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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 35)

Trump Attacks Flynn Inquiry Amid New Revelations on F.B.I.

Westlake Legal Group 30dc-flynn-facebookJumbo Trump Attacks Flynn Inquiry Amid New Revelations on F.B.I. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Stone, Roger J Jr Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Pence, Mike Flynn, Michael T Federal Bureau of Investigation Ethics and Official Misconduct

WASHINGTON — President Trump revived his attacks on law enforcement on Thursday as a pair of former advisers, Roger J. Stone Jr. and Michael T. Flynn, renewed their fights against their criminal convictions.

Mr. Flynn’s lawyers accused the F.B.I. and the Justice Department of misconduct, citing newly unsealed documents showing that F.B.I. officials were about to close the investigation into their client in early 2017 until new evidence prompted them to keep it open.

Mr. Stone appealed his conviction to the federal court of appeals for the District of Columbia. He was sentenced in February to 40 months in prison for obstructing a congressional investigation, lying to federal investigators and tampering with a witness.

Mr. Trump wrote and retweeted a flurry of messages sympathetic to Mr. Flynn on Thursday, saying of the investigation, “What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!

At a session later with reporters at the White House, Mr. Trump held out the possibility of pardoning Mr. Flynn but suggested he might not need to because the general would be exonerated through the judicial system. “It’s just disgraceful,” the president said. “I guess we’ll get to that maybe someday or maybe not. Hopefully, we won’t have to get there.”

In response to a question, Mr. Trump said he would think about rehiring Mr. Flynn. “I would certainly consider it, yeah, I would,” he said. “I think he’s a fine man.”

He did not address the fact that he himself fired Mr. Flynn in 2017 for lying to Vice President Mike Pence or explain whether he now thinks he was wrong to do so. “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter in December 2017 after Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.

The documents added new details about the long-running case against Mr. Flynn, who pleaded guilty twice to lying to the F.B.I. about his discussions during the presidential transition in late 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak.

Mr. Flynn was among the four Trump advisers the F.B.I. had begun scrutinizing in 2016 as part of its investigation into whether the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia’s election interference operation.

By early January 2017, F.B.I. agents were on the verge of ending the investigation into Mr. Flynn for lack of evidence, the documents showed, and they planned to close it without questioning Mr. Flynn.

But a separate intelligence review revealed that Mr. Flynn had privately advised Mr. Kislyak days earlier that Russia should avoid retaliating against sanctions imposed by the Obama administration as punishment for Russia’s election interference. The phone calls prompted a flurry of activity among national security officials, including high-level discussions among law enforcement and intelligence officials.

The documents made clear that F.B.I. agents wanted to keep the inquiry into Mr. Flynn open based on the new information, and eventually the bureau decided to interview Mr. Flynn after Mr. Pence denied on national television that Mr. Flynn had discussed sanctions with Mr. Kislyak. Classified transcripts of their calls, obtained from a wiretap of Mr. Kislyak, proved otherwise, and agents began to suspect that Mr. Flynn had lied to the vice president.

Law enforcement officials warned White House aides at the time that because the Russian government knew of the nature of the Flynn-Kislyak discussions, they posed a blackmail risk to Mr. Flynn.

The F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Flynn on Jan. 24, and he lied repeatedly even after agents gave him “multiple opportunities to correct his false statements by revisiting key questions,” prosecutors have said.

The newly disclosed materials also include text messages between the former F.B.I. officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok talking about editing notes on the questioning of Mr. Flynn. His lawyers said they were further evidence that the F.B.I. doctored the interview notes known as a 302, a claim that the judge overseeing Mr. Flynn’s case, Emmet G. Sullivan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, has previously rejected.

Asked on Thursday about the new documents, Mr. Pence told reporters during a trip to Indiana that he was “deeply troubled by the revelations” but declined to say whether Mr. Flynn should have been fired.

“I know what General Flynn told me, and I’m more inclined to believe it was unintentional than ever before,” Mr. Pence said.

Despite claims by Mr. Flynn’s supporters that the new information exonerates him, Judge Sullivan will ultimately decide whether that is true.

Judge Sullivan had unsealed documents a day earlier that revealed notes that a top F.B.I. counterintelligence agent wrote on the day Mr. Flynn was interviewed. “What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the official wrote, apparently assessing the case.

Mr. Flynn’s lawyers called the notes proof that their client was “deliberately set up and framed by corrupt agents at the top of the F.B.I.”

Mr. Flynn himself has remained mostly quiet throughout the case, while Mr. Stone has repeatedly expressed hope that Mr. Trump will pardon him. But so far the president has merely expressed sympathy and anger about his plight.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Trump said on Twitter: “Does anybody really believe that Roger Stone, a man whose house was raided early in the morning by 29 gun toting FBI Agents (with Fake News @CNN closely in toe), was treated fairly. How about the jury forewoman with her unannounced hatred & bias. Same scammers as General Flynn!”

The president’s message echoed complaints from Mr. Stone, who argued that he deserved a new trial because of juror misconduct. Earlier this month, the federal judge who oversaw his case rejected that argument and ordered him to report to prison no earlier than Thursday.

Typically, defendants who have been found guilty are not allowed to delay serving sentences while their appeals are heard — unless they raise a substantial issue of fact or law that is likely to result in a new trial, a reversal of a conviction or a sentence that does not include prison time.

However, the Bureau of Prisons has been allowing people to delay serving their sentences to cut down on the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.

Katie Benner, Sharon LaFraniere and Peter Baker contributed reporting.

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

Polls Had Trump Stewing, and Lashing Out at His Own Campaign

Frustrated by a faltering economy that is out of his control, and facing blowback for his suggestion that disinfectants could potentially combat the coronavirus, President Trump had sunk to one of his lowest points in recent months last week. And he directed his anger toward the one area that is most important to him: his re-election prospects.

Mr. Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the exchange, erupted during a phone call with his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, two days after he was presented with polling data from his campaign and the Republican National Committee that showed him trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, in several crucial states.

He lashed out at Mr. Parscale and said it was other people’s fault that there had been fluctuations in a race they had all seen as his to lose just two months ago. At one point, Mr. Trump said he would not lose to Mr. Biden, insisted the data was wrong and blamed the campaign manager for the fact that he is down in the polls, according to one of the people familiar with the conversation. Mr. Trump even made a threat to sue Mr. Parscale, mentioning the money he has made while working for the president, another person familiar with the call said, although the threat did not appear to be serious.

“I love you, too,” Mr. Parscale replied, according to the people briefed on the call.

The call was first reported by CNN.

The lack of easy options to reset his political trajectory has been deeply unsettling to Mr. Trump, who began the year confident about his re-election prospects because of a thriving economy, but whose performance on the virus has Republicans nervous about losing the White House and the Senate in November.

In the phone call last week, for instance, Mr. Trump demanded to know how it was possible that a campaign that had been projecting strength and invincibility for two years was polling behind a candidate he viewed as extremely weak and, at the moment, largely invisible from daily news coverage.

The answer, according to nearly a dozen people inside and outside the White House, lies in factors both beyond the president’s control, such as the economic downturn and the spread of the new form of coronavirus — as well as those in his control, namely, his playing down of the coronavirus over several weeks followed by his own performance at the briefing room podium.

Instead of calming the country or presenting a clear plan of action on testing, Mr. Trump has spent the majority of his time during the briefings nursing his grievances with Democrats and with members of the news media. His own advisers have pleaded with him to curtail the appearances, telling him that they hurt him more than help him.

At one particularly bad outing last week, a day before Mr. Trump screamed at Mr. Parscale, the president mused about the possibility of injecting disinfectants into people’s bodies to wipe out the virus, prompting responses ranging from outrage to mockery.

But Mr. Trump’s firm belief that the daily news conferences have been helpful to him is not backed up in the polls.

“What we’re seeing in polls is that Trump’s personal ratings have gone down even more than his job approval ratings,” said Geoff Garin, a veteran Democratic pollster. “And what that tells me is that all of Trump’s antics are taking a toll on his vote because now more than ever people see his lack of judgment and lack of temperament as being consequential.”

In an effort to buoy his spirits, some Trump advisers have flagged for him surveys that are rosier than most Republican internal polling, including a recent CNBC poll that showed him virtually tied with Mr. Biden in six battleground states, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They said they viewed that as a positive sign given how hard life has been for most Americans confined to their homes over the past month and suffering economically.

But that poll was more favorable than other recent surveys. A Quinnipiac University poll last week, for instance, showed Mr. Biden ahead in Florida, 46 to 42 percent. And a recent Fox News poll found Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump, 49 to 41 percent, in Michigan.

The heated conversation with Mr. Parscale was not the first time Mr. Trump had expressed frustration at his top campaign adviser. But the connection between the candidate and his campaign apparatus has become more distant since the coronavirus outbreak, with Mr. Trump grounded at the White House and no longer able to reassure and re-energize himself with big rallies.

