Extremists Emboldened by Capitol Attack Pose Growing Threat, Homeland Security Says – The New York Times

The breach of the Capitol might encourage domestic extremists to target other government facilities or elected officials, the Department of Homeland Security said.
Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

Warning that the deadly rampage at the Capitol this month may not be an isolated episode, the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday said publicly for the first time that the United States faced a growing threat from “violent domestic extremists” emboldened by the attack.

The department’s terrorism alert did not name specific groups that might be behind any future attacks, but it made clear that their motivation would include anger over “the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives,” a clear reference to the accusations made by President Donald J. Trump and echoed by right-wing groups that the 2020 election was stolen.

“D.H.S. is concerned these same drivers to violence will remain through early 2021,” the department said.

The Department of Homeland Security does not have information indicating a “specific, credible plot,” according to a statement from the agency. The alert issued was categorized as one warning of developing trends in terrorism, rather than a notice of an imminent attack.

But an intelligence official involved in drafting Wednesday’s bulletin said the decision to issue the report was driven by the department’s conclusion that Mr. Biden’s peaceful inauguration last week could create a false sense of security because “the intent to engage in violence has not gone away” among extremists angered by the outcome of the presidential election.

The warning contained in a “National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin” was a notable departure for a Department of Homeland Security accused of being reluctant during the Trump administration to publish intelligence reports or public warnings about the dangers posed by domestic extremists and white supremacist groups for fear of angering Mr. Trump, according to current and former homeland security officials.

Starting with the deadly extremist protest in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when Mr. Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides,” he played down any danger posed by extremist groups. And when racial justice protests erupted nationwide last year, his consistent message was that it was the so-called radical left that was to blame for the violence and destruction that had punctuated the demonstrations.

Even after the Department of Homeland Security in September 2019 singled out white supremacists as a leading domestic terrorism threat, analysts and intelligence officials said their warnings were watered down, delayed or both. Former officials in the Trump administration have even said that White House officials sought to suppress the phrase “domestic terrorism.”

The intelligence official involved with the bulletin, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss its findings, added that the public warning should have been issued as early as November, when Mr. Trump was making an escalating series of false accusations about the election, and that far-right groups continued to be galvanized by such false statements.

But at the time, Mr. Trump was also seeking to dismiss department officials whom he regarded as disloyal, including Christopher Krebs, the chief of its cybersecurity agency, after a committee overseeing the election declared it had been “the most secure in American history.” The agency failed to issue a warning to state and local agencies warning of specific violence aimed at the Capitol before the attack on Jan. 6.

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Biden Signs Executive Orders to Confront Climate Change

On Wednesday, President Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at combating climate change through job creation, and included a ‘pause’ in fossil fuel leasing.

To summarize this executive order, it’s about jobs, good-paying union jobs. It’s about workers, building our economy back better than before. It’s a whole of government approach. Put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security and foreign policy. It’s advancing conservation, revitalizing communities and cities and on the on the farmlands, and securing environmental justice. Our plans are ambitious, but we are America. The first order I’m signing is tackling the climate crisis at home and abroad. This next one, restoring trust in government through science and integrity and evidence-based policymaking. And this last one is the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology — establishing.

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On Wednesday, President Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at combating climate change through job creation, and included a ‘pause’ in fossil fuel leasing.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Biden on Wednesday signed a series of executive orders that aim to “confront the existential threat of climate change” across the federal government while emphasizing job creation and tackling racial inequity.

“In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can’t wait any longer,” said Mr. Biden, speaking at the White House. “We see it with our own eyes. We feel it. We know it in our bones. And it’s time to act.”

The president cast many of the executive orders as opportunities for job creation, among other things pledging to use the purchasing power of the federal government to buy a vast fleet of zero-emissions vehicles. “This will mean one million new jobs in the American automobile industry,” he said.

Wednesday’s executive orders also set broad new foreign policy goals, including specifying that climate change, for the first time, will be a core part of all foreign policy and national security decisions.

Mr. Biden’s international climate envoy, John Kerry, said earlier in the day that the United States would host an international climate change summit on Earth Day, April 22. “The convening of this summit is essential to ensuring that 2021 is going to be the year that really makes up for the lost time of the last four years,” said Mr. Kerry.

He pledged that by that date he would announce a new set of specific targets detailing how the United States would lower its carbon dioxide emissions under the terms of the Paris Agreement, the international climate accord from which former President Donald J. Trump had withdrawn, and which Mr. Biden has rejoined.

