Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve, for supplies and efforts to restructure it that began last year. Nearly $7 billion would create an agency meant to research diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Reporting was contributed by Coral Davenport, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Lisa Friedman, Brad Plumer, Christopher Flavelle, Mark Walker, Dana Goldstein, Mark Walker, Noah Weiland, Margot Sanger-Katz, Lara Jakes, Noam Scheiber, Katie Benner and Emily Cochrane.

View Source

Iran Nuclear Talks Start on Positive Note in Vienna

BRUSSELS — Talks in Vienna aimed at reinvigorating the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration left in 2018 and which Tehran began breaking a year later made some progress this week: They didn’t break down.

Senior diplomats involved in the talks agreed on Friday that initial steps in two working groups designed to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the accord were positive and would continue next week.

Although there are no direct talks between Iran and the United States, the other signatories to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, under the chairmanship of the European Union — are engaging in a kind of shuttle diplomacy between them.

One working group is focusing on how to lift the harsh economic sanctions that the United States imposed that are inconsistent with the terms of the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A. The other working group is focusing on how Iran can return to the limits on enriched uranium and the centrifuges to produce it under the terms of the deal.

a Twitter message after Friday’s meeting that “participants took stock of the work done by experts over the last three days and noted with satisfaction the initial progress made.” The senior diplomats who meet in what is known as the Joint Commission — representing all signatories except the United States — will reconvene next week “in order to maintain the positive momentum,” Mr. Ulyanov said.

The Iranian representative, Abbas Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister, said that the Joint Commission would meet again on Wednesday. In the meeting, he emphasized Iran’s commitment to the talks and that “this depends on the political will and seriousness of the other parties, otherwise there will be no reason to continue the negotiations,” according to comments posted on Twitter by the Iranian journalist Abas Aslani.

On Thursday, Mr. Araghchi told Iran’s Press TV that he saw hopeful signs from Washington about sanctions relief, but that “I think we have a longer road ahead, although we’re moving forward and the atmosphere is constructive.”

But a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said this week that Iran has now produced 55 kilograms, or around 120 pounds, of uranium enriched to 20 percent and within another eight months could reach 120 kilograms. In mid-February the amount was some 17.6 kilograms, which is indicative of why the other powers want to move quickly to bring Iran back to the limits mandated in the deal. Iran is also using advanced centrifuges and making uranium metal, both banned under the deal.

U.S. officials have worked to play down expectations for any quick breakthrough and have urged patience. Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, has said that the United States is prepared to lift all the sanctions reimposed and new ones imposed by President Donald Trump after May 2018 that are “inconsistent” with the nuclear deal.

sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, for instance, imposed in September 2019, are under terrorism legislation. But analysts believe that Iran will not accept leaving that sanction in place.

In what has been perceived as a gesture of good will, Iran on Friday released a South Korean oil tanker that had been held since January in a dispute over billions of dollars seized by Seoul in response to punishing American sanctions.

Iran had accused the ship, the MT Hankuk Chemi, of polluting the waters in the Strait of Hormuz, but the seizure was widely seen as an attempt to put pressure on Seoul to release billions of dollars in Iranian assets tied up in South Korean banks in response to U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The European Union said in a statement after Friday’s meeting that “participants took stock of the discussions held at various levels since the last Joint Commission in view of a possible return of the U.S.” to the nuclear deal and “discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation.”

The commission “was briefed on the work of the two expert groups on sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures and participants noted the constructive and results-oriented exchanges.”

View Source

Iran Releases South Korean Oil Tanker

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A South Korean oil tanker held for months by Iran amid a dispute over billions of dollars seized by Seoul left port early Friday after the ship and its captain were released, just hours ahead of further talks between Tehran and world powers over its tattered nuclear deal.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the MT Hankuk Chemi left an Iranian port around 6 a.m. local time after completing an administrative process, and data from MarineTraffic.com showed the tanker leaving Bandar Abbas in the early morning hours.

