Biden Details $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
President Biden is speaking near Pittsburgh in the afternoon, and will detail his proposal to fix aging bridges, roads, rail lines and utilities. He wants to pay for it by raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, from 21 percent.,
President Biden appeared in western Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon to unveil his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, a far-reaching proposal that he will seek to pay for with a substantial increase in corporate taxes.
Mr. Biden is speaking at a carpenters training center outside Pittsburgh, laying out the first step in a two-part agenda to overhaul American capitalism, fight climate change and attempt to improve the productivity of the economy.
In his opening remarks, the president recalled announcing his candidacy for the White House in Pittsburgh two years earlier, promising to rebuild the backbone of America.
“Today, I return as your president to lay out the vision of how I believe we do that,” Mr. Biden said.
He added, “It is a vision not seen through the eyes of Wall Street or Washington, but through the eyes of hard-working people.”
The scale of the infrastructure program he is rolling out — one of the most ambitious attempts in generations to shore up the nation’s aging roads, bridges, rail lines and utilities — is so big that it will require 15 years of higher taxes on corporations to fully offset eight years of spending.
Despite his ambitious programs, Mr. Biden had pledged that his long-term economic agenda would not add further to the growing national debt. But the fact that his proposed tax increases would not cover his spending over the same period shows the challenge he has in balancing his big goals and the deficit.
Mr. Biden’s proposals include raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent and efforts to force multinational corporations to pay significantly more in tax to the United States on profits they earn and book overseas. The corporate tax rate had been cut under President Donald J. Trump to 21 percent from 35 percent.
The new plans come on top of the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan Mr. Biden signed into law this month, which was financed entirely by borrowing and was passed with no Republican support. The programs reflect Mr. Biden’s campaign promises and a leftward shift in his party in recent years.
If his full set of proposals become law, they would mark a new era of ambitious federal spending to address longstanding social and economic problems. Their odds of passing Congress have risen in the midst of a pandemic in which lawmakers have approved record amounts of government spending to rescue the economy from recession.
The spending in the first phase of Mr. Biden’s two-part agenda includes a wide range of investments in physical infrastructure, including highways, mass transit and electric vehicle charging systems and upgrades to water pipes, the electric grid and veterans’ hospitals. It also includes a big increase in federal research and development spending and efforts to provide home-based care to older and disabled Americans.
The second step, which officials have suggested will come next month, will feature spending and tax credits meant to invest in what liberal economists call human infrastructure. It will include aid to the poor, paid leave for workers and measures meant to reduce the cost of child care and help women work and earn more.
Together, those two proposals could cost as much as $4 trillion between spending increases and tax incentives. The second phase of the proposals is expected to include tax increases on high-earning individuals.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has signaled that she hopes to pass President Biden’s big infrastructure bill as early as July 4 — even as Republicans lined up on Wednesday in near-lock-step opposition to the tax hikes planned to fund the $2 trillion measure.
The ambitious timetable could slip as debate intensifies over aspects of the plan, particularly since Democrats hold such a slim majority and cannot afford to lose many votes in the House. But in a statement, Ms. Pelosi called Mr. Biden’s big proposal a “a visionary, once-in-a-century investment in the American people” and promised to move it through the House as quickly as possible.
Even before the president was expected to unveil the package during a speech in Pittsburgh, Democrats were beginning to rally around the plan with statements of effusive praise. The measure includes a massive upgrade of the nation’s bridges, roads, water treatment facilities, green energy programs, housing initiatives and improvements to the power grid.
Republicans have begun weighing in, and mostly negatively, on Mr. Biden’s proposal to hike taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations.
At an event in Kentucky on Wednesday, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said Mr. Biden had called him about the proposal on Tuesday, but suggested he was unlikely to support the package, calling it a “Trojan horse.”
“Inside the Trojan horse is going to be more borrowed money and massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy,” Mr. McConnell said at the event.
White House officials hope to pick off a few moderate Republicans, in part to nominally assert that the bill has bipartisan support. But G.O.P. operatives were already working Wednesday to keep their troops in line.
“When you are talking about tax hikes of this magnitude, I don’t see there being any Republican support on the Hill,” Marc Short, a longtime aide to former Vice President Mike Pence, said in an interview.
