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Live Updates: Second Gaetz Aide Said to Have Quit Amid Widening Investigation


Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — A second senior aide to Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, abruptly quit in recent days as the congressman tries to fend off a Justice Department sex trafficking investigation and mounting public scrutiny, according to three people familiar with the decision.

The aide, Devin Murphy, resigned as Mr. Gaetz’s legislative director on Friday. He told associates that he was interested in writing bills, not working at TMZ — equating the work that Mr. Gaetz’s aides were now handling to the tabloid publication, according to one of the people, who all asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive personnel matter.

His departure last week came hours after Mr. Gaetz’s communications director, Luke Ball, also resigned. They were among the most senior members of the congressman’s staff in Washington and their exits suggest that even as he vows to remain in the House, Mr. Gaetz may be facing a hollowing-out of his support team.

Mr. Murphy, who had worked for Mr. Gaetz since he came to Congress in 2017, declined to comment on Thursday, but his LinkedIn page recorded that he left his position this month. The congressman’s office also declined to comment. One of the people who confirmed Mr. Murphy’s departure said the parting had not been contentious.

Mr. Gaetz faced another setback on Thursday when lawyers for the government and a key ally ensnared in the scandal, Joel Greenberg, said in court that he was likely to plead guilty, indicating he could cooperate with investigators. The Justice Department is scrutinizing whether Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Gaetz ran afoul of federal sex trafficking laws by paying women for sex and having sex with a 17-year-old girl in exchange for something of value.

With few outside allies coming to his defense, Mr. Gaetz’s office issued a statement on Thursday from women who work for him extolling his respect for them. It was signed simply “The Women of the Office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz,” without any named signatories.

“Congressman Gaetz has always been a principled and morally grounded leader,” it said. “At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness.”

Citing media reports about the Justice Department inquiry, the statement said the women “uniformly reject these allegations as false.”

President Biden on Thursday after delivering remarks on gun violence at the White House.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

President Biden on Thursday outlined actions he was taking on gun violence in a speech that inaccurately described three firearm “loopholes” he sought to close.

“If you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check,” he said, repeating a familiar refrain among supporters for more gun control.

This was exaggerated. Licensed firearms dealers are required to look up potential buyers in a background check system before a sale is approved. Private sellers are not required to perform such background checks, and some do sell guns at gun shows. But that does not mean that all dealers at gun shows are private, or that all sales at those shows forgo a background check. In addition, 16 states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws requiring universal background checks, including at gun shows.

While there is little recent data on the topic, a 1999 study from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or A.T.F., found that half to three-quarters of sellers at gun shows were, in fact, licensed. A survey of gun owners published in 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 22 percent of firearms purchased at gun shows did not include a background check.

Mr. Biden also left out important context when he described the so-called Charleston loophole.

“If the F.B.I. hasn’t — didn’t complete the background check within three days — there’s a process — if it wasn’t done in three days, according to the Charleston loophole, you get to buy the gun,” he said. “They bought the gun and killed a hell of a lot of innocent people.”

It is true that if a background check is not completed within three business days, a firearm seller can proceed with the sale.

In 2015, Dylann S. Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine Black parishioners at a church in Charleston, purchased a firearm two months ahead of the shooting. That purchase was allowed to go forward after the F.B.I. did not explicitly block the sale within three days.

While Mr. Roof admitted to a drug offense a month before he purchased the gun, clerical errors prevented the F.B.I. from seeing that admission in time and blocking the gun purchase.

However, the bureau still had the power to deny a purchase after the fact, and then refer the case to A.T.F. agents to retrieve the gun, something it did not do in the case of Mr. Roof. In 2015, the F.B.I. made 3,648 retrieval referrals.

Additionally, Mr. Biden falsely claimed that gun manufacturing was the “the only industry in America, a billion-dollar industry, that can’t be sued.”

Congress passed a law in 2005 prohibiting lawsuits against firearm manufacturers “for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.” But they can still be subject to other types of lawsuits — for example, for breaches of warranty or if a manufacturer or dealer sells a gun knowing that it would be used in a crime.

The gun industry is also not the only industry to have special protections against lawsuits. For example, technology companies also enjoy a legal shield known as Section 230, which protects websites from liability for content created by their users.

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Biden Announces Next Steps on Gun Reform

President Biden outlined steps he would take to combat gun violence, vowing to create change despite stalling in Congress.

Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. Let me say it again, gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment. [applause] Every day in this country, 316 people are shot every single day — 106 of them die every day. Today, I asked the Justice Department to publish a model red flag legislation. So states can start crafting their own laws, right now. Just like with background checks, the vast majority of Americans support these extreme risk-protection order laws. And it’s time to put these laws on the books, and protect even more people. Whether Congress acts or not, I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal as president to keep the American people safe from gun violence. But there’s much more that Congress can do to help that effort. And they can do it right now. They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress. But they passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence. Enough prayers. Time for some action.

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President Biden outlined steps he would take to combat gun violence, vowing to create change despite stalling in Congress.CreditCredit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

President Biden, calling gun violence in the United States “an international embarrassment,” took a set of initial steps on Thursday to address the problem, starting with a crackdown on the proliferation of so-called ghost guns, or firearms assembled from kits.

Acknowledging that more aggressive actions like banning assault weapons and closing background check loopholes would have to wait for action from Congress, he said it was nonetheless vital to do what he could on his own to confront what he called an epidemic of shootings that are killing roughly 100 Americans a day.