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, later confirmed that Iran had released the vessel. “At the request of the owner and the Korean government, the order to release the ship was issued by the prosecutor,” Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency.

The Hankuk Chemi had been traveling in January from a petrochemicals facility in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates when armed troops from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stormed the vessel and forced the ship to change course and travel to Iran.

Iran in February released much of the ship’s crew.

The Yonhap news agency in South Korea, quoting an anonymous Foreign Ministry official, suggested that Seoul could pay off Iran’s United Nations dues that had been in arrears.

In January, the United Nations said Iran topped a list of countries that owed money to the world body, and the country risks losing its voting rights if the debt issue is not resolved.

The development came as Iran and world powers were set to resume negotiations in Vienna on Friday to break the standoff over U.S. sanctions against Iran and Iranian breaches of the nuclear agreement.

The 2015 nuclear accord, which President Donald Trump abandoned three years later, offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

View Source

Biden’s Judge Push

President Biden last week named 11 people he plans to nominate to serve on federal courts, more than any recent president this early in his term. Nine are women, three are Black women and one would become the country’s first Muslim federal judge.

I spoke to Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent and the author of a book about Trump-era fights over the judiciary, about why Biden is rushing to shape the courts and how judges became so central to American politics. Our conversation has been condensed.

Ian: Donald Trump’s judicial appointments were a big part of his presidency, and now Biden seems to be making filling vacancies a priority. Why have the courts become so important?

Carl: Because the courts are deciding our political fights now. Climate change, voting rights, immigration, redistricting: Because the legislative branch is so stuck, the courts are getting to be the arbiters. They’ve been amplified as a political issue because of their increased importance in deciding big, cutting-edge issues.

put 220-some judges on there — many of them very conservative, most of them white males and some of them with very little legal experience — the Biden folks concluded they needed to get different kinds of people on the courts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, has a totally white lineup of judges. So Biden picked Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, who is a Black woman and a former federal public defender. Public defenders see the federal courts from another side — from the perspective of the defendant. That’s a big change. I think Biden wanted to make a statement about the kinds of judges he wants: people with different life and legal experiences.

There are currently 68 vacancies, with another 26 scheduled to open this year. Does that limit how transformative Biden can be?

The transformation is going to be in the types of judges. Biden is going to have a hard time matching Trump’s numbers, which were over four years. And that was a concerted campaign by Mitch McConnell, to the exclusion of many other things.

a bigger point of emphasis because of Trump. Democrats watched what Senator McConnell did so successfully, and they are eager to replicate that from the other end of the ideological spectrum. Trump’s going to have people on the bench for 30 years, maybe 40. There’s still a few Reagan judges out there.

Trump appointed three justices to the Supreme Court. Many Democrats hope that Stephen Breyer, who is 82 and one of the court’s three remaining liberals, will retire soon. Does that seem like Biden’s best hope to fill a seat?

We’ll see what happens. A lot of Democrats don’t want to get caught in this Ruth Bader Ginsburg situation again. And Justice Breyer is an extremely smart guy, and also a political guy. He knows what’s going on here.

The Virus

Suzanne Nossel argues in Foreign Policy.

  • “A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected,” John Boehner, a Republican who served as House speaker, writes in Politico Magazine about the right’s paranoid turn. (Warning: Profanity abounds.)

  • Morning Reads

    A New SoHo: It was a haven for artists. Now it’s full of luxury storefronts. What’s next? Maybe affordable housing.

    Lives Lived: Winfred Rembert survived a near-lynching in rural Georgia in 1967. He learned to carve figures into leather while in prison, and later became a renowned artist whose work told the story of the Jim Crow South. He died at 75.

    writes in The Times.

    The pandemic has left many reeling from a loss of health, of income, of loved ones or of a normal way of life. Though circumstances vary, the mood is often similar.

