President Biden News: Live Updates

Daily Political Briefing July 6, 2021Updated  July 6, 2021, 2:27 p.m. ET July 6, 2021,

Daily Political Briefing

July 6, 2021, 2:27 p.m. ET

July 6, 2021, 2:27 p.m. ET

President Biden’s appearances around the country are intended to build public support for his proposals and to increase pressure on lawmakers.
Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

President Biden will turn his attention past his bipartisan infrastructure plan when he travels to a Chicago suburb this week to try to sell the virtues of spending $1.8 trillion to expand access to education, reduce the cost of child care and support women in the work force as part of his American Families Plan.

Republicans vigorously oppose the proposal, which would be financed by new taxes on the wealthy. Mr. Biden has indicated his willingness to pass the ambitious social spending plan in the Senate with only Democratic votes by using the fast-track budget reconciliation process.

White House officials said the president would make a speech at a college in Crystal Lake, Ill., on Wednesday “highlighting the benefits the American Families Plan will deliver for working families across the country.”

But his hope for a legacy-making victory depends on successfully navigating delicate ideological roadblocks in both parties on Capitol Hill.

Moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia have signaled their uneasiness with the size of the American Families Plan, even as progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, are pushing to spend more than $6 trillion to expand social programs to benefit working Americans and the poor.

Republicans who have signed on to Mr. Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan — making it the signature piece of bipartisan legislation endorsed by the White House — oppose the broader social spending, calling it too costly and saying the tax increases are unwise.

That leaves the president and his allies on Capitol Hill little wiggle room as they prepare to negotiate spending proposals of a scale that has been unheard-of in recent decades.

For Mr. Biden, the negotiations will include a regular series of appearances around the country intended to build public support for his proposals and to increase pressure on lawmakers by demonstrating that Americans are eager for the benefits that would be created amid the coronavirus pandemic.

White House officials provided few details about the president’s upcoming speech in Illinois; he opened his summertime road show last week by traveling to La Crosse, Wis., to promote the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure spending.

“This is a generational investment to modernize our infrastructure,” Mr. Biden said, comparing it to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s creation of the interstate highway system and saying his new plan would succeed in “creating millions of good-paying jobs.”

That suggests that the White House intends for the president to be a cheerleader for both the bipartisan infrastructure plan and the Families Plan supported by Democrats with speeches delivered around the country.

Mr. Biden will also continue to focus his efforts this week on vaccinating the country. He is scheduled to deliver remarks on Tuesday about the latest efforts against the spread of the coronavirus, including the highly contagious Delta variant that is gaining traction worldwide.

That speech will be two days after the country celebrated the Fourth of July and Mr. Biden hosted the largest planned event of his presidency at the White House — a sign that the United States is emerging from its pandemic isolation despite failing to reach the administration’s goal of having 70 percent of adults at least partly vaccinated by Independence Day.

Months after the assault on the U.S. Capitol, the Capitol Police is opening field offices in California and Florida.
Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Six months after a mob of supporters of President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol, the United States Capitol Police is planning to expand operations outside Washington in an effort to better protect lawmakers, beginning with the opening of field offices in California and Florida.

Tim Barber, a spokesman, said the plan was to open several additional regional offices as the department charged with protecting Congress transforms itself in the aftermath of the attack, which exposed serious deficiencies in the Capitol Police’s gathering and dissemination of intelligence, preparedness and training.

Much like the Secret Service, which has field offices in multiple states and countries, the Capitol Police need to be able to monitor and quickly investigate threats against lawmakers wherever they occur, Mr. Barber said.

Yogananda D. Pittman, the acting chief of force, has testified before Congress that total threats against lawmakers have doubled since 2017, with an “overwhelming majority of suspects residing outside” the capital region.

The announcement came as Capitol Police presented a number of steps the agency has taken since the attack, which left dozens of officers from the department and the District of Columbia police force bloodied and injured. Lawmakers evacuated the Capitol and some cowered inside as the rioters, incensed by Mr. Trump’s lie of a stolen election, tried to stop Congress from formalizing President Biden’s victory.

Some of the rioters hunted members of Congress by name, and in the days before the assault, loyalists of Mr. Trump posted messages on far-right chat websites saying they needed to target lawmakers to force them to overturn the election.

