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Live Updates: Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan Leaves Democrats a Big Choice

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Democratic lawmakers begin the week with a fundamental choice on infrastructure: They can go big, or they can go bipartisan.

Their party holds slim majorities in the House and Senate, meaning each path risks losing key votes needed to pass a wide-ranging overhaul of the nation’s roads and bridges that President Biden considers one of his top priorities.

Supporters of the two options took to Sunday news programs to make their cases.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and one of the key negotiators of a bipartisan proposal, made the pitch for her group’s plan on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

“We have five Republicans and five Democrats who got together to hammer out the framework for a targeted, responsible infrastructure package,” she said.

A bipartisan group that included Ms. Collins announced Thursday that they had reached an agreement that would be fully paid for. The group is pushing for a proposal that is much smaller than the $1.9 trillion package that Mr. Biden has proposed. That plan does not have the support of the majority of Republicans in the Senate, and it risks losing votes from liberal Democrats if it does not include items to address climate change.

The framework that the group agreed on is expected to include about $579 billion in new spending as part of an overall package that would cost about $974 billion over five years and about $1.2 trillion over eight years, according to two people familiar with the details, who disclosed them on the condition of anonymity.

Ms. Collins pledged that there would not be an increase to the gas tax or any changes to the Trump-era tax overhaul in her group’s plan. She also said the package would not include money for child care or elder care, two of Mr. Biden’s priorities.

The bipartisan group plans to pay for their proposal using three methods: an infrastructure financing authority, similar to how some state governments pay for sewer and water projects; repurposing unspent money from a previous stimulus package; and a tax on electric vehicles.

“Right now, they are literally free riders because they’re not paying any gas tax,” Ms. Collins said.

Mr. Biden sees talks with Republicans as key to passing an infrastructure package; centrist Senate Democrats have been resistant to immediately bypassing Republicans through the budget procedure known as reconciliation, which requires a majority vote instead of the 60 votes needed to overcome the Senate’s legislative filibuster.

But liberal Democrats have pledged not to vote for any proposal that does not address climate change and panned the bipartisan group’s proposal after Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, told reporters it would not include some of those priorities.

“No climate, no deal,” Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, said flatly last week.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said a small plan that did not address climate change was unlikely to win progressive votes.

“Do we settle for much less and an infrastructure package that has been largely designed by Republicans in order to get 60 votes, or can we really transform this country, create millions of union jobs, revamp our power grid, get people’s bridges fixed and schools rebuilt with 51 or 50 Democratic votes?” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat. “The argument that we need to make here is it’s worth going it alone if we can do more for working people in this country.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on CNN that it was important for Mr. Biden to explore negotiations with Republicans, but Democrats would have to forge ahead if a bipartisan deal could not be reached.

“We have a responsibility to find common ground,” she said. “But if we can’t, we have to stand our ground.”

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, has said he plans to move forward with an infrastructure package, one way or another, in July.

The disclosure about Donald F. McGahn II, President Donald J. Trump’s White House counsel, adds to a series of recent revelations about tactics by the Trump Justice Department to secretly seize communications-related data.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for information in February 2018 about an account that belonged to Donald F. McGahn II, President Donald J. Trump’s White House counsel at the time, and barred the company from telling him about it, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Apple told Mr. McGahn about the subpoena last month, said one of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. Mr. McGahn’s wife also received a similar notice from Apple, the person said.

It is not clear what F.B.I. agents were investigating, whether Mr. McGahn was their specific focus or whether he was swept up in a larger net because he had communicated with someone who was under scrutiny. As the top lawyer for the 2016 Trump campaign and then the White House counsel, Mr. McGahn was in contact with numerous people who may have drawn attention either as part of the Russia investigation or a later leak inquiry.

Still, the disclosure that agents had collected data of a sitting White House counsel, which they kept secret for years, is extraordinary.

And it comes amid a political backlash after revelations that the Trump administration secretly seized the personal data of reporters and Democrats in Congress from phone and tech companies while investigating leaks.

Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill on Sunday ratcheted up pressure on the Justice Department and former officials to provide a fuller accounting of events. They called on the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, John C. Demers, and the former deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to testify before Congress along with the former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William P. Barr.

Apple told Mr. McGahn that it had complied with the subpoena in a timely fashion but declined to tell him what it had provided the government, according to a person briefed on the matter. Under Justice Department policy, gag orders for subpoenas may be renewed for up to a year at a time, suggesting that prosecutors went to court several times to prevent Apple from notifying the McGahns earlier.

In investigations, agents sometimes compile a large list of phone numbers and email addresses that were in contact with a subject, and seek to identify all those people by using subpoenas to communications companies for any account information like names, computer addresses and credit card numbers associated with them.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did a lawyer for Mr. McGahn. An Apple representative did not respond to a request for comment.

Katie Benner, Adam Goldman and Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.

A U.S. official said that a solo news conference by President Biden would be “the appropriate format to clearly communicate with the free press” after meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia next week.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

After President Biden meets his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, the two men will not face the news media at a joint news conference, United States officials say.

Instead, Mr. Biden will face reporters by himself after two private sessions with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a move designed to deny the Russian leader an international platform like the one he received during a 2018 summit in Helsinki, Finland, with President Donald J. Trump.

“We expect this meeting to be candid and straightforward, and a solo press conference is the appropriate format to clearly communicate with the free press the topics that were raised in the meeting,” a U.S. official said in a statement sent to reporters this weekend, “both in terms of areas where we may agree and in areas where we have significant concerns.”

