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Stefanik Elected as Cheney’s Replacement by House Republicans: Live Updates

Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, speaking to reporters on Thursday.
Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, speaking to reporters on Thursday.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

House Republicans on Friday elected Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, a vocal defender of former President Donald J. Trump, as their No. 3 leader, moving swiftly to replace Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was deposed this week for her refusal to stay silent about the former president’s election lies.

The secret-ballot vote, which unfolded in a basement auditorium at the Capitol, was the culmination of a remarkable campaign by Republicans to purge a vocal critic of Mr. Trump from their ranks, solidifying his grasp on the party and cementing a litmus test for its leaders of unswerving loyalty to the former president.

Ms. Stefanik, 36, who campaigned as a pragmatic moderate when she was elected to Congress in 2014 and has sometimes crossed party lines to vote with Democrats, in recent years has become a strident ally of Mr. Trump. Republican leaders, citing her messaging discipline and fund-raising prowess, had effectively anointed her as Ms. Cheney’s successor even before the Wyoming Republican, a staunch conservative, was voted out of leadership on Wednesday.

On Friday, Ms. Stefanik beat out Representative Chip Roy of Texas, an arch-conservative who had framed his candidacy as a protest against what he called an ill-considered rush by House leaders to install a Republican who did not represent the party’s core values. But she defeated his challenge, by a vote of 134-46.

On the heels of House Republicans’ vote to force Ms. Cheney out of leadership for her refusal to stay quiet about Mr. Trump’s false narrative of a stolen election, Ms. Stefanik’s ascendancy offered a stark contrast. Unlike Ms. Cheney, she voted on Jan. 6 to invalidate electoral votes for President Biden, and in the months since has repeated several of Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election. She has also endorsed the Arizona election audit, a Republican-led endeavor that critics in both parties have described as a blow to democratic norms and a political embarrassment.

In her first public remarks after the election, Ms. Stefanik pledged to maintain a focus “on unity” as conference chair, and thanked Mr. Trump, who had endorsed her candidacy several times from Mar-a-Lago and cheered her victory in a statement moments after, calling him “a critical part of our Republican team.”

Asked if she believed Mr. Trump was the leader of the Republican Party, Ms. Stefanik said: “I believe that voters determine the leader of the Republican Party, and President Trump is the leader that they look to. I support President Trump, voters support President Trump; he is an important voice in our Republican Party.”

Ms. Cheney, who was embarking on something of a media tour in the wake of her ouster, pressing her concerns about Mr. Trump and her party’s continuing embrace of him, has criticized Republicans who perpetuate the falsehood that the election was illegitimate, noting that courts considered and rejected scores of challenges.

Ms. Stefanik had pledged to unite the conference as it tries to take back the majority in the 2022 midterm elections, and billed herself as a messenger who would not make comments that put members on the spot on issues like election integrity, as Ms. Cheney had.

“My focus is on unity, because that’s what the American people, and that’s what our voters, deserve,” she said on Friday.

Still, Ms. Stefanik has drawn some criticism from hard-right members of the conference who have questioned her conservative bona fides, noting that she had cast a number of votes in the early days of Mr. Trump’s presidency opposing key aspects of his agenda, including opposing his emergency declaration to build a wall at the southern border and voting against his signature 2017 tax cut bill.

In the closed-door meeting on Friday, Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, a member of the Freedom Caucus and a close ally of Ms. Cheney’s, landed a jab at Ms. Stefanik as he rose to nominate Mr. Roy for the post. Mr. Roy was a more suitable choice, Mr. Buck said, according to a person familiar with his remarks, since Republicans were not voting on which lawmaker was most likely to join “the Squad,” the high-profile foursome of congresswomen who are among the most liberal members of the House.

Speaker John A. Boehner delivered farewell remarks shortly before the House was set to elect Representative Paul D. Ryan as the new Speaker in 2015.
Speaker John A. Boehner delivered farewell remarks shortly before the House was set to elect Representative Paul D. Ryan as the new Speaker in 2015.Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

As dissension boiled in their ranks, House Republicans quickly turned on the chairman of their conference, the member of the leadership team responsible for party messaging. After a swift vote, the occupant of that office was unceremoniously dumped.