Hours after the attack, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died from a stroke after battling the mob. Officer Howard Liebengood died by suicide not long after, as did a D.C. police officer, Jeffrey Smith.

“We will never forget U.S.C.P. Officers Brian Sicknick and Howie Liebengood, who died after the attack, nor the sacrifices of the nearly 150 law enforcement officers who were injured,” a statement from the Capitol Police said.

The agency said it had instituted better training, purchased more protective equipment and provided more robust mental health services for officers since the attack.

The Pentagon had warned Congress in January that it might walk away from the contract.
Credit…Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

The Defense Department said on Tuesday that it would not go forward with a lucrative cloud-computing contract that had become the subject of a contentious legal battle amid claims of interference by the Trump administration.

The Pentagon had warned Congress in January that it would walk away from the contract if a federal court agreed to consider whether former President Donald J. Trump interfered in a process that awarded the $10 billion contract to Microsoft over its tech rival Amazon, saying that the question would result in lengthy litigation and untenable delays.

The Defense Department said Tuesday in a news release that the contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, known as JEDI, “no longer meets its needs,” but it would solicit bids from Amazon and Microsoft on future cloud-computing contracts.

A senior administration official said that soon after the Biden administration took office, it began a review that quickly concluded the lengthy arguments over JEDI had been so costly that the old architecture would be outdated as soon as it was deployed.

“With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the JEDI cloud contract, which has been long delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD’s capability gaps,’’ the Pentagon said in an announcement.

Instead, the Pentagon proposed a new cloud architecture called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability. And the Pentagon made clear that only Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, which currently provides cloud services to the C.I.A., had the capacity to build the new architecture. The Pentagon’s announcement suggested that it would buy technology from both companies, rather than awarding one large contract to a single provider, as it had for JEDI.

Security concerns also played a role in the decision to seek cloud services from multiple companies, officials say. Recent breaches of cloud services have made it clear that there are vulnerabilities, and the Pentagon did not want to be dependent on one company for its technology.

The 10-year JEDI contract was awarded to Microsoft in 2019 after a fight among Amazon and other tech giants for the deal to modernize the military’s cloud-computing systems. Although some of the companies, including the business software company Oracle, lobbied for the Pentagon break the contract into pieces and award them to multiple suppliers, the Defense Department pressed forward with its plan to use a single cloud provider, believing that it would be the most seamless and secure approach.

Because of the size and security requirements of the JEDI contract, Amazon was widely considered the front-runner. But when the award fell to Microsoft, Amazon sued to block the contract, arguing that Microsoft did not have the technical capabilities to fulfill the military’s needs and that the process had been biased against Amazon because of Mr. Trump’s repeated criticisms of Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

The Washington Post aggressively covered the Trump administration, and Mr. Trump referred to the newspaper as the “Amazon Washington Post” and accused it of spreading “fake news.”

Mr. Trump said other companies should be considered for the JEDI contract, and Amazon argued he used “improper pressure” to sway the Pentagon as it selected a technology vendor. An Amazon spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Defense Department said Mr. Trump had not played a role in the decision. Microsoft said that Amazon’s claims of bias lacked evidence and that it was prepared to provide the necessary technology to the military.

In April, a federal court said it could not dismiss the possibility the Mr. Trump had meddled in the process. The court’s ruling set the stage for the Pentagon to walk away from the contract.

“The D.O.D. faced a difficult choice: Continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another path forward,” Toni Townes-Whitley, Microsoft’s president of U.S. regulated industries, wrote in a blog post responding to the decision. “We stand ready to support the D.O.D. as they work through their next steps and its new cloud computing solicitation plans.”

Much of the military operates on outdated computer systems, and the Defense Department has spent billions of dollars trying to modernize those systems while protecting classified material. The Defense Department has argued that the extensive delays surrounding the contract caused national security concerns.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

AAA said on Tuesday that gas prices were expected to increase another 10 to 20 cents through the end of August.

The average price of a gallon of regular in the United States has risen to $3.13, according to AAA, up from $3.05 a month ago. A year ago, as the pandemic kept people home, a gallon of gas cost just $2.18 on average.