“We’ve got a long way to go — it seems like we always have a long way to go,” Mr. Biden said during an appearance in the Rose Garden, weeks after two mass shootings.

The most substantive of the steps was directing the Justice Department to curb the spread of ghost guns. Kits for these guns can be bought without background checks and allow a gun to be assembled from pieces with no serial numbers.

Mr. Biden said he wanted the department to issue a regulation within a month to require that the components in the kits have serial numbers that would allow them to be traced and that the weapons be legally classified as firearms, with the buyers subjected to background checks.

“I want to see these kits treated as firearms under the gun control act,” Mr. Biden said.

Ghost guns, experts said, have become particularly appealing to criminal organizations and right wing extremists who want untraceable firearms that do not require any background checks. They are often tied to shootings in states like California, which have instituted strict gun laws.

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What Do Homemade Guns Mean for Gun Laws? We Made One to Find Out

Virtually anyone can buy a kit online to build a gun from parts — without a background check. That raises questions about the future of gun regulation.

[GUN CLICKS] This is a gun I made myself. The government doesn’t know I have it, but it’s totally legal. You can buy a kit online with all the parts you need to build a Glock 19. You don’t need a 3-D printer or fancy tools, and you don’t need a background check. I purchased the Glock 19 during Glocktober, so I got $100 off. People call these ghost guns. And they’re becoming more popular, especially for people who want a gun, but don’t want any record that it exists. I’d like to see how easy it is to build one of these guns and to find out what these kits mean for the future of gun regulation. Order is confirmed. All that’s left to do is build it. I don’t have a handgun license in New York, so I sent the kit to Virginia, where you don’t need one. Let’s make a gun. I get the appeal of making a gun. I like building stuff. And for a lot of people who buy these kits, that’s the point. They’re fun to make. “Hey, guys. Today we’re going to be going over how to build your Full Conceal Polymer80 frame. So it’s actually fairly quick to do this.” “Kind of paint by numbers in a sense.” The lower receiver or frame is the only part of the gun that’s technically considered a firearm under U.S. law. Gun kits aren’t regulated like firearms because they come with unfinished lower receivers. “So this is the lower receiver, and it’s in this jig. So what we’ll need to do is remove the extra pieces that are sticking up out of the jig.” [SNAPPING] Yeah, instead of shop, I took early childhood development. It was actually really awesome. The finished lower receiver looks almost identical to the unfinished one. You just drill a few holes and remove these extra bits of polymer. Then you assemble and add the rest of the parts. If you do it right, you’ll have a working firearm. On a factory-made gun, the serial number would go here. But the gun I’m building won’t have one, so there’s no way to trace it. Gun kits aren’t regulated at all in most states. There are no records of sales. And for a lot of people, that’s the appeal. “Hey.” “Hey.” “Andy Lander.” “Jeremy White.” Andy Lander is a firearms expert who worked for the N.R.A. for 13 years. He’s built guns before. “We’re still technically a free country. And I think that one of the greatest freedoms is having privacy. To me, if you bought 100 guns, it’s none of my business.” It’s impossible to say how many ghost guns are out there or who owns them. Last year, nearly a third of all firearms seized by law enforcement in California were homemade without serial numbers. Still, Andy says the kits aren’t the problem. “A criminal is going to steal a gun. He’s going to either rob somebody and get a gun. He’s going to get a gun anyway. I’m not worried about a guy building a Glock 19 in his garage.” “Nope. Drop it in from the top.” “Drop it in.” “Straight down.” “Oh, it has to be all the way —” “You have to clear that, yeah. Push down till it pops. Yeah, that’s it.” [GUN CLICKS] “There you go. You’re done.” “Wow. Thanks for your help.” [GUN CLICKS] It took me about six hours to build my ghost gun. [GUN CLICKS] If I had to do it again, I could do it much faster. Still, there’s no guarantee that it will work. “Scot Thomasson.” “Jeremy White.” “Nice to meet you.” “Good to meet you.” “How are you?” “Good.” “Good. It’s the same damn gun.” “Really is.” “The difference is right there, serial number. And that’s important.” Scot Thomasson is a retired A.T.F. agent. He’s letting me try out my new gun on his property. “Looks O.K. Looks like it’s not going to blow up anybody’s hand, so that’s a good thing.” “Let’s go test it out.” [GUN CLICKS] [GUN FIRES] “Hit.” [GUN FIRES] “Hit.” [GUN FIRES] “O.K.” “That’s a working gun.” “Yeah, sure enough is. Listen, I worked violent crime my whole career for 26 years. You want those officers to have every means possible bringing to justice those who use that firearm to commit acts of violence. And without a serial number on that firearm, you can’t do it.” “So if these kits had a serial number and were sold through licensed dealers, do you see any problem with that?” “No problem whatsoever. So what?” “Right now we really don’t know what we don’t know, because these guns are completely untraceable.” Jennifer Wexton is a representative from Virginia’s 10th district and a co-sponsor on two bills that would broaden the definition of firearms to include assembly kits. so you couldn’t buy them without the government knowing. “Normally the serial number would be here.” “No. And look, there’s nothing there.” “There’s nothing there.” “Yeah. That’s part of the allure of these kinds of ghost guns, by the way. So when they’re picked up in crime scenes and things like that, we know that they are out there. And we’re seeing it happen more and more.” “What do you say to the Second Amendment advocate that says, these laws are an invasion of my privacy when it comes to gun ownership?” “I think that guns should be traceable. So I think that weighing the interest in not having a serial number on your firearm versus the overall public safety, I come down on the side of public safety.” In the end, the government does find out about my ghost gun. Without a handgun license, I can’t bring this gun back to New York, so I’m turning it in to the local police. They interview me, do a background check and file a police report. That’s a lot more screening than I went through to get the gun in the first place. For most people, this isn’t the easiest way to get a gun. It takes time and skill. Some people may like that challenge. Most people would rather just buy one from a gun shop or a licensed dealer. But if you’re a felon, or underage, or you can’t legally buy a gun for some other reason, these kits make it remarkably easy to get one anyway.