Mr. Short, a veteran of anti-tax campaigns who worked for the Koch Brothers’ political network, has launched a new group, The Coalition to Protect American Workers, that is planning to raise between $25 to $50 million from conservative donors to fight Mr. Biden’s plan.
He said that “if the White House succeeds in enlisting any Republican support for the bill,” his group “would be messaging in those districts.”
All of this foreshadows a partisan battle on an issue that Mr. Biden had long touted as an area for unifying and bipartisan work.
It now seems likely that Democrats will have to resort to budget reconciliation, the tactic used to ram through Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief pandemic bill, which leaves party leaders no room for defections.
For the moment, no prominent Republicans have offered support for the plan, although many have withheld their criticism of it, pending the official release of its details.
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, who has been at the center of negotiations over similar bills for decades, told a local radio station this week he is waiting to see the specifics of the tax provisions before weighing in on the proposal. “The tax policy probably isn’t as important to me as the spending policy,” he said.
And Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana, the senior Republican on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, told Reuters he was keeping an open mind — although he warned he would not support a broad expansion of social welfare programs.
“If they’re just going to encapsulate a cow pie in a candy shell, then I’m not there,” said Mr. Graves.
Michael Regan, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Wednesday fired dozens of independent scientific advisers, many of whom were installed under the Trump administration, in an effort to rebuild what he described as a “balanced group of experts” to inform clean air and water policy.
The scientists and experts sat on independent boards which play a critical role at the E.P.A., advising the agency on everything from air quality standards to pesticide use.
In a statement, Mr. Regan said “resetting” the Science Advisory Board and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee “will ensure the agency receives the best possible scientific insight to support our work to protect human health and the environment.”
Mr. Regan added that he intends to “reconstitute, restore and create new committees to better address E.P.A. priorities.”
But the decision was criticized by the American Chemistry Council as “irregular,” and some former board members said the move was every bit as political as decisions made under the Trump administration.
John Graham, who was appointed during the Trump administration to lead the Science Advisory Board, said the move showed the “progression of Washington D.C. into the notion that everybody gets to pick their own scientists,” and called it “very sad.”
“Now for the first time in the agency’s 50-year history, we have an administrator interested in scientific advice only from those scientists he has personally appointed,” said Dr. Graham, who does not intend to seek reinstatement to the board.
Supporters of the ousting noted that President Donald J. Trump’s administrators transformed the advisory boards in ways that courts ultimately found to be illegal, and prevented many independent scientists from serving, instead packing the boards with industry-funded specialists.
Chris Zarba, who previously served as director of the E.P.A.’s Science Advisory Board, called Mr. Regan’s purge necessary.
“It has not ever been done before,” Mr. Zarba said. But, he argued, the advisory boards “have never been in this situation before, so I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do. I don’t see any other alternative.”
Mr. Trump’s first E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, barred anyone who had received grants from the agency from serving on its boards, leading to the firing of several academic researchers and shutting out others from applying. A court later ruled the policy was illegal, but the agency did not restore those scientists.
In recent weeks, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security have also cleared out advisory boards that had been filled with Mr. Trump’s appointees.
President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan represents an enormous effort to protect Americans from climate change, but it sidesteps one of the most immediate and wrenching dilemmas: Deciding not just where to spend more money on roads, bridges or sea walls, but where to stop spending — and instead, help people get out of the way.
The need to make difficult decisions like these reflects the growing consensus among experts that not every community in the United States can be protected in the long run. Some areas — particularly in some coastal zones, but also inland along rivers and other areas where flooding is worsening with climate change — can’t successfully be defended no matter how much money the government might be willing to throw into fortifications, drainage upgrades or other improvements.
Deciding which areas should be abandoned, and when, is one of the most urgent and difficult challenges facing the United States. The decision is deeply emotional, because it involves uprooting lives and destroying communities. The financial consequences are also sweeping, since property values are likely to plummet, along with the life savings of people who live there.
As a result, figuring out how to plan for retreat is among the hardest decisions facing policymakers, according to people who have worked on climate resilience.
“It’s an enormous challenge — the politics are very difficult,” said Alice Hill, who planned for managing climate effects at the National Security Council during the Obama administration. At that point, she said, the government wasn’t ready to tell people in vulnerable towns and cities, “You really want that bridge and you’re not going to get it, because your community’s going to be washed away.”
