Biden Backs Removing Commanders from Military Sex Assault Cases


Biden Backs Removing Commanders from Military Sex Assault Cases President Biden endorsed a recommendation to remove the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases from the control of military commanders, which officials had long resisted. Congress would have to act, and a bill has the support of 70 senators.

Biden endorses a major change in how the military handles sexual assault cases. Demonstrators marched in July 2020, in support of the family of slain Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. Spc. Guillen was murdered by a fellow soldier last year. Credit… Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press President Biden said Friday that he wanted the military to remove the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases from the control of commanders, a sea change for the military justice system. An independent commission formally recommended to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III this week that sexual assault, sexual harassment and related cases be shifted to special victims prosecutors outside of the chain of command in the military, something military leaders have long resisted, arguing that it would hinder order and discipline. “Sexual assault is an abuse of power and an affront to our shared humanity,” Mr. Biden said in a prepared statement. “And sexual assault in the military is doubly damaging because it also shreds the unity and cohesion that is essential to the functioning of the U.S. military and to our national defense.” While Mr. Austin and Mr. Biden have supported the findings of the commission — which are all but certain to receive pushback from officials from some branches of the military — it will be up to Congress to change the military law. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has a bipartisan measure that would overhaul the way the military prosecutes sexual assault but also other serious crimes, which some lawmakers believe is crucial in adjudicating cases like the one involving Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. Law enforcement officials said she was killed by another soldier at Fort Hood last year. “It is a historic sign of progress that after decades of obstruction, the Secretary of Defense has agreed that the removal of sexual assault prosecutions from the chain of command and professionalization of military justice would benefit survivors and in no way diminish good order and discipline,” Ms. Gillibrand said in a statement. Her bill has gained support from at least 70 members of the Senate — including many who voted against the same bill in 2014, arguing it would undermine commanders. Reconciling her bill with the vision of the commission will now be in the hands of lawmakers. In 2019, the Defense Department found that there were 7,825 reports of sexual assault involving service members as victims, a 3 percent increase from 2018. The conviction rate for cases was unchanged from 2018 to 2019; 7 percent of cases that the command took action on resulted in conviction, the lowest rate since the department began reporting in 2010. “I want to recognize the experience of our service members who have survived sexual assault and the bravery of those who have shared their stories with the world and advocated for reform,” Mr. Biden said, adding, “I hope this announcement offers some reassurance that the Department of Defense leadership stands with you, starting with your commander in chief.”

The United States leaves its last Afghan base, effectively ending operations. Video President Biden said on Friday that he believed Afghanistan had the capacity to sustain its government despite the Taliban’s territorial gains. His remarks came after American troops departed from Bagram, the last active Afghan air base used by the U.S. military. Credit Credit… Erin Schaff/The New York Times KABUL, Afghanistan — American troops and their Western allies have departed Bagram, Afghanistan’s largest air base, officials said on Friday, turning over to the Afghan government the sprawling outpost from which the United States waged war for nearly two decades. With little fanfare and no public ceremony, American troops left the base on Thursday night, U.S. and Afghan officials said. The closure means that major U.S. military operations in Afghanistan are all but over. “Look, we were in Afghanistan for 20 years, 20 years,” President Biden told reporters on Friday at the White House, where he appeared to discuss the monthly jobs report. Mr. Biden said he had met with Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan, and believed the country had the capacity to sustain its own government. But he said he was concerned “that they deal with the internal issues that they have to be able to generate the kind of support they need nationwide.” Mr. Biden said the United States could provide some air support to keep Kabul, the capital, from being overrun. But he said that help would be limited. “We have worked out an over-the-horizon capacity,” Mr. Biden said, “but the Afghans are going to have to do it themselves with the air force they have.” The United States helps maintain the Afghan air force. The Afghan military “will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism,” said Fawad Aman, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense. The closing of Bagram, a symbol of the United States’ costly operations in Afghanistan, comes weeks before the planned withdrawal of American troops, who entered the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The United States will leave a contingent of 650 troops to protect its embassy in Kabul. Some U.S. intelligence estimates predict that the Afghan government could fall to its rivals, the Taliban, in as little as six months after the Americans complete their withdrawal. The Taliban are inching closer to Kabul after having taken about a quarter of the country’s districts in the past two months. Hundreds if not thousands of members of the Afghan security forces have surrendered in recent weeks, and their counterattacks have taken back little territory from the Taliban. As the Afghan forces fracture, regional militias have appeared with renewed prominence, in an echo of the civil war in the 1990s. “Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized,” the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, told reporters on Tuesday. Thomas Gibbons-Neff and