Westlake Legal Group the-daily-album-art-articleInline-v2 Polls Had Trump Stewing, and Lashing Out at His Own Campaign United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Polls and Public Opinion Parscale, Brad (1976- )

Listen to ‘The Daily’: Biden’s Campaign in Isolation

The presumptive Democratic nominee is struggling to attain the same visibility as the President. But is that a good thing?

Some White House officials, like Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s counselor, have also begun to take on what would traditionally be campaign roles. Ms. Conway has been working with Marcia Lee Kelly, the president and chief executive of the Republican National Convention and a part-time adviser to the first lady, on the planning for the late August gathering.

On Tuesday, Mr. Parscale, who had not seen Mr. Trump in person in a month, flew to Washington from Florida to pay an in-person visit to the president, according to three people familiar with the meeting, and they patched up the dispute. Mr. Parscale showed Mr. Trump new campaign polling data in which the president’s standing had climbed, according to a person familiar with the visit.

The Trump campaign declined to comment, and a White House official did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Mr. Parscale, who typically meets with Mr. Trump in person to show him commercials and videos he is planning to run, has had to rely on West Wing aides to play them for the president while he listens on the phone line for reaction. With the news cycle shifting to talk about states reopening, Mr. Trump was more confident about his own chances than he had been the previous week, aides said.

Campaign advisers are carefully watching the trajectory of Mr. Trump’s standing in the polls. They insist that the numbers they are seeing now are a snapshot and not determinative about the future, and said they expected that Mr. Biden’s numbers would begin to fall when the Trump campaign begins running negative advertisements against him. They have advised Mr. Trump that Mr. Biden’s “hiding in the basement” strategy, as they call it, may be helping him now, but will ultimately backfire on him when Mr. Trump can confront him on a debate stage.

But Mr. Trump, increasingly anxious about losing the election, has also told his advisers he is worried about hitting Mr. Biden too hard too soon, fearing that they could risk knocking him out of the race altogether. Mr. Trump has continued to see himself as able to determine the outcome of the Democratic primary contest, aides said, despite all evidence to the contrary.

He has mused about Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, whose coronavirus briefings he has been intently focused on, emerging as the Democratic nominee, if Mr. Biden should somehow falter (a fantasy among a number of Republicans, and one that Democrats have made clear won’t happen).

For now, Mr. Trump’s campaign is not airing television ads, the only kind the president cares about. The president nixed a series of ads the campaign was set to air that tried to portray Mr. Biden as close to China; one adviser said this was because Mr. Trump thinks it is too early for such a tough blow.

Another adviser said the concern was more basic: Mr. Trump did not like the visuals in the ads, which featured images of Mr. Biden when he was younger. Mr. Parscale had favored those spots; other advisers to Mr. Trump, including Ms. Conway, had thought the focus right now should be on highlighting the president’s status as commander in chief.

To that end, the president is likely to start traveling again soon, even though the campaign rallies he enjoys are still off the table because of the virus crisis, something that aides hope will help improve his outlook — and his political future. One stop is expected to be Arizona and then possibly Ohio, Mr. Trump said at an event on Wednesday.

“I’ve been at the White House now for many months,” Mr. Trump said, “and I’d like to get out.”

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

Polls Had Trump Stewing, and Lashing Out at His Own Campaign

Frustrated by a faltering economy that is out of his control, and facing blowback for his suggestion that disinfectants could potentially combat the coronavirus, President Trump had sunk to one of his lowest points in recent months last week. And he directed his anger toward the one area that is most important to him: his re-election prospects.

Mr. Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the exchange, erupted during a phone call with his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, two days after he was presented with polling data from his campaign and the Republican National Committee that showed him trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, in several crucial states.

He lashed out at Mr. Parscale and said it was other people’s fault that there had been fluctuations in a race they had all seen as his to lose just two months ago. At one point, Mr. Trump said he would not lose to Mr. Biden, insisted the data was wrong and blamed the campaign manager for the fact that he is down in the polls, according to one of the people familiar with the conversation. Mr. Trump even made a threat to sue Mr. Parscale, mentioning the money he has made while working for the president, another person familiar with the call said, although the threat did not appear to be serious.

“I love you, too,” Mr. Parscale replied, according to the people briefed on the call.

The call was first reported by CNN.

The lack of easy options to reset his political trajectory has been deeply unsettling to Mr. Trump, who began the year confident about his re-election prospects because of a thriving economy, but whose performance on the virus has Republicans nervous about losing the White House and the Senate in November.

In the phone call last week, for instance, Mr. Trump demanded to know how it was possible that a campaign that had been projecting strength and invincibility for two years was polling behind a candidate he viewed as extremely weak and, at the moment, largely invisible from daily news coverage.

The answer, according to nearly a dozen people inside and outside the White House, lies in factors both beyond the president’s control, such as the economic downturn and the spread of the new form of coronavirus — as well as those in his control, namely, his playing down of the coronavirus over several weeks followed by his own performance at the briefing room podium.

Instead of calming the country or presenting a clear plan of action on testing, Mr. Trump has spent the majority of his time during the briefings nursing his grievances with Democrats and with members of the news media. His own advisers have pleaded with him to curtail the appearances, telling him that they hurt him more than help him.

At one particularly bad outing last week, a day before Mr. Trump screamed at Mr. Parscale, the president mused about the possibility of injecting disinfectants into people’s bodies to wipe out the virus, prompting responses ranging from outrage to mockery.

But Mr. Trump’s firm belief that the daily news conferences have been helpful to him is not backed up in the polls.

“What we’re seeing in polls is that Trump’s personal ratings have gone down even more than his job approval ratings,” said Geoff Garin, a veteran Democratic pollster. “And what that tells me is that all of Trump’s antics are taking a toll on his vote because now more than ever people see his lack of judgment and lack of temperament as being consequential.”

In an effort to buoy his spirits, some Trump advisers have flagged for him surveys that are rosier than most Republican internal polling, including a recent CNBC poll that showed him virtually tied with Mr. Biden in six battleground states, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They said they viewed that as a positive sign given how hard life has been for most Americans confined to their homes over the past month and suffering economically.

But that poll was more favorable than other recent surveys. A Quinnipiac University poll last week, for instance, showed Mr. Biden ahead in Florida, 46 to 42 percent. And a recent Fox News poll found Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump, 49 to 41 percent, in Michigan.

The heated conversation with Mr. Parscale was not the first time Mr. Trump had expressed frustration at his top campaign adviser. But the connection between the candidate and his campaign apparatus has become more distant since the coronavirus outbreak, with Mr. Trump grounded at the White House and no longer able to reassure and re-energize himself with big rallies.

Westlake Legal Group the-daily-album-art-articleInline-v2 Polls Had Trump Stewing, and Lashing Out at His Own Campaign United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Polls and Public Opinion Parscale, Brad (1976- )

Listen to ‘The Daily’: Biden’s Campaign in Isolation

The presumptive Democratic nominee is struggling to attain the same visibility as the President. But is that a good thing?

Some White House officials, like Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s counselor, have also begun to take on what would traditionally be campaign roles. Ms. Conway has been working with Marcia Lee Kelly, the president and chief executive of the Republican National Convention and a part-time adviser to the first lady, on the planning for the late August gathering.

On Tuesday, Mr. Parscale, who had not seen Mr. Trump in person in a month, flew to Washington from Florida to pay an in-person visit to the president, according to three people familiar with the meeting, and they patched up the dispute. Mr. Parscale showed Mr. Trump new campaign polling data in which the president’s standing had climbed, according to a person familiar with the visit.

The Trump campaign declined to comment, and a White House official did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Mr. Parscale, who typically meets with Mr. Trump in person to show him commercials and videos he is planning to run, has had to rely on West Wing aides to play them for the president while he listens on the phone line for reaction. With the news cycle shifting to talk about states reopening, Mr. Trump was more confident about his own chances than he had been the previous week, aides said.

Campaign advisers are carefully watching the trajectory of Mr. Trump’s standing in the polls. They insist that the numbers they are seeing now are a snapshot and not determinative about the future, and said they expected that Mr. Biden’s numbers would begin to fall when the Trump campaign begins running negative advertisements against him. They have advised Mr. Trump that Mr. Biden’s “hiding in the basement” strategy, as they call it, may be helping him now, but will ultimately backfire on him when Mr. Trump can confront him on a debate stage.

But Mr. Trump, increasingly anxious about losing the election, has also told his advisers he is worried about hitting Mr. Biden too hard too soon, fearing that they could risk knocking him out of the race altogether. Mr. Trump has continued to see himself as able to determine the outcome of the Democratic primary contest, aides said, despite all evidence to the contrary.

He has mused about Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, whose coronavirus briefings he has been intently focused on, emerging as the Democratic nominee, if Mr. Biden should somehow falter (a fantasy among a number of Republicans, and one that Democrats have made clear won’t happen).

