President Biden is coming under increasing pressure to abandon a Trump-era immigration rule that has sealed off the United States to most migrants during the pandemic, with human rights officials and two of the administration’s own medical consultants saying it endangers vulnerable families.
The policy, known as Title 42, allows border agents to turn away migrants without giving them a chance to apply for protections in the United States. White House officials declined to comment on the record, but a government official said the White House position was that the rule was necessary given the many Americans who had not been fully vaccinated. Like the Trump administration, the Biden administration has defended the policy as a “public health directive” rather than an immigration tool.
On Monday, two physicians who work as consultants for the Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to members of Congress saying the rule had the “perverse impact” of encouraging parents to send their children to cross the border alone, since Mr. Biden has chosen not to immediately turn away minors. Most single adults and many migrants traveling together as families are immediately turned back.
The complaint came days after Filippo Grandi, the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, who rarely criticizes U.S. immigration policy, said the expulsions have had “serious humanitarian consequences.”
The Biden administration’s embrace of Title 42 highlights a difficult balancing act for the president: how to make good on his pledge to have a more compassionate approach to migrants fleeing poverty and persecution while managing a surge of people who want to come to the United States. The topic also leaves Mr. Biden open to political attacks from Republicans and moderate Democrats who say he risks losing control of the border.
President Biden will meet on Tuesday with relatives of George Floyd to mark the anniversary of his death and the start of a nationwide racial reckoning against police brutality.
The meeting at the White House will be private, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a news conference on Monday. Several members of the family, with whom Ms. Psaki said Mr. Biden had developed relationships, will attend, including several siblings, and his daughter, Gianna.
A video of the killing of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis — which showed an officer kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds — sparked the largest racial justice protests in generations and brought a sense of urgency to negotiations over police reform in Congress . The officer at the center of Mr. Floyd’s killing, Derek Chauvin, was convicted last month of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
But police reform legislation, known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, has languished in Congress, as parties spar over a measure that would alter a legal shield known as qualified immunity that protects police officers in brutality cases. The White House had set its own deadline for Congress to pass the legislation, which Ms. Psaki acknowledged on Monday will not be met.
During his address before a joint session of Congress last month, Mr. Biden, invoking a conversation he had with Mr. Floyd’s young daughter, called on lawmakers to pass legislation by the first anniversary of Mr. Floyd’s death.
When asked during the news conference on Monday about progress on police reform, Ms. Psaki indicated that the White House remained relatively optimistic. Mr. Biden spoke on Friday with Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey and an outspoken proponent of police reform, she said, adding that Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Republicans’ lead negotiator on the issue, also expressed interest in continued talks.
“The president is still very much hopeful that he will be able to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act into law,” she said.
One of the most interesting new alliances in the Senate these days is between Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, who have been working together on the Senate Armed Services Committee on possible solutions to sexual assault in the military.
Mr. Hawley has repeatedly praised Ms. Gillibrand for her work on the issue culminating in bipartisan legislation to change the way those crimes are handled. Ms. Gillibrand has often sought out Mr. Hawley, a first-term lawmaker and vocal supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, directly for such work, even though the two are on opposite ends of nearly all things political.
The two are planning on Tuesday to introduce a bill designed to improve one of the military’s sexual assault response coordinators, which came under scrutiny after the killing of a soldier at Fort Hood, and an ensuing report that showed many members of the coordination team lacked training to help victims of assault.
Under their measure, the Defense Department would have to more carefully evaluate the programs and report their findings to Congress, and increase training and other resources to professionalize the military justice system. It is one of a few initiatives Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Hawley have joined together on — and attracted bipartisan support for — to try and make the military more accountable.
“This legislation would aid the Department of Defense in identifying next steps to professionalize the role of Sexual Assault Response Coordinator throughout all branches of the military,” Mr. Hawley said in a statement.
President Donald J. Trump’s former White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has agreed to testify privately before the House Judiciary Committee next week about Mr. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Lawyers for House Democrats, the Justice Department and Mr. McGahn had tentatively struck a deal on the testimony earlier in May. But the scheduling was delayed for weeks while they waited to see what Mr. Trump would do.
Mr. McGahn’s agreement to testify was contingent on there being no active legal challenge to his participation, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the legal and political sensitivity of the matter.
Under the deal, according to a court filing, there will be strict limits on the testimony Mr. McGahn will provide. He will testify behind closed doors for a transcribed interview, rather than in public.
Immediately after the deal was announced this month, a lawyer for Mr. Trump conveyed that the former president intended to seek a court order blocking Mr. McGahn’s testimony. But late last week, the people said, Mr. Trump’s lawyer — Patrick Philbin, a former deputy White House counsel who is continuing to help handle his post-presidential legal affairs — said that Mr. Trump would not intervene after all.
The McGahn case stems from the House Judiciary Committee’s desire in 2019 to question him about matters related to his role as a key witness in Robert S. Mueller III’s account of efforts by Mr. Trump to impede the Russia investigation.
A former top American diplomat who was a key witness against Donald J. Trump during his first impeachment sued former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the federal government on Monday, demanding they pay his $1.8 million in legal fees from impeachment.
The lawsuit by the former ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, alleges that Mr. Pompeo had originally told Mr. Sondland the State Department would cover his legal fees but then backed off after Mr. Sondland provided damaging testimony to congressional investigators about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine in 2019.
Mr. Pompeo, the lawsuit alleges, misled Mr. Sondland about whether the State Department would represent him. Mr. Pompeo’s commitment to pay the fees was “abandoned apparently for political convenience,” lawyers for Mr. Sondland wrote.
“After Pompeo learned what Ambassador Sondland’s testimony was before Congress during the 2019 impeachment inquiry — words that were entirely candid and truthful (but uncomfortable to the Trump administration)— Pompeo reneged on his promise,” according to the suit, filed in federal court in Washington.
A spokesman for Mr. Pompeo said in a statement the lawsuit was “ludicrous.”
“Mr. Pompeo is confident the court will see it the same way,” according to the statement.
Mr. Sondland, a wealthy Oregon-based hotelier who went on to join Mr. Trump’s administration, testified that Mr. Trump told him to pressure Ukrainian officials to conduct investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals. He also said that there was a quid pro quo that conditioned a White House meeting for the new Ukrainian president in exchange for the Ukrainians announcing the investigations Mr. Trump wanted.
During impeachment, Mr. Sondland was represented by Robert Luskin, a well-known Washington lawyer who spent weeks preparing Mr. Sondland for his testimony. Although Mr. Sondland gave testimony that hurt Mr. Trump, he faced backlash in Portland, where his businesses were hurt as they became synonymous with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Pompeo may have his own legal bills to contend with. Though the allegations against Mr. Pompeo relate to his conduct during his time as secretary of state, it was not clear whether the Justice Department will defend him. A Justice Department spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.
During the Trump administration, Mr. Sondland submitted his legal bills to the State Department, which agreed to pay only a small sliver of the $1.8 million tab, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mr. Sondland then relayed to Mr. Pompeo that he would sue if the State Department declined to honor what Mr. Sondland claimed was Mr. Pompeo’s initial commitment to pay, one of the people said. Mr. Pompeo maintained that he never committed to having the fees paid by the State Department, the person said.