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The Supreme Court turned down the case of a florist who refused work for same-sex wedding. Curt Freed, left, with his husband, Robert Ingersoll, sued florist Barronelle Stutzman for refusing to provide services for their wedding in 2013. Credit… Elaine Thompson/Associated Press The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would not hear an appeal from a florist in Washington State who said she had a constitutional right to refuse to create a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding. The move left open a question the court last considered in 2018, when a similar dispute between a Colorado baker and a gay couple failed to yield a definitive ruling. As is its custom, the court did not give reasons for declining to hear the case, which social conservatives had hoped the justices would use to make a clearer statement favoring religious beliefs over gay rights. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have granted the florist’s petition seeking Supreme Court review. Lower courts have generally sided with gay and lesbian couples who were refused service, ruling that they are entitled to equal treatment, at least in parts of the country with laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. The owners of businesses challenging those laws have argued that the government should not force them to choose between the requirements of their faiths and their livelihoods, citing constitutional protections for free speech and religious liberty. The case concerning the florist, Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, No. 19-333, started in 2013, when Barronelle Stutzman turned down a request from a longtime customer, Robert Ingersoll, to provide flowers for his wedding to another man, Curt Freed. Ms. Stutzman said her religious principles did not allow her to do so. The couple and the state both sued, and they won in the state courts, which upheld a $1,000 penalty against Ms. Stutzman. In a separate announcement on Friday, the Supreme Court declined to take up a libel case filed by the son of a former prime minister of Albania. Notably, however, Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented from the decision not to take the case and argued that the court should reassess its 1964 ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan, a landmark case that established a high bar for public officials alleging libel. That ruling has been a bedrock of First Amendment law for more than half a century. Justice Thomas denounced the explosion of conspiracy theories and other disinformation, while Justice Gorsuch wrote that much had changed since 1964, when there were fewer and more reliable sources of news.

