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Grand Jury Declines to Indict Officers in Death of Black Man Restrained in Jail

The death of Marvin Scott III, who died after being pepper-sprayed and placed in a spit hood, prompted weeks of protests in front of the jail in Collin County, Texas.,

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A grand jury in Texas has declined to indict eight former jailers on criminal charges in the death of Marvin Scott III, a 26-year-old Black man who died after being restrained and pepper-sprayed at the Collin County jail in March.

Greg Willis, the Collin County district attorney, said in a statement on Tuesday that the grand jury had reviewed video footage of the episode and heard testimony from witnesses before coming to its decision that the former detention officers — Andres Cardenas, Alec Difatta, Blaise Mikulewicz, Rafael Paradez, Justin Patrick, James Schoelen, Christopher Windsor and Austin Wong — would not be charged.

The jury said in a statement that it found “no probable cause exists to charge any person with a criminal offense related to the death of Mr. Scott.”

Mr. Scott’s family and protesters had been demanding that the jailers be arrested and that the authorities release footage that would show what transpired inside the jail.

Seven of the jailers were fired by Sheriff Jim Skinner of Collin County and the eighth resigned, but protests outside the jail went on for weeks. On Tuesday night, dozens of people rallied at the courthouse, protesting the grand jury’s decision.

Mr. Scott had been arrested on March 14 on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.

The police said earlier this year that they took Mr. Scott to a hospital because he was acting erratically. Mr. Scott was then taken to the county jail, where detention officers restrained and pepper-sprayed him. A spit hood was placed over his head, and he died later that night.

The county’s medical examiner said Mr. Scott’s death was caused by “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement,” The Dallas Morning News reported.

Mr. Scott was exhibiting signs of a “mental health crisis” when detention officers entered his cell to restrain him, said S. Lee Merritt, his family’s lawyer. Mr. Merritt said in April that Mr. Scott had schizophrenia and sometimes used marijuana as a form of self-medication when his prescription medication did not work well.

The grand jury recommended that a work group be convened to study what occurred inside the jail on the day of Mr. Scott’s death “in an effort to avoid any similar future tragedy.” The work group, it said, would consist of community leaders, criminal justice and law enforcement stakeholders, local hospitals and mental health providers.

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Marvin Scott III died after being arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.Credit…Lasondra Scott, via Associated Press

“The goal of this work group should be finding the best solutions for the treatment of individuals with mental illness who come into contact with the criminal justice system,” the jury said in a statement.

Mr. Willis said in a statement that he shared the grand jury’s concern for “the treatment of individuals suffering from mental illness,” and he pledged to honor Mr. Scott “by taking the lead in assembling a working group to look for lessons learned so that his tragic in-custody death will not have been in vain.”

Mr. Merritt said on Twitter that the family was “extremely disappointed” in the jury’s decision.

The evidence, he said, “provides more than sufficient probable cause for indictments.”

Mr. Merritt said the family looked forward to a review by a federal grand jury.

“The failure of prosecutors to secure indictments in this matter reflects a trend in Texas of undervaluing the lives of African Americans suffering mental health crisis,” Mr. Merritt said.

Zach Horn, the lawyer representing six of the officers, said in a statement that the sheriff’s firing of the officers “was nothing more than a frightened politician sacrificing the livelihoods of dedicated public servants for political expediency,” adding that he would try to get his clients reinstated.

Robert Rogers, a lawyer representing Mr. Cardenas, declined to comment when reached by phone.

The death of Mr. Scott came almost a year after the murder of George Floyd, which prompted nationwide calls for improved policing, specifically when it comes to interactions with people of color.

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Garland Says Watchdog Is Best Positioned to Review Trump-Era Justice Dept., Not Him

The attorney general said that various inspector general inquiries would help uncover any wrongdoing and that he wanted to avoid politicizing the work of career officials.,

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick B. Garland backed away on Tuesday from doing a broad review of Justice Department politicization during the Trump administration, noting that the department’s independent inspector general was already investigating related issues, including aggressive leak hunts and attempts to overturn the election.

Democrats and some former Justice Department employees have pressed Mr. Garland to uncover any efforts by former President Donald J. Trump to wield the power of federal law enforcement to advance his personal agenda. Their calls for a full investigation grew louder after recent revelations that Mr. Trump pushed department officials to help him undo his election loss and that prosecutors took aggressive steps to root out leakers.

Answering questions from reporters at the Justice Department on Tuesday, Mr. Garland said that reviewing the previous administration’s actions was “a complicated question.” He noted that managers typically sought to understand what previous leaders had done.

“We always look at what happened before,” he said. But he stopped short of saying that he would undertake a comprehensive review of Trump era Justice Department officials and their actions, in part to keep career employees from concluding that their work would be judged through changing political views.

“I don’t want the department’s career people to think that a new group comes in and immediately applies a political lens,” Mr. Garland said.

He also invoked the investigations by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, noting that they spoke to the question of whether Mr. Trump had improperly used the department’s powers to investigate and prosecute.

“It’s his job to look at these things,” Mr. Garland said of Mr. Horowitz. “He’s very good at this — let us know when there are problems and what changes should be made, if they should be. I don’t want to prejudge anything. It’s just not fair to the current employees.”

Mr. Horowitz said this month that he was investigating decisions by federal prosecutors to secretly seize reporters’ phone records in investigations of leaks of classified information to the press early in the Trump administration.

Mr. Horowitz is also examining subpoenas to Apple for subscriber information that ultimately belonged to House Democrats, including Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Schiff had called on Mr. Garland last week to do a “top-to-bottom review of the degree to which the department was politicized during the previous administration and take corrective steps.”