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Virtually anyone can buy a kit online to build a gun from parts — without a background check. That raises questions about the future of gun regulation.CreditCredit…Brian Dawson

The president on Thursday outlined several other actions he was taking on his own. He said he would require that when a device known as a stabilizing brace effectively transforms a pistol into a short-barrel rifle, that weapon would be subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act. That would subject those guns to extra layers of regulation required to own more serious firearms or silencers, including fingerprinting, a background check and a regular renewal of a license.

The gunman in the Boulder, Colo., shooting last month used a pistol with an arm brace, making it more stable and accurate, the president said.

Mr. Biden said the Justice Department would also publish model “red flag” legislation for states. The measure would allow police officers and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from people who may present a danger to themselves or others.

While the president cannot pass national red flag legislation without Congress, officials said the goal of the guidance was to make it easier for states that want to adopt it to do so now.

“Red flag laws can stop mass shooters before they can act out their violent plans,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he wanted to see a national law.

Outside of mass shootings, gun violence remains the leading cause of death for Black men between the ages of 15 and 34, Mr. Biden said in his remarks, noting that additional funding he has proposed for community violence programs can save lives.

The initiatives announced Thursday do not match in scope his commitment to the issue over the course of his career, particularly his time as a senator. In 1993, Mr. Biden played a key role in the passage of the landmark Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. A year later, he helped authorize a 10-year ban on assault weapons.

Mr. Biden acknowledged there is only so much he can do without Congress. “This is just a start,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

The House passed two gun control bills last month, but they are languishing in the Senate in the face of the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passing most legislation, which requires the support of at least 10 Republicans. Mr. Biden called on the Senate to take action.

Mr. Biden also announced his nomination of David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bureau has not had a permanent director since 2015.

While Mr. Chipman’s selection came as welcome news to gun control groups, few nominees put forward by Mr. Biden have faced steeper odds of confirmation in the Senate. Still, his allies think he may be able to win narrow approval given the anguish over recent shootings.

In 2006, lawmakers allied with the National Rifle Association enacted a provision making the position of A.T.F. director, which had previously been a political appointment, subject to Senate confirmation. As a result, only one director, Obama nominee B. Todd Jones, has been confirmed over the last 15 years.

John Boehner, the Republican former House speaker, in 2019.
Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

John Boehner, the Republican former House speaker, said in a new memoir that he regretted supporting the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, calling it a partisan attack that he now wishes he had repudiated.

In his book “On the House: A Washington Memoir,” a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Boehner blamed Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, then the No. 2 Republican, with pursuing a politically motivated campaign against Mr. Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern.

The Republican-led House voted to impeach Mr. Clinton on two counts in 1998. He was acquitted by the Senate.

“In my view, Republicans impeached him for one reason and one reason only — because it was strenuously recommended to us by one Tom DeLay,” Mr. Boehner wrote. “Tom believed that impeaching Clinton would win us all these House seats, would be a big win politically, and he convinced enough of the membership and the G.O.P. base that this was true.

“I was on board at the time. I won’t hide from that. I won’t pretend otherwise. But I regret it now. I regret that I didn’t fight against it.”

Mr. Boehner’s memoir is full of colorful stories from his time in Congress. He pulls no punches for those he views as far-right bomb-throwers in his party (he saves several particularly forceful insults for Senator Ted Cruz of Texas). He issues a stinging denunciation of Donald J. Trump, saying that the former president “incited that bloody insurrection” by his supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that the Republican Party has been taken over by “whack jobs.”

Mr. Trump’s “refusal to accept the result of the election not only cost Republicans the Senate but led to mob violence,” Mr. Boehner writes.

Mr. Boehner also details some of Capitol Hill’s most talked-about exchanges, including the time Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska, pulled a knife on Mr. Boehner on the House floor after a critical speech about sweetheart projects going to Alaska.

“Sometimes I can still feel that thing against my throat,” Mr. Boehner writes. (The two would later patch things up, and Mr. Boehner would serve as the best man in Mr. Young’s wedding.)

Mr. Boehner also relays an encounter in his office in which former Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and a leader of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, dropped to his knees to beg for forgiveness after a political coup attempt against Mr. Boehner failed.

“Not long after the vote — a vote that like many of the Freedom Caucus’s efforts ended in abject failure — I was told that Meadows wanted to meet with me one-on-one,” Mr. Boehner recalled. “Before I knew it, he had dropped off the couch and was on his knees. Right there on my rug. That was a first. His hands came together in front of him as if he were about to pray. ‘Mr. Speaker, please forgive me,’ he said, or words to that effect.”

Mr. Boehner said he wondered, in the moment, what Mr. Meadows’ “elite and uncompromising band of Freedom Caucus warriors would have made of their star organizer on the verge of tears, but that wasn’t my problem.”

Mr. Boehner looked down at the man who would later become Mr. Trump’s White House chief of staff.