Gina McCarthy, the top adviser on domestic climate policy, said she intends to move forward quickly to implement new policies to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. “Here at home we have to do our part,” she said.

Mr. Biden has already ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to begin the process of reinstating the federal government’s single largest policy to curb carbon dioxide emissions — an Obama-era rule that had been designed to cut greenhouse tailpipe pollution from automobile tailpipes, which Mr. Trump rolled back last year.

Federal agencies also will be ordered to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies “and identify new opportunities to spur innovation.” Separately, Mr. Biden called on the campaign trail for overhauling tax breaks to oil companies — worth billions of dollars to the oil, coal and gas industries — to help pay for his $2 trillion climate change plan, although that plan is expected to face strong opposition in Congress.

President Biden spoke about his plans for the Affordable Care Act in November.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The Biden administration plans to reopen enrollment in many of the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, both to help those who may have lost health insurance during the pandemic and to offer coverage to those who did not have any and now want it. The move will be announced on Thursday as part of an executive order describing administration policies on shoring up health insurance coverage, according to three people familiar with the details.

The so-called special enrollment period is intended to help people who have lost coverage in the past year, but it will be open to those who want health insurance for any reason, in the 36 states that use Healthcare.gov. The decision was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

Typically, Americans without a special circumstance can buy Obamacare insurance only during a six-week period in the fall, a restriction meant to encourage people to hold coverage even when they are healthy. The sign-up period for this year’s coverage ended in mid-December, with enrollments only slightly higher than they were last year. But the Trump administration did little to advertise it. The Biden administration plans to have a large marketing campaign to announce the new opportunity and encourage people to enroll in health plans, two of the people said.

The insurance industry, which usually supports tight limits on insurance enrollments, is backing the extra enrollment period now. Around 15 million Americans are uninsured and eligible for marketplace coverage, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Most would qualify for some form of financial assistance if they bought such coverage — and about four million could sign up for a high-deductible plan that would cost them nothing in premiums.

“For the four million people who could be getting free coverage who are instead uninsured — that, to me, is screaming out for outreach,” said Cynthia Cox, a vice president at the foundation and a co-author of the analysis.

It remains unclear how many people lost health insurance last year because of the pandemic, but most working-age Americans receive coverage through their employers, and millions have lost jobs.

Enrollment in Medicaid, the public health insurance program for the poor and disabled, has grown substantially during the pandemic. And consumer advocates say there are also many Americans who were uninsured before but might want coverage now because of the public health crisis. Several states that run their own marketplaces established special enrollment periods last year and saw increased sign-ups.

The Trump administration’s deals with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia included the sales of advanced fighter jets and precision munitions.
Credit…Wilson Ring/Associated Press

The Biden administration is reviewing some weapons sales to Gulf Arab states approved by the Trump administration, including tens of billions of dollars of advanced fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates and precision munitions to Saudi Arabia.

A State Department official speaking on background said on Wednesday that the administration was temporarily pausing some of the arms sales and transfers, calling the move a routine action typical of presidential transitions.

But it drew unusual attention because the arms deals with the Gulf Arab nations, approved in the last months of the Trump administration, were the subject of intense political debate even before the review. Some Democrats expressed hope on Wednesday that the sales would be canceled, even as the administration downplayed the review.

Democrats in Congress have strongly opposed the sales out of disgust over the Saudi and Emirati role in Yemen’s grueling civil war, which has inflicted vast civilian suffering, but they failed to attract enough Republican support to block the deals in Congress in December. Many Democrats began pressuring President Biden even before his inauguration to halt the sales.

The deals in question include the $23 billion sale to the Emirates of 50 F-35 fighters and 18 Reaper drones, which President Donald J. Trump approved in the fall as an inducement for the Emirates to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel as part of the “Abraham Accords,” one of Mr. Trump’s proudest achievements.

In late December, the State Department approved the sale of $478 million in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, over the strong objections of Democrats, who said the bombs were sure to wind up killing innocent civilians in Yemen. Trump administration officials called that deal essential to supporting the Saudis in their fight against the Iranian-backed Houthis. Officials did not provide full details of all the agreements under review, but Mr. Trump approved the sale of billions of dollars of arms to the Saudis.

A senior administration official said that the review does not include a freeze on the Emirati deal. A congressional official familiar with the review said that the Saudi arms shipments would be paused during the review.

The news comes as many Democrats in Congress call for a reassessment of the United States’ relationship with the Gulf States, particularly Saudi Arabia. Mr. Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, worked in virtual lock step with the Saudis and Emiratis. But Democrats say the war in Yemen and human rights issues, including the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, demand a more skeptical relationship.