    “When people are under a long period of chronic, unpredictable stress, they develop behavioral anhedonia” — a reduced ability to take pleasure in activities — Margaret Wehrenberg, an expert on anxiety, said. “And so they get lethargic, and they show a lack of interest — and obviously that plays a huge role in productivity.”

    How are people trying to cope? Some are meditating, turning to alcohol or edibles, going for walks or re-engaging with a spiritual practice. Others are finding pockets of joy where they can — sending postcards, exchanging gifts with neighbors or adopting pets. And some have embraced the notion that it’s all right not to be productive during a period of major global upheaval.

    “You’re supposed to be inventing something or coming up with the next big business idea,” one person told The Times last year. “I’m trying to be more OK with just being.”

    is miso.

    What to Watch

    The Korean star Yuh-Jung Youn has had a thriving career for five decades. Now, at 73, she’s up for an Oscar for her role in “Minari.” She spoke with The Times about her career.

    Close Read

    Explore the hidden details of this stunning 17th-century portrait of the emperor who built the Taj Mahal.

    Late Night

    Daniel Kaluuya, star of “Get Out” and “Judas and the Black Messiah,” hosted “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend. Here’s a recap.

    Now Time to Play

    play online.

    And Friday’s Bee Plus answer: CHINA, CHIA, ECHINACEA

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Gas that comes down as rain on Jupiter (four letters).

    View Source

    Biden’s Afghanistan Dilemma

    Is America’s longest war finally coming to an end?

    That’s the question President Biden is confronting before a May 1 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, where they have been deployed since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. I spoke to my colleagues Helene Cooper and T.M. Gibbons-Neff about Biden’s three basic options, and the potential risks.

    1. Withdraw now. Biden’s history suggests he might personally favor a quick drawdown, Helene, who covers the Pentagon, says. As vice president, Biden argued for a smaller U.S. presence in Afghanistan than Barack Obama’s military advisers wanted. (He lost that argument.)

    Now that Biden is in a position to decide, his outlook seems to have shifted. He has said that bringing the roughly 3,500 U.S. soldiers home by May — a deadline Biden inherited from Donald Trump — would be logistically difficult. “Think about how you move into an apartment and you live there for a year, how much it takes to move out,” T.M., who is based in the Afghan capital, Kabul, says. “Imagine going to war for two decades.”

    A hasty departure could also have consequences for Afghanistan. The Trump administration agreed to withdraw as part of a deal it struck last year with the Taliban, the repressive militant group that ruled much of the country before the U.S. invaded. The Taliban are already supporting targeted killings against Afghan civilians and soldiers. If American forces leave, some Afghans and U.S. officials fear the Taliban will attempt a military takeover.

    women’s education and democracy the country has made since 2001.

    think they have the upper hand.

    testimony from a teenage store clerk who described the moments before George Floyd’s death, and watched police body-camera footage of the arrest. Here are more takeaways from Day 3 of the trial.

  • Four people, including a child, are dead after a shooting at an office building in Southern California, the third mass shooting in the U.S. in the past 16 days. The authorities are expected to release more details this morning.

  • New York State legalized the use of recreational marijuana. And the state’s prisons will end long-term solitary confinement.

  • After staying silent last week, Delta and Coca-Cola, two of Georgia’s largest companies, expressed “crystal clear” opposition to the state’s new law to restrict voting access.

  • A Hong Kong court found prominent pro-democracy activists guilty of unauthorized assembly. It’s part of a Beijing-led campaign to quash opposition.

  • Aleksei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, declared a hunger strike, demanding better medical treatment.

  • The musician Paul Simon sold his songwriting catalog to Sony. Several other noted songwriters have struck big deals recently.

  • After about 10 minutes of grocery shopping, a New Mexico man returned to his car to find 15,000 bees in the back seat.

  • Woof: Would you buy your dog a charcuterie board?

    Lives Lived: The white minority government in Rhodesia imprisoned Janice McLaughlin, an American nun, for exposing atrocities against Black citizens. Years later, when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, she returned to help establish an educational system. McLaughlin died at 79.