“I took a long, slow drag of my Camel cigarette,” he wrote. “Let the tension hang there a little, you know? I looked at my pack of Camels on the desk next to me, then I looked down at him, and asked (as if I didn’t know): ‘For what?’”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken singled out a State Department official during World War II, Breckinridge Long, for lying to Congress about the severity of the Holocaust.
Credit…Pool photo by Al Drago

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Thursday addressed the State Department’s failure to protect refugees fleeing the Holocaust, relating the atrocities to the recent rise of anti-Semitism, violence against Asian-Americans, and other human rights crises around the world.

Mr. Blinken, speaking virtually at an event hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, singled out Breckinridge Long, an assistant secretary of state during World War II, for blocking the processing of refugees for all but a “tiny fraction” of applicants, and lying to Congress about the severity of the Holocaust “as thousands of Jews were murdered every day.”

“He had immense power to help those being persecuted,” Mr. Blinken said of Long. “Yet as the Nazis began to systematically round up and execute Jews, Long made it harder and harder for Jews to be granted refuge in the United States.”

Long also withheld cables with reports of the mass killings, Mr. Blinken said, and inflated the number of Jewish refugees that the U.S. had accepted during the war. On Nov. 26, 1943, Long claimed in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the U.S. had admitted 580,000 “victims of persecution by the Hitler regime.” In reality, Mr. Blinken said, the U.S. had admitted 138,000 at that time, less than a quarter of the number claimed.

“We live in a time where anti-Semitism is on the rise again in America and around the world,” Mr. Blinken said.

“As always, hatred of the Jews tends to go hand in hand with hatred of others,” he added. “When hateful ideology rises, violence is never far behind, as recent attacks on Asian-Americans have illustrated.” He also spoke of “people imprisoned in modern day internment camps because of what they worship or believe, or tortured for speaking up against tyranny.”

The impact of the Holocaust is personal for Mr. Blinken. His stepfather, Samuel Pisar, was a survivor of the Nazi death camps of Majdanek, Auschwitz and Dachau, and was liberated by American troops near the end of the war.

His stepfather’s experiences have influenced Mr. Blinken’s interventionist streak in foreign policy. In a press briefing after the speech, Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, said that Mr. Blinken was driven by his personal connection to the tragedy of the Holocaust.

“It is precisely why he has spoken so passionately about human rights violations, abuses, atrocities that are taking place around the world,” Mr. Price said.

People protested the latest voting restrictions bill in Dallas on Thursday.
Credit…Cooper Neill for The New York Times

An expansive bill introducing a rash of new restrictions to voting passed a key committee in the Texas Legislature on Thursday, clearing the way for a full House vote in the coming weeks.

The bill, which passed by party-line vote, would make it a felony for a local election official to proactively mail absentee ballot applications and grants more authority and autonomy to partisan poll watchers. It also significantly expands the criminal punishment for voting-related offenses, adds new requirements and threats of criminal prosecution for those who provide assistance to voters, and prohibits local election officials from making changes without authorization from the state.

The Texas bill is part of a broad push by Republican legislators across the country to impose new voting restrictions in the aftermath of President Donald J. Trump’s loss to Joseph R. Biden Jr. in November. Late last month, Georgia passed a sweeping bill that imposed new limits on voting access and expanded the legislature’s authority over state elections.

Texas is already home to some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, and its Legislature has dedicated part of its spring session to working toward another round of new laws limiting access to voting in the state.

Though Mr. Trump carried Texas by more than 630,000 votes in November, Republican lawmakers have cited the former president’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 election as a reason for their effort, claiming the new bills are intended to restore confidence in elections.

This month, the Texas Senate passed its own omnibus bill that, among other provisions, sets new limits on early voting hours, bans drive-through voting, imposes strict limits on election machine distribution and bars election officials from promoting absentee voting, even to voters who are eligible.

Taken together, the bills will have a greater impact on the state’s major cities like Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio — rapidly growing areas that are home to a largely Democratic base.

The effort to further restrict voting in Texas has drawn widespread public criticism from civil rights groups, local business leaders, Democrats and some major corporations with their headquarters in Texas. The chief executive of Dell Technologies, the computing company, issued a statement this month criticizing the House bill, known as H.B. 6.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, criticized the corporate response to the bill in a news conference on Wednesday, and defended the effort, saying the State Senate bill that passed this month “is not voter suppression, it’s voter security.”

Joel Greenberg leaving court in Orlando last year. He is facing an array of federal charges and is expected to plead guilty in the coming weeks.
Credit…Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press

A former local official in Florida who faces an array of federal charges, including a sex trafficking count, is expected to plead guilty in the coming weeks, a prosecutor and a defense lawyer said on Thursday, in an indication that the defendant could cooperate as a key witness against Representative Matt Gaetz, who is under investigation.

A plea by the former elected official, Joel Greenberg, could significantly strengthen the Justice Department’s hand as it investigates Mr. Gaetz and others who met Mr. Greenberg through Florida Republican politics and are being scrutinized on potential sex trafficking violations.

Mr. Greenberg met women through a website that connects people who are willing to go on dates in exchange for gifts and allowances, then introduced them to Mr. Gaetz, who along with Mr. Greenberg had sex with them, people familiar with the matter have said.

The prosecutor, Roger Handberg, made the disclosure about the expected plea deal at a status hearing at the federal courthouse in Orlando, as did Mr. Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller.