Reporting was contributed by Catie Edmondson, Lara Jakes, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt.

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White House Covid-19 Team Warns of Virus Variants

Members of President Biden’s coronavirus response team said they are increasing surveillance of potentially dangerous Covid-19 mutations.

“The variants have been identified recently, seem to spread more easily. They’re more transmissible, which can lead to increased number of cases and increased stress on our already taxed health care system. In the United States, 308 cases of the 117 variant that originated from the U.K. have been confirmed in 26 states as of Jan. 26. We also identified this week, our first case of the P1 variant in the United States in Minnesota. To date, no cases of of the B1351 variant that was first detected in South Africa has been identified in the U.S. C.D.C. is committed to working with international and state and local partners, and increasing surveillance to monitor the situation and share as soon as we learn more.” “The N.I.H. will be collaborating with the C.D.C. in looking at what the functional characteristics of these are. For example, we will be monitoring in real time the effect of antibodies that we induced with the current vaccines and with future vaccines as to what impact they have on the ability to neutralize these mutants.”

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Members of President Biden’s coronavirus response team said they are increasing surveillance of potentially dangerous Covid-19 mutations.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The United States is “43rd in the world” in its ability to track potentially dangerous new mutations of the coronavirus, according to President Biden’s coronavirus czar, who used the White House’s first public health briefing to issue a stark warning that the United States will remain vulnerable to the deadly pandemic unless Congress quickly passes a coronavirus relief bill.

“We are 43rd in the world in genomic sequencing — totally unacceptable,” said Jeffrey D. Zients, Mr. Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, who also warned that the federal government still faces shortages of personal protective gear and other essential supplies that it will not be able to buy if Congress does not pass Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan.

Scientists have warned that, with no robust system to identify genetic variations of the coronavirus, the United States is woefully ill-equipped to track dangerous new mutants, leaving health officials blind as they try to combat the grave threat. Dr. Anthony. S. Fauci, the president’s senior adviser for Covid-19, who also spoke during the briefing, said the National Institutes of Health is now working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on research aimed at adapting vaccines so that they “have on the ability to neutralize these mutants.”

The virtual meeting, which Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the new C.D.C. director, attended along with other officials, was laden with scientific details, clearly an effort by the new administration to make good on the president’s pledge to be more transparent than his predecessor about the administration’s response.

During the briefing, Dr. Walensky also pleaded with Congress for additional money, saying scientists “really need to have access to those resources to do the amount of sequencing and surveillance that we need in order to detect things when they first start to emerge.”

One variant, which has surged in Britain and burdened its hospitals with cases, has been increasingly detected in the United States. Federal health officials have warned that the variant, which is more contagious, could become the dominant source of infection in the United States by March, and would likely lead to a wrenching surge in cases and deaths that would further overwhelm hospitals. Other variants spreading in South Africa and Brazil have also caused concern.

“I look at the data form the U.K. and how quickly it got really bad in terms of its contagiousness and how much it could cause a spike and I am really worried about that,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, in an interview Tuesday. “It’s also widespread across the U.S. — 20 some odd states have already identified it. That is the big one that I worry about.”

Some experts say the United States is now in a race between the vaccine and the new variants. If the virus is not replicating, they say, it cannot mutate. Mr. Biden has vowed to get “100 million shots in the arms of the American people,” by his 100th day in office, a plan that some say is not ambitious enough.

On Monday, the drug makers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech reported that their vaccines were effective against variants discovered in Britain and South Africa. But they are slightly less protective against the variant in South Africa, which may be more adept at dodging antibodies in the bloodstream.

On Wednesday, Mr. Zients said that the Department of Health and Human Services would use the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, a law passed in 2005 that gives the health secretary emergency powers, to allow retired doctors and nurses to administer vaccines and give doctors and nurses the right to vaccinate people across state lines. And he said the president’s 100 million-shot commitment does not depend on Congress passing legislation.

But he ticked off a list of other priorities that require Congress to act: “In order to get all Americans vaccinated, we need Congress to provide funds for vaccination. We still do too little testing in this country. We need to ramp up testing significantly. We need Congress to fund more testing in order to reopen schools and businesses and take care of people in congregate settings. Furthermore, believe it or not, we still have shortages of P.P.E. and other critical materials. We need emergency funds in order to make sure that we have those materials.”

The briefing comes as Mr. Biden is under intense pressure to speed up the pace of coronavirus vaccinations. A C.D.C. advisory committee met on Wednesday to discuss vaccine safety, as well as a new vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca.

