Lawmakers Are Divided Over Pulling Troops Out of Afghanistan

Republicans and some Democrats say it could embolden the Taliban, while others say it is time to end the “Forever War.” Here’s the latest in politics.,

LiveUpdated April 13, 2021, 8:48 p.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 8:48 p.m. ET

Republicans and some Democrats say it could embolden the Taliban, while others in his party say it is time to end the ‘Forever War.’ The Capitol Police had clearer advance warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, according to a scathing new report.

President Biden is expected to announce that he plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
President Biden is expected to announce that he plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

The news that the Biden administration plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks elicited a wide range of reactions in Washington — fitting for a conflict that has divided and befuddled the nation.

With a few exceptions, the response to the move was relatively muted, reflecting a war that over time evolved from searing, front-page news into a lower-grade, if always deadly, war that many Americans forgot was being waged.

The decision will keep more than 3,000 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 withdrawal deadline announced by the administration of former President Donald J. Trump.

But it signals what Mr. Biden plans to present as a definitive end to America’s “Forever War.”

Administration officials said that since Mr. Biden was fixing a definite date on an American troop withdrawal, he hoped to avoid an increase in violence — which the Taliban have threatened if the United States kept troops beyond May 1.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a moderate New Hampshire Democrat who backed the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq nearly two decades ago, criticized President Biden, arguing his decision could embolden the Taliban to further destabilize the country.

“I’m very disappointed in @POTUS‘ decision to set a Sept. deadline to walk away from Afghanistan. Although this decision was made in coordination w/our allies, the U.S. has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave w/o verifiable assurances of a secure future,” Ms. Shaheen wrote on Twitter shortly after the president announced he would withdraw all troops by Sept. 11, 2021.

A new intelligence report released Tuesday offered a grim assessment of Afghanistan and the prospects for peace. “The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support,” the report said.

Other Democrats, who were more critical of the war, applauded the announcement.

“President Biden recognizes the reality that our continued presence there does not make the U.S. or the world safer,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote in a statement. “Year after year, military leaders told Congress and the American people that we were finally turning the corner in Afghanistan, but ultimately we were only turning in a vicious circle.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, applauded Mr. Biden on Twitter for what he described as “the brave and right decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and bring an end to the longest war in our country’s history.”

Conspicuously quiet, however, were some of the highest-ranking Democrats on congressional committees overseeing the deployment of troops and policy in the region.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has not yet commented on the announcement because he is waiting for an official administration briefing on the details, his office said.

Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has also yet to comment, although he recently told an interviewer that his concerns were “purely logistical,” rather than opposing the idea of a total drawdown.

Early on in the Obama administration, Mr. Biden unsuccessfully lobbied President Barack Obama to reject the advice of generals who convinced him to increase troop deployments to deal with the insurgency.

Among the most striking similarities between former President Donald J. Trump and Mr. Biden is their shared commitment — expressed in vastly different ways — to withdrawing U.S. troops as quickly as possible.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have sharply divided the Republican Party in recent years. A substantial number of Republicans bucked Mr. Trump on the issue, and still believe a robust presence in the region is needed to preserve stability.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, blasted the policy shift as a capitulation.

“Wars don’t end when one side abandons the fight,” she said in a statement that echoed her father’s hawkish rhetoric in selling the wars at the start. “Withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 will only embolden the very jihadists who attacked our homeland on that day 20 years ago.”

Protestors stormed the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol. The inspector general for the Capitol Police, Michael A. Bolton, criticized the agency's preparation for potential violence on Jan. 6 in a new report.
Protestors stormed the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol. The inspector general for the Capitol Police, Michael A. Bolton, criticized the agency’s preparation for potential violence on Jan. 6 in a new report.Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

The Capitol Police had clearer advance warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target.” But officers were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob, according to a scathing new report by the agency’s internal investigator.

In a 104-page report, the inspector general, Michael A. Bolton, criticized the way the Capitol Police prepared for and responded to the mob violence on Jan. 6. The report was reviewed by The New York Times and will be the subject of a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday.

Mr. Bolton found that the agency’s leaders failed to adequately prepare despite explicit warnings that pro-Trump extremists posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians and that the police used defective protective equipment. He also found that the leaders ordered their Civil Disturbance Unit to refrain from using its most powerful crowd-control tools — like stun grenades — to put down the onslaught.

The report offers the most devastating account to date of the lapses and miscalculations around the most violent attack on the Capitol in two centuries.