The inspector general is also examining whether current or former Justice Department officials improperly attempted to use the department to undo the election results, following reports that at least one former official pushed leaders to do so. And he is looking into whether Trump administration officials improperly pressured the former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, Byung J. Pak, to resign over his decision not to take actions that would cast doubt on the results of the election.

Mr. Garland also said in a statement this month that the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, was looking for “potentially problematic matters deserving high-level review.” But he made clear that she was not undertaking the kind of full investigation that critics of the Trump administration have called for.

Mr. Garland also told reporters that he planned to issue a memo on the federal death penalty in the coming weeks, which the Trump administration had revived after nearly two decades of disuse. President Biden has said he opposes the federal death penalty.

“I have been personally reviewing the processes of the department,” Mr. Garland said. “I expect before too long to have a statement.”

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U.S. to Allow Some Asylum Seekers Rejected Under Trump to Reopen Cases

The move could provide tens of thousands of people enrolled in a program that sent applicants to wait in Mexico a way to return to the United States to pursue their claims again.,

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is broadening the pool of migrants who will be allowed to enter the United States to make asylum claims, in the latest effort to chip away at the restrictive immigration policies put in place under President Donald J. Trump.

The Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday that on Wednesday it would start considering migrants whose cases were terminated under a Trump-era program that gave border officials the authority to send asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait for their cases to make it through the clogged American immigration system. The change could affect tens of thousands of people.

President Biden had already ended the program, known officially as the Migrant Protection Protocols. His administration this month started bringing in migrants enrolled in the program who had pending asylum cases.

In a statement, the department said the latest move was “part of our continued effort to restore safe, orderly and humane processing at the southwest border.”

While many immigration and human rights advocates welcomed the development, it will do little to alleviate the pressure on the Biden administration to stop turning away hundreds of thousands of other migrants, many of whom are also seeking asylum, who have been banned from entering the United States because of a public health rule put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats and human rights advocates have long assailed the Trump program, which began in 2019 as an effort to discourage immigrants from trying to cross the southwestern border, despite having a legal right to apply for asylum in the United States. Many of the asylum seekers enrolled in the program had their cases closed because they could not appear at their court hearings in the United States while they faced perilous situations in Mexico.

“By keeping migrants in dangerous conditions in Mexico, the Trump administration ensured many people would not be able to appear at their hearings and their claims would be rejected,” Representatives Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Nanette Barragan of California, both Democrats, said in a joint statement on Tuesday. Mr. Thompson is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Ms. Barragan is the chairwoman of the subcommittee on border security. “Allowing these people to be eligible for processing is the right thing to do.”

Representative Michael Guest, Republican of Mississippi and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the decision was made in haste and without transparency.

“The department’s seemingly impulsive announcement lacked explanation, justification or any other indicia that the decision had been made only after the careful deliberations and consultations that are both appropriate and lawfully required,” Mr. Guest wrote in a letter to Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary.

The development could affect more than 34,000 migrants seeking asylum in the United States, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which collects immigration data.

Judy Rabinovitz, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the process would not be quick. Applicants would need to register, and someone would have to tell them what they needed to submit to reopen their cases. And there is no guarantee that an immigration judge would grant a motion to reopen, she said, let alone grant asylum.

In another significant break from the Trump administration, the Justice Department last week reversed a Trump-era immigration ruling that had made it all but impossible for people to seek asylum in the United States over credible fears of domestic abuse or gang violence. The decision could affect hundreds of thousands of Central Americans fleeing gang extortion and recruitment and women fleeing domestic abuse who arrived in the United States since 2013.

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How an Anti-Corruption Bill Became a Showdown on Democracy

The filibuster of a sprawling bill on voter rights, corruption and campaign finance caps its journey from a Democratic statement to a larger struggle over the nation’s direction.,

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WASHINGTON — When House Democrats sat down to write an expansive elections and presidential ethics bill in 2019, passage was the farthest thing from their minds.

Democrats running for the House in Republican-leaning districts had campaigned on a poll-tested message of ending corruption in Donald J. Trump’s Washington, rooting out money from politics, and ending partisan gerrymandering, ideas that were popular across the political spectrum. Their newly elected speaker, Nancy Pelosi, wanted to enshrine those campaign pledges as the first bill of the new Democratic House, House Resolution 1 — a transformative measure, but with Republicans controlling the Senate and Mr. Trump in the White House, one that had no chance of becoming law.

By this year, circumstances had changed dramatically — after the effort by Mr. Trump and his supporters to overturn the results of the 2020 election and amid a rush by Republicans to enact a wave of state-level legislation impeding ballot access — but the bill had not.

What started out as a largely political document suddenly was being portrayed by Democrats as an imperative to preserve voting rights and a crucial test of democracy itself. And although Republicans in Congress made it clear they would oppose any bid to expand ballot access, Democratic leaders vowed to use their narrow majorities in the House and the Senate to try to push it through.

The failure of that strategy became clear on Tuesday. With Republicans making good on their promise to block it, a first procedural vote in the Senate left the legislation far short of the 60 votes it needed to advance, dooming the bill and leaving Democrats with an issue to campaign on, but not the big legislative victory progressives had sought.

The story of how the bill reached this point is one of shifting political imperatives, practical challenges, legislative changes and, in the end, an entrenched Republican opposition.

“That is the work you would do when you get into reality,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairwoman of the committee that tried to reshape the House bill into a more workable version. “Maybe it started as a wish list for people wanting to cement our democracy, but it evolved into the salvation for our democracy, and I don’t think that’s an overstatement.”