The C.D.C. said Wednesday that about 20.7 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and that about 3.8 million people have been fully vaccinated. More than a million people a day, on average, have received a shot to help protect them against Covid-19 in the United States over the last week.

As the vaccine rollout accelerates, the number of daily new cases in the United States, which has the worst outbreak in the world, has been on the decline in recent weeks. U.S. deaths, though, remain high, numbering more than 3,000 per day on average in recent days.

Denis McDonough, President Biden’s nominee for secretary of veterans affairs, appeared before a Senate panel for his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
Credit…Sarah Silbiger/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In remarks before the Senate Committee of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday, Denis McDonough, President Biden’s pick for secretary of veterans affairs, emphasized an agenda focused on guiding the department through the coronavirus pandemic and helping more veterans access care, assisting them with employment and reducing homelessness and suicide among veterans.

Former President Donald J. Trump sought to greatly expand private care for veterans; critics of that expansion feared that it was an effort to starve the department of resources and reduce its care. Mr. McDonough was asked about the issue, which has been deeply politicized over the years, and he acknowledged that care access was a key concern for veterans.

“If confirmed,” said Mr. McDonough, who once served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, “I will dedicate myself, with every fiber of my being, to fulfilling what President Biden rightly refers to as our country’s most sacred obligation: to prepare and equip our troops that we send in harm’s way, and to care for them and their families when they return.”

The department over the years has endured a number of scandals over wait times for veteran care and other ethics issues. A $16 billion overhaul of the veterans medical records system was delayed last year amid technical and training glitches. And female veterans have repeatedly complained about sexual harassment and worse while seeking care at the department’s facilities.

Mr. McDonough, like Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, said he would work to root out sexual harassment at his department “on day one.”

“This won’t be easy,” he said. “The Department of Veterans Affairs faces great challenges, challenges made even more daunting by the coronavirus pandemic. Its capabilities have not always risen to the needs of our veterans.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who has decades of diplomatic experience, is President Joe Biden’s pick to be ambassador to the United Nations.
Credit…Pool photo by Michael Reynolds

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Wednesday called for America’s muscular return to the multilateral body to counter the rise of China during her confirmation hearing, while facing tough questions for her decision to deliver a speech two years ago at an institute that some have described as disseminating Chinese propaganda.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield gave the remarks in October 2019 at Savannah State University’s Confucius Institute, which has since closed. It was one of dozens of such entities around the country that offer Chinese-language classes, an operation that has drawn concerns about whether the Chinese Communist Party was using the centers to disseminate Chinese government propaganda on U.S. campuses.

A number of Republican lawmakers sharply criticized Ms. Thomas-Greenfield’s speech to the institute as being overly optimistic about China’s relationship with African countries while not being tough enough on Beijing’s human rights record.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said she had made a “huge mistake” speaking at a Confucius Institute, and that it did not constitute an accurate portrayal of her views on China.

“I do regret that speech,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said. “But if you look at what I have done prior to that, there is no question that I am not at all naïve about what the Chinese are doing and I have called them out on a regular basis, including today.” Lawmakers’ concerns about the speech was earlier reported by The Washington Post.

During her hearing, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield made sharp remarks about China’s human rights record, and said that the State Department was “reviewing” a determination made by the Trump administration declaring that the Chinese government was committing genocide and crimes against humanity through its repression of Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in its northwestern region of Xinjiang, because “all of the procedures were not followed.”

She said that the situation in China was “horrific” and noted that she had “lived through, and experienced, and witnessed a genocide in Rwanda.” The situation in China, she said, “feels like that.”

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield told the senators that if she was confirmed, the United States would become a more active presence at the United Nations, which saw diminished participation from the United States under President Donald J. Trump’s “America First” policy. A more prominent U.S. role, she said, would help stem China’s diplomatic advances on the global stage.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination has been praised by veteran diplomats, who said her 35 years of experience as a foreign service officer would help rebuild America’s standing at the United Nations.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield entered the foreign service in 1982 and held a range of senior positions in the State Department. She served as U.S. ambassador to Liberia from 2008 to 2012 before moving on to become the director general of the foreign service for about a year. From 2013 to 2017, she served as the top U.S. diplomat for African affairs. In 2017, she was among a parade of diplomats who were pushed out of the department by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson.

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Blinken Takes Over at State Department

On Wednesday, the new secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, arrived at the State Department and laid out his plans.