But as disasters become more devastating and frequent, Ms. Hill added, that conversation can no longer be avoided. “It’s definitely time,” she said.
The scale of the challenge is enormous, with as much as half a trillion dollars of coastal real estate expected to be underwater by the end of the century.
The idea is that communities facing insurmountable risks can either retreat from the most threatened areas in an organized way, before disaster strikes, or afterward. But either way, retreat in some places will be necessary.
President Biden will let a ban on certain temporary foreign work visas expire on Wednesday, according to two administration officials, reopening a labor pool that was cut off by his predecessor during the coronavirus pandemic.
Former President Donald J. Trump blocked visas for a variety of jobs in a sweeping order last June, including those for computer programmers and engineers who enter the United States on H-1B visas, students on work-study programs and seasonal workers in the hospitality industry.
The Trump administration said at the time that the ban on temporary work visas, as well as a separate block on green cards, was necessary to protect employment opportunities for Americans who lost their jobs because of the economic toll of the pandemic. But numerous studies have shown that immigrants benefit the economy. Business leaders openly criticized the orders as blocking critically needed employees willing to work jobs that Americans are not willing to do or capable of doing.
After business associations filed a lawsuit against the order on foreign workers, a federal judge in California in October lifted the ban on a large number of the work visas.
The ruling at the time only applied to members of organizations that sued the administration, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, Intrax Inc., which sponsors cultural exchanges, and TechNet, a technology industry group.
Mr. Biden had already revoked Mr. Trump’s ban on new green cards, saying it did not “advance the interests of the United States.” Even during the pandemic, Mr. Biden said the restrictions harmed the nation by “preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.”
While the White House is cracking down on the use of marijuana by staff members, governors and lawmakers around the country are taking a very different approach: accelerating their efforts to legalize cannabis and purge the criminal records of people convicted of possessing the drug.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a bill passed in the Democratic-controlled legislature that decriminalizes the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana, imposes a 13 percent sales tax on the substance, and purges the state records of those previously convicted of minor possession infractions.
Forty percent of the tax revenue from pot sales will be steered to communities where Black and Latino people have been disproportionately arrested on marijuana charges.
“For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences,” said Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday night, soon after the state legislature passed the bill. He added, “This landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes substantial safety guards for the public.”
Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, also a Democrat, asked lawmakers to legalize marijuana beginning July 1, rather than at the start of 2024, by amending a bill passed last month by the Democrat-controlled legislature that made it legal for residents to carry up to one ounce. Mr. Northam also proposed speeding up the expunging and sealing of marijuana-related criminal records.
The new provisions are likely to be passed by lawmakers during an upcoming one-week special session in Richmond.
The accelerated timetable will “advance public health protections, set clear expectations for labor protections in the cannabis industry, and begin to seal criminal records immediately,” Mr. Northam said in a statement on Wednesday. “Our Commonwealth is committed to legalizing marijuana in an equitable way.”
Mr. Biden, unlike most other Democratic candidates in 2020, did not support federal legalization of marijuana, but he has said he supports the efforts of individual states to take action if they see fit.
And they have seen fit.
In the fall, voters in Arizona approved a referendum to legalize recreational marijuana in November. In January, less than three months after the vote, the Arizona Department of Health Services, under Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, began approving applications for dispensaries — months faster than had been anticipated.
“It was kind of like ripping a Band-Aid off,” said Jennifer Matarese, the president of a management company that runs Local Joint in Phoenix.
Several other states — New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana — voted in favor of legalization in November. New Jersey is expected to move fairly quickly, but in South Dakota and Montana recreational cannabis legalization is on a slower track.
The trend has come to a notable halt at the gates of the White House, though.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said earlier this month, that five employees had been fired during employee security checks, and reminded reporters that possession of the drug is “still illegal federally.”
Business groups and large corporations reacted negatively on Wednesday to President Biden’s expected proposal to fund his $2 trillion package of infrastructure spending with a substantial increase in corporate taxes.
The scale of the infrastructure program — the details of which Mr. Biden is expected to unveil later on Wednesday — is so big that is that it would require 15 years of higher taxes on corporations to pay for eight years of spending. The plans include raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. The corporate tax rate had been cut from 35 percent under former President Donald J. Trump.