    Forbes reported that he made nearly $30 million last year.

    The children’s section of YouTube is lucrative: Half of the 10 most popular videos on the platform are for children, and the catchy kids’ song “Baby Shark” is its most-viewed video. But as Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Kaji’s success goes far beyond the ad money from his videos. Like the Olsen twins and JoJo Siwa before him, he has an empire built on merchandising.

    Kaji’s parents have made deals with Walmart and Target for toys and clothes, as well as TV deals with Amazon and Nickelodeon. A footwear line with Skechers is in the works. The bulk of Kaji’s revenue now comes from the licensing side.

    Other children’s YouTube channels are also cashing in: Cocomelon, which has more than 100 million subscribers, has a line of toys. Pinkfong, the educational brand behind “Baby Shark,” has merchandise and a Nickelodeon series.

    For more on Kaji, read the rest of Bloomberg’s story.

    play online.

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Steal (five letters).

    If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.


    Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — Ian

    P.S. Our colleague Sarah Lyall is writing about burnout and motivation, as more workers contemplate a return to the office. Tell her how you’re coping.

    You can see today’s print front page here.

    Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the Amazon union vote in Alabama. On “Sway,” Cathy Park Hong discusses anti-Asian racism.

    View Source

    Donald Trump uses new website to rewrite history of his presidency

    Donald Trump has launched a new website celebrating his time as US president that includes a very selective retelling of the history of his time in office.

    45office.com is billed as a platform for his supporters to stay in touch and a place where Trump will continue his “America first” campaign.

    The centrepiece of the site is an 885-word history of the Trump presidency, listing the achievements of what it describes as “the most extraordinary political movement in history”.

    In a hyperbolic opening paragraph, it says he dethroned political dynasties, defeated “the Washington establishment” and “overcame virtually every entrenched power structure”.

    The history does, however, omit several significant moments from Trump’s presidency.

    On the economy, the site says: “President Trump ushered in a period of unprecedented economic growth, job creation, soaring wages, and booming incomes.” Trump frequently described his administration as building “the greatest economy in the history of our country”, a claim repeatedly debunked. It also fails to note that during the pandemic last year the US economy suffered one of its worst financial crashes.

    The US recorded the world’s largest coronavirus death toll on Trump’s watch, but the website describes his handling of the pandemic as a success, saying: “When the coronavirus plague arrived from China, afflicting every nation around the globe, President Trump acted early and decisively.” It neglects to mention that Trump had in fact described coronavirus as a problem that’s “going to go away” five times in March 2020, even as case numbers rose.

    A screenshot of Donald Trump’s new website. Photograph: Donald Trump official website

    Also absent is that Trump became the first US president in history to twice face impeachment trials in Congress. And that he was the first US president to lose the popular vote twice. Hillary Clinton secured 2.8m more votes than Trump in 2016, and Joe Biden’s 2020 margin of victory was even larger, at 7m votes.

    Nor does it mention that he became the first major world leader to be banned from social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter while in office after they deemed he had used their sites to cite an insurrection. The Capitol riot, which led to the loss of five lives, also does not warrant a mention.

    The website’s homepage boasts that “the office of Donald J Trump is committed to preserving the magnificent legacy of the Trump administration, while at the same time advancing the America first agenda”.

    It also promises that “through civic engagement and public activism, the office of Donald J Trump will strive to inform, educate, and inspire Americans from all walks of life as we seek to build a truly great American future”.

    Trump retains significant influence over the Republican party despite his loss in the 2020 election and has hinted at a possible presidential run in 2024. He has also started actively backing Republican candidates who may be able to unseat fellow party members Trump feels were disloyal to him by failing to back his baseless claims of election fraud last year.

    In an interview with Fox News this month, Jason Miller, a former Trump campaign spokesperson, said that following his bans from Twitter and Facebook, Trump would launch his own social media platform in the next few months.

