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Biden Administration and Washington News: Live Updates

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden will fly to Michigan on Tuesday to visit the factory where Ford will produce the first electric version of its signature F-150 pickup truck, seeking to harness the horsepower of an American icon as he continues to make the case for his $4 trillion economic agenda.

Mr. Biden’s remarks at the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center are expected to center on the hundreds of billions of dollars for domestic manufacturing, electric vehicle deployment and research into emerging technologies like advanced batteries that are included in the first half of his two-part economic agenda.

In a state that helped deliver the White House to Mr. Biden last year, after going for former President Donald J. Trump in 2016, the president will pitch the idea that a transition to electric vehicles can position the United States to beat out China in the global automotive market, while creating high-paying union jobs. He will do so flanked by trucks from the best-selling vehicle line in the country.

The $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, as Mr. Biden calls it, focuses heavily on physical infrastructure and federal spending meant to drive the transition to an economy that relies less on fossil fuels, in order to combat climate change. The plan includes tax incentives to purchase low-emission vehicles, an effort to convert one-fifth of the nation’s school bus fleet to electric power, money to build 500,000 electric charging stations across the country and a wide range of other spending meant to encourage research, production and deployment of electric vehicles and their component parts.

The arrival of an electric F-150 is an important milestone in the auto industry’s transition to EVs. So far, only Tesla has sold electric models in high volume, but Ford’s F-Series trucks make up the top-selling vehicle line in the United States. Ford typically sells about 900,000 F-Series vehicles a year.

Earlier this year, Ford began selling the Mustang Mach E, a battery-powered sport-utility vehicle styled to resemble the company’s famous sports car.

“We’re not just electrifying fringe vehicles,” the company’s chairman, William C. Ford Jr., said. “The Mustang and the F-150 are the heart of what Ford is, so this is a signal about how serious we are about electrification. This really showcases where the industry can go and should go.”

Details about the full capability, battery range and price of the F-150 Lightning will be released Wednesday evening.

Autoworkers have expressed concerns over the electric transition, which American automakers are increasingly embracing, because the production of an electric vehicle requires about one-third less human labor than the making of a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine.

Mike Ramsey, a Gartner analyst, said electrifying the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. market could help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. “If this truck is successful, it means you can sell an electric version of any vehicle,” he said. “It could be the domino that tumbles over the rest of the market for E.V.s.”

Even if the F-150 Lightning accounts for only a small percentage of total F-Series sales, it would likely become one of the top-selling electric vehicles in the United States. Last year, for example, sales of the Chevrolet Bolt, made by General Motors, totaled just over 20,000 cars.

Biden Administration and Washington News: Live Updates
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

President Biden’s carefully worded statement on Monday supporting a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians came amid growing pressure within his own party for the United States to take a more skeptical stance toward one of its closest allies.

Mr. Biden’s urging — tucked at the end of a summary of a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — followed a drumbeat of calls from Democratic lawmakers across the ideological spectrum for his administration to speak out firmly against the escalation of violence. It reflected a different tone than the one members of Congress have sounded during past clashes in the region, when most Democrats have repeated their strong backing for Israel’s right to defend itself and called for peace without openly criticizing Israeli actions.

The push is strongest from the party’s energized progressive wing, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, but their intensity has obscured a quieter, concerted shift among more mainstream Democrats that could ultimately be more consequential.

Underscoring how skepticism around the campaign in Gaza had spread to even some of Israel’s strongest defenders in Congress, Representative Gregory W. Meeks of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a fixture at the annual conference of the powerful lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, told Democrats on the panel on Monday that he would ask for the delay a $735 million tranche of precision-guided weapons to Israel that had been approved before tensions in the Middle East boiled over.

A day earlier, 28 Democratic senators — more than half of the party’s caucus — put out a letter publicly calling for a cease-fire. The effort was led by Senator Jon Ossoff, Democrat of Georgia and, at 34, the face of a younger generation of American Jews in Congress. As Republicans pumped out statements squarely blaming Hamas militants, the Democrats’ appeal put the onus on both sides to lay down their weapons — and on Mr. Biden to weigh in to demand it.

Much of the shift can be traced to debate over the Iran nuclear deal, when Mr. Netanyahu made a concerted effort to insert himself in American domestic politics to kill the pact being drafted by President Barack Obama. The Israeli leader portrayed support for the deal as a betrayal and worked to drive a wedge between Republicans and Democrats on the issue. Mr. Netanyahu’s close alliance with Mr. Obama’s successor, Donald J. Trump, only deepened that partisan divide.