Three days before the siege, a Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned of violence from supporters of President Donald J. Trump who believed his false claims that the election had been stolen. Some had even posted a map of the Capitol complex’s tunnel system on pro-Trump message boards.

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the threat assessment said, according to the inspector general’s report.

But on Jan. 5, the agency wrote in a plan for the protest that there were “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress.” And the former chief of the Capitol Police has testified that the force had determined that the likelihood of violence was “improbable.”

Mr. Bolton concluded such intelligence breakdowns stemmed from dysfunction within the agency.

That failure conspired with other lapses inside the Capitol Police force to create a dangerous situation on Jan. 6, according to his account. The agency’s Civil Disturbance Unit, which specializes in handling large groups of protesters, was not allowed to use some of its most powerful tools and techniques against the crowd, on the orders of supervisors.

“Heavier, less-lethal weapons,” including stun grenades, “were not used that day because of orders from leadership,” Mr. Bolton wrote. Officials on duty on Jan. 6 told him that such equipment could have helped the force to “push back the rioters.”

Mr. Bolton’s findings are scheduled to be discussed on Thursday afternoon, when he is scheduled to testify before the House Administration Committee.

CNN first reported on a summary of the latest findings.

The Justice Department is investigating the involvement of Representative Matt Gaetz, center, and Joel Greenberg with multiple women who were recruited online for sex. Officials are also investigating whether the two men had sex with a 17-year-old girl.
The Justice Department is investigating the involvement of Representative Matt Gaetz, center, and Joel Greenberg with multiple women who were recruited online for sex. Officials are also investigating whether the two men had sex with a 17-year-old girl.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A former local official in Florida indicted in the Justice Department investigation that is also focused on Representative Matt Gaetz has been providing investigators with information since last year about an array of topics, including Mr. Gaetz’s activities, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Joel Greenberg, a onetime county tax collector, disclosed to investigators that he and Mr. Gaetz had encounters with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex, the people said. The Justice Department is investigating the involvement of the men with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments and whether the men had sex with a 17-year-old in violation of sex trafficking statutes, people familiar with the inquiry have said.

Mr. Greenberg, said to have met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances and introduced them to Mr. Gaetz, could provide investigators with firsthand accounts of their activities.

Mr. Greenberg began speaking with investigators once he realized that the government had overwhelming evidence against him and that his only path to leniency lay in cooperation, the people said. He has met several times with investigators to try to establish his trustworthiness, though the range of criminal charges against him — including fraud — could undermine his credibility as a witness.

Mr. Greenberg faces dozens of other counts, including sex trafficking of a minor, stalking a political rival and corruption. He was first indicted in June. The Justice Department inquiry drew national attention in recent weeks when investigators’ focus on Mr. Gaetz, a high-profile supporter of President Donald J. Trump who knew Mr. Greenberg through Republican political circles in Florida, came to light.

Speculation about Mr. Greenberg’s cooperation began mounting last week, after his lawyer and a federal prosecutor both said in court that he was likely to plead guilty in the coming weeks. “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, Mr. Greenberg’s lawyer, told reporters afterward.

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Biden Honors Capitol Police Officer Killed in the Line of Duty

Officer William F. Evans was the second Capitol Police officer to lie in honor this year. Officer Evans was killed in the line of duty when a vehicle rammed into him and another officer at a barricade near the U.S. Capitol.

My prayer for all of you is that the day will come when you have that memory. And I said, just smile before you bring a tear to your eyes. I promise you it’s going to come. Just takes a while. Takes a while, but when it comes, you’ll know because he’s still with you. He’s still in your heart. Your husband, your brother, your dad was a hero. And he’s part of you, it’s in your blood. My prayer for you is that moment when the smile comes. Before the tear, quicker and longer.

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Officer William F. Evans was the second Capitol Police officer to lie in honor this year. Officer Evans was killed in the line of duty when a vehicle rammed into him and another officer at a barricade near the U.S. Capitol.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Officer William F. Evans of the Capitol Police, who was killed when a car rammed into him outside the Capitol this month, lay in honor on Tuesday in the building he gave his life protecting, the latest tragedy for a police force still reeling from the mob violence of Jan. 6.

In a ceremony beneath the soaring Capitol Dome, President Biden, grief-stricken fellow officers and leaders of Congress remembered Officer Evans as an unflappable 18-year veteran of the force, whose service was shaped as much by laughter as steadfast loyalty, and a doting father who loved Legos and Harry Potter.