Biden thanks new citizens for choosing America at a White House naturalization ceremony. Video transcript Back bars 0:00 / 1:17 – 0:00 transcript Biden Congratulates New U.S. Citizens in White House Ceremony President Biden hosted a naturalization ceremony at the White House on Friday for 21 new American citizens. The event was part of a federal effort to swear in almost 10,000 new citizens in celebration of Independence Day. “I hereby declare on oath,” “I hereby declare on oath,” “that I absolutely and entirely…” “that I absolutely and entirely…” “that I will support and defend…” “that I will support and defend…” It’s my honor to congratulate the 21 of you who have earned the title of, that in our democracy is equal to being president, it’s of the same consequence, citizen, citizen of the United States of America. You’ve each come to America from different circumstances, different reasons, and 16 different nationalities. But like previous generations of immigrants, there’s one trait you all share in common. Courage. It takes courage to get up and leave everything you know and go to another place, no matter where it is. Possibilities. Possibilities. That’s what America’s built on. It’s one of the reasons why we’re viewed sometimes as being somewhat egotistical, we believe anything’s possible in America, anything’s possible in America. I just want to thank you all for choosing us, and I mean that sincerely. Thank you for choosing the United States of America, believing that America is worthy of your aspirations. President Biden hosted a naturalization ceremony at the White House on Friday for 21 new American citizens. The event was part of a federal effort to swear in almost 10,000 new citizens in celebration of Independence Day. Credit Credit… Tom Brenner for The New York Times President Biden hosted an emotional naturalization ceremony Friday afternoon at the White House as part of a federal effort to swear in almost 10,000 new citizens in celebration of Independence Day — drawing sharp, but unspoken, contrasts with the policies of his predecessor, Donald J. Trump. After nearly two dozen new citizens took the oath of allegiance in the East Room, Mr. Biden and his secretary of homeland security, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, used the moment to describe their own immigrant roots. Mr. Mayorkas recalled how his mother had twice been a political refugee, first fleeing the Nazis in Europe, and then escaping from Cuba with him when he was an infant. “Today our nation is better than it was yesterday,” he said, “in part because we have new citizens.” But it was Mr. Biden who explicitly thanked the new citizens — who came from Afghanistan, New Zealand, Iraq, Egypt and a dozen other countries — for picking the United States as their new home, a striking shift in tone in how immigrants, even legal ones, were often described during the Trump administration as a drain on American resources. Mr. Biden talked about his own ancestors’ journey to America, leaving Ireland in a coffin-ship in 1849, a risk they took, he said, “having no idea whether they would make it across the Atlantic to the United States.” He then traced their move to Scranton, Pa. “I stand here on the shoulders of sacrifices of my great-great-grandfather, my great-grandfather, my grandfather…” he said, trailing off. At Friday’s ceremony, Mr. Biden drifted into a description of how the United States was “founded on an idea,” a topic he has often touched on in the past and even broached earlier in the day with the Los Angeles Dodgers as he celebrated their victory in the 2020 World Series. “Every other nation in the world was founded on your geography, or ethnicity or religion,” he said, adding that “you can’t define an American,” to describe the nation’s diversity. As he spoke, the president recalled swearing in new citizens, all members of the military, in Saddam Hussein’s palace in Baghdad during a visit years ago. “I got to swear them in, in the palace of a dictator,” he said, evoking laughs. But then he turned to immigration reform, making his case for “smart border management,” and praising “Vice President Harris’s leadership for getting into the root causes of why people are migrating.” He made no mention of the many arguments over what she accomplished during her recent visit to Central America. “We need an immigration system that reflects our values and upholds our laws,” he said. “We can do both.” Mr. Biden concluded the ceremony by presenting an award to a nurse from New York, Sandra Lindsay, an immigrant from Jamaica. He described her work saving coronavirus patients at a hospital on Long Island, saying “she poured her heart and soul” into the task even as some of her own relatives died. And she was “the first person in America to get fully vaccinated outside of clinical trials,” he added. Her scrubs will be included in an exhibit about the pandemic at the Smithsonian, he said. It was the first time a naturalization ceremony had been held on the White House grounds since Mr. Trump did so during the Republican National Convention last August. The five people who were naturalized at the time had been surprised by the invitation, and even more surprised to learn that the event had been broadcast onto the convention floor, becoming part of the political programming.

Biden names University of Pennsylvania president as ambassador to Germany. Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, has written books on defending constitutional democracy and human rights. Credit… Mark Makela/Reuters President Biden on Friday nominated Amy Gutmann, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, to serve as ambassador to Germany, giving a prominent post abroad to an academic leader who hired Mr. Biden for a lucrative university position after the Obama administration. If confirmed, Dr. Gutmann, who has written books on defending constitutional democracy and human rights, would be the first woman to hold the post. She would take over a position previously held by one of President Donald J. Trump’s most confrontational aides, Richard Grenell, who used the post to spread his brand of combative conservatism in Europe. In 2018 and 2019, Mr. Biden was reportedly paid more than $900,000 from the University of Pennsylvania to serve as a “professor of practice,” according to financial disclosures. He did not teach any courses there, but a spokesman for the university called the relationship “phenomenally successful.” “He helped to expand Penn’s global outreach, while sharing his wisdom and insights with thousands of Penn students through seminars, talks and classroom visits,” said Stephen J. MacCarthy, vice president of communications for the university. Mr. MacCarthy added, “He was able to bring prominent world figures to Penn’s campus for forums and conferences to discuss and debate critically important issues.” Mr. Biden developed a close relationship with Dr. Gutmann, a political science professor, during his years there. Dr. Gutmann was also critical to the creation of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington. The Biden administration has been slowly rolling out its choices for ambassador posts, eager to show off a diverse list of nominees, not only in terms of gender and race but also in terms of background. In previous administrations, many posts abroad have gone to campaign donors. But the Biden administration has been eager to elevate State Department officials as well, to send a signal to career foreign service officials that they are once again valued. On Friday, Mr. Biden also said he would nominate Chantale Wong as the United States director of the Asian Development Bank, a position that comes with the rank of ambassador. He nominated two career foreign service officials, Jeffrey M. Hovenier and Virginia E. Palmer, as ambassadors to Kosovo and Ghana.

