive and cause inflammation that can damage the lungs and other organs. Doctors hope hydroxychloroquine might calm the condition, sometimes called a cytokine storm, but so far there is no proof that it has that effect.

Can hydroxychloroquine protect you from catching the virus?

There is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine can prevent coronavirus infection. However, researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit are testing the drug in people who live with coronavirus patients to see whether it can protect them.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172297569_68105811-ae9c-4c75-bedb-6270158c4ff1-articleLarge What to Know About Hydroxychloroquine Trump, Donald J Rumors and Misinformation Rheumatoid Arthritis Research Preventive Medicine Malaria Lupus Erythematosus Hydroxychloroquine (Drug) hospitals Food and Drug Administration Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Clinical Trials Azithromycin (Drug)
Credit…Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Is hydroxychloroquine approved by the Food and Drug Administration?

Yes, but for malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, not for Covid-19. For decades, doctors have been legally allowed to prescribe it for any condition they think it might help, a practice called off-label use.

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In late March, the F.D.A. granted emergency approval to allow hospitals to use hydroxychloroquine from the national stockpile to treat patients who would not otherwise qualify for a clinical trial. Under the approval, patients and their families will receive information about the drug, and hospitals have to track information about the patients who received the drug, including their health condition and serious side effects. But that F.D.A. authorization for emergency use is not equivalent to meeting federal requirements, including scientific evidence through trials, that would deem hydroxychloroquine a proven treatment against the virus.

Is hydroxychloroquine being given to coronavirus patients now?

Yes. Early on in the epidemic, many hospitals began giving it to patients because there was no proven treatment, and they hoped it would help. Clinical trials with control groups have begun across the world. A nationwide trial began on April 2 in the United States; it had planned to enroll 510 patients at 44 medical centers.

Researchers say those studies are essential to find out whether the drug works against the coronavirus. If it does not, time and money can be redirected to other potential treatments.

Is there any danger in taking hydroxychloroquine?

Like every drug, it can have side effects. It is not safe for people who have abnormalities in their heart rhythms, eye problems involving the retina, or liver or kidney disease. Other possible side effects include nausea, diarrhea, mood changes and skin rashes.

The leaders of three professional societies in cardiology warned on April 8 in the journal Circulation that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin could each cause dangerous disruptions in heart rhythm, and they wrote, “There are very limited data evaluating the safety of combination therapy.”

Over all, it is considered relatively safe for people who do not have underlying illnesses that the drug is known to worsen. But it is not known whether hydroxychloroquine is safe for severely ill Covid-19 patients, who may have organ damage from the virus.

If I can get hydroxychloroquine, should I take it to prevent coronavirus infection?

No, especially not without consulting a doctor who knows your medical history and what other medications you are taking. There is no proof that it works. And if it is being sold on the street or via the internet, it may be fake or unsafe.

An Arizona man in his 60s died in March after swallowing an aquarium cleaning product that had chloroquine on its label. He and his wife, who became critically ill, had thought the product would protect them from the virus.

At this point, the best way to avoid infection is to practice the social-distancing and quarantine measures recommended by public health authorities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that people wear cloth masks in public and wash their hands regularly.

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Trump Says He’s Taking Hydroxychloroquine, Prompting Warning From Health Experts

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Monday that he had been taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug the Food and Drug Administration warned could cause serious heart problems for coronavirus patients. He said he was taking the drug as a preventive measure and continued to test negative for the coronavirus.

“All I can tell you is so far I seem to be OK,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he had been taking the drug for about a week and a half, with the approval of the White House physician. “I get a lot of tremendously positive news on the hydroxy,” Mr. Trump continued, explaining that his decision to try the drug was based on one of his favorite refrains: “What do you have to lose?”

But Mr. Trump’s announcement surprised many of his aides and drew immediate criticism from a range of medical experts, who warned not just of the dangers it posed for the president’s health but also of the example it set.