The rise comes amid a breakdown in talks among OPEC and its allies over whether to expand oil production as travel resumes and global demand recovers. The cartel has been unable to reach a deal despite multiple meetings since Thursday.

“Robust gasoline demand and more expensive crude oil prices are pushing gas prices higher,” Jeanette McGee, an AAA representative, said in a statement. “We had hoped that global crude production increases would bring some relief at the pump this month, but weekend OPEC negotiations fell through with no agreement reached. As a result, crude prices are set to surge.”

Scott Hanson of Western Springs, Ill., remembers when $40 was enough to fill up his gas tank last year, when he lost his job as an office manager due to the pandemic. Now, Mr. Hanson is paying over $60 to fill his Dodge Charger, making it harder to take his mother to her doctor appointments. Gas in Illinois is averaging $3.36 a gallon, according to AAA.

“It’s too much for too many people that lost their jobs or have low-paying jobs,” Mr. Hanson said on Tuesday. “Everything bad that could happen is happening all at once.”

Washington has seen one of the biggest spikes, with the price of regular gasoline rising 20 cents in the past month to $3.81, according to AAA. In California, which generally has some of the highest gas prices in the country, a gallon goes for $4.31.

Crude oil fell off its recent highs on Tuesday, with West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, down more than 2.5 percent to about $73.15. But even those prices have not been seen since 2018, and they are far above the prices from early in the pandemic, when the price of a barrel hovered around $40.

As travel ground to a halt early last year, Russia, which is part of the group of allied oil producers known as OPEC Plus, refused to cut production, sparking a price war with Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of OPEC, that helped drive prices to rock-bottom. Oil-producing nations finally agreed to cuts and have been operating mostly in lock-step for months, raising output slowly to keep prices high.

But the conciliatory nature of the agreement seems to have stalled, with OPEC Plus failing for days to come to a decision on production, and oil prices have fluctuated as traders await a result.

Gas prices have also been volatile as the economy has reopened. With a jump in travel already adding upward pressure, a cyberattack in May on a gas pipeline that provides nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supplies led to panic buying, shortages in some areas and a temporary spike in prices.

Americans are also keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Elsa, which is headed for the Gulf of Mexico and parts of Florida. The storm is unlikely to cause disruptions to Gulf Coast crude and gasoline productions as winds recede, according to AAA.

President Biden on Sunday.
Credit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — With the pace of U.S. coronavirus vaccinations relatively flat, President Biden will call on Tuesday for employers to set up clinics at work and to offer paid time off for workers as part of a renewed push to reach tens of millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated, a White House official said.

Just two days after he hosted a big White House Fourth of July celebration and declared “America is coming back together,” Mr. Biden is turning his attention to a public health conundrum: Despite his administration’s aggressive push, he has not met his self-imposed goal of having 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated by now, and officials have already tried many techniques.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview the president’s remarks, the official said Mr. Biden would note a different metric: By the end of the week, nearly 160 million Americans, not quite half the population, will be fully vaccinated. With the worrisome Delta variant spreading quickly around the country, he is expected to say, that will not be enough to fully prevent new outbreaks in areas with lower vaccination rates. Although there is not yet good data on how all of the vaccines hold up against Delta, several widely used shots, including those made by Pfizer-BioNTech, are still effective against the Delta variant after two doses, research suggests.

But providers were administering about 1.09 million doses per day on average, as of Friday, about a 68 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13.

And beyond the issues with the vaccination campaign, declines in the virus itself appear to have stalled nationally. After a sharp drop in virus cases, the average number of new daily cases across the country seems to have leveled off and remains close to the lowest point since testing became widely available. Mr. Biden intends to underscore that overall progress in his remarks on Tuesday, but pockets of outbreaks remain. In some parts of Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, for instance, there has been a sharp rise in cases.

Mr. Biden will use his remarks to outline five areas of concentration for his administration, all avenues it has already pursued: targeted, community by community, door to door outreach to get the remaining Americans vaccinated; a fresh push to get vaccines to primary care doctors; a boost in efforts to get vaccines to pediatricians and other providers who serve younger people so that adolescents ages 12 to 18 can get their shots; expanded mobile clinic efforts and the workplace changes.