Mr. Greenberg had been scheduled to go on trial in June, but both sides set a May 15 deadline for a plea deal. If they do not reach an agreement, the case would go to trial, they agreed.

Neither Mr. Handberg nor Mr. Scheller said whether Mr. Greenberg would agree to cooperate with the government’s open investigation. Mr. Greenberg, 36, is likely to face 12 years in prison and legal experts said that if Mr. Greenberg had any hope of reducing that sentence, he would have to cooperate with the Justice Department.

Mr. Greenberg did not appear in court on Thursday. He was sent to jail in March for violating the terms of his bail. He was indicted last year on a count of sex trafficking a 17-year-old in 2017.

Around the time of the indictment, the Justice Department began investigating Mr. Gaetz’s ties to the same girl. Mr. Gaetz, who gained a national profile in recent years as a prominent supporter of President Donald J. Trump, has denied that he paid for sex.

Central Americans who have been deported from the United States waiting to register in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

MEXICO CITY — Record numbers of asylum seekers are applying for sanctuary in Mexico — some after arriving at the southwest border of the United States hoping to find a safe haven under President Biden, but hitting a closed door.

In March, the Mexican government received asylum petitions from more than 9,000 people, the highest monthly tally ever, officials said. And they predicted that the surging demand would continue, possibly reaching a total of 90,000 asylum requests by the end of the year, which would also be a record high.

The soaring numbers are in part a reflection of the turmoil at the American border, where the Biden administration is struggling to deal with a surge in undocumented migration and has prevented many asylum seekers from presenting their cases to immigration officials.

Mexico has also become an increasingly attractive destination in its own right for refugees, who have generally found asylum easier to achieve in Mexico than in the United States. Some have also been drawn by the opportunity to reunite with family and friends, and by possibilities of work and a degree of safety that they lacked at home.

The sharp increase has put additional stress on humanitarian groups and on the Mexican government, which has been under pressure from Washington to do more to curb the northbound flows of migrants.

“Enormous amounts are arriving,” Andrés Alfonso Ramírez Silva, general coordinator of the Mexican government agency that processes asylum petitions, said of the caseload. “With the personnel we have, we have to deal with a number that grows and grows and continues to grow.”

For decades, Mexico was essentially a thruway for people from Latin America, the Caribbean and elsewhere in the world seeking to reach the United States. But in the last few years, Mexico has become a more attractive destination for migrants.

President Donald J. Trump accelerated this process with aggressive efforts to restrict both legal and illegal immigration, including strategies to discourage asylum seekers by making it more difficult for them to secure sanctuary.

During Mr. Trump’s term, the number of people seeking asylum in Mexico skyrocketed, to more than 70,400 in 2019 from about 14,600 in 2017, according to the Mexican government. Amid the pandemic and a drastic slowdown in global migration, the number of asylum petitioners dropped to about 41,200 last year. But in the last several months, the volume has risen sharply once again.

Oscar Lopez and Natalie Kitroeff contributed reporting.

Representative Lee Zeldin during a meeting of the House Intelligence Committee in 2019. Mr. Zeldin announced on Thursday that he will run for governor of New York.
Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Representative Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican and avid supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, declared on Thursday that he was entering the 2022 race for governor of New York, hoping to emerge as his party’s challenger to embattled Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

“The bottom line is this: To save New York, Andrew Cuomo’s gotta go,” Mr. Zeldin, a staunch conservative who represents parts of Long Island, said in a news release.

Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, is in the midst of the greatest crisis of his political life, facing investigations and accusations of sexual harassment. Many of the state’s Democratic leaders have asked Mr. Cuomo to resign, and whether he will ultimately run for re-election next year is an open question.

But any Republican, especially one closely tied to Mr. Trump, would have an uphill battle in a statewide contest in New York. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election since 2002, and Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one.

Mr. Zeldin’s comments on Thursday previewed how he would seek to position himself in a heavily Democratic state.

“With one-party Democrat rule in New York City and Albany, the light that once shone as a beacon of what America can be has gone dark,” he said.

Mr. Zeldin will be one of at least three declared or potential Republican candidates interested in running for governor who will appear in Albany, N.Y., on April 19 to meet with Republican county leaders to lobby for their support.

Others include Rob Astorino, the party’s 2014 nominee for governor, and Andrew Giuliani, the son of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.

As mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg grew to view asphalt as his enemy. As governor of Michigan, Jennifer M. Granholm faced a Republican-led Legislature intent on blocking her biggest infrastructure ambitions. As governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo overcame early opposition to an infrastructure plan from moderate members of her own party.

All three are among five cabinet secretaries President Biden has selected to serve as the administration’s salespeople for the American Jobs Plan, which seeks to pour trillions of dollars into infrastructure and other new government programs.

“Every square foot of asphalt, from a mayor’s perspective, is a square foot you have to pay forever to maintain, to resurface, to fill potholes on it,” Mr. Buttigieg, now the transportation secretary, said in a recent interview. “There were roads that maybe saw one car every few minutes that were paved wide enough for four cars side by side. There’s a cost to maintaining that.”

The lessons in asphalt Mr. Buttigieg learned in Indiana informed how he is trying to sell Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan across the country today. “The point is we design for the future and ask what we want to build, instead of redoing everything we’ve done in the past,” he said. In terms of making the case for the ambitious plan, he said, “there’s nothing like being able to say, ‘Here’s how we faced it in my community.’”

Along with Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Granholm, the energy secretary, and Ms. Raimondo, the commerce secretary, the group includes Marcia L. Fudge, the housing and urban development secretary, and Martin J. Walsh, the labor secretary.