“My concern would be that the public not hear comments about the use of hydroxychloroquine and believe that taking this drug to prevent Covid-19 infection is without hazards. In fact, there are serious hazards,” said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, the chief academic officer of the Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Scott Solomon, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said Mr. Trump’s decision to try the drug was up to him and his physician. “But what is irresponsible is the example he is setting,” Dr. Solomon said.

Mr. Trump publicly embraced hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” in the fight against the virus in March, and his endorsement, amplified by Fox News hosts like Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, caused a run on the drug, making it scarce for those who took it for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, for which it is regularly prescribed.

But on Monday night, Dr. Manny Alvarez, the senior managing editor for Fox News’s health news, said on air that the president’s statement was “highly irresponsible” and asked what had changed since studies showed the drug had no benefits.

Mr. Trump first said he was considering taking the drug himself in April. But in recent weeks he had notably stopped promoting it, as did the Fox News hosts. But he then suggested at a news conference that injecting disinfectants into the human body could help combat the virus, causing confused callers to flood state health hotlines and the makers of Clorox and Lysol to plead with Americans not to inject or ingest their products.

His announcement on Monday came less than a month after the F.D.A. issued a safety warning about the drug, noting that it could cause dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythm in coronavirus patients and should not be used outside clinical trials or in hospitals where patients were closely monitored for heart problems.

But by that time hydroxychloroquine had become a divisive issue within the Trump administration. Dr. Rick Bright, who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, said he was removed from his post after he pressed for rigorous vetting of the drug.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_171899859_fce27f06-652a-4d9e-b9ab-329b41b29031-articleLarge Trump Says He’s Taking Hydroxychloroquine, Prompting Warning From Health Experts United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Hydroxychloroquine (Drug) Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…John Locher/Associated Press

Dr. Bright said he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine, one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”

On Monday, the president not only promoted the drug but also said he was taking it. And he made it clear that his decision was based on trusting anecdotal evidence, and his own gut, over the warnings of the government, or any data.

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In that sense his position was consistent with his view of other expert medical advice — he has also refused to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and wear a face mask. And before becoming president he had alleged that there was a link between the number of vaccines children got in early infancy and the development of autism.

“I take it because I think I hear very good things,” Mr. Trump said, citing a letter he received from an unnamed doctor in Westchester, N.Y., promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine.

“I want the people of this nation to feel good. I don’t want them being sick,” Mr. Trump said at the end of a round table with restaurant executives at the White House. “And there is a very good chance that this has an impact, especially early on.”

As for taking hydroxychloroquine, “I’m not going to get hurt by it,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he was sharing the news to be transparent with Americans and appearing to enjoy the shock value of his announcement. “It has been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things.”

Later on Monday night, the White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, released a statement that linked Mr. Trump’s decision to take the drug to the “support staff” who tested positive for the virus, an apparent reference to the president’s personal valet. “After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks,” Dr. Conley said. He also said the president “is in very good health and has remained symptom free.”

Early studies of hydroxychloroquine in the laboratory suggesting that the drug could block the coronavirus from attacking cells prompted initial enthusiasm. But the studies of the drug in humans so far have pointed to serious side effects.

“I think it’s a very bad idea to be taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medication,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and the director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif. “There are no data to support that, there’s no evidence and in fact there is no compelling evidence to support its use at all at this point.”

Dr. Topol said the risk of developing a potentially fatal arrhythmia because of hydroxychloroquine could come without warning and did not happen only in people with heart conditions. “We can’t predict that. In fact, it can happen in people who are healthy,” he said. “It could happen in anyone.”

Mr. Trump has never provided the public with a full picture of his health. In 2018, the White House physician reported that Mr. Trump had an LDL cholesterol level of 143, well above the desired level of 100 or less. Some cardiologists who are not associated with the White House said his cholesterol levels raised heart concerns.