The Business Roundtable said it supported infrastructure investment, calling it “essential to economic growth” and important “to ensure a rapid economic recovery” — but rejected corporate tax increases as a way to pay for it.
“Policymakers should avoid creating new barriers to job creation and economic growth, particularly during the recovery,” the group’s chief executive, Joshua Bolten, said in a statement.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce echoed that view. “We strongly oppose the general tax increases proposed by the administration, which will slow the economic recovery and make the U.S. less competitive globally — the exact opposite of the goals of the infrastructure plan,” the chamber’s chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, said in a statement.
The president’s focus on the work force will help the economy as it recovers from the pandemic-induced slowdown, the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group, said in a statement. But, it added, the proposed tax increase would hurt the country’s competitive advantage.
“Raising taxes on manufacturers would fundamentally undermine our ability to lead this recovery,” the trade group said.
Wall Street has been wary of possible tax increases since the presidential election and has hoped that gridlock in Washington would moderate Mr. Biden’s agenda. On Wednesday, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase said the bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, believed “that the corporate tax rate for companies in the U.S. has to be competitive globally, which it is now.”
But “he has no problem with high-income people like himself paying a higher tax rate,” said the spokesman, Joseph Evangelisti.
The Biden administration has indicated that tax increases for wealthy Americans will help fund the second phase of the infrastructure plan, which is expected to be announced next month and will focus on priorities like education, health care and paid leave. The increase in corporate taxes is an effort to “ensure that corporations pay their fair share,” White House officials said in a news release.
Jill Biden, the first lady, traveled to California on Wednesday to visit a pop-up vaccination site for farmworkers, who have lobbied for priority access to shots amid the pandemic.
Thousands of Central Valley farmworkers are getting the coronavirus vaccine over six weekends in March and April at the “Forty Acres” property just west of Delano, a historic site that became the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America, the country’s first successful farmworker’s union. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, and his partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, will join the first lady at the site.
Earlier this year, California launched a landmark effort to get vaccines to farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented and whose close-quarter working conditions have left them particularly vulnerable to the virus. Researchers from Purdue University estimate that about 500,000 agricultural workers have tested positive for the virus and at least 9,000 have died from it. (The virus has killed over 550,000 people in the United States, according to a New York Times count.)
Dr. Biden will also deliver remarks for Cesar Chavez Day, a holiday honoring the birthday of the labor organizer who co-founded the union with the activist Dolores Huerta. Ms. Huerta told the website Bakersfield.com that Dr. Biden’s visit was “a great birthday present for Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers and the Latino community.”
Mr. Chavez’s family members will greet the first lady and give remarks when she visits Forty Acres. Julie Rodriguez, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs, is Mr. Chavez’s granddaughter, and is accompanying Dr. Biden on the trip.
Over the course of President Biden’s first two months in office, union leaders have praised his administration as one of the most labor-friendly in modern history. (One of Mr. Biden’s first official acts was to move a bust of Mr. Chavez into the Oval Office.) Mr. Biden has publicly supported the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bill that would grant temporary legal status to seasonal farm workers, many of whom are undocumented, and offer a 10-year path to citizenship.
“For generations, America’s farmworkers — many of whom are undocumented — have worked countless hours to feed our nation and ensure our communities are healthy and strong,” Mr. Biden said in a statement on the day the House passed the act and sent it on to the Senate. “This has been even more clear and crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic, as farmworkers have put their lives and the lives of their loved ones on the line to ensure that families across the country have food on the table.”
Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia cleared the way for a landmark voting rights bill to become law in his state on Thursday, announcing his approval of a sweeping proposal that recreates one of the core components of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 that has since been hollowed out by the Supreme Court.
The bill, called the Virginia Voting Rights Act, would recreate a process known as “preclearance” for any changes to election administration and logistics that would impact voting. Any locality in Virginia wishing to make changes to precinct locations, move elections offices and other changes would have to either hold a public comment period or seek approval from the state attorney general.
“At a time when voting rights are under attack across our country, Virginia is expanding access to the ballot box, not restricting it,” Mr. Northam said in a statement. “With the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, our Commonwealth is creating a model for how states can provide comprehensive voter protections that strengthen democracy and the integrity of our elections. I am proud to support this historic legislation, and I urge Congress to follow Virginia’s example.”