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Merrick Garland pauses federal executions a year after his predecessor resumed them. Mr. Garland’s ruling reversed the Trump administration’s decision to resume federal executions. Credit… Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on Thursday imposed a moratorium on federal executions pending a review of the Justice Department’s policies and procedures, reversing the Trump administration’s decision to resume executions of federal death row inmates last year after a nearly two-decade hiatus. “The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Mr. Garland said in a memo to Justice Department leaders. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.” Mr. Garland said in his memo that the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, would supervise a review of Justice Department policies related to federal executions that were implemented by former Attorney General William P. Barr. He asked that several of the department’s divisions, including the Bureau of Prisons, the criminal division and the civil rights division, participate, along with other federal agencies and outside advocacy groups. After 17 years without executions, the Justice Department under Mr. Barr began to execute federal death row inmates last summer. He argued that the Justice Department under both parties had sought the death penalty and that the government owed “the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.” The Trump administration ultimately executed 13 people, more than three times the number of people put to death by the federal government in the previous six decades. Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said President Biden approved of Mr. Garland’s decision. “As the president has made clear, he has significant concerns about the death penalty and how it is implemented, and he believes the Department of Justice should return to its prior practice of not carrying out executions,” Mr. Bates said. As a candidate, Mr. Biden said that he would work to abolish federal executions and incentivize states to follow suit. The Supreme Court also said in March that it would review an appeals court’s decision to overturn the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Should the Biden administration withdraw its support for the death penalty against Mr. Tsarnaev, the Supreme Court case would become moot. Mr. Garland has asked the department to review policies implemented in the last two years that paved the way to restart federal executions.

Here’s how Biden plans to reduce vehicle emissions and combat climate change. Cars along Tenth Avenue in Manhattan in May. The Biden administration is working on rules that would reduce tailpipe emissions, including calling for vehicle manufacturers to increase electric vehicle sales. Credit… Brittainy Newman for The New York Times President Biden plans to propose a tailpipe emissions rule this month that would largely mimic the Obama administration’s standards, which President Donald J. Trump jettisoned in 2019. At the same time, according to four people familiar with the plan, the Biden administration is starting to write more stringent rules that could force carmakers to increase sales of electric vehicles but could also face political pushback and disrupt the auto industry. Mr. Biden has set the most ambitious climate agenda of any American president, pledging to cut the pollution driving global warming by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Meeting that goal would require transforming the nation’s economy away from fossil fuels, including a rapid shift from internal combustion engines to zero-emissions electric vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department are expected to propose a requirement that passenger vehicles sold by automakers average about 51 miles per gallon of gasoline by 2026. That would be more stringent than the standards set by Mr. Trump — about 44 miles per gallon by the same year — and slightly less ambitious than the rules enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012, which required roughly 51 miles per gallon by 2025. Gina McCarthy, Mr. Biden’s top climate adviser, is weighing how to write a more ambitious rule, which would run until at least 2030, in a way acceptable to auto companies and union workers.