For now, Mr. Trump’s campaign is not airing television ads, the only kind the president cares about. The president nixed a series of ads the campaign was set to air that tried to portray Mr. Biden as close to China; one adviser said this was because Mr. Trump thinks it is too early for such a tough blow.

Another adviser said the concern was more basic: Mr. Trump did not like the visuals in the ads, which featured images of Mr. Biden when he was younger. Mr. Parscale had favored those spots; other advisers to Mr. Trump, including Ms. Conway, had thought the focus right now should be on highlighting the president’s status as commander in chief.

To that end, the president is likely to start traveling again soon, even though the campaign rallies he enjoys are still off the table because of the virus crisis, something that aides hope will help improve his outlook — and his political future. One stop is expected to be Arizona and then possibly Ohio, Mr. Trump said at an event on Wednesday.

“I’ve been at the White House now for many months,” Mr. Trump said, “and I’d like to get out.”

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

Trump’s Disinfectant Talk Trips Up Sites’ Vows Against Misinformation

Westlake Legal Group merlin_171873678_47a3ab65-676d-4ff1-a2e3-82be453428bb-facebookJumbo Trump’s Disinfectant Talk Trips Up Sites’ Vows Against Misinformation Zuckerberg, Mark E YouTube.com United States Politics and Government Ultraviolet Light twitter Trump, Donald J Social Media Rumors and Misinformation Instagram Inc Hazardous and Toxic Substances Google Inc Fringe Groups and Movements Facebook Inc Corporate Social Responsibility Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Computers and the Internet Cleansers, Detergents and Soaps

SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said in March that promoting bleach as a cure for the coronavirus was “misinformation that has imminent risk of danger” and that such messages would immediately be removed from the social network.

President Trump has now put Mr. Zuckerberg’s comments to the test. At a White House briefing last week, Mr. Trump suggested that disinfectants and ultraviolet light were possible treatments for the virus. His remarks immediately found their way onto Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites, and people rushed to defend the president’s statements as well as mock them.

But Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have declined to remove Mr. Trump’s statements posted online in video clips and transcriptions of the briefing, saying he did not specifically direct people to pursue the unproven treatments. That has led to a mushrooming of other posts, videos and comments about false virus cures with UV lights and disinfectants that the companies have largely left up.

A New York Times analysis found 768 Facebook groups, 277 Facebook pages, nine Instagram accounts and thousands of tweets pushing UV light therapies that were posted after Mr. Trump’s comments and that remained on the sites as of Wednesday. More than 5,000 other posts, videos and comments promoting disinfectants as a virus cure were also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube this week. Only a few of the posts have been taken down.

The social media companies have always trod delicately when it comes to President Trump. Yet their inaction on posts echoing his remarks on UV lights and disinfectants stands out because the companies have said for weeks that they would not permit false information about the coronavirus to proliferate.

Apart from Mr. Zuckerberg’s saying Facebook would take a stand, Twitter announced in March that it would delete virus tweets “that could potentially cause harm.” YouTube has repeatedly said it removes videos that show medically unsubstantiated coronavirus treatments. And all of the companies have said they would promote virus information from authoritative health sources like the World Health Organization.

On Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg reiterated that Facebook would not tolerate virus falsehoods. In an investor call, he cited the example of “inhaling water” to cure the coronavirus as dangerous misinformation that the social network would remove.

Renee DiResta, a technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, said most of the tech companies developed health misinformation policies “with the expectation that there would be a competent government and reputable health authority to point to.” Given that false information is coming from the White House, the companies have been thrown for a loop, she said.

The difficulties for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been compounded because they would risk ire from the right if they deleted Mr. Trump’s comments and appeared to censor him. The president has previously accused Facebook, Google and Twitter of suppressing conservative voices on their platforms.

“The question of whether to take down” the president’s comments on social media “is an unwinnable argument,” said Claire Wardle, executive director of First Draft, an organization that fights online disinformation.

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Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said it continued “to remove definitive claims about false cures for Covid-19, including ones related to disinfectant and ultraviolet light.” YouTube said Mr. Trump’s comments did not violate its misinformation policy. Twitter said satire and discussions of Mr. Trump’s remarks that did not include a call to action, as well as his comments themselves, did not violate its policies.

The social media companies came under scrutiny after Mr. Trump, at his daily White House briefing on the virus last Thursday, floated the idea that an “injection inside” the human body with a disinfectant could help combat the illness. He then turned to Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, and asked if she had heard of using “the heat and the light” to treat the coronavirus.

“Not as a treatment,” Dr. Birx said, before Mr. Trump cut her off.

Medical experts and scientists immediately pounced on the comments as medically unsafe and urged people not to inject themselves with disinfectants or bleach.

Last Friday, after right-wing news outlets such as Breitbart published articles saying Mr. Trump’s words were being taken out of context, the president said he had made his comments about UV lights and disinfectant injections sarcastically.

By then, his remarks had already spread widely. Last Friday, mentions of a disinfectant cure on social media and television broadcasts spiked to 1.2 million, up from roughly 400,000 the day before, according to Zignal Labs, a media insights company.

Mr. Trump’s supporters also went to work online. Many found videos promoting UV light as a cure and shared them as evidence of support for the president’s remarks. They often cited Aytu BioScience, a pharmaceutical company that posted a video last Friday depicting an experimental UV technology designed to be inserted via a catheter into a patient to kill the coronavirus. That video has been mentioned across the internet and TV more than 17.1 million times since the Thursday briefing, according to Zignal Labs.

YouTube removed the video after The Times contacted the company about it; a spokeswoman said the video promoted an unsubstantiated medical treatment. Aytu BioScience did not respond to requests for comment.

Other supporters of Mr. Trump also posted their defense of the president’s comments on injecting disinfectant. Angela Stanton-King, a former reality-TV star who was pardoned by Mr. Trump this year for her role in a car-theft ring, tweeted on Friday, “I’m convinced Trump plays the media for the fools they are.” She added a video of a patient appearing to receive UV light therapy “to kill viruses and bacteria.”

Her post was retweeted nearly 6,000 times.

“My tweet stands for itself,” Ms. Stanton-King, a Republican who is running for Congress against Representative John Lewis, a Democrat in Georgia, said in an emailed statement. “It seems to me that President Trump is trying to lead the country through these unprecedented times, while everything he says and does is distorted by the mainstream media looking for ratings.”

This week, posts about alternative UV therapies that referred to Mr. Trump spread widely on Facebook. More than 700 posts about the unproven treatments — published after the briefing — collected over 50,000 comments and likes, according to the Times analysis.

In some Facebook groups that have hundreds of thousands of followers, people posted photographs of chemical agents that they said they planned to consume. Mr. Trump, they wrote, had sent them “a message” about a possible cure. In hundreds of comments, people also offered advice on how to procure and ingest the disinfectants.

On YouTube, the top 10 search results for Mr. Trump’s comments returned videos from traditional news sources like CNN and Politico. But YouTube videos defending the president’s suggestion of UV lights and disinfectants were reposted and shared in thousands of right-wing Facebook communities, private chats and online forums, according to the Times analysis.

On Twitter, The Times found more than 45,000 tweets discussing bleach and UV light cures for the coronavirus that stemmed from the president’s comments. Many of the posts said Mr. Trump was right about his suggested treatments.

Chlorine Dioxide is a ‘bleaching disinfectant’ that’s often added to municipal water systems to make water SAFE to drink,” one tweet said. “And here the fake news media and the ‘medical experts’ they work with are telling you that you may die from drinking something like it.”

David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University, saw his own studies on using UV lighting in public spaces to kill the coronavirus cited widely on Twitter. He said his research was never meant to be explored as a cure for the virus in the human body.

When told that his research had been shared nearly 300 times on Twitter, mostly by Mr. Trump’s supporters, and had reached 1.3 million people, Mr. Brenner was astounded.

“I never imagined that I was going to become a hero of the right wing,” he said.

Sheera Frenkel reported from San Francisco, and Davey Alba from New York.

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Trump Officials Said to Press Spies to Hunt for Unproven Links Between Virus and Wuhan Labs

Westlake Legal Group 06dc-virus-intel1-facebookJumbo Trump Officials Said to Press Spies to Hunt for Unproven Links Between Virus and Wuhan Labs Wuhan (China) United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Rumors and Misinformation Pottinger, Matthew Pompeo, Mike Office of the Director of National Intelligence National Security Council Laboratories and Scientific Equipment Grenell, Richard Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense Intelligence Agency Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China central intelligence agency

WASHINGTON — Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, according to current and former American officials. The effort comes as President Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.

Some intelligence analysts are concerned that the pressure from administration officials will distort assessments about the virus and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battle with China over a disease that has infected more than three million people across the globe.

Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former C.I.A. director and the administration’s most vocal hard-liner on China, has taken the lead in pushing American intelligence agencies for more information, according to current and former officials.