The year was 1998 and the ousted leader was Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, who became a casualty of election losses that November and internal unrest over the tumultuous reign of Speaker Newt Gingrich.

It was an episode that could be instructive for Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was bounced from that same leadership post on Wednesday for speaking out about President Donald J. Trump’s election lies and Republican denialism surrounding the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. Mr. Boehner famously proved that being out does not necessarily mean being down forever when he resurrected himself eight years later to become the leader of the party and ultimately speaker in 2011.

“Now before me, most people in my position just left,” Mr. Boehner said in an interview recounting his fall and rise. “You know, I wasn’t that smart.”

Mr. Boehner, a co-host of a recent fund-raising event for Ms. Cheney, said he was not inclined to dispense advice. But he said he believed she had opportunities.

“She is a smart lady and she has a big platform,” he said. “The question is, how do you play those cards?”

President Biden in March after addressing the nation from the White House.
President Biden in March after addressing the nation from the White House.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

On policy issues, President Biden can take days or weeks to make up his mind as he examines and second-guesses himself and others. It is a method of governing that can feel at odds with the urgency of a country still reeling from a pandemic and an economy struggling to recover.

Interviews with more than two dozen current and former Biden associates provide an early look into how Mr. Biden operates as president — how he deliberates, whom he consults for advice and what drives his decisions as he settles into the office he has chased for more than three decades.

What emerges is a portrait of a president with a short fuse, who is obsessed with getting the details right — sometimes to a fault, including when he angered allies and adversaries alike by repeatedly delaying a decision on whether to allow more refugees into the United States.

Those closest to him say Mr. Biden is unwilling, or unable, to skip the routine. As a longtime adviser put it: He needs time to process the material so that he feels comfortable selling it to the public. But the approach has its risks.

Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina used his turn to question whether rioters involved in the Capitol attack had actually been Trump supporters.
Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina used his turn to question whether rioters involved in the Capitol attack had actually been Trump supporters.Credit…Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Four months after supporters of President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol in a deadly riot, a growing number of Republicans in Congress are mounting a wholesale effort to rewrite the history of what happened on Jan. 6, downplaying or outright denying the violence and deflecting efforts to investigate it.

Their denialism — which has intensified for weeks and was on vivid display this week at a pair of congressional hearings — is one reason that lawmakers have been unable to agree on forming an independent commission to scrutinize the assault on the Capitol. Republicans have insisted that any inquiry include an examination of violence by antifa, a loose collective of antifascist activists, and Black Lives Matter. It also reflects an embrace of misinformation that has become a hallmark of the Republican Party in the age of Mr. Trump.

“A denial of finding the truth is what we have to deal with,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday. “We have to find the truth, and we are hoping to do so in the most bipartisan way possible.”

A House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the riot on Wednesday underlined the Republican strategy. Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the chairman of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, used his time to show video of mob violence purportedly by antifa that had unfolded 2,800 miles away in Portland, Ore.

His fellow Freedom Caucus member, Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina, used his turn to question whether rioters involved in the Capitol attack had actually been Trump supporters — despite their Trump shirts, hats and flags, “Make America Great Again” paraphernalia, and pro-Trump chants and social media posts.

“I don’t know who did the poll to say that they were Trump supporters,” Mr. Norman said.

Another Republican, Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia, described the scene during the assault and its aftermath as appearing like a “normal tourist visit” to the Capitol. At least five people died in connection with the riot (not four police officers, as an earlier post said). Nearly 140 people were injured.

“Let’s be honest with the American people: It was not an insurrection,” Mr. Clyde said, adding that the House floor was never breached and that no firearms had been confiscated. “There was an undisciplined mob..”