Republicans and AIPAC have been swift to warn against any perceived weakening of the U.S. commitment to Israel. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, condemned Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on Monday for describing Israel as an “apartheid state” and urged Mr. Biden to “leave no doubt where America stands.”

Biden Administration and Washington News: Live Updates
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

President Biden released tax forms on Monday showing that he and his wife, Jill Biden, earned just over $600,000 in 2020. The release resumed a presidential tradition of disclosure broken by Donald J. Trump.

The Bidens paid an effective federal income tax rate of 25.9 percent after donating about 5 percent of their income to charity, the documents showed. Their total federal income tax bill was just over $157,000. For 2019, the Bidens had an adjusted gross income of $985,000 and paid federal income taxes of nearly $288,000.

Mr. Trump declined to release his tax returns while a candidate and while president from 2017 through the start of this year, saying he was under audit. He fought efforts by prosecutors and congressional Democrats to obtain the returns. Documents obtained last year by The New York Times showed that Mr. Trump paid $750 in federal taxes in 2016, the year he won the presidency, after reporting heavy losses in his business empire to offset his income.

Previous presidents had released tax returns annually, dating back to Richard Nixon.

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, a lawyer, also released their 2020 tax forms on Monday. They earned nearly $1.7 million for the year and paid an effective federal income tax rate of 36.7 percent.

The disclosures came hours before the deadline for Americans to file their annual income tax returns without penalty. Federal officials had delayed that deadline by a month this year, citing the complications of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris also released their personal financial disclosure forms, which are required under federal law.

Both the presidential and the vice-presidential households appear to fall safely in the top 1 percent of American income earners, based on statistics from the Internal Revenue Service. And both would face tax increases this year if Mr. Biden succeeds in pushing Congress to raise a variety of taxes on high earners, as he is proposing to help fund nearly $2 trillion in new spending and incentives meant to strengthen education, child care, paid leave and other social programs.

Much of the Bidens’ income came from pensions, including Mr. Biden’s government pension from his years as a senator and vice president. That disbursement will pause now that Mr. Biden has re-entered the government, White House officials said. Dr. Biden received nearly $300,000 in income — including income from business profits — from an S corporation controlled by the Bidens, which received money in 2020 from two publishing houses, Simon & Schuster and Flatiron. An S corporation is a small business designation that allows business income, credits and deductions to pass through to shareholders.

Ms. Harris’s and Mr. Emhoff’s income included nearly $350,000 for writing by Ms. Harris, who published a book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” in 2019.

White House officials took a slight jab at Mr. Trump in a news release announcing the disclosures. “Today, the president released his 2020 federal income tax return,” they wrote, “continuing an almost uninterrupted tradition.”

White House Memo

Biden Administration and Washington News: Live Updates
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Mike Donilon is one of the most trusted presidential advisers in the Biden White House, but he comes and goes from his West Wing office almost as a spectral presence.

Described by those who have worked with him as having the demeanor of a parish priest, he abhors speaking to the news media and is not particularly chatty with his own colleagues. On conference calls, they describe him as a low talker. “Hey, it’s Mike,” he will say, often in a barely audible voice.

Mr. Donilon’s low-key presence is emblematic of the overall culture of the Biden White House: It is the least personality-driven West Wing in decades.

Because of his longevity in politics and underdog personality, combined with the depth of the crises he is facing, President Biden is undoing a longstanding Washington tradition in which staff members enjoy their own refracted fame.

The phenomenon was pronounced during the presidency of Donald J. Trump — his adviser Kellyanne Conway was so well-known that she needed her own security detail; the White House press secretary Sean Spicer was a recurring character on “Saturday Night Live”; Hope Hicks, a communications director, was photographed regularly by the paparazzi as she left her home in workout clothes. But Mr. Trump did not invent the celebrity staff.

“Every White House takes on the personality of the president,” said Paul Begala, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, who became a well-known figure himself after appearing in “The War Room,” a documentary about the 1992 Clinton campaign.

“President Clinton didn’t mind having famous staffers,” Mr. Begala said. “He enjoyed it. There’s a blue-collar sensibility with Biden and his team. You carry your pail to work, you punch the clock. You just show up every day and do your job.”