    View Source

    Key Republican in voter restriction effort advised Trump in bid to overturn 2020 results

    A Republican lawyer who advised Donald Trump on his campaign to overturn the 2020 election results is now playing a central role coordinating the Republican effort to tighten voting laws around the country.

    The moves comes as Trump himself signaled his support for new Republican-pushed legislation in Georgia which critics have slammed as being a major blow to voting rights for communities of color, especially Black voters. Joe Biden called the Georgia laws “Jim Crow in the 21st Century” and “an atrocity”.

    But Trump, whose grip on the Republican party remains strong, welcomed the Georgia developments. “Congratulations to Georgia and the Georgia state legislature on changing their voter rules and regulations,” Trump said in a statement through his Pac, Save America, which repeated his baseless allegation that fraud was a factor in his election loss to Biden. “They learned from the travesty of the 2020 presidential election, which can never be allowed to happen again. Too bad these changes could not have been done sooner!”

    Trump is still a dominant force among the party’s Republican base and his backing for clamping down on voting rights – and the involvement of people close to him – reveal the likely future direction of the party as it faces up to diversifying demographic trends in America at odds with its mostly white support.

    Cleta Mitchell, a longtime Republican lawyer and advocate for conservative causes, was among the Trump advisers on a January phone call in which Trump asked Georgia election officials to “find” enough votes to declare him, and not Biden, the winner of the battleground state.

    Now Mitchell has taken the helm of two separate efforts to push for tighter state voting laws and to fight Democratic efforts to expand access to the ballot at the federal level. She is also advising state lawmakers crafting the voting restriction proposals. And she is in regular contact with Trump.

    “People are actually interested in getting involved and we have to harness all this energy,” Mitchell said in an interview with the Associated Press. “There are a lot of groups that have projects on election integrity that never did before.”

    Trump’s false claims of fraud during and after the 2020 election have fueled a wave of new voting restrictions.

    More than 250 proposed voting restrictions have been proposed this year by mostly Republican lawmakers, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

    On Thursday, Georgia’s GOP governor signed into law a measure requiring voters to present ID to vote by mail, gives the GOP-controlled state legislature new powers over local elections boards and outlaws providing food or water to people waiting in line to vote.

    In response, Democrats have stepped up the push for a massive federal election overhaul bill. That proposal, known as HR1, would effectively neuter state-level voter ID laws, allow anyone to vote by mail if they wanted to and automatically register citizens to vote. Republicans view that as an encroachment on state control over elections and say it is designed to give Democrats an advantage.

    “The left is trying to dismantle 100 years of advancement in election administration,” Mitchell said, expressing bafflement at Democrats’ charges that Republicans are trying to suppress votes. “We’re watching two different movies right now.”

    Mitchell’s most public involvement in the voting wars came in participation on Trump’s call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, on 2 January. During that call, Mitchell insisted she had evidence of voting fraud, but officials with the secretary of state’s office told her that her data was incorrect.

    Mitchell has two new roles in an emerging conservative voting operation. She’s running a $10m initiative at the limited government group FreedomWorks to both push for new restrictions in voting and help train conservatives to get involved in the nuts and bolts of local elections.

    She’s also a senior legal fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute, an organization run by former Republican Senator Jim DeMint. She says she’ll use that role to “coordinate” conservative voting positions, particularly in opposition to HR 1.

    Mitchell, 70, has links to other influential players in the conservative movement and serves as outside counsel to the American Legislative Exchange Committee, a conservative group that provides model legislation to state lawmakers and organized a call with state lawmakers and Ted Cruz, the Texas senator, on opposing HR 1.

    Mitchell told the Associated Press she’s been talking regularly with Republican state lawmakers about the need for new election laws. She would not identify whom she speaks with but said it’s been a longtime passion.

    She similarly would not detail her conversations with Trump or say whether they involved the new voting fights. “I’m in touch with the president fairly frequently,” she said of Trump.