Mr. Trump made a trip in November to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that was not listed on his public schedule. He stayed for about two hours for what White House officials said were routine tests, but since the visit had not been revealed in advance and came only nine months after his last annual physical, it touched off much discussion about whether the president had an undisclosed health issue.

Mr. Trump, 73, is the oldest man ever sworn in for a first term as president, and he is known for his love of fast food and takes pride in not exercising. At his checkup last year he weighed 243 pounds, which is considered obese for a man of his reported height of 6 feet 3 inches. He has been reported in the past to be taking rosuvastatin, a lipid-lowering drug, to control his cholesterol.

Neil Cavuto, a Fox News host, reacted to the president’s announcement with a grim warning that once might have shocked his network’s viewers. To anyone with pre-existing conditions, he said: “It will kill you. I cannot stress enough. This will kill you.”

Annie Karni reported from Washington, and Katie Thomas from New York.

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State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis

WASHINGTON — The State Department inspector general fired by President Trump on Friday was in the final stages of an investigation into whether the administration had unlawfully declared an “emergency” last year to allow the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their air war in Yemen.

Employees from the office of the inspector general, Steve A. Linick, presented preliminary findings to senior State Department officials in early March, before the coronavirus forced lockdowns across the United States. But it was not clear whether that investigation, or others that Mr. Linick had underway, led to his dismissal.

Mr. Trump, speaking about the latest in his series of firings of inspectors general around the government, said on Monday of Mr. Linick: “I don’t know him. Never heard of him. But I was asked by the State Department, by Mike” to terminate Mr. Linick. He apparently was referring to a recommendation he received from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I have the absolute right as president to terminate,” Mr. Trump added. “I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ and they say, ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look I’ll terminate him.’”

Video

transcript

‘Never Heard of Him,’ Trump Says of Inspector General He Fired

President Trump said he didn’t know why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had asked him to terminate the official, who was investigating the administration.

“So, I don’t know him. Never heard of him, but they asked me to terminate him. I have the absolute right as president to terminate. I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ And they said, ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look, I’ll terminate him.’ I don’t know what’s going on other than that. But you’d have to ask Mike Pompeo. But they did ask me to do it, and I did it. I have the right to terminate the inspector generals. Now, I don’t know anything about the investigation. But you’re just telling me about walking a dog, and what’d you say, doing dishes?” “Saudi arms deals, sir. Sales to Saudi Arabia over certain arms of concern over their use in the Yemeni crisis. So the question is whether Secretary Pompeo tried to subvert the deal with actions that he may have taken.” “I don’t think so. I mean, I think that when somebody pays us a fortune for, you know, arms, we should get the deal done. I will tell you that. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Westlake Legal Group 18vid-trump-pompeo-inspector-general1-videoSixteenByNine3000 State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis Yemen United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J State Department Saudi Arabia Raytheon Company Pompeo, Mike Linick, Steve A Iran Inspectors General House Committee on Foreign Affairs Foreign Aid Engel, Eliot L Defense Contracts Appointments and Executive Changes
President Trump said he didn’t know why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had asked him to terminate the official, who was investigating the administration.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The investigation into how Mr. Pompeo moved to end a congressional hold on arms sales to the Saudis was prompted in part by demands from the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, who said on Monday that the subsequent investigation might have been “another reason” for the firing of Mr. Linick. The White House announced the firing Friday night under a provision that requires 30 days’ notice to Congress before removing an inspector general.

Democratic leaders in Congress and several Republican lawmakers said on Monday that Mr. Trump had not given sufficient justification for the firing and that they wanted answers during the 30-day review period.

The inspector general’s office conducts multiple, simultaneous investigations into the activities of the State Department and its officials.

“We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed,” Mr. Engel said of the arms sale inquiry.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Pompeo said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post that he had recommended to Mr. Trump that Mr. Linick be fired because Mr. Linick was “undermining” the department’s mission. Mr. Pompeo did not give details.

He also said his recommendation to fire Mr. Linick could not have been an act of retaliation to end an investigation because he had not been briefed on any inquiries.