Immediately after the attack, many Republicans joined Democrats in condemning the violent takeover of the building known as the citadel of American democracy. But in the weeks that followed, Mr. Trump, abetted by right-wing news outlets and a few members of Congress, pushed the fiction that it had been carried out by antifa and Black Lives Matter, a claim that the federal authorities have repeatedly debunked. Now, a much broader group of Republican lawmakers have settled on a more subtle effort to cloud and distort what happened.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., in 2019.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., in 2019.Credit…House Television, via Associated Press

A former aide to Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, filed a lawsuit on Thursday claiming that he was fired after complaining about his boss’s disregard for safety measures meant to protect congressional staff members from the coronavirus, which he said resulted in an outbreak in Mr. Lamborn’s office.

The former aide, Brandon Pope, said in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, that he had tested positive for the virus on Nov. 19, one day after learning that Mr. Lamborn and two other staff members had contracted the virus.

Calling Mr. Lamborn the source of his own infection, either direct or indirect, Mr. Pope, 35, said his boss had misled his aides and the Office of the Attending Physician for Congress about his exposure. The lawsuit claims that Mr. Lamborn had slept in his Capitol Hill office and had close contact with infected staff members.

In the 16-page lawsuit filed against the office of Mr. Lamborn, Mr. Pope said that the representative had mostly barred aides in his district office in Colorado Springs from working remotely last year and made few accommodations to ensure social distancing or the wearing of masks.

When Mr. Pope told Mr. Lamborn and his chief of staff about his concerns, the lawsuit said, they dismissed them and eventually terminated him from his job as a defense and business adviser in December. From the start of the pandemic, Mr. Pope said, the message from Mr. Lamborn and Mr. Lamborn’s wife to the staff about the dangers of the virus had been clear.

“Both claimed that COVID was a hoax and asserted that the pandemic was being used to alter the course of the congressional and presidential elections,” the lawsuit said.

Cassandra Sebastian, a spokeswoman for Mr. Lamborn, 66, who was first elected to the House in 2006, denied the allegations in an emailed statement on Thursday.

“The workplace safety allegations made by Mr. Pope are unsubstantiated and did not result in the termination of his employment,” Ms. Sebastian said. “Congressman Lamborn looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light.”

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, said Mr. Pope was hired to work as a Wounded Warrior Fellow in Mr. Lamborn’s district office in August 2019 after he retired from military service as a captain in the Marines who had served in Afghanistan. Mr. Pope was then hired last May to a full-time position as a defense and business adviser to Mr. Lamborn, according to the lawsuit. He worked in Washington in June and July of last year, the lawsuit said.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas testifying on Thursday as Democrats and Republicans sparred over who is to blame for the current problems on the southern border.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas testifying on Thursday as Democrats and Republicans sparred over who is to blame for the current problems on the southern border.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

A decrease in migrant children who arrived alone at the southern border last month gave Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas some ammunition to try to persuade senators on Thursday that the Biden administration is making progress containing a surge of migrants.

But April also set a record for the total number of migrants apprehended at the border, and Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee told the secretary that what they called a crisis has only gotten worse.

More than 178,000 migrants were caught last month trying to cross the American border with Mexico, a slight increase over the record-setting numbers seen in March, according to the latest data from Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Homeland Security Department. Most of the migrants were from Central America, fleeing violence, poverty and natural disasters.

Of those, more than 17,000 were migrant children who arrived alone, were apprehended by Border Patrol officers and then transferred to federal shelters where they wait as officials try to place them with family members or other sponsors living inside the United States. The number is down 9 percent from March.

The number of migrants who try to cross the southern border typically increases in the spring months. Both the Obama administration in 2014 and the Trump administration in 2019 saw unusually high numbers of children arriving at the border alone.

But this year has been worse, and the situation at the border has become a partisan flash point, with Republicans contending that migrants are taking advantage of weak Biden administration policies.

“The crisis today is unprecedented, far worse than it was last year, and even substantially worse than 2019, when everyone considered it a crisis,” said Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the top Republican on the committee.