The blockade on Tuesday preserved the status quo post-Trump, freezing action indefinitely in Washington as Republicans at the state level proceed largely unencumbered with new laws curtailing early and mail-in voting, while installing partisans to oversee and certify the next election.

And once again, intense public interest, after the Capitol riot of Jan. 6 and the focus on voting access ever since, was not enough to carry the day, just as the massacre of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School was not enough to secure 60 Senate votes on gun background checks in 2013.

“Authoritarianism thrives on doom and a sense among the majority of the people that they are powerless against the minority,” Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, said as he warned against becoming demoralized. “We have to fight as hard as we can, but never accept the idea that our battles are unwinnable.”

The legislation did not start as a battle for the future of democracy, as Democrats frame it, or as the partisan power grab that Republicans call it. The initial driver was the ethical norm-breaking of Mr. Trump and his White House. Whistle-blowers would be empowered. Presidents and vice presidents would be forced to release their tax returns. Businesses owned by the commander in chief would have to be sold, conflicts of interest disentangled, any profit motive for the presidency ended.

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The bill’s emphasis shifted as former President Donald J. Trump pushed false claims of voter fraud and Republican state legislatures passed voting restrictions.Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

The legislation did contain prescriptions for early voting, mail-in balloting and other measures to ease access to the franchise, but Democrats emphasized an entirely different concern: the prospects of Russian interference in future elections, either by surreptitiously influencing campaigns through undisclosed online advertisements or by the outright hacking of voting systems.

But as the Trump-centric concerns shifted from his conduct in office to his false claims of voter fraud on his way out — and then to Republican state legislative responses to his loss — the bill’s emphasis shifted, too.

For Ms. Klobuchar, the evolution was personal. Six days before the November election, a conservative panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overruled a district court and decided that mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day could be ruled invalid. She rushed to every television station she could reach in Greater Minneapolis to plead with voters either to get their ballots in immediately or vote in person.

“For me, it was so visceral about how real it was,” she recalled. Others latched onto the decision in Texas to limit Harris County, which includes Houston, to a single ballot drop box, or the Supreme Court stepping in to require South Carolina absentee ballots to include a witness signature.

On Jan. 6, Democrats won control of Washington amid an attack by a pro-Trump mob. With the shattered Capitol on lockdown, a series of frantic conference calls followed, until Jan. 19, when the new majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, declared that H.R. 1 would be S. 1 — the new Democratic Senate’s top priority. Ms. Klobuchar’s committee staff went to work on changes that she hoped would at least unite the Senate’s Democrats.

And the bill morphed into a showdown between two parties, both of which say the American experiment itself is at stake. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, called the bill an effort to “rig the rules of American elections permanently in the Democrats’ favor.”

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Senator Mitch McConnell, center, said on Monday that the shifting salesmanship of the bill was evidence that Democrats were just not being honest about it.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Some supporters of action say Democrats made it far too easy for Republicans to oppose it, by assembling legislation that was breathtaking in its scope, transformative in its implications and very difficult to implement. Senate Democrats made a long series of changes to try to address some of the nuts-and-bolts concerns, extending timelines and adding waivers for local governments trying to implement automatic voter registration and same-day registration, giving more latitude on early voting rules, and lowering the minimum required mail-in ballot drop boxes from one per every 20,000 voters to one per 45,000.

But it was never going to be enough.

“There is clearly a crisis in democracy at this moment,” said Matthew Weil, director of the Elections Project at the centrist Bipartisan Policy Center. “We wanted to build on that, and we’re going to get nothing because we bit off more than we could chew.”

The bill could be seen as four separate measures, each of which would have far-reaching implications on its own.

Its original driver was presidential ethics, powered by the conduct of Mr. Trump. The ethics section would mandate the release of presidential and vice-presidential tax returns, bar a president and vice president from holding on to business interests and force new rules on conflicts of interest.

Another section, on campaign finance, would bring public financing of elections into congressional races, freeing candidates from the need for most fund-raising while diminishing the power of big campaign donors.

Still another section would bar partisan state legislatures from redrawing House district lines to guarantee safe seats for one party or another.

The Battle Over Voting Rights

After former President Donald J. Trump returned in recent months to making false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Republican lawmakers in many states have marched ahead to pass laws making it harder to vote and change how elections are run, frustrating Democrats and even some election officials in their own party.

A Key Topic: The rules and procedures of elections have become central issues in American politics. As of May 14, lawmakers had passed 22 new laws in 14 states to make the process of voting more difficult, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute.The Basic Measures: The restrictions vary by state but can include limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, adding identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots, and doing away with local laws that allow automatic registration for absentee voting.More Extreme Measures: Some measures go beyond altering how one votes, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules, clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives, and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections.Pushback: This Republican effort has led Democrats in Congress to find a way to pass federal voting laws. A sweeping voting rights bill passed the House in March, but faces difficult obstacles in the Senate, including from Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia. Republicans have remained united against the proposal and even if the bill became law, it would most likely face steep legal challenges.Florida: Measures here include limiting the use of drop boxes, adding more identification requirements for absentee ballots, requiring voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, limiting who could collect and drop off ballots, and further empowering partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.Texas: Texas Democrats successfully blocked the state’s expansive voting bill, known as S.B. 7, in a late-night walkout and are starting a major statewide registration program focused on racially diverse communities. But Republicans in the state have pledged to return in a special session and pass a similar voting bill. S.B. 7 included new restrictions on absentee voting; granted broad new autonomy and authority to partisan poll watchers; escalated punishments for mistakes or offenses by election officials; and banned both drive-through voting and 24-hour voting.Other States: Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill that would limit the distribution of mail ballots. The bill, which includes removing voters from the state’s Permanent Early Voting List if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years, may be only the first in a series of voting restrictions to be enacted there. Georgia Republicans in March enacted far-reaching new voting laws that limit ballot drop-boxes and make the distribution of water within certain boundaries of a polling station a misdemeanor. And Iowa has imposed new limits, including reducing the period for early voting and in-person voting hours on Election Day.