    Repeated audits have shown no significant problems with the 2020 election. Trump and his supporters lost more than 50 court cases challenging its results.

    View Source

    Biden’s Big Plan

    A new president needs to make choices. Recent history suggests that an administration has only about a year to push major legislation through Congress before attention turns to the midterm elections (which rarely go well for the party in power). Any bill not at the very top of the president’s list is unlikely to happen.

    For the past few decades, new presidents have focused on two issues above all others: taxes and health care. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both made expanding access to health insurance their top long-term priority, with Clinton failing and Obama succeeding. George W. Bush focused on cutting taxes, and Donald Trump tried to cut taxes and repeal Obamacare.

    President Biden will break this pattern.

    His advisers are preparing a set of proposals intended to reshape the U.S. economy and other parts of American life. If they pass, they will almost certainly have a more lasting effect on people’s lives than the virus-relief bill that Biden signed two weeks ago. And while the proposals include measures on health care and taxes, they are broader — more diffuse, a critic might say — than the top priorities of other recent presidents.

    During last year’s campaign, Biden described the package with the phrase “build back better.” It is an attempt to create a more prosperous, equal and sustainable economy. It’s the Democratic Party’s answer to decades of rising inequality and growing damage from climate change.

    latest episode of Ezra Klein’s Times podcast. “Now we have to deal with the long-term structural problems facing our country that have long, long been neglected, way before the pandemic. And that is the need to rebuild a crumbling infrastructure, the need to address the existential threat of climate change, the need to create many millions of jobs, decent-paying jobs.”

    The White House has not yet released all of the details, and they will probably change as the package moves through Congress. But here’s an overview of what we know about the major pieces.

    a monthly child payment that starts at $250 per child for most families, as well as a big expansion of paid family leave. These provision would significantly reduce both economic and racial inequalities.

    Health care. Biden’s plan would expand Obamacare by extending several two-year provisions in the virus-relief bill, The Times’s Margot Sanger-Katz says. It would cut costs for nearly every family that receives coverage through the law and expand subsidies to some making more than $100,000 a year.

    The package may also include a measure to limit how much pharmaceutical companies can charge Medicare for prescription drugs, which could lead to lower prices for private insurance plans.

    The plan does not appear to include another idea Biden has said he favors — expanding access to government insurance plans, through a public option or allowing younger people to buy into Medicare.

    Lower prescription-drug costs would cover some of the package’s $3 trillion to $4 trillion in new spending over 10 years. But a bigger source of money would be higher taxes on the affluent — people making at least $400,000 a year — and on corporations.

    Republicans are unlikely to support any such tax increases, which means Democrats would need to pass major parts of the package through a Senate mechanism known as reconciliation. Bills that go through reconciliation need only 51 votes in the Senate, rather than 60, to pass.

    have almost uniformly opposed the top legislative priorities of each new Democratic president over the past three decades.

    have rallied across Britain in opposition to a bill that would give the police more power to crack down on nonviolent demonstrations.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court will review a case considering the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers.

  • Since Ellen DeGeneres apologized over accusations of workplace misconduct, her talk show has lost about one million viewers, more than 40 percent of its audience.

  • Ancient: The oldest wooden sculpture is 12,500 years old. It’s teaching us about prehistory.

    Lives Lived: Elgin Baylor played above the rim in a Hall of Fame career with the Lakers. His acrobatic brilliance foreshadowed the freewheeling shows put on by future N.B.A. stars. Baylor died at 86.

    is selling thousands of books. Some enthusiastic readers — mostly women in their teens and 20s — are posting videos of themselves reading or recommending novels. Occasionally, they sob into the camera after a particularly devastating ending.

    a popular TikTok video last year, and the book is now selling roughly nine times as many copies a week as it was in 2012, when it won a prestigious fiction award. The book is currently third on the New York Times best-seller list for paperback fiction.