And Anthony Ruggiero, the head of the National Security Council’s bureau tracking weapons of mass destruction, expressed frustration during one videoconference in January that the C.I.A. was unable to get behind any theory of the outbreak’s origin. C.I.A. analysts responded that they simply did not have the evidence to support any one theory with high confidence at the time, according to people familiar with the conversation.

The C.I.A.’s judgment was based in part on the fact that no signs had emerged that the Chinese government believed the outbreak came from a lab. The Chinese government has vigorously denied that the virus leaked from a lab while pushing disinformation on its origins, including suggesting that the American military created it.

Any American intelligence report blaming a Chinese institution and officials for the outbreak could significantly harm relations with China for years to come. And Trump administration officials could use it to try to prod other nations to publicly hold China accountable for coronavirus deaths even when the pandemic’s exact origins cannot be determined.

The State Department declined to answer questions about Mr. Pompeo’s role. Spokesmen for the White House and the National Security Council declined to comment. An official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that the intelligence agencies had not agreed on an origin theory but were tracking down information and frequently updating policymakers.

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NBC News reported earlier that administration officials had directed intelligence agencies to try to determine whether China and the World Health Organization hid information early on about the outbreak.

For months, scientists, spies and government officials have wrestled with varying theories about how the outbreak began, and many agree on the importance of determining the genesis of the pandemic. In government and academia, experts have ruled out the notion that it was concocted as a bioweapon. And they agree that the new pathogen began as a bat virus that evolved naturally, probably in another mammal, to become adept at infecting and killing humans.

A few veteran national security experts have pointed to a history of lab accidents infecting researchers to suggest it might have happened in this case, but many scientists have dismissed such theories.

Mr. Trump has spoken publicly about the administration’s “very serious investigations” of the virus’s origin and China’s culpability. Those inquiries took on new urgency in late March, when intelligence officials presented information to the White House that prompted some career officials to reconsider the lab theory. The precise nature of the information, based in part on intercepted communications among Chinese officials, is unclear.

The current and former officials did not say whether Mr. Trump himself, who has shown little regard for the independent judgments of intelligence and law enforcement officials, has pressured the intelligence agencies. But he does want any information supporting the lab theory to set the stage for holding China responsible, according to two people familiar with his thinking.

He has expressed interest in an idea pushed by Michael Pillsbury, an informal China adviser to the White House, that Beijing could be sued for damages, with the United States seeking $10 million for every death. At a news conference this week, Mr. Trump said the administration was discussing a “very substantial” reparations claim against China — an idea that Beijing has already denounced.

“President Trump is demanding to know the origins of the virus and what Xi Jinping knew when about the cover-up,” Mr. Pillsbury said.

Major gaps remain in what is known about the new pathogen, including which kind of animal infected humans with the coronavirus and where the first transmission took place.

Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, has told his agencies to make a priority of determining the virus’s origin. His office convened a review of intelligence officials on April 7 to see whether the agencies could reach a consensus. The officials determined that at least so far, they could not.

Intelligence officials have repeatedly pointed out to the White House that determining the origins of the outbreak is fundamentally a scientific question that cannot be solved easily by spycraft.

A former intelligence official described senior aides’ repeated emphasis of the lab theory as “conclusion shopping,” a disparaging term among analysts that has echoes of the Bush administration’s 2002 push for assessments saying that Iraq had weapons of mass of destruction and links to Al Qaeda, perhaps the most notorious example of the politicization of intelligence.

The C.I.A. has yet to unearth any data beyond circumstantial evidence to bolster the lab theory, according to current and former government officials, and the agency has told policymakers it lacks enough information to either affirm or refute it. Only getting access to the lab itself and the virus samples it contains could provide definitive proof, if it exists, the officials said.

The Defense Intelligence Agency recently changed its analytic position to formally leave open the possibility of a theory of lab origin, officials said. Senior agency officials have asked analysts to take a closer look at the labs.

The reason for the change is unclear, but some officials attributed it to the intelligence analyzed in recent weeks. Others took a more jaundiced view: that the agency is trying to curry favor with White House officials. A spokesman for the agency, James M. Kudla, disputed that characterization. “It’s not D.I.A.’s role to make policy decisions or value judgments — and we do not,” he said.

Some American officials have become convinced that Beijing is not sharing all it knows.

Among Mr. Trump’s top aides, Mr. Pompeo in particular has tried to hammer China over the lab. On Wednesday, he said that the United States still had not “gained access” to the main campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, one of two sites that American officials who favor the lab accident theory have focused on, along with the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr. Pompeo seemed to refer to internal information about the outbreak during an interview on April 17 with Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host.

“We know that the Chinese Communist Party, when it began to evaluate what to do inside of Wuhan, considered whether the W.I.V. was, in fact, the place where this came from,” said Mr. Pompeo, referring to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The State Department declined to indicate what was behind his assertion.

Scientists who study the coronavirus have maintained that the initial spillover from animal to person could have occurred in any number of ways: at a farm where wild animals are raised, through accidental contact with a bat or another animal that carried the virus, in hunting or transporting animals.

The scientists have also scrutinized the new pathogen’s genes, finding that they show great similarity to bat coronaviruses and bear no hints of human tampering or curation.

The odds were astronomical against a lab release as opposed to an event in nature, said Kristian G. Andersen, the lead author of the paper published in Nature Medicine and a specialist in infectious disease at the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California.

He acknowledged that it was theoretically possible that a researcher had found the new virus, fully evolved, in a bat or other animal and taken it into the lab. But, he said, based on the evidence his team gathered and the numerous opportunities for infection in the interactions that many farmers, hunters and others have with wild animals, “there just isn’t a reason to consider the lab as a potential explanation.”

No evidence supports the theory that the coronavirus originated “in a laboratory either intentionally or by accident,” Daniel R. Lucey, an expert on pandemics at Georgetown University who has closely tracked what is known about the origins, wrote this week.

He has called on China to share information about animals sold at a market in Wuhan that was linked to some of the earliest known cases of people infected with the virus, though not the first one. Dr. Lucey has raised questions about whether the market was, in fact, where the virus spilled over from animals to people. The limited information released about environmental samples taken from the market that were positive for the coronavirus do not resolve whether the source was animals sold there or people working or visiting the market, or both, he wrote.

But Richard Ebright, a microbiologist and biosafety expert at Rutgers University, has argued that the probability of a lab accident was “substantial,” pointing to a history of such occurrences that have infected researchers. The Wuhan labs and other centers worldwide that examine naturally occurring viruses have questionable safety rules, he said, adding, “The standards are lax and need to be tightened.”

American officials said they closely watched China’s government this winter for signs of a lab accident but found nothing conclusive. In February, President Xi Jinping stressed the need for a plan to ensure the “biosafety and biosecurity of the country.” And the Ministry of Science and Technology announced new guidelines for laboratories, especially ones handling viruses.

Global Times, a popular state-run newspaper, then published an article on “chronic inadequate management issues” at laboratories, including problems with biological disposal.

And American scientists who had developed relationships with researchers in the Wuhan labs had been in touch with them during the initial outbreak. But by mid-January, American officials said, the Chinese scientists cut off official communications.

William J. Broad and James Gorman contributed reporting from New York.

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Trump and Kushner on the Coronavirus: Wishful Thinking and Revisionist History

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-virus-trump-facebookJumbo Trump and Kushner on the Coronavirus: Wishful Thinking and Revisionist History United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Kushner, Jared Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Commerce Department Biden, Joseph R Jr

As states begin to lift quarantines, President Trump is trying to recast the story of the pandemic from that of an administration slow to see and address the threat to one that responded with decisive action that saved lives. Recognizing that the crisis jeopardizes his chances of re-election, he and his allies want to convince his supporters that the cascade of criticism is unwarranted.

“We think we really have crossed a big boundary and much better days are ahead,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday at a televised meeting at the White House with business leaders. The session was intended to highlight what the president hopes will be the resumption of a healthier economy only hours after the release of the most cataclysmic economic numbers of the past decade.

“I often say I see the light at the end of the tunnel very strongly,” Mr. Trump said.

The president waxed at length about restoring life to the United States as if the crisis were nearly over. He disclosed that he plans to fly to Arizona next week and soon after that to Ohio, his first trips out of the White House since early March other than a short visit to Norfolk, Va., to see off a Navy hospital ship dispatched to hard-hit New York. He talked wistfully of going to football games and resuming his campaign rallies. “I’d like to get out,” he said.

In the revised history of the pandemic that Mr. Trump and his team offered, his actions were not belated and inadequate, but bold and effective. “We did all the right moves,” Mr. Trump said. “If we didn’t do what we did, you would have had a million people die, maybe more, maybe two million people die.”

“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this, and I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed,” Mr. Kushner said on “Fox & Friends,” one of the president’s favorite shows. “The federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story. And I think that that’s really, you know, what needs to be told.”