Their job is to push the infrastructure plan on Capitol Hill and across the country with voters. They were picked because they lead agencies that oversee the bulk of the proposals in the jobs plan, which covers broadband, public housing, climate change and job training, in addition to roads and bridges.

But they are also former mayors or governors who have tackled the challenges at the local level that Mr. Biden now faces nationwide.

In fact, they all tried — and sometimes failed — to sell their own infrastructure plans, either to a recalcitrant legislature or to resistant members of their own party.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walked to speak at a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington last month. Sen. McConnell clarified his stance on corporate reaction to the voting legislation in Georgia.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, seldom says anything he does not mean to say, and seldom apologizes for something he says.

But Mr. McConnell is walking back his sharp rebuke of companies and sports leagues that have come out publicly against a new law that restricts access to voting in Georgia and similar bills in other states.

“My warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” he said on Tuesday in Louisville. People close to him insisted this was not a mistake, but a pointed warning delivered with classic, tight-lipped zip.

Nonetheless, by Wednesday, in Paducah, Ky., Mr. McConnell reversed course and conceded that he had gone too far.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday,” he said at an event where he insisted that corporate executives were misinformed and acting on distorted portrayals of the Georgia law provided by no less a figure than President Biden.

“They are certainly entitled to be involved in politics,” he added. “So my complaint about the C.E.O.s: Read the damn bill.”

Mr. McConnell’s critics say the episode illustrates his declining powers as a leader of his party, and his waning status as supervillain to Democrats. “He is suddenly powerless and flailing,” said Brian Fallon, a former top Democratic aide in the Senate.

That is wishful thinking, his allies insist.

This misstep aside, it should be no surprise that Mr. McConnell, who has built his political image on fighting campaign finance restrictions, is embracing a role as the No. 1 foe of a voting rights expansion bill being pushed by Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats.

In meetings with colleagues, speeches and media appearances, he has been blistering the wide-ranging plan, which he views as an existential threat to his party’s future, one he claims is based on a “big lie” that Republicans in Georgia and other states are employing racist tactics reminiscent of the Jim Crow era to limit voting.

The phrase — the same one Democrats have used to describe former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election — suggests that Mr. McConnell is planning a full-scale effort to define the voting rights bill as corrupt and a blatant power grab.

“Our challenge, of course, is they are going to make this about race somehow, they are going to make this about turnout somehow,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview. “It is about neither. It is about a partisan effort to rewrite the rules in a way they think benefits them.”

Gina Raimondo, the secretary of the Commerce Department, which said that seven Chinese entities were at odds with U.S. foreign policy or national security interests.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The Biden administration on Thursday added seven Chinese supercomputing entities to a U.S. blacklist over national security concerns, a move that curbs their access to American technology.

The Commerce Department said that the seven entities were at odds with U.S. foreign policy or national security interests. The department said the entities were “involved with building supercomputers used by China’s military actors, its destabilizing military modernization efforts, and/or weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.) programs.”

“Supercomputing capabilities are vital for the development of many — perhaps almost all — modern weapons and national security systems, such as nuclear weapons and hypersonic weapons,” the commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, said in a statement. “The Department of Commerce will use the full extent of its authorities to prevent China from leveraging U.S. technologies to support these destabilizing military modernization efforts.”

The announcement is an early step by the new administration as it calibrates its approach to China under President Biden, and it comes three weeks after top officials from the two countries gathered in Anchorage for a tense meeting.

The move by the Commerce Department builds on efforts by the Trump administration to restrict certain Chinese companies’ access to American technology.

In its move on Thursday, the department added the seven Chinese entities to what is known as the entity list, which bars them from purchasing American technology or products without special permission. The seven entities are Tianjin Phytium Information Technology, Shanghai High-Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center, Sunway Microelectronics, the National Supercomputing Center Jinan, the National Supercomputing Center Shenzhen, the National Supercomputing Center Wuxi and the National Supercomputing Center Zhengzhou.

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia has seized on his state’s new voting law as a political opportunity.
Credit…Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia became an outcast in his own party after infuriating former President Donald J. Trump by resisting his demands to overturn the state’s election results. He spent weeks fending off attacks from fellow Republicans and right-wing media, and Mr. Trump vowed to retaliate by sending a hard-right loyalist to oppose him in the primary next year.

But the sweeping new voting bill Mr. Kemp signed two weeks ago has provided him a lifeline. The bill severely curtails the ability to vote in Georgia, particularly for people of color. Mr. Kemp has seized on it as a political opportunity, defending the law as one that expands voting access, condemning those who criticize it and conflating the criticism with so-called cancel culture.

It’s an argument he believes may restore him to the good graces of Georgia Republicans after being publicly derided by Mr. Trump, a predicament that has proved fatal to the career aspirations of other ambitious conservatives.

“He knows that this is a real opportunity and he can’t blow it, because I don’t think he gets another layup like this again anytime soon,” said Randy Evans, a Georgia lawyer whom Mr. Trump made ambassador to Luxembourg, and is also a close ally of Mr. Kemp.

Since signing the bill into law on March 25, Mr. Kemp has done roughly 50 interviews, 14 with Fox News, promoting the new restrictions with messaging that aligns with Mr. Trump’s baseless claims that the election was rigged against him.

Mr. Kemp’s argument is designed to pump adrenaline into the conservative vein, by focusing on two of the most animating topics of the political right: election mechanics and an ominous portrayal of the Democratic left.