“Good morning.” “Right here, sir, to your left.” “Right here — thanks. I know the State Department that I’m walking into today is not the same one that I left four years ago. A lot has changed. The world has changed. The department has changed. And we need only look around to see that. We at State have a role to play in all of this. And I believe it starts with rebuilding morale and trust. This is a priority for me because we need a strong department for the United States to be strong in the world. So we’ve got our work cut out for us, but I am confident we will succeed. The United States has enormous sources of strength we’re going to build upon. America’s values are noble and powerful, and we will recommit to them. And America’s leadership is needed around the world. And we’ll provide it because the world is far more likely to solve problems and meet challenges when the United States is there. America, at its best, still has a greater capacity than any other nation on earth to mobilize others for the better.”

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On Wednesday, the new secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, arrived at the State Department and laid out his plans.CreditCredit…Carlos Barria/Reuters

On his first full day as secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken said that the State Department he would now lead was “not the same one that I left four years ago.” To illustrate his point, his remarks were delivered to a mostly-empty lobby at the department’s headquarters.

The pomp of past arrival ceremonies for America’s top diplomat was dispensed with as a pandemic precaution. Instead, Mr. Blinken was greeted on Wednesday by a few dozen employees and journalists gathered to record his return to the department where he served as deputy secretary during the Obama administration.

“We’ve never been in a moment quite like this before,” Mr. Blinken acknowledged in remarks that were broadcast online and on the State Department’s internal TV channel, for diplomats across the world to watch.

“The world has changed,” he said. “The department has changed, and we need only look around to see that.”

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Harris Swears In Blinken as Secretary of State

Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the oath of office to Antony J. Blinken on Wednesday, his first full day leading the State Department.

“I Antony Blinken.” “I Antony Blinken.” “Do solemnly swear.” “Do solemnly swear.” “That I will support and defend.” “That I will support and defend.” “The Constitution of the United States.” “The Constitution of the United States.” “Against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” “Against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” “That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” “That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” “That I take this obligation freely.” “That I take this obligation freely.” “Without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” “Without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” “That I will well and faithfully discharge.” “That I will well and faithfully discharge.” “The duties of the office upon which I’m about to enter.” “The duties of the office upon which I’m about to enter.” “So help me God.” “So help me God.” “Congratulations, Mr. Secretary.” “Thank you, Madam Vice President.” “Congratulations.”

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Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the oath of office to Antony J. Blinken on Wednesday, his first full day leading the State Department.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

He repeated his pledge to rebuild trust among State Department employees who he has said were demoralized during the Trump administration. He urged them to “speak up without fear or favor” when they disagree with policies. He also reminded the department’s staff of the longstanding tradition of putting “country over party.”

That was a veiled contrast to the department under Mr. Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, who openly embraced partisan politics during his tenure, including when he spoke at the Republican National Convention while on an official diplomatic trip to Jerusalem.

Mr. Blinken also indirectly referred to the right-wing mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 — a culmination of years of national divisiveness that has left diplomats reeling over how to represent the United States abroad.

“The world is watching us intently right now,” he said. “They want to know if we can heal our nation. They want to see whether we will lead with the power of our example, if we’ll put a premium on diplomacy with our allies and partners to meet the great challenges of our time.”

He did not take questions at the end of his brief remarks, and headed to the White House about 90 minutes later for a ceremonial swearing-in by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan spoke to state lawmakers on Wednesday night in Lansing, in a virtual State of the State address seen here in a photograph provided by the governor’s office.
Credit…Michigan Governors Office, via Associated Press

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan opened her annual State of the State speech on Wednesday by pleading with lawmakers to find common ground in fighting the staggering effects of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

“Based on the political environment this past year, you might think Republicans and Democrats in Lansing can’t find common ground on much of anything,” said Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat. She noted times when there had been bipartisan action in the Capitol. “Let’s tap into that same energy and end the pandemic, revitalize our economy and get our kids back in school.”

But Republicans were having none of it.

Hours before Ms. Whitmer gave her speech, Republicans in the State Senate refused to approve 13 appointments she had proposed for slots in state government, such as the leader of the Children’s Ombudsman Office, the Civil Rights Commission and members of agriculture boards.

Republicans said they had rejected the appointments because they felt Ms. Whitmer was not including them enough in decision-making surrounding restrictions placed on businesses to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“She has continued to circumvent the Legislature,” said State Sen. Aric Nesbitt, a Republican from Lawton. “I understand it’s not easy to compromise and try to work with 148 members of this Legislature. We have to use every tool available to compromise, and one of those tools is to not support her appointments.”