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The comments came on the same day that the Commerce Department reported that the economy contracted by 4.8 percent in the first quarter of the year, the largest decline since the recession of a decade ago and probably the forerunner of a much steeper collapse in the second quarter that could be the worst since the Great Depression.

At the same time, the reported death toll from the virus in the United States topped 60,000 — more killed in eight weeks than the 58,000 American troops killed in eight years of major combat in Vietnam. The death toll has already reached where it was expected to be in August, more than three months from now, according to projections accepted by the White House. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now estimates that 73,000 will die by August.

Mr. Kushner’s comments drew scorn from critics of the administration. “On what planet is 59,000 plus deaths a ‘success story’?” Michael R. Bromwich, a former federal prosecutor and Justice Department inspector general, asked on Twitter.

Zac Petkanas, a Democratic strategist and campaign aide to Hillary Clinton in 2016, said the public would not be convinced.

“The truth is that Trump and his administration’s response is anything but a success — especially when it comes to testing,” said Mr. Petkanas, now working with a health care advocacy group called Protect Our Care. “They made huge promises that they simply haven’t delivered, including that ‘anybody who wants a test can get a test.’ But they aren’t fooling anyone.”

Presidents have gotten in trouble declaring success at odds with the reality on the ground, perhaps most memorably in recent years when President George W. Bush landed on an aircraft carrier deck in 2003 and declared major combat operations over in Iraq in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner. President Barack Obama later declared that “America’s war in Iraq will be over” when he pulled forces out in 2011, only to have to send troops back nearly three years later.

But Mr. Trump has demonstrated a striking tendency to try to frame the political narrative on his own terms, even when at variance with the facts, through relentless repetition and the power of his bully pulpit.

While making no criminal accusations last year against Mr. Trump, the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III pointedly said his report “does not exonerate” the president. Nonetheless, Mr. Trump declared so many times that it did that 35 percent of the public believed that Mr. Mueller had exonerated him, according to one poll, mainly the core supporters who matter to him most.

The need to shift the narrative was made abundantly clear by the latest spate of polls showing more Americans souring on his handling of the virus and supporting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in the November election.

A survey by USA Today and Suffolk University found Mr. Biden leading 50 percent to 40 percent in a two-way matchup, a margin that disturbed Mr. Trump’s strategists, who have said they recognize that the election will turn largely on the coronavirus and resulting economic meltdown.

In his public appearances on Wednesday, Mr. Trump did not dwell on the 60,000 dead or the tens of millions put out of work, but focused instead on what he claimed were the successes of his administration. “A lot of progress had been made,” he said. “It’s pretty incredible.”

Mr. Trump promoted a new study on a possible treatment and predicted that the virus would soon no longer be a major threat. “This is going away,” he said, “and when it’s gone, we’re going to be doing a lot of things.”

Mr. Kushner said May “will be a transition month” as states began reopening. “I think you’ll see by June a lot of the country should be back to normal,” he said. “And the hope is that by July, the country’s really rocking again.”

Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Kushner addressed why the president for weeks played down the virus, comparing it with the ordinary flu, predicting that cases would go down to zero and suggesting that the virus would “miraculously” disappear. People close to the White House have said that Mr. Kushner agreed with Mr. Trump early on that the Democrats and the news media were hyping the virus to damage the president, although Mr. Kushner’s allies have insisted that he always took it seriously.

In his television interview, Mr. Kushner rejected the concerns of governors and public health experts who said that testing remains woefully inadequate to justify reopening the country after weeks of lockdown. Mr. Trump’s administration committed this week to helping states be able to test at least 2 percent of their populations each month, but public health experts said that was a fraction of what is needed to map out how far the virus has spread.

“We’ve done more tests than any other country in the world, so we’ve got to be doing a lot of things right,” Mr. Kushner said, referring to 5.8 million tests as of Tuesday.

“The eternal lockdown crowd can make jokes on late-night television,” he added, “but the reality is that the data’s on our side.”

“And President Trump has created a pathway to safely open up our country and make sure that we can get our economy going and get America back to a place where it will be even stronger than it was before,” Mr. Kushner said.

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Coronavirus Has Trump Health Secretary in Trouble

Westlake Legal Group 28dc-virus-azar1-facebookJumbo Coronavirus Has Trump Health Secretary in Trouble Verma, Seema United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Medicine and Health Health and Human Services Department Grogan, Joe Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Azar, Alex M II Appointments and Executive Changes

WASHINGTON — Two of President Trump’s top health officials were stewing last month in a drab room at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as Mr. Trump and his health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, were concluding a laboratory tour, one that they had been left off of.

One of the officials, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, the surgeon general, was then invited to join the president and the secretary to shake hands. The other, Seema Verma, who leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was not. Instead, a staff member told the powerful Medicare chief to head to the receiving line with the rank and file. Furious, she left for the airport to catch a commercial flight home to Washington.

The episode from March 6, described by senior administration officials who believed Mr. Azar was behind the snub, illustrated to them why Mr. Azar’s future as secretary of health and human services is a constant question, even as his sprawling department battles the worst public health crisis in a century. Where Mr. Azar goes, personal conflicts seem to follow, senior administration officials say. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services disputed that notion.

The department’s newly installed spokesman, Michael R. Caputo, dismissed such talk as beside the point.

“I can tell you that the American people want information they can use to fight the coronavirus, not palace intrigue,” he said.

But even before the coronavirus pandemic, senior White House officials had grown deeply frustrated with Mr. Azar and his management of the department.

Now, Mr. Azar finds himself increasingly sidelined by Mr. Trump and his advisers, who blame the secretary for early failures on testing and for what they describe as inconsistent stewardship of the coronavirus task force in its first month.

But Vice President Mike Pence took over for Mr. Azar as the leader of the task force at the end of February, and in the weeks since the episode at C.D.C. headquarters, Mr. Azar has been excluded from key coronavirus meetings, administration officials say, including one led by Mr. Grogan and another involving only the nation’s top medical officials.

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“These are all arguably people who theoretically report to him, work for him, but like everything else, that has been upended in this administration, where it isn’t very clear if cabinet secretaries are choosing or even co-choosing their top political appointees,” said Kathleen Sebelius, a health and human services secretary under President Barack Obama. “I don’t have any idea how you operate in that environment when you’re excluded from meetings with your agency.”

Aides to Mr. Azar say he remains fully in charge of his department and is an integral part of the administration’s response to the virus. White House officials continue to dismiss questions about his status.

“Even with the president’s tweet on Sunday flatly denying rumors that Secretary Azar is on his way out or that he is doing anything other than an excellent job, the media is still focused on outrageous claims of palace intrigue that are only meant to distract the American people from the Trump administration’s bold leadership in response to this pandemic,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman.

But the monthslong coronavirus crisis has exacerbated deep and longstanding divisions between Mr. Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, and political officials in other parts of the administration, including some of those closest to Mr. Trump in the White House.

In the last several weeks, the president grew angry with Mr. Azar after articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times depicted the White House as slow to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, according to several officials familiar with his thinking. They said Mr. Trump was enraged that he was being criticized in accounts that portrayed Mr. Azar as having been aggressive in responding to the threat early on.

Mr. Azar’s allies say he was one of the few people who tried to alert the West Wing to a looming public health crisis in January and early February. They note that some officials accused Mr. Azar of being “an alarmist” for his repeated warnings about the coronavirus at a time when Mr. Trump was publicly playing down the threat.

But others have said Mr. Azar was not clear enough with Mr. Trump about the magnitude of the threat. Several aides to the president said that Mr. Azar was so focused on keeping his job and preserving his standing in the White House that he gave conflicting information — dire one day, optimistic the next — that ended up confusing Mr. Trump and his senior advisers.

The episode at the C.D.C. headquarters has also reverberated with White House and health officials, some of whom saw it as an example of Mr. Azar’s pettiness. Ms. Verma had made a special effort to get to Atlanta after traveling the day before with Mr. Pence, catching up to the president after his tour had been canceled, then abruptly put back on his schedule.

But she was left off the president’s tour, which unfolded on national television. Mr. Azar stood with Mr. Trump, who wore a red “Keep America Great” hat produced by his re-election campaign, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., for almost an hour as the president extolled his administration’s work. Ms. Verma and Dr. Adams were nowhere to be seen. To then be told to join a receiving line with other guests waiting to shake Mr. Azar’s hand infuriated Ms. Verma.

One senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the events, insisted that Mr. Azar had no knowledge of the staging of the C.D.C. event, and that it was dictated by White House advance officials.

Mr. Azar remains a member of the primary coronavirus task force and continues to be an active participant in the group’s meetings, though for weeks he has not appeared regularly alongside the president or vice president during the daily news conferences held afterward. In recent weeks, Mr. Azar has also made fewer appearances in the national news media, which are coordinated through Mr. Pence’s office.