“They folded like a wet dishrag to the cancel culture,” he said, responding to businesses that publicly objected to the legislation, in an interview on Fox Business on Tuesday. “Americans and Georgians should be scared. I mean, what event are they going to come after next?”

If he manages a political reversal of fortune, Mr. Kemp would be the most prominent Republican to find a way to overcome Mr. Trump’s campaign of retribution, and perhaps would provide an early test of the former president’s ability to impose his will on the party’s electoral future.

But whether Mr. Kemp will be able to make amends with Mr. Trump remains unclear. Late Tuesday, the former president signaled how difficult it would be to win him over, releasing a statement slamming Mr. Kemp and Georgia Republicans for not going far enough to restrict voting access in the new law.

“Kemp also caved to the radical left-wing woke mob who threatened to call him racist if he got rid of weekend voting,” Mr. Trump said. “Well, he kept it, and they still call him racist!”

A Taiwan Air Force F-16 jet fighter monitored a Chinese Air Force H-6 bomber flying near Taiwan in 2018. In recent days China has flown 15 warplanes near Taiwan.
Credit…Taiwan Air Force/EPA, via Shutterstock

As Beijing has increased its military harassment of what it considers a rogue territory, many experts and administration officials say that if anything can tip the global power struggle between China and the United States into an actual military conflict, it is Taiwan.

In recent days, Beijing has menaced the nation by flying 15 Chinese warplanes near its shores. In response, Biden administration officials are trying to calibrate a policy that protects the democratic, technology-rich island without inciting an armed conflict that would be disastrous for all.

Under a longstanding — and famously convoluted — policy derived from America’s “one China” stance that supports Taiwan without recognizing it as independent, the United States provides political and military support for Taiwan, but does not explicitly promise to defend it from a Chinese attack.

American officials warn that China is growing more capable of invading Taiwan, a democracy of nearly 24 million people situated off the coast of mainland China, whose status has obsessed Beijing since Chinese nationalists retreated and formed a government there after the country’s 1949 Communist revolution.

Experts are questioning whether the United States should make a more specific commitment to the island’s defense. The debate reflects the core foreign policy challenge seizing the Biden administration as it re-evaluates tenets of American strategy for a new and more dangerous phase of competition with China.

In remarks that raised eyebrows last month, Adm. Philip S. Davidson, the military commander for the Indo-Pacific region, described what he sees as a risk that China could try to reclaim Taiwan by force within the next six years.

The United States has long avoided saying how it would respond to such an attack, instead focusing on maintaining a careful balance intended both to avoid provoking Beijing or emboldening Taiwan into a formal declaration of independence that could lead to a Chinese invasion. But some say it is time to warn explicitly that an invasion of Taiwan would mean a costly fight with the United States.

“I think there’s been a shift in peoples’ thinking,” said Richard N. Haass, a former director of policy planning at the State Department under President George W. Bush and now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Haass helped prompt a conversation on the subject last year after publishing an essay in September in Foreign Affairs magazine with his colleague David Sacks.

“The time has come,” Mr. Haass and Mr. Sacks wrote, “for the United States to introduce a policy of strategic clarity: one that makes explicit that the United States would respond to any Chinese use of force against Taiwan.”

The idea is gaining traction, including on Capitol Hill, where Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, has introduced a bill that would authorize the president to take military action to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack — making America’s intentions ambiguous no more.

Defense Department officials say that a production accident that spoiled millions of doses will hamper its vaccination efforts overseas. An Air Force sergeant was vaccinated in December at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Credit…United States Forces Korea, via Getty Images

The contamination of as many as 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine has hobbled the military’s ability to vaccinate its overseas troops and their families, Defense Department officials said on Thursday.

“The recent event that caused the loss of about 15 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has affected the D.O.D. allocations,” said Army Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place, director, Defense Health Agency, using initials for the Department of Defense.

He noted that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been an important option for overseas use because it did not require the cold storage needed for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which has been widely used by the military domestically.

It is not clear why the military was counting on those vaccine doses to inoculate overseas personnel, when the plant where they were made had yet to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration to start shipping them. The Biden administration does not count doses that have not been released.

“We targeted the overseas community for our J. & J. vaccine supply, so we’re actively exploring other means to offset this temporary shortage,” General Place said.

Workers at a plant in Baltimore manufacturing two coronavirus vaccines — one for Johnson & Johnson and another for AstraZeneca — accidentally conflated ingredients, forcing the destruction of as many as 15 million doses and prompting regulators to delay authorization of the plant’s production lines.

The Biden administration has tried to play down the incident, saying the error would not hinder its goal of having enough shots for every American adult by summer.

The military was scheduled to receive just over one percent of all United States vaccine doses, and has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of people. A significant percentage of service members, however, have refused to take the vaccine.

Complaints have surfaced that troops overseas, their eligible family members and military contractors have struggled to get shots. Officials said Thursday that 14 percent of the doses the military received for domestic personnel were reassigned to overseas locations, noting that service members overseas had fewer options for getting a shot than those at home do.

Uniformed personnel overseas are now vaccinated at rates between 10 percent and 15 percent higher than in the continental United States, but this may be because many received shots before deploying. Precisely how many service members, family members and contractors have been vaccinated was not clear Thursday, and rates vary by service branch. For example, in the Navy, roughly half of eligible personnel have gotten at least one vaccine dose; in the Air Force it is 35 percent.