“He was defined by his dignity, his decency, his loyalty and his courage,” said Mr. Biden, who summoned the tragedies that have shaped his own life to speak directly to Officer Evans’s family and fellow officers.

“Never has there been more strain,” the president said, “on the shoulders of Capitol Police.”

Officer Evans, 41, was the second member of the Capitol Police force killed in the line of duty to be honored in the Rotunda in just over two months. Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who was attacked by the rioters who stormed the Capitol in January, lay in honor in February.

The Capitol Police have named Noah R. Green, 25, as the man who rammed his car into two officers outside the Capitol on Good Friday, killing Officer Evans. The second officer, Ken Shaver, suffered injuries that were not life-threatening and lay a wreath beside Officer Evans’s coffin. Other officers who frequently manned the Senate security checkpoint where he was struck stood together, saluting him.

“His death has left a gaping void in our lives that will never be filled,” Officer Evans’s family said in a statement released last week.

On Tuesday, Officer Evans’s wife wiped away tears as the nation’s top leaders paid tribute. When his daughter Abigail, 7, dropped a toy version of the Capitol Dome, the president crossed the aisle and picked it up for her. Mr. Biden also gave a challenge coin to the fallen officer’s son, Logan, 9, who wore a police cap and clutched a stuffed bear.

Speaking directly to the children, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told them their father now lay where Abraham Lincoln once had in death. He, too, she said was a “martyr for our democracy.”

And Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, described Officer Evans as “famous within the Senate for his friendly spirit and easy manner.”

For the Capitol Police force, hundreds of whom were on hand to witness Officer Evans’ last trip into the Capitol, it was yet another painful chapter in an excruciating year. The agency has been struggling since Jan. 6, when hundreds of pro-Trump rioters attacked the Capitol in an attempt to stop the formalization of Mr. Biden’s victory and keep former President Donald J. Trump in power. The rampage injured nearly 140 police officers.

Two Capitol Police officers, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, have sued Mr. Trump for the injuries they sustained.

“These past few months have been devastating. Just as the scars of Jan. 6 had begun to heal, another wound was opened,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Tuesday. “I say to you now, our dear Capitol Police force that protects us: There is no shame in grief and sorrow and shock.”

Robert Santos, who President Biden intends to nominate to lead the U.S. Census Bureau, is a statistician who has studied U.S. demographics for decades.
Robert Santos, who President Biden intends to nominate to lead the U.S. Census Bureau, is a statistician who has studied U.S. demographics for decades.Credit…Matt Rourke/Associated Press

President Biden on Tuesday announced plans to nominate statistician Robert L. Santos to serve as director of the Census Bureau, according to a memo from the White House.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Santos would be the first person of color to serve as permanent head of the beleaguered agency as it struggles to complete its once-in-a-decade counting of the nation’s population needed for drawing new districts for state legislatures and the House of Representatives.

The position, traditionally a straightforward role, was thrust into the political spotlight over the last two years, largely over the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the census. After the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s reasoning for adding the questions as “contrived,” the administration dropped the effort.

If confirmed, Mr. Santos would take over the position from Steven Dillingham who held the position from 2019 until January, but resigned after questions surfaced about the accuracy of the count. Mr. Dillingham was to serve through the end of the year.

A trained statistician, Mr. Santos has studied U.S. demographics for decades, most recently as a vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute. He also currently serves as president of the American Statistical Association.

In addition to laying plans for the 2030 census, Mr. Santos would also be faced with unscrambling the survey conducted amid a pandemic last year. Without a complete tally, the Census Bureau announced in February that it had pushed back its deadline for releasing the population figures six months to Sept. 30. The delay has the potential to wreak havoc with the 2022 elections, as some states may need to push back candidate filing deadlines and reschedule primaries.

A Ukrainian soldier patrolled near the frontline with Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region on Monday.
A Ukrainian soldier patrolled near the frontline with Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region on Monday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BRUSSELS — The United States and NATO, anxious about a major Russian troop buildup on Ukraine’s border, signaled strong support for the Kyiv government on Tuesday.

And in what was considered another message to Moscow, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in Germany on Tuesday that the United States would increase its military presence there by about 500 personnel and that it was scuttling plans introduced under President Donald J. Trump for a large troop reduction in Europe.

The moves come as American and European officials have grown increasingly concerned about Moscow’s deployment of additional troops near the Ukraine border, more than at any time since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, in violation of international law. Since then, Russian troops have been engaged in fomenting a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine and consolidating their hold on Crimea.

The message regarding Kyiv was delivered in separate meetings in Brussels with Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba.