Arizona Republican Leaders Criticize Election Audit

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which administers elections for the majority of Arizona voters, called the ongoing audit of the county’s votes in the 2020 election a “mockery.”

“This board is done explaining anything to these people who are playing investigator with our constituents, ballots and equipment, paid for with real people’s tax dollars. People’s ballots and money are not make-believe. It’s time to be done with this craziness and get on with our county’s critical business.” “The election wasn’t in question until a couple of days after the final vote count. That’s when all of a sudden, whoa, there might be problem. We don’t like who won the election. So let’s call into question. Let’s start rumors and unfounded statements and conspiracies. Let’s throw these out there. Let’s do everything we can to undermine the will of the voter, undermine our democracy. Let’s do everything we can. And I don’t see this ending, Mr. Chairman, unfortunately, because you have some folks right now that are in control of the Arizona State Senate and it is not elected members of the body.” “The reality is there was doubt cast. So I supported an audit. I supported cooperating with the Senate. What I didn’t support is a mockery. And that’s what this has become.” “We ran a bipartisan, fair election. That’s every piece of evidence that I’ve ever seen put in front of us. We are operating on facts and evidence presented to this board. That’s why we certified the vote. That’s why we canvass the vote.”

Biden Administration and Washington News: Live Updates
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which administers elections for the majority of Arizona voters, called the ongoing audit of the county’s votes in the 2020 election a “mockery.”CreditCredit…Courtney Pedroza for The New York Times

For weeks, election professionals and Democrats have called the Republican-backed review of November’s voting results in Arizona a fatally flawed exercise, marred by its partisan cast of characters and sometimes bizarre methodology.

Now, after a week in which leaders of the review suggested they had found evidence of illegal behavior, top Republicans in the state’s largest county have escalated their own attacks on the effort, with the county’s top election official calling former President Donald J. Trump “unhinged” for his online comments falsely accusing the county of deleting an elections database.

“We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer,” the official, Stephen Richer, the Maricopa County recorder, wrote on Twitter. “As a party. As a state. As a country. This is as readily falsifiable as 2+2=5.”

The county’s five elected supervisors, all but one of whom are Republicans, plan to meet on Monday afternoon to issue a broadside against what Republican sponsors in the State Senate have billed as an election audit, which targets the 2.1 million votes cast in November in metropolitan Phoenix and outlying areas. The planned meeting follows a weekend barrage of posts on Twitter, with the hashtag #RealAuditorsDont, in which the supervisors assailed the integrity of the review.

The review has no formal electoral authority and will not change the results of the election in Arizona, no matter what it finds.

Most Arizona Republicans who have spoken publicly have doggedly supported the review. But State Senator Paul Boyer, a Republican from a suburban Phoenix district evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, made headlines last week after saying that the conduct of the review made him embarrassed to serve in the State Senate.

Senator T.J. Shope, another Republican from a Phoenix swing district, had been more circumspect, saying that he believed President Biden’s election was legitimate but that he had been too busy to follow the controversy. But in a Twitter post on Saturday, he wrote that Mr. Trump was “peddling in fantasy” by suggesting that the county’s election records had been nefariously deleted.

Biden Administration and Washington News: Live Updates
Credit…Sarah Silbiger for The New York Times

Administration officials have quietly begun evaluating clemency requests and have signaled to activists that President Biden might start issuing pardons or commutations by the midpoint of his term, possibly before the 2022 elections.

The effort, which is being overseen by the White House Counsel’s Office and the Justice Department, is an implicit rebuke of President Donald J. Trump’s approach to clemency, which mostly bypassed the Justice Department and relied on an ad hoc network of friends and allies, resulting in a wave of late pardons and commutations to people with wealth or connections.

Mr. Biden’s team has signaled in discussions with outside groups that it is establishing a more deliberate, systematic process geared toward identifying entire classes of people who deserve mercy. This approach could allow the president to make good on his campaign promise to weave issues of racial equity and justice throughout his government.

Mr. Biden’s approach to his pardon powers is part of a long-term shift in his criminal justice policies. During his 35 years in the Senate, he helped fashion a string of bills that enacted harsh sentences for drug crimes and laid the groundwork for the mass incarceration that disproportionately affected Black communities.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden apologized for portions of one of the more aggressive tough-on-crime measures he championed, the 1994 crime bill. And as president, he has surrounded himself with supporters of overhauling the system.