However, top department officials had clearly received briefings from Mr. Linick’s office and been asked to comply with investigations.

Mr. Linick is widely seen as competent, though sometimes reluctant to wade into the most politically charged issues.

Nonetheless, he issued a harsh report in 2016 on the use of a private email server by Hillary Clinton, who served as Mr. Obama’s secretary of state, and played a minor role in the impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump last fall. He issued two reports last year that criticized political appointees at the State Department, some of whom work closely with Mr. Pompeo.

Mr. Trump has appointed Ambassador Stephen J. Akard, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions, for the role of acting inspector general. Mr. Akard, an associate of Vice President Mike Pence, failed to get congressional support for a top State Department job under Mr. Pompeo’s predecessor but was eventually confirmed for the lesser post at the foreign missions office.

The decision to resume lethal aid to the Saudis and Emiratis was a major initiative undertaken by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump, who often discussed the importance of the weapons sales with officers of Raytheon, the Massachusetts-based defense contractor that lobbied heavily to get a 2017 suspension of sales lifted. Congress had imposed the suspension because of a political rift among Gulf Arab nations driven by the Saudis and because of discoveries that bomb fragments traced to Raytheon by investigators were linked to a series of Saudi bombings that killed civilians, including children.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172054212_974f6070-527a-4661-b3b2-1cc78fa5f5d0-articleLarge State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis Yemen United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J State Department Saudi Arabia Raytheon Company Pompeo, Mike Linick, Steve A Iran Inspectors General House Committee on Foreign Affairs Foreign Aid Engel, Eliot L Defense Contracts Appointments and Executive Changes
Credit…Pool photo by Andrew Harnik

Mr. Trump had pushed to resume the sales in 2018, justifying it as a jobs issue.

“I want Boeing and I want Lockheed and I want Raytheon to take those orders and to hire lots of people to make that incredible equipment,” he said.

But the effort to restart the sales was delayed by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident, Washington Post columnist and American resident. His death, and the suspected role of the Saudi leadership in ordering the killing, led to calls for a full end to military aid to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Pompeo broke the logjam a year ago, declaring an “emergency” over Iran’s activities in the Middle East that enabled him to sidestep the congressional ban and approve restarting the sales. That started the resumption of more normal exchanges with the Saudi government, as the Trump administration tried to move past Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. Saudi Arabia and Iran are archrivals in the region.

In June, after congressional hearings with State Department officials into the rationale for declaring an emergency over Iran, Mr. Engel sent a letter to Mr. Linick asking him to open an investigation. Mr. Engel’s office then tracked the investigation sporadically once it had begun, a Democratic aide said. The office learned by early spring that Mr. Linick had conveyed preliminary findings to the State Department.

This past weekend, after Mr. Trump notified Congress of the firing of Mr. Linick, Mr. Engel’s office learned more details of the circumstances around the arms sale investigation, leading Mr. Engel to ask whether the inquiry might have contributed to the sudden move against Mr. Linick by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump.

The separate inquiry into the possible misuse of a political appointee to run personal errands was still a potential factor, and there might be other motivations for the firing that remain unknown, an aide said.

Aaron David Miller, a former American official on Middle East policy who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that a year ago, “there was no credible emergency nor any real urgency for invoking an Iran emergency declaration for lethal arms sales to the Saudis other than the administration’s desire to please Saudi Arabia.”

He added that American officials “don’t want anyone digging around in the triangular relationship between the administration, Raytheon and Saudi because somebody crossed the line.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo were aware of the sensitivities around trying to bypass the congressional hold on the arms sales. Mr. Pompeo made the announcement of the “emergency” declaration over Iran on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend last year, a common move by government officials to avoid immediate questions from Congress and extensive news coverage. The administration also announced it was sending 1,500 more troops to the Middle East.