“If you’re a service member stationed overseas or a family member likewise stationed overseas, and you haven’t received a vaccine, and you don’t know when you’ll be able to, these numbers mean nothing,” General Place said. “And it’s understandably frustrating.”

Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, with reporters at the Capitol last month.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key moderate Democrat, on Wednesday reaffirmed his vow to protect the filibuster in the evenly divided Senate and suggested reluctance to his party repeatedly using a fast-track budget process to advance legislation without Republican votes.

Mr. Manchin has long been one of the most stalwart defenders of the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate in the upper chamber, even as it threatens to derail key elements of President Biden’s agenda. Despite previously toying with possible reforms to the procedural hurdle, he has repeatedly swatted away queries about what could drive him to vote to outright abolish the filibuster, even as Democrats have gamed out various scenarios in which he might relent.

In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, Mr. Manchin vowed that there was “no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” and he urged party leaders to compromise on legislation instead of trying to work around Republican opposition. Ten Republicans are currently needed to join all Democrats in a 50-50 Senate to pass major pieces of legislation through the regular process.

The comments took on added significance after a key Senate official on Monday issued guidance that could allow Democrats to pursue the fast-track budget reconciliation process at least one more time before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, after they used it to pass Mr. Biden’s nearly $1.9 trillion pandemic relief law without any Republican votes.

“We will not solve our nation’s problems in one Congress if we seek only partisan solutions,” Mr. Manchin wrote. “Instead of fixating on eliminating the filibuster or shortcutting the legislative process through budget reconciliation, it is time we do our jobs.”

Pressure has mounted for Democrats to further push the boundaries of what a majority party can do unilaterally when in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, in order to deliver on a series of campaign promises. While Democrats do not yet have the votes to abolish the filibuster, they have explored other avenues to ensure Mr. Biden’s agenda becomes law.

In recent days, that has included expanding the frequency of reconciliation, which allows certain budgetary legislation to clear both chambers on a simple majority vote. While Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, appears to have agreed with the Democratic argument that they can use the process multiple times in one fiscal year, it remains unclear how and when they might employ those possible opportunities, and for what.

While Mr. Manchin did not outright refuse to support another use of the fast-track reconciliation process, he challenged both parties to work together and compromise on critical pieces of legislation, including infrastructure and tax changes. Any use of reconciliation would require Mr. Manchin — and virtually every congressional Democrat — to remain united behind the legislation.

“Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our Republican colleagues on important national issues,” Mr. Manchin wrote. “Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no, and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats.”

While many questions remain about how Democrats could potentially use another chance at reconciliation, both Mr. Biden and congressional leaders insist they want to work with Republicans to reach compromises, particularly on the sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure proposal the White House just unveiled.

“There are things we’re working on together — some of which we’ve passed and some we will pass,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday. He suggested a group of 10 Republican senators who sought to compromise on his pandemic relief plan did not do enough to jump start negotiations with their initial $618 billion plan. “If they come forward with a plan that did the bulk of it and it was a billion — three or four, two or three — that allowed me to have pieces of all that was in there, I would have been prepared to compromise, but they didn’t,” he added.

The group of 10 Republican senators later issued a joint statement Wednesday evening arguing that the proposal had been “a first offer to the White House designed to open bipartisan negotiations” that instead had been dismissed “as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy.”

Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, is a pivotal swing vote in the Senate.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia flashed a warning sign for President Biden’s infrastructure ambitions this week, renewing his pleas for fellow Democrats not to ram through a large spending bill without first working to compromise with Republicans who have panned the president’s plans.

In a divided Washington, the chances that such a compromise will materialize are slim — at least for a sprawling spending plan of up to $4 trillion, as Mr. Manchin, a pivotal swing vote in the Senate, and administration officials favor. But even so, Mr. Manchin’s calls for bipartisanship were less an insurmountable obstacle for Democrats than a road map for Mr. Biden if he wants his party’s tiny congressional majorities to deliver him another economic policy victory.

It involves reaching out to Republicans to explore possible areas of compromise while laying the groundwork to steer around them if no such deal materializes.

Mr. Biden has already begun the outreach to Republicans, while senior Democrats in Congress are exploring a budget maneuver that would allow the infrastructure bill to pass quickly with only Democratic votes. Both are aimed at increasing the pressure on Republicans to compromise — and, if they will not, giving Mr. Manchin and other moderate Democrats whose backing Mr. Biden needs the political cover to accept an all-Democratic plan.

“I’m going to bring Republicans to the White House,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday. “I invite them to come. We’ll have good-faith negotiations. And any Republican who wants to get this done, I invite.”

A moment later, he urged Republicans to “listen to your constituents,” arguing that voters across America back infrastructure spending on the scale Mr. Biden envisions — not the scaled-back versions many Republicans have floated.

The comments reflected a huge caveat in Mr. Biden’s willingness to negotiate that Republicans say could scuttle any deal: The president wants to be the one to set the terms of how large the problems are, and of whether the proposed solutions are sufficient.

Behind the scenes, his team is working to soften the ground for bipartisan work. And business lobbyists and some lawmakers remain hopeful that Mr. Manchin’s appeal could prod Mr. Biden and congressional leaders toward a set of mini-compromises on infrastructure.

But some Democrats worry that such compromises could sap momentum for the rest of Mr. Biden’s agenda, including forthcoming proposals for education, child care and more. Others say the opposite: that a few deals would give Mr. Biden and his party traction with voters, and fuel to pass a large spending bill, funded by tax increases, later this year with only Democratic votes.





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