Mr. Mayorkas and other Biden officials have avoided describing the situation on the southern border as a crisis. And they point to recent successes of transferring the children out of the Border Patrol’s jail-like facilities and into large shelters overseen by the Health and Human Services Department. For example, on March 29, 5,767 migrant children were held in Border Patrol detention facilities for an average of 133 hours, nearly twice as long as what is legally allowed. At the same time, 11,886 children were in shelters run by Health and Human Services.

Those numbers have shifted after the government was able to bring on a network of emergency shelters. As of Wednesday, there were 536 migrant children in Border Patrol custody for an average of 24 hours. And 20,397 children were under the care of Health and Human Services, waiting in government custody to be placed, ideally, with a family member as their cases move slowly through the immigration court system. Many of the children who arrived at the border in 2019 are still in the country waiting to see an immigration judge.

For Republicans, the watchword is “crisis.”

“I see an extraordinary crisis,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said on Thursday.

“I mean, do you recognize this as an alarming crisis?” he asked Mr. Mayorkas.

Mr. Mayorkas responded, “I look at immigration as a challenge that has been persistent for many, many years,” but was cut off by Mr. Romney who pointed to border data that was on display in the hearing room and said, “Is this not a massive failure?”

President Donald J. Trump with H.R. McMaster, left, in 2017.
President Donald J. Trump with H.R. McMaster, left, in 2017.Credit…Al Drago/The New York Times

A network of conservative activists, aided by a British former spy, mounted a campaign during the Trump administration to discredit perceived enemies of President Trump inside the government, according to documents and people involved in the operations.

The campaign included a planned sting operation against Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, and secret surveillance operations against F.B.I. employees.

The operations against the F.B.I., run by the conservative group Project Veritas, were conducted from a large home in the Georgetown section of Washington that rented for $10,000 per month. Female undercover operatives arranged dates with the F.B.I. employees with the aim of secretly recording them making disparaging comments about Mr. Trump.

The campaign shows the obsession that some of Mr. Trump’s allies had about a shadowy “deep state” trying to blunt his agenda — and the lengths that some were willing to go to try to purge the government of those believed to be disloyal to the president.

Majid Khan pleaded guilty to serving as a courier for Al Qaeda and will complete his prison sentence as early as next year and no later than 2025.
Majid Khan pleaded guilty to serving as a courier for Al Qaeda and will complete his prison sentence as early as next year and no later than 2025.Credit…Center for Constitutional Rights

A detainee at Guantánamo Bay has agreed to a deal intended to lead to his release in the next few years in return for giving up the right to question the C.I.A. in court about its torture program, United States government officials said.

The deal, negotiated by the Pentagon official who oversees the military commissions that serve as a court for some detainees, was reached in recent weeks, and comes as a number of those who have been charged at Guantánamo are seeking to cite their abuse at the hands of the C.I.A. as part of their defense.

Under the deal, the prisoner, Majid Khan, 41, who has pleaded guilty to serving as a courier for Al Qaeda, would complete his prison sentence as early as next year and no later than 2025 and then could be released to another country, assuming one will take him, according to people who have seen the terms or are familiar with its details.

In exchange, Mr. Khan will not use his sentencing proceedings to invoke a landmark war court decision that allowed him to call witnesses from the C.I.A.’s secret prison network to testify about his torture.

The arrangement means that the C.I.A. for now will avoid a further accounting in court for its use of what it called “enhanced interrogation techniques” under the Bush administration after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Khan, a citizen of Pakistan who went to high school in Maryland, was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and held incommunicado by the C.I.A. for three years. He was kept in darkness for years and in his second year of detention, the agency “infused” a purée of pasta, sauce, nuts, raisins and hummus into his rectum because he went on a hunger strike, according to a 2014 Senate investigation.

He was also sleep deprived, kept naked and hung by his wrists, and hooded, to the point of hallucinations.

Mr. Khan was transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2006 and saw a lawyer for the first time in his fourth year of detention.

On April 16, he and his lawyers reached agreement with the overseer of military commissions .

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