The voting rights section would set a floor of 15 days for early voting, expand no-excuse mail-in voting, mandate drop boxes for mail-in ballots to bypass the Postal Service, and bar most laws that mandate photo identification for voters.

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Senators Amy Klobuchar, left, Chuck Schumer, center, and Jeff Merkley announced the introduction of the For the People Act in the Senate in March.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Democrats say none of the sections, on their own, would have gotten the 10 Republicans needed to break a filibuster, so combining them made sense because the issues all interlocked.

But some of those provisions turned out to be political gifts to Republican opponents. Senator Angus King of Maine, a center-left independent, said he warned the Democrats he caucuses with that public financing of elections would invite Republicans to dust off an old charge that Democrats were pushing “welfare for politicians.”

As if on cue, Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida and the chairman of the party’s Senate campaign arm, said last week: “Think about what the Democrats are doing — they’re taking a vote to give themselves money. They want to take your taxpayer dollars, and they give it back to themselves and manipulate the vote.”

The provision to roll back voter identification laws across the country went against public opinion. A Monmouth University poll released Monday showed broad support for in-person early voting, considerable division over expanded mail-in balloting — and 80 percent support for mandatory identification checks at the polls.

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A first procedural vote in the Senate left the legislation far short of the 60 votes it needed to advance, dooming the bill.Credit…Olivier Douliery/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Such provisions gave Republicans added ammunition to rail against the entire effort.

“I just think it’s not a popular bill,” Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, said last week.

Mr. McConnell said on Monday the shifting salesmanship of the bill was evidence that Democrats were just not being honest about it. The bill itself has not changed much since 2019, but the messaging has.

Representative John Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland and a primary author of it, read that differently.

“It proves the point about why the legislation needs to be as comprehensive as it is, because at any given moment, there is one element of our democratic infrastructure that is in need of repair,” he said.

As Democrats pledged to fight on, Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, was somber. A Capitol Police officer had reminded him, he said, that after the Sept. 11 attacks, lawmakers joined together on the Capitol steps and pledged to respond — as Americans. The officer lamented the bitter partisanship over the coronavirus pandemic, then the failed response to the attack on the Capitol, when a filibuster brought down a proposed commission to investigate the riot.

“This is more than just a vote on an issue,” Mr. Kaine said Monday evening. “If Congress won’t act to protect the democracy, that sends a very powerful and dangerous signal.”

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U.S. Blocks Websites Linked to Iran at Key Point in Nuclear Talks

Officials seized the domains of about three dozen websites just days after Iran elected a new, hard-line president, and at a critical moment in nuclear negotiations.,

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration blocked access on Tuesday to several dozen websites linked to Iran, American and Iranian officials said, just as negotiations to bring the United States and Tehran back into an international nuclear accord appeared to be nearing a final decision.

The United States blocked the sites days after Iran held a presidential vote to install Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s former chief judge and close ally of the clerical government’s supreme leader, as its top elected official. The United States has accused Mr. Raisi of human rights abuses, and has imposed sanctions that all but prevent official dealings with him.

Among the websites that were seized was Iran’s state-owned Press TV, which on Tuesday afternoon displayed a red and white banner, in English and Persian, warning that it was the subject of criminal and intelligence investigations. The seals of the F.B.I. and the Commerce Department were also prominently pictured.

In what seems to be a coordinated action, a similar message appears on the websites of Iranian and regional television networks that claims the domains of the websites have been “seized by the United States Government.” pic.twitter.com/JloU56LvpL

— Press TV (@PressTV)

June 22, 2021

Also seized were websites for Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen and satellite and TV news channels that are dedicated to reports from the holy Shiite city of Karbala, Iraq, according to the Iranian news media.

One U.S. national security official said the websites, about three dozen in all, were linked to disinformation efforts by Iran and other groups backed by Tehran. A few involved terrorist organizations that targeted coalition forces stationed overseas, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the operation before it was announced.

The spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations, Shahrokh Nazemi, said the United States was trying to muzzle free speech.

“While rejecting this illegal and bullying action, which is an attempt at limiting the freedom of expression, the issue will be pursued through legal channels,” Mr. Nazemi said.

The semiofficial Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, accused the American government on Tuesday of targeting websites that belonged to the so-called axis of resistance — how Tehran and its allies describe proxy militia groups in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria that receive training and funding from Iran.

American officials also seized Fars’s website in 2018, when it was registered as a .com domain. The news agency switched to an Iranian domain of .ir and was back online soon afterward — a strategy that Press TV said on Tuesday that it would follow.

Amir Rashidi, the director of digital rights and security at Miaan Group and an expert on Iranian technology, likened the security action to “a game of whack-a-mole — you close this domain, they open another and there is nothing they can do.”

“The way to combat disinformation is information and strengthening independent journalism, giving the population internet access,” Mr. Rashidi said.

It was unclear how the security operation might affect the nuclear negotiations, which have been underway in Vienna since April.

Diplomats from the world powers that are trying to revive the accord said after meetings in Vienna on Sunday that the talks were making some progress, with the top Russian negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, even predicting a possible breakthrough by mid-July. The negotiators were to return to their capitals this week to brief their governments on the latest developments.