The provision is very similar to section 5 of the original federal Voting Rights Act, which forced states with a history of segregation and racially targeted voter suppression laws to obtain approval from the Department of Justice before making any changes to voting laws, regulations or administration. Virginia was one of the states under preclearance.
But the Supreme Court hollowed out enforcement of section 5 in a landmark decision in 2013, Shelby v. Holder, effectively removing the protection across the country.
Virginia’s bill protecting and expanding access to voting comes at a time when Republican legislatures across the country have been seeking to erect new barriers to the ballot box. Georgia passed a law last week overhauling the state’s election process with a host of new restrictions, and Texas, Arizona, Florida and other states are continuing efforts to pass similar bills.
Mr. Northam, a Democrat, said that he made minor technical adjustments to the bill, which was sponsored by Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Marcia Price, two Black lawmakers who are also Democrats. It is expected to be ratified by the state legislature when they reconvene on April 7 for final passage.
Dozens of the most prominent Black business leaders in America are banding together to call on companies to fight a wave of voting-rights bills being advanced by Republicans in at least 43 states. The campaign appears to be the first time that so many powerful Black executives have organized to directly call out their peers for failing to stand up for racial justice.
The effort, led by Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, is a response to the swift passage of a Georgia law that they contend makes it harder for Black people to vote. As the debate about that bill raged in recent weeks, most major corporations — including those with headquarters in Atlanta — did not take a position on the legislation.
“There is no middle ground here,” Mr. Chenault said. “You either are for more people voting, or you want to suppress the vote.”
The executives did not criticize specific companies, but instead called on all of corporate America to publicly and directly oppose new laws that would restrict the rights of Black voters, and to use their clout, money and lobbyists to sway the debate with lawmakers.
“This impacts all Americans, but we also need to acknowledge the history of voting rights for African-Americans,” Mr. Chenault said. “And as African-American executives in corporate America, what we were saying is we want corporate America to understand that, and we want them to work with us.”
The letter was signed by 72 Black executives. They included Roger Ferguson Jr., the chief executive of TIAA; Mellody Hobson and John Rogers Jr., the co-chief executives of Ariel Investments; Robert F. Smith, the chief executive of Vista Equity Partners; and Raymond McGuire, a former Citigroup executive who is running for mayor of New York.
In the days before the Georgia law was passed, almost no major companies spoke out against the legislation, which introduced stricter voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limited drop boxes and expanded the legislature’s power over elections.
Big corporations based in Atlanta, including Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and Home Depot, offered general statements of support for voting rights, but none took a specific stance on the bills.
Among the other executives who signed the letter were Ursula Burns, a former chief executive of Xerox; Richard Parsons, a former chairman of Citigroup and chief executive of Time Warner; and Tony West, the chief legal officer at Uber. The group of leaders, with support from the Black Economic Alliance, bought a full-page ad in the Wednesday print edition of The New York Times.
The executives are hoping that big companies will help prevent dozens of similar bills in other states from becoming law.
“The Georgia legislature was the first one,” Mr. Frazier said. “If corporate America doesn’t stand up, we’ll get these laws passed in many places in this country.”
The chief executive of Delta, Ed Bastian, sent a letter on Wednesday to employees expressing regret for the company’s muted opposition to a restrictive voting law passed last week by the Georgia legislature.
“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” he wrote in an internal memo that was reviewed by The New York Times.
Mr. Bastian’s position is a stark reversal from last week. As Republican lawmakers in Georgia rushed to pass the new law, Delta, along with other big companies headquartered in Atlanta, came under pressure from activists to publicly and directly oppose the effort. Activists called for boycotts, and protested at the Delta terminal at the Atlanta airport.
Instead, Delta chose to offer general statements in support of voting rights, and work behind the scenes to try and remove some of the most onerous provisions as the new law came together. After the law was passed on Thursday, Mr. Bastian said he believed it had been improved and included several useful changes that make voting more secure.
But on Wednesday, after dozens of prominent Black executives called on corporate America to become more engaged in the issue, Mr. Bastian reversed course.
“After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives,” he said. “That is wrong.”