    Seeing the potential, some publishers have begun paying — or sending free books to — users with large followings. The fees range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per post. For now, though, the majority of these videos remain unsponsored, happening organically.

    View Source

    Trump backs challenge to Georgia official who refused to overturn election

    Donald Trump advanced his quest on Monday to purge elected Republicans who refused to go along with his attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election, announcing an endorsement in Georgia in an effort to unseat a key election official.

    The secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, infuriated Trump last year by refusing a point-blank request to fake the presidential election result in Georgia.

    Jody Hice, a Republican member of Congress who supported Trump’s effort to overturn Joe Biden’s win, announced on Monday he would challenge Raffensperger in a summer 2022 primary. Trump endorsed Hice immediately.

    “Unlike the current Georgia secretary of state, Jody leads out front with integrity,” Trump said in a statement that repeated his false claims of election fraud and declared his “complete and total endorsement” of Hice.

    Two months out of office, Trump has begun an effort to flex his influence with core Republican voters who will decide the party’s nominations in thousands of races across the country next year.

    Trump boasted of the effort in an appearance on a podcast hosted by a Fox News contributor, The Truth with Lisa Boothe.

    “The fact that I give somebody an endorsement has meant the difference between a victory and a massive defeat,” he said. “They’re all going to win and they’re going to win big.”

    Trump has shown a high success rate with endorsements in Republican primaries. He has repeatedly endorsed losing candidates in general election contests, however – including both Georgia US Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who were beaten by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in January, tipping the Senate to Democratic control.

    Some Republicans fear Trump’s intervention in primary elections could produce extreme nominees who might be relatively weak in general election contests.

    Other Republicans high on Trump’s hitlist include the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, and Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican senator up for re-election in 2022 to vote to convict Trump at his second impeachment trial.

    Raffensperger is the most prominent elected official to be targeted by Trump so far with an endorsement of a challenger. In a phone call after the election, Trump told Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” so he could win the state, which no Republican presidential candidate had lost in three decades.

    “The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Trump told Raffensperger in a call Raffensperger recorded. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

    In an interview with the Guardian about his decision to defend the election result, Raffensperger said he voted for Trump but would not help him steal the election.

    “I’m a conservative Republican. Yes, I wanted President Trump to win,” he said. “But as secretary of state we have to do our job. I’m gonna walk that fine, straight, line with integrity. I think that integrity still matters.”

    Since being banned from his longtime social media megaphone, Twitter, for spreading election lies, Trump has tried new methods for getting messages out, in the form of statements e-blasted to reporters – and now, podcast appearances.

    Trump told Boothe the new format was better than Twitter.

    “We’re sending out releases, they’re getting picked up much better than any tweet,” he said. “When I put out a statement, it’s much more elegant than a tweet, and I think it gets picked up better.”

    View Source

    The Democrats’ Immigration Problem

    For most of the past few decades, the Democratic Party had a pretty clear stance on immigration. It favored a mix of enforcement (like border security and the deportation of undocumented immigrants who committed serious crimes) and new pro-immigrant laws (like an increase in legal immigration and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people).

    In recent years, however, a growing number of immigration advocates and progressive Democrats have become dissatisfied with this combination. They have pointed out that Democrats’ support for tighter border security has not led to the bipartisan compromise that it was supposed to: Republicans continue to block bills that offer a pathway to citizenship.

    In response, these progressives and activists have pushed the party to change. Bill Clinton ran for re-election on a platform that said, “We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it.” Barack Obama once said, “We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked.” President Biden has instead emphasized the humane treatment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status.

    After taking office, Biden began putting this idea into action. He announced a 100-day halt on deportations (which a judge has blocked). He allowed more migrants — especially children — to enter the country, rather than being detained. And Central American migrants, sensing that the U.S. has become more welcoming, are streaming north in the largest numbers in two decades.

    Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute, who ran the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the 1990s, told me. Republicans have pounced, accusing Democrats of favoring an “open border.”