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NATO Chief Criticizes Russian Military Buildup

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, expressed concern over Russia’s increasing military presence along the border with Ukraine, calling it “unexplained and unjustified.”

“Russia’s considerable military buildup is unjustified, unexplained and deeply concerning. Russia must end this military buildup in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately. We regret Russia’s decision not to participate in the recent meeting at the O.C. to dispel concerns about its unusual military activities. Russia must respect its international commitments. We have also increased the presence in the Black Sea region in the Black Sea with more naval presence and more ships, more port visits. And we are constantly looking into how we can continue to step up and provide more practical support to Ukraine to help them defend themselves.” ‘When you ask me how far Russia can go, my answer to you: I cannot exclude anything. But I do believe that we have all tools available not only to prevent Russia from making a step for a single step forward but also to make it withdraw from the occupied territories of Ukraine. Ukraine will re-establish its sovereignty and the entire security space in that part of the Euro-Atlantic region will therefore be strengthened.”

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Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, expressed concern over Russia’s increasing military presence along the border with Ukraine, calling it “unexplained and unjustified.”CreditCredit…Pool photo by Francisco Seco

“The U.S. stands firmly behind the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told Mr. Kuleba.

Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin will appear at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday for an emergency gathering of all NATO foreign and defense ministers — partly virtual — to discuss how to further support Ukraine.

Coupled with President Biden’s harsh words about President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia last month, the expansion of United States troops and the reversal of Mr. Trump’s plans to withdraw up to 12,000 of the roughly 36,000 stationed in Germany will not go unnoticed in the Kremlin.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin spoke on the phone for the first time since Mr. Biden assented to a description of Mr. Putin as a “killer” during an interview, which sparked a furious reaction in Russia.

According to a White House summary of the call, Mr. Biden expressed concern over the Russian military buildup near Ukraine, and called on Mr. Putin to de-escalate tensions. A more terse Kremlin summary of the conversation referred to “an internal Ukrainian crisis,” without mentioning a troop buildup.

Russia is widely seen as testing Mr. Biden and keeping the pressure on Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has moved against some of the Kremlin’s favorite oligarchs.

Visitors looking at artificial intelligence security cameras with facial recognition technology at the China International Exhibition on Public Safety and Security in Beijing in 2018.
Visitors looking at artificial intelligence security cameras with facial recognition technology at the China International Exhibition on Public Safety and Security in Beijing in 2018.Credit…Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

China’s effort to expand its growing influence represents one of the largest threats to the United States, according to a major annual intelligence report released on Tuesday, which also warned of the broad national security challenges posed by Moscow and Beijing.

The report does not predict a military confrontation with either Russia or China, but it suggests that so-called gray-zone battles for power, which are meant to fall short of inciting all-out war, will intensify with intelligence operations, cyberattacks and global drives for influence.

The assessment highlights the opportunities and challenges for the Biden administration. Iran, for instance, has not advanced its work on a nuclear weapon, potentially giving President Biden some room to maneuver. But it paints a grim prognosis for a peace deal in Afghanistan, a day before Mr. Biden is set to announce that he will withdraw American forces by September. Critics could use the report to suggest that the president is ignoring intelligence agencies’ predictions as he pushes forward with the drawdown.

While much of the report describes traditional national security challenges, it also gives far more attention to climate change and global health than previous threat assessments have done. That shift reflects a pledge by the Biden administration’s top intelligence officials to focus more on such nontraditional challenges.

The report puts China’s push for “global power” first on the list of threats, followed by Russia, Iran and North Korea. There are typically few broad revelations in the annual reports, which are a collection of declassified assessments, although the intelligence agencies’ ranking of threats and how they change over time can be telling.

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China’s strategy, according to the report, is to drive wedges between the United States and its allies. Beijing has also used its success in combating the coronavirus pandemic to promote the “superiority of its system.”

The report also foresees China at least doubling its nuclear stockpile over the next decade. “Beijing is not interested in arms-control agreements that restrict its modernization plans and will not agree to substantive negotiations that lock in U.S. or Russian nuclear advantage,” the report said.

Typically, the director of national intelligence delivers the threat assessment to Congress and releases a written report alongside it. But no declassified assessment was issued last year, as the Trump administration’s intelligence agencies sought to avoid angering the White House.

In 2019, Dan Coats, then the director of national intelligence, delivered an analysis of threats from Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State that was at odds with President Donald J. Trump’s views. The testimony prompted Mr. Trump to lash out on Twitter, admonishing his intelligence chiefs to “go back to school.”

Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence; William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director; and other top intelligence officials will testify about the report on Wednesday and Thursday.

John Kerry, President Biden's climate envoy, during a news conference in January.
John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, during a news conference in January.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, will visit China this week, making him the first Biden administration official to visit the country at a moment of high diplomatic tensions.

Mr. Kerry, who will also stop in South Korea, plans to meet in Shanghai with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, according to a senior administration official.

In its formal announcement of the trip, the State Department said that Mr. Kerry would “discuss raising global climate ambition” ahead of a virtual climate summit that President Biden plans to host for dozens of world leaders later this month.

The trip by Mr. Kerry underscores the Biden administration’s intent to cooperate with China on shared challenges like climate, the coronavirus and nuclear proliferation even as Washington and Beijing are locked in an increasingly fraught political, technological and military competition.

Mr. Biden has made clear that he sees China as a leading strategic threat to America. At a testy diplomatic summit in Anchorage last month, senior Chinese and American officials traded sharply critical assessments of each other’s policies.

The visit by Mr. Kerry comes after the release of a major annual intelligence report on Tuesday that warned China’s effort to expand its growing influence represents one of the largest threats to the United States. China’s strategy, according to the report, is to drive wedges between the United States and its allies. The report also identified climate change as a growing threat to the United States.

Biden officials understand that effectively tackling climate change requires cooperation from China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gas. As secretary of state in the Obama administration, Mr. Kerry himself helped to secure China’s agreement to join the 2015 Paris Climate accords.

Mr. Kerry has already visited multiple nations in his role as Mr. Biden’s envoy for climate matters. In March, Mr. Kerry met with European officials in London, Brussels and Paris. This month, he visited the United Arab Emirates, India and Bangladesh.

While in New Delhi, Mr. Kerry met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, whose country, among the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases, is also a strategic rival of the United States.

An apartment complex  in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2019. Zoning restrictions in many suburbs have been used to limit construction of multifamily buildings, which attract a more diverse population of renters.
An apartment complex in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2019. Zoning restrictions in many suburbs have been used to limit construction of multifamily buildings, which attract a more diverse population of renters.Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

Former President Donald J. Trump made a thinly veiled racial appeal to white suburban voters during the height of protests against police violence last summer, touting his rollback of an Obama-era desegregation program as proof he had “saved” the suburbs.

On Monday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development took the first steps necessary to restore the regulation, called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, by submitting a plan to the White House budget office that would quickly get it back on the books.

The department also submitted a request to restore the 2013 “disparate impact” rule, another regulation aimed at stopping bias in housing, which was eliminated under Mr. Trump.

“The president has every confidence in HUD to advance a regulatory agenda rooted in fairness and equity,” an agency spokeswoman, Meaghan B. Lynch, wrote in an email.

Both rules are expected to be approved, according to two administration officials with direct knowledge of the decisions.

The fair housing rule, adopted in 2015, requires localities to identify and address patterns of racial segregation outlawed under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 by creating detailed corrective plans, or face the possible loss of federal grants.

Its main targets are single-family suburban zoning restrictions that have historically been used to limit construction of multifamily buildings, which attract a more diverse population of renters.

The one-line announcement on the Office of Management and Budget’s website late Monday night was a stark contrast to Mr. Trump’s bullhorn approach to the issue.

Ben Carson, Mr. Trump’s housing secretary, scrapped the rule in July. The timing of Mr. Carson’s announcement coincided with Mr. Trump’s accusation that protesters were terrorists, and was made in consultation with White House officials, according to two people involved in the matter.

Mr. Trump made the rule a none-too-subtle theme during the final days of the campaign, saying he was fighting for the “suburban housewives of America.” He punctuated one speech in Michigan last October with the plea, “suburban women, you’re supposed to love Trump!”

Mr. Biden meets with the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members strongly support restoration of the regulations, on Tuesday. One of the group’s former members is Marcia L. Fudge, his new housing secretary, who has said she will revitalize HUD’s fair housing division, which withered under Mr. Carson.

The administration’s infrastructure package, which includes $213 billion for housing, is also expected to include provisions requiring localities to prove their zoning laws are not discriminatory.

Critics have argued that the rule, and others like it, is a dangerous overreach by federal officials, and have pointed to HUD’s ineffective desegregation efforts in suburban Westchester County, N.Y., as proof such policies are divisive and unworkable.

Mr. Biden, whose comeback in the Democratic primaries last year was fueled by strong support among Black voters, disagrees.