It is unclear what else the administration can do. Public health officials know that the last stretch of any vaccination campaign is the most arduous — a point Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the pandemic, made in a recent interview.

“The last mile is always the hardest,” Dr. Fauci said, adding, “We’re actually on the last quarter mile.”

Paul R. LePage, right, the former governor of Maine, posing for a photo with a supporter at a Trump rally last year.
Credit…Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Paul R. LePage, the former two-term Republican governor of Maine, is planning to seek his old office again in 2022, announcing on Monday “I am in” despite having left the state for sunny Florida after his previous term ended and declaring himself done with politics.

Mr. LePage, 72, was succeeded as governor by a Democrat, Janet Mills, but the state’s term-limits law allows him to run for a third nonconsecutive term, which he has signaled his interest in for almost a year.

A Republican who shunned protocol and employed incendiary rhetoric before former President Donald J. Trump’s arrival on the political scene, Mr. LePage left office with a 40 percent approval rating.

He courted controversy from the very start of his administration. In 2011, he said he would skip events for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and told the N.A.A.C.P. to “kiss my butt.” That was just the first in a series of inflammatory remarks on race from Mr. LePage during his governorship.

With his challenge to Ms. Mills, the 2022 race would be the rare contest pitting two governors — one former and one current — against one another.

“We must work toward building a better future based on individual liberty, fiscal responsibility, and an economy which empowers everyone including our rural communities,” Mr. LePage said in a Facebook posting.

Maine has been a battleground state in national races, with Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, brushing off an expensive challenge in 2020 and both the Trump campaign and that of President Biden competing aggressively for one electoral vote in the state.

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northern Montana is roughly the size of Delaware, but had only four ballot drop-off locations last year.
Credit…Tailyr Irvine for The New York Times

It has been less than a century since Native Americans in the United States gained the right to vote by law, and they never attained the ability to do so easily in practice. New restrictions — ballot collection bans, earlier registration deadlines, stricter voter ID laws and more — are likely to make it harder, and the starkest consequences may be seen in places like Montana: sprawling, sparsely populated Western and Great Plains states where Native Americans have a history of playing decisive roles in close elections.

In recent years, Republicans in several states have passed laws imposing requirements that Native Americans are disproportionately unlikely to meet or targeting voting methods they are disproportionately likely to use, such as ballot collection, which is common in communities where transportation and other infrastructure are limited. They say ballot collection can enable election fraud or allow advocacy groups to influence votes, though there is no evidence of widespread fraud.

Geography, poverty and politics all create obstacles for Native Americans. The Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which abuts the Canadian border, is roughly the size of Delaware but had only two election offices and four ballot drop-off locations last year, one of which was listed as open for just 14 hours over two days. Many other reservations in Montana have no polling places, meaning residents must go to the county seat to vote, and many don’t have cars or can’t afford to take time off.

Hundreds of companies around the world are reeling after a software provider to small and midsize businesses was hit last week by a major cyberattack. Russian cybercriminals are suspected of orchestrating what some experts are calling a “global supply chain hack.”

The Swedish grocery chain Coop had to close at least 800 stores on Saturday, while a pharmacy chain and 11 schools in New Zealand were also affected. Linking all of them was Kaseya, which makes systems management software that was in the middle of performing updates to guard against such an attack. Although Kaseya said that fewer than 40 customers had been affected, that group serviced hundreds of others, amplifying the effect.

Some companies were asked for as much as $5 million to regain control of their data, about $70 million in total.

REvil, which was accused of orchestrating an attack on the meat processor JBS in May, was identified as a likely culprit. President Biden confronted President Vladimir Putin of Russia last month over Moscow’s ties to cybercrime, but over the weekend, he said “The initial thinking was it was not the Russian government, but we’re not sure yet.”

Hamid Karzai International Airport is crucial to the United States and allied countries maintaining a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan.
Credit…Massoud Hossaini/Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — For years, Hamid Karzai International Airport has been a main gateway to Afghanistan, an aspirational symbol of civilian life and normalcy amid military bases, warplanes and the scars of decades of fighting in the surrounding countryside.