He has also been missing from the “operational check-ins” held before the task force’s meetings where officials organize and prepare. The gatherings in the Roosevelt Room are led by Mr. Grogan and include the heads of the key health agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, including the C.D.C., the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Food and Drug Administration.

Mr. Grogan has told associates that he purposefully excluded Mr. Azar, according to one senior administration official.

Mr. Azar is not a part of the regular meetings of a group of the administration’s senior health officials with medical degrees, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator.

“If you don’t have the health secretary as the lead, it’s very unclear who is the lead,” Ms. Sebelius said.

The recent tensions have prompted White House officials, including Mark Meadows, the new chief of staff, to discuss possible replacements for Mr. Azar once the coronavirus crisis stabilizes, according to senior administration officials. Among the names discussed have been Ms. Verma, Dr. Birx and Dr. John C. Fleming, a former House Republican and official at the Department of Health and Human Services who is now an aide to Mr. Meadows.

But some of Mr. Trump’s aides cautioned that advisers had gotten ahead of themselves by putting out word that Mr. Azar could be replaced in the coming weeks. Senior administration officials say the president will most likely wait until the summer to make a change, once the immediate crisis has diminished, if he makes one at all before the election.

Mr. Azar has told several administration officials that he wants to leave his post on his own terms.

But if Mr. Azar is removed, it will not just be the result of concerns about the administration’s response to the coronavirus. Mr. Grogan fought regularly with Mr. Azar over efforts to lower prescription drug prices, an issue Mr. Trump sees as central to his health agenda.

Mr. Trump also blamed Mr. Azar for aggressively pushing for a partial ban on flavored e-cigarettes, a decision the president made in January and then quickly regretted, advisers said. He berated Mr. Azar about it in a call on Jan. 16 in front of his political advisers.

Mr. Azar’s well-documented battles with Ms. Verma now extend to which of them is seen as controlling the distribution of congressionally approved money to health care providers. While Mr. Azar attended the funeral for his father this month, officials in Mr. Pence’s office signed off on Ms. Verma making the announcement, a White House official said. The official said that Mr. Pence was acting out of a desire to get the money out the door, not to slight Mr. Azar.

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

Trump Appointees Manipulated Agency’s Payday Lending Research, Ex-Staffer Claims

He claimed that President Trump’s appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had manipulated the agency’s research process to justify altering a 2017 rule that would have sharply curtailed high-interest payday loans.

The departing staff member, Jonathan Lanning, detailed several maneuvers by his agency’s political overseers that he considered legally risky and scientifically indefensible, including pressuring staff economists to water down their findings on payday loans and use statistical gimmicks to downplay the harm consumers would suffer if the payday restrictions were repealed. A copy of the memo was obtained by The New York Times from a current bureau employee.

Political appointees at the bureau, led by its director, Kathleen Kraninger, have pressed forward with the Trump administration’s deregulatory drive despite the logistical hurdles posed by the coronavirus pandemic. This week, the agency is expected to release the revised payday rule, which will no longer require lenders to assess whether customers can afford their fees before offering a loan.

Payday lending has been a signal battle of the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle regulations. The consumer bureau’s original rule, an Obama-era initiative finalized in late 2017, was poised to be the first national regulation of payday loans. Democrats in Congress have pressed Ms. Kraninger for details about its proposed revision, with mixed success.

“They’re moving quickly to establish this rule because they think they can take advantage of the time we don’t have to focus on them right now,” said Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who heads the House Financial Services Committee.

The Trump administration “has demonstrated that they are not committed to the mission of the C.F.P.B.,” said Ms. Waters, who urged the bureau to delay issuing the new rule until the pandemic abated. The agency has been working on the revision for more than a year.

Mr. Lanning’s 14-page memo provides an unusually detailed glimpse into the Trump administration’s campaign against the so-called administrative state, where obscure officials labor over small tweaks to fine print that can reshape industries.

Mr. Lanning, who worked at the consumer bureau for seven years, left in August for a position at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

He said in an email that the memo’s intent was to inform new members of the payday research team about the “history and process” behind the rule revision. He declined to discuss its contents.

Jonathan Lanning’s C.F.P.B. Memo About ‘Process Concerns’

A career economist in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s research office sent his bosses and colleagues a memo about what he saw as political inference in the agency’s research work. (PDF, 17 pages, 1.68 MB)


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Westlake Legal Group thumbnail Trump Appointees Manipulated Agency’s Payday Lending Research, Ex-Staffer Claims United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Payday Loans Mulvaney, Mick Kraninger, Kathy Jonathan Lanning House Committee on Financial Services Credit and Debt Consumer Protection Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Matt Leas, a spokesman for the C.F.P.B., said the agency has “a fair, transparent and thorough” process for making rules. “The comments received and evidence obtained are all taken into consideration before issuing a final rule,” he said. “The director is the ultimate decision maker and ensures that the decisions taken are justified publicly, as is required by law.”

Efforts to dismantle the payday regulation began with the arrival of Mick Mulvaney, the Trump administration budget chief, who was appointed the C.F.P.B.’s acting director in late 2017. Among his priorities was to delay, and eventually undo, the Obama-era payday lending restrictions, which were scheduled to take effect in summer 2019, according to two former senior bureau officials who discussed the issue with him.

But unwinding a federal rule is a long and complicated process. The bureau’s research team had already spent nearly five years gathering and analyzing data on payday lending for the original rule. To avoid having its reversal struck down in court — as dozens of Trump administration regulations have been — the bureau would need to demonstrate that new research or other data had called into question the original rule. That task fell to the agency’s office of research — a group of economists and other social scientists that included Mr. Lanning.

In 20 states, payday lending is effectively banned, but in the places where it remains legal, it has thrived: There are more payday loan storefronts in America than McDonald’s restaurants. Their customers — often working poor people who cannot always secure traditional credit — collectively borrow nearly $29 billion a year and pay nearly $5 billion in fees, according to research by Jefferies, an investment bank.

While short-term loans are intended as an emergency stopgap, many borrowers find themselves unable to repay their debts quickly, and borrow again. Half of all payday loans are extended at least nine times, piling up fees that can exceed the value of the original loan, according to research the consumer bureau published to support its original restrictions.

In 2018, as the agency began re-researching the question under Mr. Mulvaney’s directive, it became clear that the Trump administration wanted to scrap the 2017 rule, according to five people familiar with the office’s work.

In his memo, Mr. Lanning indicated that the bureau’s leadership, bolstered by a new layer of political appointees installed by Mr. Mulvaney, had manipulated the reconsideration process to steer it toward that goal. As early as May 2018, while Mr. Mulvaney publicly claimed to be keeping an open mind about the reconsideration, bureau economists were told that Mr. Mulvaney had decided to abolish core provisions of the payday rule. They were directed to research only his preferred changes, without analyzing whether alternative approaches would yield a better outcome for consumers or industry.

Mr. Mulvaney did not respond to a request for comment.

Political officials with “fundamental misunderstandings” about the agency’s research pressured the bureau’s economists to use “inaccurate and inappropriate” data, Mr. Lanning wrote. In the end, most of the changes that Mr. Mulvaney’s team wanted to incorporate didn’t make it into the final draft, according to three people involved in the bureau’s internal discussions.

But some survived. In the proposal for the rule revision, Mr. Mulvaney’s deputy at the time, Brian Johnson, inserted language that was intended to show that the changes would cause consumers less harm than the bureau’s economists estimated.

The bureau had projected that its original rule would cut payday loan volume by at least 62 percent. That would save consumers some $4 billion a year in fees, according to calculations by The Times.

For any revision, the economists were required, under the Dodd-Frank law, to analyze how the proposed changes would affect consumers. But Mr. Johnson argued that since the original rule’s “ability to pay” underwriting requirements — which asked lenders to assess whether a loan seeker could pay the fees — had not yet taken effect, abolishing them would have no practical effect on consumers.

When career staff members warned that Mr. Johnson’s method was frowned on by federal rule-making bodies and had hampered other Trump deregulatory efforts in federal court, they were overruled by Tom Pahl, another agency official installed by Mr. Mulvaney. The final draft rule contained both Mr. Johnson’s method — stating that consumers would feel “little effect” from the Trump administration’s proposed changes — along with a more traditional economic analysis from the bureau’s research staff, which concluded that the changes would have a negative impact on borrowers.

Mr. Johnson, previously a Republican staff member for the House Committee on Financial Services, left the consumer bureau in February to join Alston & Bird, a Washington lobbying and law firm. He did not respond to an email seeking comment on his work at the bureau.

Mr. Lanning was especially scathing about one new agency employee who became heavily involved in the research group’s work: Christopher Mufarrige, a young lawyer with a master’s degree in economics, who joined the bureau in fall 2018 on a temporary assignment and reported to Mr. Johnson.