Top aides to Mr. Biden said that during negotiations over the meetings, to be held at an 18th-century Swiss villa on the shores of Lake Geneva, the Russian government was eager to have Mr. Putin join Mr. Biden in a news conference. But Biden administration officials said that they were mindful of how Mr. Putin seemed to get the better of Mr. Trump in Helsinki.

At that news conference, Mr. Trump publicly accepted Mr. Putin’s assurances that his government did not interfere with the 2016 election, taking the Russian president’s word rather than the assessments of his own intelligence officials.

The spectacle in 2018 drew sharp condemnations from across the political spectrum for providing an opportunity for Mr. Putin to spread falsehoods. Senator John McCain at the time called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

Mr. Putin has had a long and contentious relationship with United States presidents, who have sought to maintain relations with Russia even as the two nations clashed over nuclear weapons, aggression toward Ukraine and, more recently, cyberattacks and hacking.

President Barack Obama met several times with Mr. Putin, including at a joint appearance during the 2013 Group of 8 summit in Northern Ireland. Mr. Obama came under criticism at the time from rights groups for giving Mr. Putin a platform and for not challenging the Russian president more directly on human rights.

In the summer of 2001 — before the Sept. 11 terror attacks — President George W. Bush held a joint news conference with Mr. Putin at a summit in Slovenia. At the news conference, Mr. Bush famously said: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

At the time, then-Senator Biden said: “I don’t trust Mr. Putin; hopefully the president was being stylistic rather than substantive.”

Biden administration officials said on Saturday that the two countries were continuing to finalize the format for the meeting on Wednesday with Mr. Putin. They said that the current plan called for a working session involving top aides in addition to the two leaders, and a smaller session.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Republican leadership, said the passions of Republican voters today matched those of Democratic voters after Donald J. Trump’s victory.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Senator Christopher S. Murphy concedes that political rhetoric in the nation’s capital can sometimes stray into hysteria, but when it comes to the precarious state of American democracy, he insisted he was not exaggerating the nation’s tilt toward authoritarianism.

“Democrats are always at risk of being hyperbolic,” said Mr. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. “I don’t think there’s a risk when it comes to the current state of democratic norms.”

After the norm-shattering presidency of Donald J. Trump, the violence-inducing bombast over a stolen election, the pressuring of state vote counters, the Capitol riot and the flood of voter curtailment laws rapidly being enacted in Republican-run states, Washington has found itself in an anguished state.

Almost daily, Democrats warn that Republicans are pursuing racist, Jim Crow-inspired voter suppression efforts to disenfranchise tens of millions of citizens, mainly people of color, in a cynical effort to grab power. Metal detectors sit outside the House chamber to prevent lawmakers — particularly Republicans who have boasted of their intention to carry guns everywhere — from bringing weaponry to the floor. Democrats regard their Republican colleagues with suspicion, believing that some of them collaborated with the rioters on Jan. 6.

Republican lawmakers have systematically downplayed or dismissed the dangers, with some breezing over the attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful protest, and many saying the state voting law changes are to restore “integrity” to the process, even as they give credence to Mr. Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 election.

They shrug off Democrats’ warnings of grave danger as the overheated language of politics as usual.

For Democrats, the evidence of looming catastrophe mounts daily. Fourteen states, including politically competitive ones like Florida and Georgia, have enacted 22 laws to curtail early and mail-in ballots, limit polling places and empower partisans to police polling, then oversee the vote tally. Others are likely to follow, including Texas, with its huge share of House seats and electoral votes.

Because Republicans control the legislatures of many states where the 2020 census will force redistricting, the party is already in a strong position to erase the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House. Even moderate voting-law changes could bolster Republicans’ chances for the net gain of one vote they need to take back the Senate.

And in the nightmare outcome promulgated by some academics, Republicans have put themselves in a position to dictate the outcome of the 2024 presidential election if the voting is close in swing states.

“Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations,” 188 scholars said in a statement expressing concern about the erosion of democracy.

Republicans contend that much of this is overblown, though some concede the charges sting. Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said Democrats were playing a hateful race card to promote voting-rights legislation that is so extreme it would cement Democratic control of Congress for decades.

“I hope that damage isn’t being done,” he added, “but it is always very dangerous to falsely play the race card and let’s face it, that’s what’s being done here.”

President Biden is welcomed by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo of Belgium in Brussels on Sunday.
Credit…Pool photo by Didier Lebrun

Monday’s NATO summit meeting of 30 leaders is short, with one 2.5-hour session after an opening ceremony, leaving just five minutes for each leader to speak.

The main issues will be topical — how to manage Afghanistan during and after the withdrawal of United States troops, Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia, Xi Jinping’s China and Aleksandr G. Lukashenko’s Belarus.

The leaders will also sign off on an important yearlong study on how to remodel NATO’s strategic concept — the group’s statement of values and objectives — to meet new challenges like cyberwarfare, artificial intelligence, antimissile defense, disinformation and “emerging disruptive technologies.”

In 2010, when the strategic concept was last revised, NATO assumed that Russia could be a partner. China was barely mentioned. The new one will begin with very different assumptions.

NATO officials and ambassadors say there is much to discuss down the road: questions like how much and where a regional trans-Atlantic alliance should try to counter China, what capabilities NATO needs and how many of them should come from common funding or remain the responsibility of member countries.

How to adapt to the European Union’s still vague desire for “strategic autonomy,” while encouraging European military spending and efficiency and avoiding duplication with NATO, are other concerns. So is the question of how to make NATO a more politically savvy institution, as President Emmanuel Macron of France has demanded, perhaps by establishing new meetings of key officials of member states, like national security advisers and political directors.

More quietly, leaders will talk about replacing the current NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, whose term was extended for two years to keep matters calm during the Trump presidency. His term ends in September 2022.

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