The move was aimed at allowing American companies to sell $8.1 billion worth of munitions in 22 pending transfers mainly to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. At the time, a person briefed on the decision said, a part of the arrangement would involve a transfer of munitions from the U.A.E. to Jordan that had nothing to do with Iran.

Mr. Pompeo had pushed aggressively for the sales, over the objections of career Foreign Service officers and lawmakers.

After the announcement of the “emergency” on May 24, lawmakers pointedly asked why, if there was such a crisis, Mr. Pompeo and Patrick Shanahan, then the acting defense secretary, had not briefed them on the situation and on the need to push through arms sales in a closed-door discussion on Iran just three days earlier.

In June, lawmakers called top State Department officials to testify about the decision. Some of their questions focused on the roles played by Charles Faulkner, a former Raytheon lobbyist who worked in the State Department’s legislative affairs bureau, and Marik String, a former deputy assistant secretary in the political-military affairs bureau who became a top department legal adviser in late May.

In a contentious hearing on June 12, lawmakers pressed R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of state in the political-military affairs bureau, on the move. Mr. Cooper argued that a continued hold on the sales would cede commercial advantages to Russia and China. One lawmaker asked whether Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a Middle East adviser with close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, had weighed in on the decision. Mr. Cooper demurred at first, then said no.

Michael LaForgia contributed reporting.

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U.S.-China Feud Over Coronavirus Erupts at World Health Assembly

Westlake Legal Group u-s-china-feud-over-coronavirus-erupts-at-world-health-assembly U.S.-China Feud Over Coronavirus Erupts at World Health Assembly Xi Jinping World Health Organization United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Speeches and Statements Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China

A meeting of the World Health Organization that was supposed to chart a path for the world to combat the coronavirus pandemic instead on Monday turned into a showcase for the escalating tensions between China and the United States over the virus.

President Xi Jinping of China announced at the start of the forum that Beijing would donate $2 billion toward fighting the coronavirus and dispatch doctors and medical supplies to Africa and other countries in the developing world.

The contribution, to be spent over two years, amounts to more than twice what the United States had been giving the global health agency before President Trump cut off American funding last month, and it could catapult China to the forefront of international efforts to contain a disease that has claimed at least 315,000 lives.

But it was also seen — particularly by American officials — as an attempt by China to forestall closer scrutiny of whether it hid information about the outbreak to the world.

Mr. Xi made his announcement by videoconference to the World Health Assembly, an annual decision-making meeting of the W.H.O. that is being conducted virtually this year because of safety considerations during the pandemic. Mr. Trump declined to address the two-day gathering, providing the Chinese president an opening to be one of the first world leaders to address the 194 member states.

“In China, after making painstaking efforts and sacrifice, we have turned the tide on the virus and protected lives,” Mr. Xi said. “We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need.”

In videotaped remarks to the assembly after Mr. Xi spoke, Alex M. Azar II, the U.S. secretary of health and human services, countered with sharp criticism of both the W.H.O. and China, saying their handling of the coronavirus outbreak led to unnecessary deaths.

“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons that this outbreak spun out of control,” Mr. Azar said. “There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.”

In an unmistakable reference to China, he said, “In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world.”

In their remarks to the assembly, other leaders criticized the lack of world unity in fighting the pandemic and, without naming any one country, urged nations to set aside their differences.

“No country can solve this problem alone,” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said. “We must work together.”

But Trump administration officials swiftly denounced China’s aid announcement as an attempt to influence the W.H.O., which is facing pressure from member states to investigate whether it was complicit in Beijing’s lack of transparency in the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan.

China’s “commitment of $2 billion is a token to distract from calls from a growing number of nations demanding accountability for the Chinese government’s failure to meet its obligations under international health regulations to tell the truth and warn the world of what was coming,” John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a statement. “As the source of the outbreak, China has a special responsibility to pay more and to give more.”

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The director general of the W.H.O., Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, nodded to criticism of the organization’s own handling of the early weeks of the outbreak, saying the agency would review “lessons learned” about its global response.