American and Iranian officials are not negotiating directly, leaving it to diplomats from Europe, China and Russia to serve as intermediaries in the talks, which are aimed at bringing the United States and Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord that the United States left three years later on the orders of President Donald J. Trump.

President Biden has said that rejoining the nuclear agreement is one of his top foreign policy priorities, although his aides have largely downplayed any certainty that a deal will be struck.

After the Trump administration withdrew from the accord, it issued a raft of powerful financial sanctions that have deeply bruised Iran’s economy, in an attempt to force Tehran to negotiate a new deal that would also curb its ballistic missile programs and proxy militias across the Middle East.

Instead, Iran has steadily increased its production of enriched uranium, the fuel that is necessary to make a nuclear weapon, far beyond the limits set by the 2015 accord. That has alarmed world powers and international inspectors who urgently want to bring Iran back into compliance — requiring the United States to lift at least some of its sanctions.

The negotiations largely have been hung up on which American sanctions will be removed. The Biden administration also has vowed that the deal will serve as a platform for new talks focused on Iran’s missiles and militias programs — a proposal that Mr. Raisi has already rejected.

Some officials believe that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will agree to the nuclear deal before Mr. Raisi is inaugurated in early August. That would protect Mr. Raisi from any domestic backlash for dealing with the United States — especially if the sanctions relief does not immediately bolster Iran’s economy.

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With Mass Vaccination Sites Winding Down, It’s All About the ‘Ground Game’

The shift away from high-volume centers is an acknowledgment of the harder road ahead: a highly targeted push, akin to get-out-the-vote efforts, to persuade the reluctant to get shots.,

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NEWARK — There were only six tiny vials of coronavirus vaccine in the refrigerator, one Air Force nurse on duty and a trickle of patients on Saturday morning at a federally run mass vaccination site here. A day before its doors shut for good, this once-frenetic operation was oddly quiet.

The post-vaccination waiting room, with 165 socially distanced chairs, was mostly empty. The nurse, Maj. Margaret Dodd, who ordinarily cares for premature babies at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, had already booked her flight home. So had the pharmacist, Heather Struempf, who was headed back to nursing school in Wyoming.

Across the country, one by one, mass vaccination sites are shutting down. The White House acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that it would not reach President Biden’s goal of getting 70 percent of American adults at least partly vaccinated by July 4. The setback stems from hesitancy in certain groups, slow acceptance by young adults and a swirl of other complex factors.

The Newark site, which closed on Sunday, was the last of 39 federally operated mass vaccination centers that administered millions of shots over five months in 27 states — a major turning point in the effort Mr. Biden described last week as “one of the biggest and most complicated logistical challenges in American history.” Many state-run sites are also closed or soon will be.

The nation’s shift away from high-volume vaccination centers is an acknowledgment of the harder road ahead, as health officials pivot to the “ground game”: a highly targeted push, akin to a get-out-the-vote effort, to persuade the reluctant to get their shots.

Mr. Biden will travel to Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday to spotlight this time-consuming work. It will not be easy — as Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the president’s coronavirus response coordinator, discovered last weekend, when he went door-knocking in Anacostia, a majority-Black neighborhood in Washington, with Mayor Muriel E. Bowser.

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The Newark site once administered as many as 6,700 shots a day.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

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The site was operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with the Defense Department and other federal agencies.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

In an interview on Tuesday, Dr. Fauci said he and the mayor spent 90 minutes talking to people on their front porches. But even with a celebrity doctor at the door and the prospect of giveaways at the vaccination center in a high school a few blocks away, many remained hesitant. Dr. Fauci said he persuaded six to 10 people to get their shots, though he did encounter some flat refusals.

“We would say, ‘OK, come on, listen: Get out, walk down the street, a couple of blocks away. We have incentives, a $51 gift certificate, you can put yourself in a raffle, you could win a year’s supplies of groceries, you could win a Jeep,'” Dr. Fauci said. “And several of them said, ‘OK, I’m on my way and I’ll go.'”

But in Newark, where more than three-quarters of the population is Black or Latino, the numbers tell the story. In Essex County, N.J., which includes Newark, 70.2 percent of adults have been vaccinated. But Essex also includes wealthy suburbs; in Newark, the figure is 56 percent, Judith M. Persichilli, the state’s health commissioner, said in an interview.

The Newark vaccination site, in a converted athletic facility at the New Jersey Institute of Technology that is ordinarily home to the school’s tennis teams, was set up and run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with the Defense Department and other federal agencies. It opened on March 31; when it was operating at full tilt, its medical staff administered as many as 6,700 shots a day.

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Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, right, and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington, center, went door-knocking in the city’s Anacostia neighborhood on Saturday to encourage residents to get vaccinated.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

By Saturday, the daily tally was down to about 300. The long, corridorlike tents that had once shielded lines of patients from cold weather were empty. Of 18 registration desks, only four were in use, and most of the vaccination cubicles were unoccupied.

Most of the patients, including some teenagers brought by their parents, were there for their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Many — like Abdullah Heath, 19, who took a year off after high school and will attend Rutgers University in the fall — said they were hesitant. But Rutgers requires vaccination, so Mr. Heath had little choice.

“I wanted to wait to see how other people were when they took the shot,” he said.

Alfredo Sahar, 36, a real estate agent originally from Argentina, said he had received his first dose on the spur of the moment, without an appointment, when he tagged along with his wife to the Newark site. The couple showed up for their second doses on Saturday with a young friend, Federico Cuadrado, 19, who was visiting from Argentina and received his first shot.