Six days after he was sworn in, the White House released a memo promising to attack housing discrimination against “Black, Latino, Asian-American and Pacific Islander, and Native American families.”

Ms. Lynch declined to say whether the renewed regulations would be expanded or changed.

Iran blamed Israel for the explosion at Natanz on Sunday, an assessment confirmed by American and Israeli intelligence officials.
Iran blamed Israel for the explosion at Natanz on Sunday, an assessment confirmed by American and Israeli intelligence officials.Credit…Maxar Technologies, via Reuters

Iran said Tuesday that it would begin enriching uranium to a level of 60 percent purity, three times the current level and much closer to that needed to make a bomb, though American officials doubt the country has the ability to produce a weapon in the near future.

Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, did not give a reason for the shift, but it appeared to be retaliation for an Israeli attack on Iran’s primary nuclear fuel production plant as well as a move to strengthen Iran’s hand in nuclear talks in Vienna. Mr. Araghchi said that Iran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of its decision in a letter on Tuesday.

Iran also attacked an Israeli-owned cargo ship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, officials said, the latest clash in its maritime shadow war with Israel. The attack was reported to have caused little to no damage.

The uranium enrichment announcement came as American intelligence agencies said that while Iran had gradually resumed production of nuclear material since President Donald J. Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear accord, there was no evidence it had resumed the work needed to fashion that material into a nuclear weapon.

“We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device,” the agencies said in their annual threat assessment report released on Tuesday.

The report said, however, that “if Tehran does not receive sanctions relief” — as Iran has demanded — “Iranian officials probably will consider options ranging from further enriching uranium up to 60 percent to designing and building a new” nuclear reactor that could, over the long term, produce bomb-grade material. That would take years.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, called Iran’s announcement on Tuesday “provocative,” and said it “calls into question Iran’s seriousness in regards to the nuclear talks” underway in Vienna, which are aimed restoring some form of the 2015 deal.

The talks have been delayed because a member of the European Union delegation tested positive for the coronavirus. The talks could resume as early as Thursday if the member tests negative.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so far. Use of the shot was paused after six U.S. recipients developed a rare disorder involving blood clots.
Nearly seven million people in the United States have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so far. Use of the shot was paused after six U.S. recipients developed a rare disorder involving blood clots.Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Federal health agencies on Tuesday called for an immediate pause in use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination.

All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and roughly nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a joint statement. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”

At a news conference later on Tuesday morning, Dr. Marks said that “on an individual basis, a provider and patient can make a determination whether or not to receive the vaccine” manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

While the move was framed as a recommendation to health practitioners in the states, the impact was immediate. The federal government temporarily halted administration of the Johnson & Johnson shots by the U.S. military, providers at federally run sites and CVS and Walgreens, two pharmacy giants that participate in a federal vaccination program.

The authorities in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and numerous other states also paused the vaccinations.

Scientists with the F.D.A. and C.D.C. will jointly examine possible links between the vaccine and the disorder and determine whether the F.D.A. should continue to authorize use of the vaccine for all adults or limit the authorization. An emergency meeting of the C.D.C.’s outside advisory committee has been scheduled for Wednesday.

The move could substantially complicate the nation’s vaccination efforts at a time when many states are confronting a surge in new cases and seeking to address vaccine hesitancy.

Regulators in Europe and elsewhere are concerned about a similar issue with another coronavirus vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University researchers. That concern has driven up some resistance to all vaccines, even though the AstraZeneca version has not been authorized for emergency use in the United States.

The vast majority of the nation’s vaccine supply comes from two other manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which together deliver more than 23 million doses a week of their two-shot vaccines. There have been no significant safety concerns about either of those vaccines.

But while shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been much more limited, the Biden administration had still been counting on using hundreds of thousands of doses every week. In addition to requiring only a single dose, the vaccine is easier to ship and store than the other two, which must be stored at extremely low temperatures.

The development also throws a wrench into the Biden administration’s plans to deliver enough vaccine to be able to inoculate all 260 million adults in the United States by the end of May. Now federal officials expect there will only be enough to cover fewer than 230 million adults. But a certain percentage of the population is expected to refuse shots, so the supply may cover all the demand.

Republicans' proposed measures would roll back some of the expanded access to absentee ballots that Michigan voters approved by a two-to-one margin in 2018.
Republicans’ proposed measures would roll back some of the expanded access to absentee ballots that Michigan voters approved by a two-to-one margin in 2018.Credit…Sylvia Jarrus for The New York Times

Michigan is living up to its reputation as a battleground state, in a year free of major elections but full of many other consequential conflicts.