But he did not address Mr. Trump’s insistence that the health agency investigate allegations widely dismissed by scientists that the coronavirus originated in a lab in China. Mr. Xi in his speech called for any examination to take place after the health crisis had subsided.

In recent weeks, Chinese leaders and citizens have become increasingly aware of the international criticism and open hostility over China’s initial handling of the outbreak. Top American officials have been scathing, but European leaders have also spoken of mysteries surrounding the outbreak in China that needed to be addressed.

China’s aggressive diplomacy and international anger over exports of Chinese-made medical equipment that turned out to be shoddy have also contributed to the rising tensions.

About 100 nations have called for an independent investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

Against that backdrop, and with the imminent start of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing on Friday, Mr. Xi’s move appeared to be an effort to win over international support and calm the public anxieties in China.

“Certainly this is a very tricky moment for Xi,” said Dali L. Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. “Clearly he doesn’t want this really to be hanging above him, given how many countries are engaged and have asked for an investigation into the origins of the virus.”

Mr. Trump’s retreat from the global stage has created openings for China, which has been seeking to reshape multilateral institutions long dominated by Washington.

Ryan Hass, a China scholar at the Brookings Institution, said a familiar pattern had emerged. “Whenever Trump withdraws the U.S. from international leadership, Xi announces that China will step forward,” said Mr. Hass, who was a senior Asia director on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. “Xi has been ruthlessly opportunistic about seeking to exploit America’s withdrawal from global leadership for China’s advantage.”

Washington’s weak diplomatic hand was apparent on Monday when its efforts to lead a coalition of countries seeking to win Taiwan admission to the assembly as an observer failed. The self-governed island, which Beijing claims as its own territory, had observer status until 2016. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top American officials had recently called on the W.H.O. and its members to re-establish Taiwan’s admission over Beijing’s objections.

Mr. Trump’s fury at the W.H.O., and his decision last month to freeze financial contributions to the group in the middle of a global pandemic, came as critics pointed to his own administration’s slow and bungled response to a pandemic that has sickened nearly 1.5 million people in the United States and killed nearly 90,000.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172612236_032d10c5-7c0a-4c32-9d79-d091a2b4678d-articleLarge U.S.-China Feud Over Coronavirus Erupts at World Health Assembly Xi Jinping World Health Organization United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Speeches and Statements Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China
Credit…Christopher Black/World Health Organization, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To many of the president’s supporters, the W.H.O. and other international organizations are to blame for lost jobs, low wages and economic uncertainty in the United States. But Mr. Trump will need to convince a broad part of the electorate that he was not responsible for the deaths and massive economic calamity caused by the virus. Casting the W.H.O. and the Chinese government as enemies could be an effective way, at least in the eyes of his supporters, for Mr. Trump to blunt fierce criticism from Democrats over his failures on the pandemic.

“Why is it that China, for decades, and with a population much bigger than ours, is paying a tiny fraction of $’s to The World Health Organization, The United Nations and, worst of all, The World Trade Organization, where they are considered a so-called ‘developing country’ and are therefore given massive advantages over The United States, and everyone else?” Mr. Trump tweeted over the weekend.

Mr. Trump also tweeted that instead of cutting off all funding to the W.H.O., he was considering making payments of “10% of what we have been paying over many years, matching much lower China payments. Have not made final decision. All funds are frozen.”

White House officials on Monday declined to say whether the 10 percent plan might move forward in the days ahead.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

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Passed By for Decades, Clarence Thomas Is a New Symbol of the Trump Era

Among certain conservatives, an idea has started to take hold: Could Justice Clarence Thomas ever be the kind of pop-culture icon to his followers that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become to hers?

Justice Ginsburg, 87, has a book to her name, a touring museum exhibition and a surprise box-office hit in a 2018 documentary about her life. She is tattooed on her fans. Her personal trainer has his own book out. She was appointed to the bench in 1993 but came to realize and embrace this level of celebrity in recent years when her dissents became liberal rallying calls, leading to the nickname homage — and then best-selling book on her life — “The Notorious R.B.G.