Three former bureau employees who worked with Mr. Mufarrige said he had often criticized the 2017 rule as flawed and unnecessary. Mr. Lanning’s memo complained about Mr. Mufarrige’s “attempts to selectively cite evidence” and his pattern of making “critical errors on basic economics.”

Mr. Mufarrige declined to comment on Mr. Lanning’s allegations. He left the bureau in December and now works at a Washington law firm.

Ms. Kraninger, who took over the consumer bureau in late 2018, signed off quickly on a draft of the revised rule. According to Mr. Lanning’s memo, she conducted a single staff-level review of the proposal: a 45-minute meeting in January 2019 that began late and focused on the legal reasoning behind the revised rule. There was little discussion of the evidence or research behind it.

The next month, the bureau proposed gutting its prior rule, which, the agency said, had drawn on data that was “not sufficiently robust and reliable.”

Payday lenders praised the turnaround. The original rule was “motivated by a deeply paternalistic view that small-dollar loan customers cannot be trusted with the freedom to make their own financial decisions,” said Dennis Shaul, the chief executive of the Community Financial Services Association of America, a trade group.

But consumer advocates said the about-face wasn’t supported by any new evidence or industry changes. A 220-page comment letter, signed by 12 groups, criticized the revision as an “exercise in grasping for straws” and suggested that they would challenge it in court.

“The bureau didn’t come up with the rule on a whim,” said Linda Jun, a senior policy counsel for Americans for Financial Reform, a consumer advocacy group. “To this day, despite many people asking, they haven’t provided anything about the basis for changing this rule beyond some vague references to new research. It’s hard to see the reversal as anything other than political.”

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

Trump Appointees Manipulated Agency’s Payday Lending Research, Ex-Staffer Claims

He claimed that President Trump’s appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had manipulated the agency’s research process to justify altering a 2017 rule that would have sharply curtailed high-interest payday loans.

The departing staff member, Jonathan Lanning, detailed several maneuvers by his agency’s political overseers that he considered legally risky and scientifically indefensible, including pressuring staff economists to water down their findings on payday loans and use statistical gimmicks to downplay the harm consumers would suffer if the payday restrictions were repealed. A copy of the memo was obtained by The New York Times from a current bureau employee.

Political appointees at the bureau, led by its director, Kathleen Kraninger, have pressed forward with the Trump administration’s deregulatory drive despite the logistical hurdles posed by the coronavirus pandemic. This week, the agency is expected to release the revised payday rule, which will no longer require lenders to assess whether customers can afford their fees before offering a loan.

Payday lending has been a signal battle of the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle regulations. The consumer bureau’s original rule, an Obama-era initiative finalized in late 2017, was poised to be the first national regulation of payday loans. Democrats in Congress have pressed Ms. Kraninger for details about its proposed revision, with mixed success.

“They’re moving quickly to establish this rule because they think they can take advantage of the time we don’t have to focus on them right now,” said Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who heads the House Financial Services Committee.

The Trump administration “has demonstrated that they are not committed to the mission of the C.F.P.B.,” said Ms. Waters, who urged the bureau to delay issuing the new rule until the pandemic abated. The agency has been working on the revision for more than a year.

Mr. Lanning’s 14-page memo provides an unusually detailed glimpse into the Trump administration’s campaign against the so-called administrative state, where obscure officials labor over small tweaks to fine print that can reshape industries.

Mr. Lanning, who worked at the consumer bureau for seven years, left in August for a position at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

He said in an email that the memo’s intent was to inform new members of the payday research team about the “history and process” behind the rule revision. He declined to discuss its contents.

Jonathan Lanning’s C.F.P.B. Memo About ‘Process Concerns’

A career economist in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s research office sent his bosses and colleagues a memo about what he saw as political inference in the agency’s research work. (PDF, 17 pages, 1.68 MB)


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Westlake Legal Group thumbnail Trump Appointees Manipulated Agency’s Payday Lending Research, Ex-Staffer Claims United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Payday Loans Mulvaney, Mick Kraninger, Kathy Jonathan Lanning House Committee on Financial Services Credit and Debt Consumer Protection Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Matt Leas, a spokesman for the C.F.P.B., said the agency has “a fair, transparent and thorough” process for making rules. “The comments received and evidence obtained are all taken into consideration before issuing a final rule,” he said. “The director is the ultimate decision maker and ensures that the decisions taken are justified publicly, as is required by law.”

Efforts to dismantle the payday regulation began with the arrival of Mick Mulvaney, the Trump administration budget chief, who was appointed the C.F.P.B.’s acting director in late 2017. Among his priorities was to delay, and eventually undo, the Obama-era payday lending restrictions, which were scheduled to take effect in summer 2019, according to two former senior bureau officials who discussed the issue with him.

But unwinding a federal rule is a long and complicated process. The bureau’s research team had already spent nearly five years gathering and analyzing data on payday lending for the original rule. To avoid having its reversal struck down in court — as dozens of Trump administration regulations have been — the bureau would need to demonstrate that new research or other data had called into question the original rule. That task fell to the agency’s office of research — a group of economists and other social scientists that included Mr. Lanning.

In 20 states, payday lending is effectively banned, but in the places where it remains legal, it has thrived: There are more payday loan storefronts in America than McDonald’s restaurants. Their customers — often working poor people who cannot always secure traditional credit — collectively borrow nearly $29 billion a year and pay nearly $5 billion in fees, according to research by Jefferies, an investment bank.

While short-term loans are intended as an emergency stopgap, many borrowers find themselves unable to repay their debts quickly, and borrow again. Half of all payday loans are extended at least nine times, piling up fees that can exceed the value of the original loan, according to research the consumer bureau published to support its original restrictions.

In 2018, as the agency began re-researching the question under Mr. Mulvaney’s directive, it became clear that the Trump administration wanted to scrap the 2017 rule, according to five people familiar with the office’s work.

In his memo, Mr. Lanning indicated that the bureau’s leadership, bolstered by a new layer of political appointees installed by Mr. Mulvaney, had manipulated the reconsideration process to steer it toward that goal. As early as May 2018, while Mr. Mulvaney publicly claimed to be keeping an open mind about the reconsideration, bureau economists were told that Mr. Mulvaney had decided to abolish core provisions of the payday rule. They were directed to research only his preferred changes, without analyzing whether alternative approaches would yield a better outcome for consumers or industry.

Mr. Mulvaney did not respond to a request for comment.

Political officials with “fundamental misunderstandings” about the agency’s research pressured the bureau’s economists to use “inaccurate and inappropriate” data, Mr. Lanning wrote. In the end, most of the changes that Mr. Mulvaney’s team wanted to incorporate didn’t make it into the final draft, according to three people involved in the bureau’s internal discussions.

But some survived. In the proposal for the rule revision, Mr. Mulvaney’s deputy at the time, Brian Johnson, inserted language that was intended to show that the changes would cause consumers less harm than the bureau’s economists estimated.

The bureau had projected that its original rule would cut payday loan volume by at least 62 percent. That would save consumers some $4 billion a year in fees, according to calculations by The Times.

For any revision, the economists were required, under the Dodd-Frank law, to analyze how the proposed changes would affect consumers. But Mr. Johnson argued that since the original rule’s “ability to pay” underwriting requirements — which asked lenders to assess whether a loan seeker could pay the fees — had not yet taken effect, abolishing them would have no practical effect on consumers.

When career staff members warned that Mr. Johnson’s method was frowned on by federal rule-making bodies and had hampered other Trump deregulatory efforts in federal court, they were overruled by Tom Pahl, another agency official installed by Mr. Mulvaney. The final draft rule contained both Mr. Johnson’s method — stating that consumers would feel “little effect” from the Trump administration’s proposed changes — along with a more traditional economic analysis from the bureau’s research staff, which concluded that the changes would have a negative impact on borrowers.

Mr. Johnson, previously a Republican staff member for the House Committee on Financial Services, left the consumer bureau in February to join Alston & Bird, a Washington lobbying and law firm. He did not respond to an email seeking comment on his work at the bureau.

Mr. Lanning was especially scathing about one new agency employee who became heavily involved in the research group’s work: Christopher Mufarrige, a young lawyer with a master’s degree in economics, who joined the bureau in fall 2018 on a temporary assignment and reported to Mr. Johnson.

Three former bureau employees who worked with Mr. Mufarrige said he had often criticized the 2017 rule as flawed and unnecessary. Mr. Lanning’s memo complained about Mr. Mufarrige’s “attempts to selectively cite evidence” and his pattern of making “critical errors on basic economics.”

Mr. Mufarrige declined to comment on Mr. Lanning’s allegations. He left the bureau in December and now works at a Washington law firm.

Ms. Kraninger, who took over the consumer bureau in late 2018, signed off quickly on a draft of the revised rule. According to Mr. Lanning’s memo, she conducted a single staff-level review of the proposal: a 45-minute meeting in January 2019 that began late and focused on the legal reasoning behind the revised rule. There was little discussion of the evidence or research behind it.