“Relax this arm,” Major Dodd said as Mr. Cuadrado rolled up his sleeve. But she will not be administering his second shot; with the site now closed, he will have to go elsewhere.

At the height of its vaccination drive, New Jersey had seven mass sites: six run by the state, plus the FEMA site in Newark. Two of the state sites have closed, another will shut down this week, and the last three are expected to do so in mid-July, said Ms. Persichilli, a nurse and former hospital official. She called the FEMA site, which vaccinated 221,130 people in all, “invaluable.”

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Maj. Margaret Dodd, right, gave Federico Cuadrado his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Newark on Saturday.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Mr. Biden has said repeatedly that equity — making sure people of all races and incomes have the same access to care and vaccines — is crucial to his coronavirus response. FEMA determined the locations for its mass vaccination sites using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “social vulnerability index” to identify communities most in need, Deanne Criswell, the FEMA administrator, said in an interview.

It was a learning experience for the agency, she said, adding that 58 percent of the roughly six million shots administered at the mass vaccination sites were given to people of color.

“We didn’t have a playbook for this type of an operation,” Ms. Criswell said. (The agency now has one that is 44 pages long.)

In New Jersey, traffic at the mass vaccination sites started tapering off about six weeks ago, Ms. Persichilli said. At about that time, the state moved to a “hub and spoke” strategy, creating pop-up sites in churches, barbershops and storefronts surrounding existing vaccination centers that could store and supply the vaccines.

The state also has 2,000 canvassers — 1,200 paid, partly with federal taxpayer dollars, and 800 volunteers — who have knocked on 134,000 doors in areas with low vaccination rates to direct people to nearby clinics. And the Health Department is planning vaccine clinics at a rock music festival, a balloon festival and a rodeo in Atlantic City.

Overall, New Jersey is way ahead of most states: 78 percent of adults have had at least one dose of a vaccine. In four states — Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Wyoming — the figure is lower than 50 percent.

“We’re running a marathon, and we’re in the last couple of miles, and we’re exhausted, and they’re going to be the most difficult ones,” Ms. Persichilli said. “But they are also going to be the most satisfying ones.”

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A photo booth outside the Newark site, which closed on Sunday.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

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The site was the last of 39 federally operated mass vaccination centers that administered millions of shots over five months in 27 states.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Public health officials know that the last mile of any vaccination campaign is indeed the hardest. The eradication of smallpox, considered the greatest public health triumph of the 20th century, came after a highly targeted global campaign that lasted two decades. Polio has still not been eradicated in some countries, Dr. Fauci said, because of vaccine hesitancy, including among women who express unfounded fears of infertility.

“We should have eradicated polio a long time ago,” he said.

The federal effort has been enormous, involving more than 9,000 people from across the government, as well as 30,000 National Guard members supporting Covid-19 vaccination in 58 states and territories, according to Sonya Bernstein, a senior policy adviser for the White House.

With the large vaccination sites winding down, FEMA is also pivoting. The agency still supports more than 2,200 community vaccination centers and mobile vaccination units. Now FEMA is rolling out a new pilot program to offer shots at or near recovery centers that it sets up after hurricanes and other natural disasters. The first of these opened this week in St. Charles Parish, La., which has a large minority population and was devastated by Hurricane Laura last summer. Only 51 percent of the adult population in St. Charles Parish has had at least one shot, according to data from the C.D.C.

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Long, corridorlike tents at the Newark vaccination site once shielded lines of patients from cold weather. On Saturday, the daily tally of administered shots was down to about 300. Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

In Newark, the mood on Saturday was bittersweet. People like Major Dodd and Ms. Struempf, thrown together in a crisis, were exchanging phone numbers with newfound friends and colleagues as they planned to go their separate ways. After living in hotels for more than two months, they were both eager to depart and wistful about the prospect.

Michael Moriarty, the FEMA official in charge of vaccination operations in the New York-New Jersey region, surveyed the scene: the vacant cubicles and chairs, the boxes of unused latex gloves, the brown paper taped to the floor to cover the tennis courts. It would not take long to undo, he said, adding, “They’ll be playing tennis here at the end of the week.”

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Military Suicides for Post-9/11 Veterans Are High, Study Warns

An estimated 30,177 of those who served after the 9/11 terrorist attacks died by suicide, compared with 7,057 killed in war operations.,

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Suicides among post-9/11 veterans are four times as high as combat deaths, a new study finds.

A marker for Cpl. Kindall Johnson, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Springfield. He died by suicide. Credit…Tammy Ljungblad/The Kansas City Star, via Associated Press

June 22, 2021, 7:47 p.m. ET

As the last remaining American troops prepare to depart from Afghanistan and Congress debates removing presidential war-making powers for the first time in a generation, there is a growing understanding that the veterans of America’s longest wars have a far greater risk of suicide and other mental health concerns than those who came before.

A new report from the Costs of War Project at Brown University found an estimated 30,177 active duty military personnel and veterans who have served since the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have died by suicide, compared with the 7,057 killed in military operations during the two-decade global war on terror. Among those who died by suicide, not all served in combat roles, suggesting that the problems that led to their suicides went beyond many of the often-cited causes, such as the high number of traumatic brain injuries and other severe combat-related wounds.

The study pointed to service members’ exposure to mental, moral, and sexual traumas; the influence of the military’s hegemonic masculine culture; access to guns; and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life. The study also questioned “the impact of the military’s reliance on guiding principles which overburden individual service members with moral responsibility or blameworthiness” for actions or consequences over which they may have little control.