Justice Thomas, the Supreme Court’s most conservative member, is catching up in his own way at age 71.

He was the subject of a recent book, “The Enigma of Clarence Thomas,” which led to a flurry of articles and book reviews on his life and legal thought. A new biographical documentary, made by the conservative filmmaker Michael Pack, airs Monday on PBS. For the project, the justice spoke to filmmakers for 30 hours — an astounding feat for a jurist who once went 10 years without asking a question from the bench.

“He would have never said, ‘Gee whiz, I should be an icon,’” said Helgi Walker, a lawyer at the firm Gibson Dunn who clerked for Justice Thomas in 1995 and 1996. “But life is long, and it’s amazing how things can turn out sometimes.”

Since his confirmation hearings in 1991, which included sexual harassment allegations, Justice Thomas has largely been out of the public eye. And for decades, his legal thinking was considered too extreme even for the court’s conservative members, who often declined to join his dissents and concurrences.

Justice Thomas hasn’t changed, nor has his bitterness about the way his confirmation hearings unfolded. But the political moment has. Renewed interest in his life, work and philosophy may be coming from the same place as that in Justice Ginsburg: the Trump era.

Justice Thomas, currently the longest-serving justice, is known as Mr. Trump’s favorite on the court, with many in the legal world citing the numerous former Thomas clerks who have been tapped for the federal bench.

As Justice Ginsburg has become the flag bearer of the Supreme Court’s diminished judicial left, Justice Thomas, who spent years dissenting on the fringes, is a potent symbol for an ascendant conservative wing.

“He’s the most right-wing member of the court, and we are in a right-wing moment,” said Randall Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and critic of the justice. In a piece in The Nation last fall, he criticized those who he said had recently “been solicitous of Thomas” in terms of his biography and his legal thinking, writing that he’d once been the same himself.

Last November in Washington, when gathering in a group was festive and not contested, a largely libertarian crowd convened at the Cato Institute to watch the documentary about Justice Thomas, “Created Equal: Clarence in His Own Words,” in which Justice Thomas laid out again his side of the confirmation showdown. Archival footage showed a younger Mr. Thomas in a red-and-grey tie.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 17thomas-legacy-articleLarge Passed By for Decades, Clarence Thomas Is a New Symbol of the Trump Era Voting Rights Act (1965) United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Thomas, Clarence Supreme Court (US) Pack, Michael Ginsburg, Ruth Bader Documentary Films and Programs Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words (Movie) Conservatism (US Politics) Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Lee Corkran/Sygma, via Getty Images

“As far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching,” the younger Mr. Thomas said of the hearing as the film’s audience nodded approvingly.

The camera then flipped to another man who has re-emerged into the political debate lately: Joe Biden, who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. There were guffaws until the camera turned elsewhere. Justice Thomas then appeared on the screen years later, in a dark suit and with white hair.

“I mean, come on, we know what this is all about,” he says to the camera. “This is the wrong black guy. He has to be destroyed, just say it.”

The line had an impact on Carol M. Swain, a former law professor and conservative political commentator who recently watched the film and said she saw the 1991 hearings in the context of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s in 2018. “It’s not just an agenda to derail a nomination, it’s an effort to destroy a person,” she said.

Many conservatives also now see vindication in the way the court has recently begun to adopt Justice Thomas’s thinking. His legal views spent the 1990s and the early 2000s bottled up as dissents and concurrences that his colleagues often did not sign onto. Now, many are becoming the law of the land.

A little-noticed case in 2009 involving an Austin, Texas, utility district offers a telling example. The district sought to be exempted from the 1965 Voting Rights Act “preclearance” requirements, under which states with a history of discrimination must get federal approval to change the ways in which people can cast votes. The court ruled unanimously that the requirement, a response to Jim Crow efforts to stop African-Americans from electing representatives, shouldn’t apply to a utility district.