Biden Administration and Washington News: Live Updates
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Native American Rights Fund filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging two new election laws in Montana as unconstitutional infringements on Native Americans’ right to vote.

Montana legislators enacted the laws — H.B. 176, which eliminated same-day voter registration, and H.B. 530, which restricted ballot collection — this spring, amid a national Republican push to tighten voting regulations in connection with President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

The lawsuit argues that the measures in Montana, where an estimated 6.5 percent of the population is Native American and district courts struck down another ballot collection restriction last year, are “part of a broader scheme” to disenfranchise Native voters. It argues that the laws violate the right to vote, freedom of speech and equal protection under the Montana Constitution.

“The legislature knows that Native Americans are very distant from registration opportunities,” said Jacqueline De León, a staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund. “They know that they have a very limited window to register and vote on the reservation, and they know that so many homes don’t receive residential mail delivery, and so they are again, I think, taking advantage of those barriers and amplifying them.”

The lawsuit was filed in Montana’s 13th Judicial District Court on behalf of the advocacy groups Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote, as well as multiple tribes. The defendant is the Montana secretary of state, Christi Jacobsen.

Ms. Jacobsen said in a statement on Monday, “The voters of Montana spoke when they elected a secretary of state that promised improved election integrity with voter ID and voter registration deadlines, and we will work hard to defend those measures.”

Native Americans who live on reservations often have to travel long distances to reach an elections office or polling site, and many don’t own cars or can’t take time off work for what can be several hours round-trip. Many have relied on same-day registration in order to make that trip once instead of twice.

Keaton Sunchild, the political director at Western Native Voice, said that last year, nearly 1,000 Native Americans registered to vote after the deadline set under one of the new laws.

Other Native Americans vote absentee, which poses challenges because reservations often lack reliable mail service. As a result, get-out-the-vote groups often collect and return voters’ sealed ballots. One of Montana’s new laws forbids anyone to provide or accept a “pecuniary benefit” in exchange for collecting ballots.

Supporters of the laws say they will increase election security, though there is no evidence of any widespread irregularities in the 2020 election. The lawsuit says that “many tribal members rely on paid ballot collectors,” including ones hired by Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote, which do extensive get-out-the-vote work.

H.B. 530 differs from the ballot collection law struck down last year in that it applies only to paid collection and not to, for instance, informally collecting ballots from neighbors. But Alora Thomas-Lundborg, a senior staff attorney at the A.C.L.U., said that because so many Native Americans relied on organized collection programs, it was “functionally the same” in its impact.

“We do see this lawsuit as an extension of the pattern that we saw in the earlier lawsuit,” Ms. Thomas-Lundborg said, “which is a clawing back of Native American voting rights in the state of Montana.”

Biden Administration and Washington News: Live Updates
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Biden administration has approved three detainees at Guantánamo Bay for release to countries that agree to impose security conditions on them, including the oldest of the remaining wartime prisoners, lawyers and United States government officials said on Monday.

The approvals raised to nine the number of the 40 detainees currently at the wartime prison who have been approved for transfer to other countries. It is unclear where the three men will go, or when, in part because the State Department has to make diplomatic and security arrangements with countries to take them. Some detainees cleared for release have been waiting for a decade for a country to agree to take them.

One of the three detainees recently granted approval is Saifullah Paracha, 73, of Pakistan, who was captured in Thailand in 2003. In addition to being the oldest of the detainees, he has also been described as among the sickest, with heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The other two were identified as Abdul Rabbani, 54, also a citizen of Pakistan, and Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman, 40, a Yemeni. None have been charged with a crime by the United States in the two decades they have been in custody.

Word that the men were approved for release initially came from their lawyers, who heard about it from prisoners in attorney-client telephone calls. Two government officials confirmed the three release decisions.

The decision to approve the releases, one official said, was made by the attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretaries of defense, homeland security and state. All have representatives who sit on the Periodic Review Board, which assesses the threat posed by the detainees.

Despite a pledge to renew the Obama administration effort to end detention operations at the Navy base in Cuba, the Biden administration has yet to restart the transfers. For now, it has not designated a senior U.S. official to negotiate the deals with other countries.

The Trump administration shut down the office of the special envoy for Guantánamo’s closing and transferred only one prisoner, a confessed Saudi terrorist who was repatriated in 2018 to serve his war crimes sentence at a rehabilitation center for former jihadists.

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