Republicans in the State House of Representatives followed suit, offering a Covid relief plan that would withhold $2.1 billion in federal funding meant for schools to cope with the pandemic until Ms. Whitmer relinquished her authority to shut down in-person learning and sports during a health crisis. That power would shift to local health departments under the Republican plan.

The public and pointed rejections of the governor’s appointments and authority came as the 2022 election cycle began ramping up. Ms. Whitmer is up for re-election in 2022, and no top-tier Republican has come forward to challenge her.

Forced to speak remotely instead of in front of both chambers of the Legislature because of pandemic protocols, Ms. Whitmer offered plans to fix roads, provide extra hazard pay to teachers and allocate state resources to help residents who have lost their jobs during the pandemic find employment.

But it was the coronavirus, which has infected more than 600,000 state residents and killed more than 15,000 since it was first reported in Michigan in March, that dominated her address.

She said she planned to start a statewide tour to talk with Michiganders from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats alike, to try and find common ground as the state emerges from the pandemic. The tour is designed “to focus on what unites us, improve how we talk to each other,” she said. “My mission is to find common ground so we can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, has faulted the former president for the assault on the Capitol this month.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Donald J. Trump is set to meet on Thursday with Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, weeks after Mr. Trump erupted over Mr. McCarthy saying on the House floor that the former president bore responsibility for the violent rampage at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The two are to meet at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club in Florida, according to a person briefed on the plan. Mr. McCarthy, Republican of California, was not making a special trip for the meeting; he was in Palm Beach, Fla., to raise money for the party’s efforts to try to retake the House majority in 2022, the person said.

Mr. Trump had been livid with Mr. McCarthy and, according to people close to the former president, privately referred to him with a vulgarity commonly used to describe a coward after his speech during the House debate on impeaching the former president for “incitement of insurrection.”

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” Mr. McCarthy said in the speech, which he delivered before joining a vast majority of Republicans in opposing the charge. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump: accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.”

Mr. Trump did none of those things, yet Mr. McCarthy has since tempered his criticism. He told reporters last week that he did not believe Mr. Trump had “provoked” the mob. In an interview that aired on Sunday, he said that while the former president bore “some responsibility” for the storming of the Capitol, “I also think everybody across this country has some responsibility.”

Some Trump advisers have tried to tamp down the notion that Mr. Trump has lingering hostility toward the House leader, and aides to both men hoped the meeting would help ease tensions.

It came amid mounting evidence that most Republicans — far from repudiating Mr. Trump, as it appeared they might after the deadly siege — have rallied strongly around him before his impeachment trial. All but five Senate Republicans voted on Tuesday to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional before it could get underway.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, joined a vast majority of his party in doing so, though he has said that he believes Mr. Trump “provoked” the mob that assaulted the Capitol and privately concluded that the former president committed impeachable offenses.

Mr. McConnell, who had previously said he would wait to hear the arguments at trial before deciding whether to convict Mr. Trump, told reporters on Wednesday that he still had an open mind about a proceeding that has yet to begin in earnest.

“I intend to participate in that and listen to the evidence,” he said.

Mr. McConnell has not spoken to Mr. Trump since mid-December, when he called the White House to inform him that he planned to recognize President Biden’s victory after the Electoral College certification of the results.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican who was elected in November, has promoted QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Credit…Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a first-term Georgia Republican, repeatedly endorsed executing top Democratic politicians on social media before she was elected to Congress, including telling a follower who asked if they could hang former President Barack Obama that the “stage is being set.”

A review of Ms. Greene’s social media accounts, first reported by CNN, found that she repeatedly liked posts on Facebook that discussed the prospect of violence against Democratic lawmakers and employees of the federal government. Ms. Greene liked a Facebook comment in January 2019 that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and liked another about executing F.B.I. agents.

After a Facebook follower asked Ms. Greene “Now do we get to hang them,” referring to Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee, Ms. Greene responded: “Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off.”

In a lengthy statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday before CNN published its report, Ms. Greene did not disavow the posts, but accused CNN of “coming after” her for political reasons and noted that several people had managed her social media accounts.

“Over the years, I’ve had teams of people manage my pages,” Ms. Greene wrote. “Many posts have been liked. Many posts have been shared. Some did not represent my views.”

After multiple reports of Ms. Greene’s endorsements of political violence, Representative Jimmy Gomez, Democrat of California, announced on Wednesday evening that he would introduce a resolution to expel her from the House.