Mr. Bastian went further, saying that the entire premise of the new law — and dozens of similar bills being advanced in other states around the country — was based on false pretenses.
“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections,” Mr. Bastian said. “This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”
Also on Wednesday, Larry Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, issued a statement on LinkedIn saying the company was concerned about the wave of new restrictive voting laws. “BlackRock is concerned about efforts that could limit access to the ballot for anyone,” Mr. Fink said. “Voting should be easy and accessible for ALL eligible voters.”
Hunter Biden doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to personal revelations in his new memoir, “Beautiful Things,” which comes out on April 6.
“I’m a 51-year-old father who helped raise three beautiful daughters,” writes President Biden’s younger son, who now has a year-old son of his own, in the prologue.
“I’ve bought crack cocaine on the streets of Washington, D.C., and cooked up my own inside a hotel bungalow in Los Angeles.” He added, “In the last five years alone, my two-decades-long marriage has dissolved, guns have been put in my face, and at one point I dropped clean off the grid, living in $59-a-night Super 8 motels off I-95 while scaring my family even more than myself.”
The book is equal parts family saga, grief narrative and addict’s howl. Here are some key takeaways:
In 2016, while his father was vice president, Mr. Biden spent a month in a Washington apartment bingeing on vodka. He had relapsed after the death of his brother Beau the previous year. He recalls his father’s words toward him at the time: “He never let me forget that all was not lost. He never abandoned me, never shunned me, never judged me, no matter how bad things got — and believe me, from there they would get much, much worse.”
When it comes to his board membership at the Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings, Mr. Biden’s account is as dry as toast. An 18-page chapter that reads like a research paper compiled by a reluctant student. “The episode that led to the impeachment of a president and landed me in the heart of the decade’s biggest political fable is most remarkable for its epic banality,” he writes.
He credits his wife, Melissa Cohen, for his sobriety. They met in early 2019, when he was at a low point. An hour into their first dinner, they declared their love to one another. An hour after that, Mr. Biden told Ms. Cohen that he was a crack addict. She said, “Not anymore. You’re finished with that.”
— Elisabeth Egan
The Justice Department is investigating whether Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.
Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.
It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.
The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — were notified of the investigation, the people said.
The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.
Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned his post as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, was at the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph that Mr. Greenberg posted on Twitter.
No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.
Mr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. “I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”
Mr. Gaetz called the investigation part of an elaborate scheme involving “false sex allegations” to extort him and his family for $25 million that began this month. He said he and his father, Don Gaetz, had been cooperating with the F.B.I. and “wearing a wire” after they were approached by people saying they could make the investigation “go away.”
In a second interview later Tuesday, the congressman said he had no plans to resign his House seat and denied that he had romantic relationships with minors. “It is verifiably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman,” he said.
Representatives for the Justice Department and the F.B.I. declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida.
Two Capitol Police officers who were on duty during the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol sued former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday, saying he was responsible for the physical and emotional injuries they had suffered as a result of the day’s events.
Supporters of Mr. Trump overran the Capitol as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Mr. Trump in the November presidential election. Before the incursion, Mr. Trump spoke at a nearby rally, where he urged his supporters to “show strength” and “fight like hell.”
Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem. Mr. Trump was later impeached by the House of Representatives on a single charge of “incitement of insurrection,” but was acquitted in February after a brief Senate trial in which few Republicans broke ranks to vote guilty.
The Capitol Police officers who sued Mr. Trump, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, filed their complaint in the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, and are each seeking compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, plus punitive damages.
The lawsuit is the first to be brought against the former president by Capitol Police officers. The force has more than 2,000 officers.
Lawyers for the officers and for Mr. Trump could not be reached for comment early Wednesday. Mr. Trump has previously denied responsibility for the attack.
The complaint said the “insurrectionist mob” that stormed the Capitol was “spurred on by Trump’s conduct over many months in getting his followers to believe” his false assertions of widespread electoral fraud in November. The complaint also said that Mr. Trump’s supporters believed swarming the Capitol was their last chance to stop Mr. Trump from being unfairly forced out of the White House.
Mr. Trump “inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted” the mob that overran the building and attacked police personnel inside, the complaint said. It cited Mr. Trump’s Jan. 6 speech and other conduct, including what it said was his failure that day to “take timely action to stop his followers from continued violence.”