The Biden administration and Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, are locked in an increasingly tense standoff over the state’s worst-in-the-nation coronavirus outbreak, with a top federal health official on Monday urging the governor to lock down her state to save lives.

Ms. Whitmer is pushing back, continuing to press her case that the Biden administration needs to send more doses of vaccine immediately — as she seeks to shift responsibility onto Washington and to avoid reimposing politically unpopular lockdowns in her state.

The federal government has offered to send Michigan extra supplies of monoclonal antibody treatments and is sending more tests to the state.

But on Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that securing extra vaccine doses was not the most immediate or practical solution to the outbreak.

She suggested Ms. Whitmer, whose metro areas include 16 of the 17 worst outbreaks in the nation, needed to enact shutdown measures to stamp out the crush of infections.

“The answer is not necessarily to give vaccine,” she told reporters at the White House. “The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down.”

White House officials have said they are working with Michigan to help the state use the doses it still has on shelves. Eighty percent of those delivered so far have been administered, according to data reported by the C.D.C.

The state is averaging seven times as many cases each day as it was in late February. Nonetheless, Ms. Whitmer has stopped well short of the far-reaching shutdowns that made her a political lightning rod last summer, with armed protesters storming the Statehouse.

If addressing the pandemic was not enough, Ms. Whitmer — who faces a tough re-election fight next year — is now also bracing for the possibility that Republicans in the state legislature will use a process outlined in the state Constitution to push voting restrictions similar to the ones passed by Georgia.

Ms. Whitmer said last month she would veto any bill imposing new restrictions. But unlike in other states with divided governments, Michigan’s Constitution offers Republicans a rarely used option for circumventing Ms. Whitmer’s veto: a voter-driven petition process.

Last month, the state’s Republican chairman told activists that he aimed to do just that. In response, Michigan Democrats and voting rights activists are contemplating a competing petition drive, while also scrambling to round up corporate opposition to the bills.

On Tuesday, leaders of major businesses, including top executives at Ford, General Motors, Detroit’s chamber of commerce, Quicken, the Detroit Pistons, the Detroit Lions and others, co-signed a letter that expressed broad opposition to any “actions that reduce participation in elections” and called on politicians to enact any changes in “a bipartisan fashion.”

The letter was part of an apparent effort by Michigan’s two largest companies, Ford and General Motors, to get ahead of the issue, rather than come under pressure after laws are passed, as happened to two big Georgia-based companies, Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines.

On Tuesday, G.M. posted a statement calling on the state legislature to ensure that any changes to voting laws protect “the right for all eligible voters to have their voices included in a fair, free and equitable manner.”

A view of the Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill in March, 2020, set up for a Republican policy lunch that was attended by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.
A view of the Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill in March, 2020, set up for a Republican policy lunch that was attended by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.Credit…Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Senate Democrats gathered in person for their lunchtime caucus meeting on Tuesday for the first time in more than a year, as Capitol Hill slowly begins to loosen some restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But because of continued concerns about the virus, it was a lunch in name only; a Democratic aide said no food was being served.

Senators in both parties have long gathered for weekly luncheons in the Capitol to discuss upcoming legislation and issues over a midday meal. But the confabs abruptly ceased in March of 2020 after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky tested positive for the coronavirus, sending multiple lawmakers and staff members into quarantine.

Senate Republicans eventually returned to hosting in-person luncheons in a larger room during the final months of 2020, but Democrats have stuck with virtual meetings.

Now that all members of Congress and a growing number of staff members have access to the coronavirus vaccine, Democrats opted to resume their in-person gathering on Tuesday, although they held it in a larger room than usual and without the customary lunch spread.

The in-person gathering was the latest indication that Capitol Hill is returning to its normal routines as the vaccine becomes more widely available. The meeting also comes as Democrats are weighing a number of policy and strategy decisions over how to pass legislation — including President Biden’s infrastructure plan and voting rights legislation — that would fulfill the campaign promises that delivered them control of the chamber.

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Harris Commemorates Black Maternal Health Week

As part of the first presidential proclamation for Black Maternal Health Week, Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a round table focused on racial disparities in child care and pregnancy-related deaths.