“Such advocacy for extremism and sedition not only demands her immediate expulsion from Congress, but it also merits strong and clear condemnation from all of her Republican colleagues,” Mr. Gomez said. “Her very presence in office represents a direct threat against the elected officials and staff who serve our government.”

Expulsion from the chamber would require a two-thirds vote.

Ms. Greene’s inflammatory language has drawn rebukes from some members of her own party. But since she joined Congress, House Republican leaders have declined to condemn her. Before she was elected, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, disavowed her comments as “offensive and bigoted,” and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, went so far as to back Ms. Greene’s primary opponent.

A spokesman for Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, told Axios that Ms. Greene’s newly surfaced Facebook posts were “deeply disturbing” and that he planned to “have a conversation” with her about them.

Ms. Greene has previously been scrutinized for promoting conspiracy theories, including QAnon, the pro-Trump fringe group that falsely claims the existence of a satanic pedophile cult run by top Democrats, and for wrongly suggesting that the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was staged. Ms. Greene was chosen this week to serve on the House Education and Labor Committee.

In the days before pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Ms. Greene referred to the day as Republicans’ “1776 moment.” After the riot, she pledged that President Donald J. Trump would “remain in office” and that attempts to remove him from the White House constituted “an attack on every American who voted for him,” even though he had lost the election.

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

Dozens of police officers were injured during the storming of the Capitol this month.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A second police officer who defended the Capitol during the siege on Jan. 6 has died by suicide, the acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department told Congress this week.

Chief Robert J. Contee III told a House committee that Officer Jeffrey Smith, a 12-year veteran of his department, had killed himself on Jan. 15 and that Officer Howard Liebengood, a 15-year veteran of the Capitol Police, had also died by suicide days after the attack.

The Police Department declined to give a cause for Officer Smith’s death or say whether it was connected to the riot. His family could not immediately be reached.

Five people died during the attack, including one Capitol Police officer and a woman who was fatally shot by another officer; some died from medical emergencies. Serious trauma was also reported, including brain injuries and smashed spinal disks. The Capitol Police union said that nearly 140 of its officers were injured, and that one officer would most likely lose an eye.

Chief Contee said in his testimony that 65 of his officers were injured in what he called a “battle.” He added that “many more sustained injuries from the assault — scratches, bruises, eyes burning from bear mace — that they did not even bother to report.”

Videos from the Capitol on Jan. 6 showed rioters attacking officers who were defending the building. Some officers were dragged down stairs while others were beaten with hockey sticks. One was assaulted with an American flag.

Officers were often outnumbered, unable to hold back crowds intent on entering the building. Some protesters were armed, and others said they wanted to hang members of Congress and former Vice President Mike Pence.

“Other harm from this traumatic day will be widely felt but possibly unacknowledged,” Chief Contee said in his testimony. “Law enforcement training neither anticipates nor prepares for hours of hand-to-hand combat.”

An officer was among those who died as a result of the riot by a pro-Trump mob at the Capitol this month.
Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Nearly 140 police officers from two departments were injured during the Jan. 6 pro-Trump mob attack on the Capitol, including officers who suffered brain injuries, smashed spinal discs and one who is likely to lose his eye, the Capitol Police union said on Wednesday.

In a statement, the union’s chairman, Gus Papathanasiou, faulted leadership of the Capitol Police for failing to equip officers with proper equipment ahead of the attack.

He was responding to the closed-door testimony on Tuesday of Yogananda D. Pittman, the acting chief of the Capitol Police, who acknowledged that the department had known there was a “strong potential for violence” that day but failed to take necessary steps to prevent what she described as a “terrorist attack.”

Chief Pittman took the reins of the agency after the siege, replacing Steven Sund, who resigned as police chief under pressure.

“We have one officer who lost his life as a direct result of the insurrection,” Mr. Papathanasiou said. “Another officer has tragically taken his own life. Between U.S.C.P. and our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police Department, we have almost 140 officers injured. I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”

Chief Pittman testified via videoconference before a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee that officers were outmanned during the riot, that internal communications were poor, and that officers lacked sufficient equipment and struggled to carry out orders like locking down the building.

Her testimony marked the beginning of what is likely to be a series of hearings investigating the law enforcement failures that allowed the Capitol building to be occupied for the first time since the War of 1812.

“By Jan. 4, the department knew that the Jan. 6 event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020,” Chief Pittman testified. “We knew that militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be attending. We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.”

Mr. Papathanasiou called it “inexcusable” that such warnings were not relayed to rank-and-file officers.

“The officers are angry, and I don’t blame them,” he said. “The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost lives.”