    Some Democrats are unhappy, too. Biden’s policy “incentivizes droves of people to come, and the only way to slow it down is by changing policy at our doorstep,” Representative Vicente Gonzalez of Texas told The Washington Post. Henry Cuellar, another House Democrat from Texas, said the administration was sending “a terrible message.”

    It all stems from the fact that the Democratic Party no longer has a clear policy on immigration.

    While Donald Trump was president, he smoothed over the Democrats’ internal tensions because they could unite in opposition to him. Trump used racist language; Democrats abhorred it. Trump separated families and locked children in cages; Democrats promised to end those policies. Trump said he would build a border wall, paid for by Mexico; Democrats mocked his failure.

    With Trump out of office, however, the party faces some hard, unresolved questions, including:

    Do Democrats still favor the deportation of anyone? Some activists criticized Obama as the “deporter in chief.” But he focused deportations on only two groups: recent arrivals and immigrants who committed serious crimes.

    If Democrats prefer a more lenient policy than Obama’s, it isn’t clear whether they support the deportation of anybody — or whether they instead believe that the humane solution is to allow everybody who manages to enter the U.S., legally or illegally, to remain. The party’s 2020 platform doesn’t mention any conditions in which deportation is acceptable. Biden’s attempt to halt deportations for 100 days highlights the party’s new attitude.

    detaining children is fraught, and many Democrats consider the jailing of any immigrants akin to Trumpism.

    A third option is to admit migrants and order them to appear at a future legal hearing (as is happening with many children and families). The adults must often wear ankle bracelets. Still, the process can take years and raises other thorny issues. Many migrants are not good asylum candidates; they are coming to find work or to be near relatives, neither of which necessarily qualifies them for legal entry.

    Often, the administration will still be left to decide whom it is willing to deport.

    increase legal immigration. It could build more detention facilities with humane conditions. It could do more to improve conditions in Latin America and to push Mexico to control its own southern border. The Biden administration is pursuing many of these policies.

    But if Biden and his aides appear to be less steady on immigration than many other policy areas, there is a reason for that: They are less steady.

    Congress appears unlikely to increase legal immigration levels by much. And polls show that while public opinion favors a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, it also favors rigorous border security and the enforcement of existing immigration laws.

    I’m not even sure that these views should be described as conservative. Historically, many progressives supported immigration restrictions as a way to keep U.S. wages high. Today, working-class Americans — including many Asian-American, Black and Latino voters — tend to favor more restrictions than progressive Democrats, who are often high-earning professionals, do. This contrast may play a role in Republicans’ recent gains among minority voters.

    Cecilia Muñoz, a longtime immigrant advocate and former Obama adviser, told me. “And that’s the thing that makes Americans anxious.”

    One of the advantages to the Democrats’ old approach to immigration was that it was easy to describe: Be firm at the border, be generous to people who have lived in the U.S. for years. The new approach also has an abiding idea: Be more welcoming to people who want to enter the country. But Democrats still have not figured out the limits to that idea, which has created an early problem for the Biden presidency.

    The Times’s Farhad Manjoo has written. Shikha Dalmia has argued that more immigration will lift economic growth, and Matthew Yglesias has written “One Billion Americans” a book making the case that more immigration will help the U.S. compete with China.

  • Fewer: “The progressive case for reducing immigration” revolves around higher wages, according to Philip Cafaro. And The Atlantic’s David Frum has suggested that less immigration will reduce the political appeal of nativism.

  • In Bloom: Spring has arrived in New York. Here come the cornflowers, butterfly milkweed and black-eyed Susans.

    Lives Lived: Dr. Nawal el Saadawi was an Egyptian author, physician and advocate for women’s rights in the Arab world who told her own story of female genital mutilation in her memoirs. She died at 89.

    Take a virtual tour of the factory here.)

    “Outside, there is total chaos,” one enthusiast said. “But inside, around my little train set, it is quiet, it is picturesque.”

    play online.

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Heart throb (five letters).

    View Source