But now the airport, known to all as Kabul International, has become the last stand in America’s 20-year campaign in Afghanistan.

The importance of the strip of tarmac, radars and terminals, surrounded by the ring of mountains that define the capital city, cannot be overstated. Beyond its strategic importance for maintaining embassy operations and having an evacuation route for diplomats and the forces protecting them, the airport is the gateway to Afghanistan for workers from international aid groups and other nongovernmental organizations and health care providers that remain vital in a nation long reliant on foreign assistance to provide basic services.

“Security at the airport in whatever form or fashion it takes will be important, not only for the United States, but for any other nation that likewise plans to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul,” the Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, said in an interview.

If the United States and its allies can complete a deal for Turkey to keep forces in place to secure the airport, President Biden can go ahead with his plan to maintain the American Embassy — and diplomatic missions from allied countries — even after combat troops for the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization depart.

If not, senior American and NATO officials said, the consequences could be substantial: Mr. Biden’s plans to try to retain a diplomatic presence in the country, as part of an international effort seeking to prevent a return to the grim Taliban-controlled era of the past, will most likely be cast aside, and access to the country by aid groups could be cut off.

Turkey for its own reasons wants to retain a presence in Afghanistan, where it has a long affiliation, and a shared history and religion as well as an economic stake. As a Muslim-majority nation and a member of the Atlantic alliance, Turkey has played a consistent role in Afghanistan since 2001, including sending troops in noncombat roles. It currently has about 600 service members in Afghanistan, where its main mission has been providing security for the airport.

Military planners and intelligence analysts say the growing strength of the Taliban and planned withdrawal of international combat troops mean that the Afghan government was likely to fall in six months to two years. And while it is not clear that the Taliban would want to completely shut down the airport and isolate the country if they take full control of Afghanistan, the group has signaled that it will not accept the presence of any foreign troops, even from Turkey.

Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona has referred to President Biden as a “fraudulent usurper,” and he was the keynote speaker at a conference hosted by the white nationalist group America First in February.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Nick Fuentes, the leader of a white nationalist group, was bemoaning the political persecution he said he was facing from the federal government when he paused during a recent livestream to praise one of his few defenders.

“There is some hope, maybe, for America First in Congress,” Mr. Fuentes said, referring to the name of his movement, a group that aims to preserve white, Christian identity and culture. “And that is thanks to — almost exclusively — to Representative Paul Gosar.”

Mr. Gosar, a five-term Republican and dentist from Prescott, Ariz., emerged this year as a vociferous backer of the “Stop the Steal” movement that falsely claimed that former President Donald J. Trump won the 2020 election and spearheaded the rally in Washington on Jan. 6 that led to the deadly Capitol riot.

But Mr. Gosar’s ties to racists like Mr. Fuentes and America First, as well as similar far-right fringe organizations and activists, have been less scrutinized. A review of public comments and social media posts suggest that in Mr. Gosar, they have found an ally and advocate in Congress.

His unapologetic association with them is perhaps the most vivid example of the Republican Party’s growing acceptance of extremism, which has become apparent as more lawmakers espouse and amplify conspiracy theories and far-right ideologies that figure prominently in the belief systems of fringe groups.

Mr. Gosar has appeared at rallies across the country referring to President Biden as a “fraudulent usurper,” and called efforts to seat him “sedition” and a “coup.” Last week, Mr. Gosar came under scrutiny after a social media channel associated with Mr. Fuentes advertised an upcoming fund-raiser featuring both men. And in a recent fund-raising solicitation, he spread a groundless conspiracy theory that the F.B.I. may have been behind the Jan. 6 attack.

The statements and actions have not resulted in any punishment from House Republican leaders, who have largely declined to publicly reprimand those in their conference who espouse fringe beliefs or peddle misinformation. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, told The Washington Post last week that Mr. Gosar had told him that the advertised fund-raiser was “not real.”

Mr. Fuentes, a 22-year-old white nationalist, online provocateur and activist who leads the America First movement, boasts the kind of résumé that most members of Congress would run from. Having marched at both the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6., he has warned that the nation is losing “its white demographic core.” Other conservative organizations have denounced him as a Holocaust denier and a racist.

Mr. Gosar has continued to associate with him.

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