Enrique Tarrio, who took over leadership of the Proud Boys three years ago, has a criminal history dating to at least 2004. 
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist group that is a major target of the sprawling investigation into the riot at the Capitol this month, has a history of cooperating with law enforcement, according to court records and a former prosecutor.

The stunning revelation that Mr. Tarrio, who leads one of the country’s most notorious extremist groups, helped the F.B.I. and local police departments go after more than a dozen criminal defendants about a decade ago was first reported by Reuters on Wednesday.

The news emerged as Mr. Tarrio himself has fallen under scrutiny for his role in encouraging the Proud Boys to attend a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6.

“Mr. Tarrio was a cooperator — like many who seek to provide information and try to obtain substantial assistance,” the former prosecutor, Vanessa S. Johannes, wrote in an email.

A court transcript, which documents a hearing in 2014 where Mr. Tarrio sought to reduce his own sentence in a fraud case, shows that he helped law enforcement officers in his home state, Florida, to investigate and prosecute criminal enterprises such as an illegal gambling business, a marijuana grow lab, an operation that sold anabolic steroids and an immigrant smuggling ring.

Mr. Tarrio, 36, did not respond to messages from The New York Times seeking comment. But he denied to Reuters that he had ever worked undercover or cooperated with law enforcement.

Mr. Tarrio has been a focus of the F.B.I.’s enormous inquiry into the Capitol attack, which has led so far to more than 150 arrests, including those of at least six members of the Proud Boys. The group of self-described “Western chauvinists” has a history of scuffling in street fights with left-wing antifascist activists and has made a name for itself in recent years for its vocal — and often violent — support of former President Donald J. Trump.

Although Mr. Tarrio went to Washington this month, he was arrested by the local police on suspicion of burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn from one of the city’s Black churches during a separate round of protests in December.

After he was thrown out of the city by a judge, he posted messages online encouraging the Proud Boys to attend the rally on Jan. 6 “incognito.”

The Trump International Hotel in Washington on Tuesday evening. The lobby can hold 625 people, but it had only about eight guests.
Credit…Eric Lipton

Congress was in session. The White House has been humming with activity for the past few days.

This would normally mean a busy time for the 263-room Trump International Hotel, which is just a few blocks away. But on two recent evenings this week, the famed lobby that drew so many lobbyists, White House officials and Trump supporters over the past four years was largely vacant. The waiters and staff members outnumbered the customers.

Part of it, of course, is the continuing coronavirus pandemic, which has affected hotels and restaurants in Washington and around the nation. Current regulations limit indoor dining to 25 percent capacity in Washington.

Until Friday, indoor dining had been banned. The hotel’s lobby, as well as its two restaurants, were closed, although the hotel itself remained open to a very limited number of customers checking in. The bar was still closed this week.

On Tuesday night, in a section of the lobby with dozens of tables serviced by Benjamin Bar and Lounge, there were between eight and 11 customers.

“It is a hard time with Covid,” said one of several patrons in the hotel lobby, who was there having a drink. She said she worked on energy-related issues in an office across the street. She declined to give her name.

BLT Prime by David Burke — a steakhouse in the mezzanine of the lobby — did have several tables of customers Tuesday evening. And Sushi Nakazawa, a third restaurant at the hotel, is scheduled to reopen Wednesday evening.

Mickael Damelincourt, the hotel’s manager, was upbeat as he milled around the lobby on Tuesday.

“We are doing very well, considering the current restrictions,” he said. “We are looking forward to welcoming many travelers back to D.C. over the next few months.”

A Brioni Bespoke store, selling custom-made suits for thousands of dollars, also sat empty except for the store clerk, who perked up when a reporter looked in. Large carts carrying extra supplies of Veuve Clicquot sat off to the side of the lobby, untouched.

A financial disclosure report that Mr. Trump released last week covering 2020 showed a 63 percent decline in revenue at the Trump hotel in Washington, dropping to $15.1 million. In an interview last week, Eric Trump, the former president’s son and the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, attributed the revenue loss to the pandemic and the city’s policies forcing the closure of the restaurants and bar.

Across the street from the hotel, Fogo De Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse, was doing much brisker business.

Mr. Trump’s family had tried in 2019 to sell the lease to the hotel in Washington. The historic building — the second tallest in the city — is owned by the federal government and is still known as the Old Post Office, from when it used to serve as the headquarters of the agency. A contract sets rent for the building at about $270,000 a month.

Sorgente articolo:
Extremists Emboldened by Capitol Attack Pose Growing Threat, Homeland Security Says – The New York Times

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