The overall suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times as much as the rate for civilians. Among post-Sept. 11 veterans between 18-years-old and 35-years-old, the rate is 2.5 times that of all civilians, the report found, and double that of civilians the same age.

A great deal of money and legislation has been focused on fighting veteran suicide, yet the numbers have moved very little. The total number of veteran suicides increased by 36 from 2017 to 2018, the latest data available from the Department of Veterans Affairs, even as the veteran population fell by 1.5 percent.

Lawmakers hope new programs passed in the last year that focus on veterans from the post-Sept. 11 period and those in rural areas will have more profound effects. Veterans who die by suicide often do not seek V. A. services, so other means of reaching them may be more successful.

While most American veterans did not serve in the post-Sept. 11 wars, suicide rates for those who did rose from an average of 32.3 per 100,000 between 2005 and 2017 to 45.9 per 100,000 in 2018, the report found, drawing a firm line between service in those wars and special risk.

Thomas H. Suitt III, the author of the report, said it was important to focus on that set of suicides, rather than the broader cases in the military.

“For active service members, the rates look similar to those of the civilian population,” he said in an email. “Indeed, the Department of Defense has a quick line they use that points that out, as though it is comforting. However, historically, rates among active component service members were lower than the general population and usually decreased in wartime.”

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Republicans Block Voting Rights Bill, Dealing Blow to Biden and Democrats

All 50 G.O.P. senators opposed the sweeping elections overhaul, leaving a long-shot bid to eliminate the filibuster as Democrats’ best remaining hope to enact legal changes.,

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WASHINGTON — Republicans on Tuesday blocked the most ambitious voting rights legislation to come before Congress in a generation, dealing a blow to Democrats’ attempts to counter a wave of state-level ballot restrictions and supercharging a campaign to end the legislative filibuster.

President Biden and Democratic leaders said the defeat was only the beginning of their drive to steer federal voting rights legislation into law, and vowed to redouble their efforts in the weeks ahead.

“In the fight for voting rights, this vote was the starting gun, not the finish line,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. “We will not let it go. We will not let it die. This voter suppression cannot stand.”

But the Republican blockade in the Senate left Democrats without a clear path forward, and without a means to beat back the restrictive voting laws racing through Republican-led states. For now, it will largely be left to the Justice Department to decide whether to challenge any of the state laws in court — a time-consuming process with limited chances of success — and to a coalition of outside groups to help voters navigate the shifting rules.

Democrats’ best remaining hope to enact legal changes rests on a long-shot bid to eliminate the legislative filibuster, which Republicans used on Tuesday to block the measure, called the For the People Act. Seething progressive activists pointed to the Republicans’ refusal to even allow debate on the issue as a glaring example of why Democrats in the Senate must move to eliminate the rule and bypass the G.O.P. on a range of liberal priorities while they still control Congress and the presidency.

They argued that with former President Donald J. Trump continuing to press the false claim that the election was stolen from him — a narrative that many Republicans have perpetuated as they have pushed for new voting restrictions — Democrats in Congress could not afford to allow the voting bill to languish.

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Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, denounced any attempt to gut the filibuster.Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

“The people did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists,” Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter. “Abolish the filibuster so we can do the people’s work.”

Liberal activists promised a well-funded summertime blitz, replete with home-state rallies and million-dollar ad campaigns, to try to ramp up pressure on a handful of Senate Democrats opposed to changing the rules. Mounting frustration with Republicans could accelerate a growing rift between liberals and more moderate lawmakers over whether to try to pass a bipartisan infrastructure and jobs package or move unilaterally on a far more ambitious plan.

But key Democratic moderates who have defended the filibuster rule — led by Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — appeared unmoved and said their leaders should try to find narrower compromises, including on voting and infrastructure bills.

Ms. Sinema dug in against eliminating the filibuster on the eve of the vote, writing an op-ed in The Washington Post defending the 60-vote threshold. Without the rule there to force broad consensus, she argued, Congress could swing wildly every two years between enacting and then reversing liberal and conservative agenda items.

“The filibuster is needed to protect democracy, I can tell you that,” Mr. Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.

In their defeat, top Democrats appeared keen to at least claim Republicans’ unwillingness to take up the bill as a political issue. They planned to use it in the weeks and months ahead to stoke enthusiasm with their progressive base by highlighting congressional Republicans’ refusal to act to preserve voting rights at a time when their colleagues around the country are racing to clamp down on ballot access.

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Vice President Kamala Harris spent the afternoon on Capitol Hill trying to drum up support for the bill and craft some areas of bipartisan compromise.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“Once again, Senate Republicans have signed their names in the ledger of history alongside Donald Trump, the big lie and voter suppression — to their enduring disgrace,” Mr. Schumer said. “This vote, I’m ashamed to say, is further evidence that voter suppression has become part of the official platform of the Republican Party.”

Democrats’ bill, which passed the House in March, would have ushered in the largest federally mandated expansion of voting rights since the 1960s, ended the practice of partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, forced super PACs to disclose their big donors and created a new public campaign financing system.

It would have pushed back against more than a dozen Republican-led states that have enacted laws that experts say will make it harder for people of color and young people to vote, or shift power over elections to G.O.P. legislators. Other states appear poised to follow suit, including Texas, whose Republican governor on Tuesday called a special legislative session in July, when lawmakers are expected to complete work on a voting bill Democrats temporarily blocked last month.

After months of partisan wrangling over the role of the federal government in elections, the outcome on Tuesday was hardly a surprise to either party. All 50 Senate Democrats voted to advance the federal legislation and open debate on other competing voting bills. All 50 Republicans united to deny it the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster, deriding it as a bloated federal overreach.