Justice Thomas, however, went further: In a concurrence, he agreed with an argument the district had made that the preclearance requirement was itself unconstitutional.

Four years later, a higher-profile case, Shelby County v. Holder, reached the Supreme Court. This time, a five-to-four conservative majority overturned the portion of the Voting Rights Act used to determine which states had a history of discrimination and required preclearance. The decision lifted much of its reasoning from Justice Thomas’s earlier concurrence.

“It was a testament to his influence,” said Jennifer Mascott, a former clerk for Justice Thomas who now teaches law at George Mason University. “It’s a testament to how his thinking is moving the ball forward.”

Justice Ginsburg saw it in different terms. Her dissent said the ruling would effectively gut the Voting Rights Act and was tantamount to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” An estimated 1,700 polling places have been closed, mainly in the South, since the court ruling, and voter suppression is already shaping up to be a battleground in the 2020 election.

Those gathered at the Cato Institute last fall were talking less about Justice Thomas’s jurisprudence than they were about his biography. The story of his life and the intellectual home he found among American conservatives is one that, his supporters note, runs contrary to the notion that the Trumpist version of the Republican Party is sympathetic to white nationalist influences.

Justice Thomas grew up impoverished in a Gullah-speaking community in Georgia and spent his youth as a black nationalist radical in the mold of Malcolm X before reluctantly accepting a job with a Republican attorney general in Missouri, the only job offer he was given, he explains in the film. He voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, in what he called “a giant step for a black man.”

“It really isn’t just about correcting the record about him: I think it’s an important story, a great American story, the classic American story that I think should be told,” Mr. Pack, the film’s director, said during a question-and-answer period.

That came to light after Mr. Pack went on Fox News’s “The Ingraham Angle” on Monday to promote his latest film and note, with some amazement, a different confluence of events: Joe Biden, presidential candidate, now facing a sexual-assault allegation that he has vehemently denied, is the man who presided over Justice Thomas’s confirmation hearings, which featured a harassment allegation that Justice Thomas vehemently denied.

“It’s amazing that Justice Thomas saw — and this was even before Kavanaugh that we interviewed him — that sooner or later you’ll be the next one in the Tower of London,” Mr. Pack said. “And now Joe Biden is in the Tower of London.”

Credit…Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Last week, as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the question of whether Congress may subpoena Mr. Trump’s financial records, Justice Thomas ended one line of questioning by saying, “I think we all know it’s about the president.”

And in many ways, Justice Thomas’s higher public profile is about the president, too. Mr. Trump rose to power with help of Christian evangelicals, who have long sought to change the makeup of the court, and they have largely been supportive of the judges he has appointed.

“There is a sense that no president has given them as much as Trump has,” said Daniel K. Williams, a history professor at the University of West Georgia who focuses on religion.

Justice Thomas’s vote is crucial if conservatives wish to attain their longest-held ambitions, from rolling back abortion rights to ending affirmative action.

Yet black conservatives like Ken Blackwell realize that the rehabilitation of Justice Thomas’s legacy may have it its limits. Mr. Blackwell, a former mayor of Cincinnati, said that while the justice might be experiencing a renaissance among conservatives, making the sale to the black community, which votes overwhelmingly Democratic, would be more of a challenge.

Mr. Blackwell said he regretted that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington did not have a permanent exhibition on Justice Thomas, even though he is the only black member of the court. African-American conservatives deserve their place in history as well, Mr. Blackwell said.

But he did not rule out the possibility, with the rekindled interest in Justice Thomas.

“If by some accident of history, he had passed away at 65, I’m not sure the full appreciation of Clarence Thomas would have happened,” Mr. Blackwell said. “But the fact that he has lived this long means he may well outlive the mischaracterizations, and maybe it’s just long enough that his story finally gets heard.”

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