The next month, the bureau proposed gutting its prior rule, which, the agency said, had drawn on data that was “not sufficiently robust and reliable.”

Payday lenders praised the turnaround. The original rule was “motivated by a deeply paternalistic view that small-dollar loan customers cannot be trusted with the freedom to make their own financial decisions,” said Dennis Shaul, the chief executive of the Community Financial Services Association of America, a trade group.

But consumer advocates said the about-face wasn’t supported by any new evidence or industry changes. A 220-page comment letter, signed by 12 groups, criticized the revision as an “exercise in grasping for straws” and suggested that they would challenge it in court.

“The bureau didn’t come up with the rule on a whim,” said Linda Jun, a senior policy counsel for Americans for Financial Reform, a consumer advocacy group. “To this day, despite many people asking, they haven’t provided anything about the basis for changing this rule beyond some vague references to new research. It’s hard to see the reversal as anything other than political.”

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

Trump Administration Signals Support for Allies’ Fight Against Virus Orders

Westlake Legal Group xxlawsuits-01-facebookJumbo Trump Administration Signals Support for Allies’ Fight Against Virus Orders Trump, Donald J Suits and Litigation (Civil) States (US) Republican Party Quarantines Justice Department Governors (US) Federal-State Relations (US) Democratic Party Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Conservatism (US Politics) Civil Rights and Liberties Barr, William P

WASHINGTON — A network of conservative leaders, donors and organizations has launched a legal onslaught against state and local restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, pushing to allow churches to hold services, businesses to reopen and people to be able to visit with family and friends.

They have been emboldened in recent days by increasing signs of support from a powerful ally: The Justice Department.

Justice Department officials have spoken on conference calls with leaders of conservative groups, who have flagged individual cases as worthy of the department’s review. Some cabinet officials have signaled that they back the effort by participating in private calls with conservative allies, according to multiple people involved with the calls.

This week the Justice Department delivered the clearest show of support yet when Attorney General William P. Barr issued a memorandum directing two of his department’s top lawyers to lead an effort with other federal agencies to monitor state and local policies “and, if necessary, take action to correct” those that “could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”

“We do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public,” Mr. Barr wrote. “But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”

Though the Justice Department has so far weighed in formally on only one case — a lawsuit by a Baptist church in Greenville, Miss. — the new directive reinforced the message that court challenges to state and local restrictions by President Trump’s allies could get a favorable viewing, and potential support, from the administration.

The guidance raises the prospect that the Trump administration could side with supportive groups in legal challenges against elected state and local leaders who enacted policies that were intended to stave off the spread of the virus, which has led to more than 53,000 deaths. Public health officials fear the virus’s spread could be accelerated by premature lifting of restrictions.

“It would not be the first time that the federal government has tried to undercut states’ rights by pushing its own agenda,” said Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has supported some challenges to coronavirus restrictions but is concerned that the federal government could take its own action against state and local rules.

The challenges by Mr. Trump’s allies have produced mixed results.

In Texas, more than 200 business leaders, pastors and Republican donors filed a lawsuit arguing that stay-at-home orders from Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, violated the State Constitution and were “impinging upon the civil rights and liberties” of all Texans. In Kansas, a federal judge this month blocked the enforcement of a 10-person limit on in-person attendance at religious services for two churches that sued the governor, a Democrat.

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In California, a Los Angeles judge last week ruled the opposite way, denying a request by three churches to hold in-person services.

And on Monday, a circuit court judge in Southern Illinois ruled that a stay-at-home order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, violated individual civil rights, upholding a legal challenge by a Republican state representative.

The number of cases involving church services reflects a belief among religious conservatives who form an important part of Mr. Trump’s political base that the restrictions have the effect of targeting Christians in particular.

Tony Perkins, a leading Christian conservative ally of the president, warned that unless the restrictions began to lift, state and local leaders should brace themselves for increased civil disobedience across the country.

“At the end of this month, we’ll be at 45 days since the president first issued his guidelines. God only kept Moses on the mountain for 40 days,” said Mr. Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, the conservative Christian policy group. “They’re ready to come down.”

Cleta Mitchell, a conservative lawyer, signed a letter this month asking Mr. Barr to consider suing to overturn state and local ordinances that cross the line. In an interview, she cast the efforts as driven by constitutional — not political — considerations.

“We would certainly applaud it if the D.O.J. were to actively address the constitutional infringements that too many of these orders and their enforcement involve,” Ms. Mitchell said. She praised the memo Mr. Barr issued on Monday as arriving “not a moment too soon,” and said his comments last week on a conservative radio show signaling potential support for third-party lawsuits were “exactly what we requested.”

But Mr. Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union said the potential involvement of the Justice Department risks muddling and politicizing what should be a nonpartisan push to protect civil liberties.

His group has taken legal action of its own challenging coronavirus restrictions in Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. But it has rejected requests to represent churches suing to overturn bans that it assessed as necessary and within states’ rights, Mr. Romero said, and he signaled that his group might oppose moves by the Justice Department to overturn some state and local bans.

“If D.O.J. challenges legitimate state orders on the Covid pandemic, Attorney General Barr will never be able to say that he believes in states’ rights with a straight face,” Mr. Romero said.

A White House spokesman rejected suggestions of conflict between Mr. Trump and state and local officials over coronavirus restrictions.

“Getting the American people back to work, back to sporting events, back to churches, back to restaurants — and doing so safely — is the president’s shared goal with governors, and only the media would suggest there is division and distrust in that partnership,” said the spokesman, Judd Deere.

In private calls with Mr. Trump, Mr. Perkins said, he has encouraged the president to pressure governors to allow churches some flexibility under the state and local guidelines. His organization is holding a weekly call between administration officials and hundreds of pastors across the country.

Participants have included Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, and Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security. Mr. Wolf joined a call this month that was partly about the role of clergy in administering last rites to dying people, according to a Homeland Security official.

In a separate call with Mr. Barr, the attorney general reassured hundreds of faith leaders last week that he would guard against state leaders unfairly penalizing religious institutions, according to a participant.

“The tolerance level has been reached, so either governors need to start partnering with churches and the private sector, or they’re going to lose control,” Mr. Perkins said.

As conservative lawyers push forward with their lawsuits, they said they did not expect Mr. Barr and his lawyers to publicly comment on many cases. Yet the threat that the department could weigh in may be enough to encourage local officials to loosen some restrictions or carve out exceptions for religious institutions, they said.

In his memo on Monday, Mr. Barr assigned the assistant attorney general for civil rights, Eric Dreiband, and Matthew Schneider, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan to work “not only with all Department of Justice offices and other federal agencies, but with state and local officials as well” to review, and possibly “correct” restrictions deemed to go too far.

The memo did not specify whether the department would submit filings in support of cases by others, or bring its own cases.

A Justice Department spokeswoman would not elaborate, instead pointing to the memo, the department’s filing in the Mississippi case and Mr. Barr’s public comments on the subject.

Rachel Bovard, senior policy director at the Conservative Partnership Institute, signed the letter urging the department to intervene in cases. She said the Justice Department was “not going to go in and start swinging with a machete,” but “where there is ample evidence, they do have a role to step in.”

Throughout his time as attorney general, Mr. Barr has prioritized Justice Department cases involving religious institutions. In public remarks, Mr. Barr has painted a picture of a country split between “secularists” — who “seem to take a delight in compelling people to violate their conscience” — and people of faith.

Churches and advocacy organizations have already filed lawsuits against state and local governments in states including Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi and California. Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group that is leading a campaign to reopen churches this weekend, is working on issues related to church access in more than 35 states, according to Mat Staver, the group’s chairman.

Other lawsuits take aim at restrictions that business owners say have intruded on their civil liberties. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer faces multiple lawsuits over her stay-at-home orders, with business owners and civil libertarians challenging her ban on travel to second homes, motorized boats and even her authority to issue such restrictions.

The effort isn’t limited to targeting Democratic leaders. In Texas, plaintiffs challenging Mr. Abbott’s orders include Steven Hotze, Norman Adams and Al Hartman, three Republican donors in the state.

Mr. Hotze, known for his opposition to L.G.B.T. rights, also filed a lawsuit against Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, a Democrat, last Thursday, arguing that her order requiring residents over 10 years old to wear face masks in public places for 30 days exceeded her constitutional authority.

The Republican plaintiffs, like Mr. Hotze, would like the state to adopt the approach of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a vocal opponent of the stay-at-home orders, who argued last month that grandparents should be willing to “take a chance” with their lives to save the economy.

“What you have is an overreaction by government in the state level that has resulted in huge damage to the state of Texas,” said Jared Woodfill, a lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs and served as the head of the Republican Party in Harris County for a dozen years. “The lieutenant governor has got it right. He’s said we never should have done this. Period.”

Katie Benner contributed reporting.

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