This week is Black Maternal Health Week, and make no mistake, Black women in our country are facing a maternal health crisis. Black women are two to three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth than other women. And it is important to note that Native women are 2.3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. And over the years, I’ve heard many stories, stories of women who are experiencing postpartum depression, only to be dismissed. Stories of women telling their doctors they were experiencing pain, only to be ignored. Stories of women who could not hold their newborn baby because that child had to be on life support. Or receive a blood transfusion after blood transfusion after blood transfusion. Black women deserve to be heard. Their voices deserve to be respected. And like all people, they must be treated with dignity.

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As part of the first presidential proclamation for Black Maternal Health Week, Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a round table focused on racial disparities in child care and pregnancy-related deaths.CreditCredit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The White House on Tuesday issued its first-ever presidential proclamation marking Black Maternal Health Week as part of the administration’s broader efforts to draw attention to and address the vast racial gaps in pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths and complications in the United States.

“Black women in our country are facing a maternal health crisis,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, who hosted a round table on the issue alongside Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council.

“We know the primary reasons why: systemic racial inequities and implicit bias,” Ms. Harris added.

The U.S. continues to have the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, driven in large part by the high mortality rates among Black mothers. Approximately 700 women die each year as a result of pregnancy or its complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women.

Maternal health discrepancies are intertwined with infant mortality: Black infants are more than twice as likely to die than white infants — 10.8 per 1,000 Black babies, compared with 4.6 per 1,000 white babies.

In an often emotional discussion, three Black women shared their birth experiences, highlighting how structural racism led to stillbirths and near-death experiences. Often, they said, doctors simply didn’t take their health concerns and symptoms seriously until it was too late.

“The number one thing I hear is, ‘They’re not listening to me,'” said Heather Wilson, who lost her own child and became a bereavement doula to help other families navigate their loss. “There were times that I felt that way, too.”

“We just need to be listened to and heard, especially when it comes to pain throughout the reproductive system,” said Erica McAfee, founder and chief executive of Sisters in Loss, a podcast that features mothers who have experienced loss.

Maternal and infant mortality is also just one part of maternal health, noted Elizabeth Howell, chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania, who also participated in the round table.

“For every maternal death, over 100 women experience a severe complication related to pregnancy and childbirth — something we call severe maternal morbidity, and it impacts over 50,000 women in the United States every year,” she said.

“Similar to maternal mortality, Black and brown women have elevated rates of maternal morbidity,” Dr. Howell added.

In addition to the presidential proclamation, the administration outlined several actions to specifically address the maternal health issues through the American Rescue Plan, which passed in March, including earmarking $30 million for implicit bias training for health care providers and a provision that allows states to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to a full year.

On Monday, Illinois became the first state to do just that, and it is expected to improve health outcomes for Black mothers.

If confirmed by the Senate, Samantha Power will rejoin the government as an administrator of soft power with the United States Agency for International Development.
If confirmed by the Senate, Samantha Power will rejoin the government as an administrator of soft power with the United States Agency for International Development.Credit…Pool photo by Greg Nash

Near the end of the 2014 documentary “Watchers of the Sky,” which chronicles the origins of the legal definition of genocide, Samantha Power grows emotional. At the time, Ms. Power was President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, and, she said, had “great visibility into a lot of the pain” in the world.

From that perch, preventing mass atrocities abroad required “thinking through what we can do about it, to exhaust the tools at your disposal,” Ms. Power said in the film. “And I always think about the privilege of, you know, of getting to try — just to try.”

Few doubt Ms. Power’s zeal — given her career as a war correspondent, human rights activist, academic expert and foreign policy adviser — even if it has meant advocating military force to stop widespread killings.

Now, as President Biden’s nominee to lead the United States Agency for International Development, she is preparing to rejoin the government as an administrator of soft power, and resist using weapons as a means of deterrence and punishment that she has pushed for in the past.

A Senate committee is expected to vote Thursday on her nomination to lead one of the world’s largest distributors of humanitarian aid.

If she is confirmed, Mr. Biden will also seat her on the National Security Council, where during the Obama administration she pressed for military invention to protect civilians from state-sponsored attacks in Libya in 2011 and Syria in 2013.

That she will be back at the table at the council — and again almost certain to be debating whether to entangle American forces in enduring conflicts — has concerned some officials, analysts and think tank experts who demand military restraint from the Biden administration.

“If you’re talking about humanitarianism, famine, the wars — really, other than natural causes, war is the No. 1 cause of famine around the world,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, told Ms. Power last month during her Senate confirmation hearing. “Are you willing to admit that the Libyan and Syrian interventions that you advocated for were a mistake?”

Ms. Power did not. “When these situations arise, it’s a question almost of lesser evils — that the choices are very challenging,” she said.

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