Republicans never seriously considered the legislation, or a narrower alternative proposed in recent days by Mr. Manchin. They mounted an aggressive campaign in congressional committees, on television and finally on the floor to portray the bill as a self-serving federalization of elections to benefit Democrats. They called Democrats’ warnings about democracy hyperbolic. And they defended their state counterparts, including arguments that the laws were needed to address nonexistent “election integrity” issues Mr. Trump raised about the 2020 election.

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“The filibuster is needed to protect democracy, I can tell you that,” Senator Joe Manchin III said.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Senate Republicans particularly savaged provisions restructuring the Federal Election Commission to avoid deadlocks and the proposed creation of a public campaign financing system for congressional campaigns.

“These same rotten proposals have sometimes been called a massive overhaul for a broken democracy, sometimes just a modest package of tweaks for a democracy that’s working perfectly and sometimes a response to state actions, which this bill actually predates by many years,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader. “But whatever label Democrats slap on the bill, the substance remains the same.”

His top deputy, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, also threw cold water on any suggestion the two parties could come together on a narrower voting bill as long as Democrats wanted Congress to overpower the states.

“I don’t think there’s anything I’ve seen yet that doesn’t fundamentally change the way states conduct elections,” he said. “It’s sort of a line in the sand for most of our members.”

At more than 800 pages, the For the People Act was remarkably broad. It was first assembled in 2019 as a compendium of long-sought liberal election changes and campaign pledges that had energized Democrats’ anti-corruption campaign platform in the 2018 midterm elections. At the time, Democrats did not control the Senate or the White House, and so the bill served more as a statement of values than a viable piece of legislation.

The Battle Over Voting Rights

After former President Donald J. Trump returned in recent months to making false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Republican lawmakers in many states have marched ahead to pass laws making it harder to vote and change how elections are run, frustrating Democrats and even some election officials in their own party.

A Key Topic: The rules and procedures of elections have become central issues in American politics. As of May 14, lawmakers had passed 22 new laws in 14 states to make the process of voting more difficult, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute.The Basic Measures: The restrictions vary by state but can include limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, adding identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots, and doing away with local laws that allow automatic registration for absentee voting.More Extreme Measures: Some measures go beyond altering how one votes, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules, clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives, and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections.Pushback: This Republican effort has led Democrats in Congress to find a way to pass federal voting laws. A sweeping voting rights bill passed the House in March, but faces difficult obstacles in the Senate, including from Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia. Republicans have remained united against the proposal and even if the bill became law, it would most likely face steep legal challenges.Florida: Measures here include limiting the use of drop boxes, adding more identification requirements for absentee ballots, requiring voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, limiting who could collect and drop off ballots, and further empowering partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.Texas: Texas Democrats successfully blocked the state’s expansive voting bill, known as S.B. 7, in a late-night walkout and are starting a major statewide registration program focused on racially diverse communities. But Republicans in the state have pledged to return in a special session and pass a similar voting bill. S.B. 7 included new restrictions on absentee voting; granted broad new autonomy and authority to partisan poll watchers; escalated punishments for mistakes or offenses by election officials; and banned both drive-through voting and 24-hour voting.Other States: Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill that would limit the distribution of mail ballots. The bill, which includes removing voters from the state’s Permanent Early Voting List if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years, may be only the first in a series of voting restrictions to be enacted there. Georgia Republicans in March enacted far-reaching new voting laws that limit ballot drop-boxes and make the distribution of water within certain boundaries of a polling station a misdemeanor. And Iowa has imposed new limits, including reducing the period for early voting and in-person voting hours on Election Day.

When Democrats improbably won control of them, proponents insisted that what had essentially been a messaging bill become a top legislative priority. But the approach was always flawed. Mr. Manchin did not support the legislation, and other Democrats privately expressed concerns over key provisions. State election administrators from both parties said some of its mandates were simply unworkable (Democrats proposed tweaks to alleviate their concerns). Republicans felt little pressure to back a bill of its size and partisan origins.

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Senator Amy Klobuchar, right, announced that she would use her gavel on the Rules Committee to hold a series of hearings on election issues.Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Democratic leaders won Mr. Manchin’s vote on Tuesday by agreeing to consider a narrower compromise proposal he drafted in case the debate had proceeded. Mr. Manchin’s alternative would have expanded early and mail-in voting, made Election Day a federal holiday, and imposed new campaign and government ethics rules. But it cut out proposals slammed by Republicans, including one that would have neutered state voter identification laws popular with voters and another to set up a public campaign financing system.

Mr. Manchin was not the only Democrat keen on Tuesday to project a sense of optimism and purpose, even as the party’s options dwindled. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, announced she would use her gavel on the Rules Committee to hold a series of hearings on election issues, including a field hearing in Georgia to highlight the state’s restrictive new voting law.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who asked to take the lead on voting issues for Mr. Biden, spent the afternoon on Capitol Hill trying to drum up support for the bill and craft some areas of bipartisan compromise. She later presided over the vote.

“The fight is not over,” she told reporters afterward.

Facing criticism from party activists who accused him of taking too passive a role on the issue, Mr. Biden said he would have more to say on the issue next week but vowed to fight on against the dawning of a “Jim Crow era in the 21st century.”

“I’ve been engaged in this work my whole career, and we are going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again — for the people, for our very democracy,” he said in a statement.

But privately, top Democrats in Congress conceded they had few compelling options and dwindling time to act — particularly if they cannot persuade all 50 of their members to scrap the filibuster rule. The Senate will leave later this week for a two-week break. When senators return, Democratic leaders, including Mr. Biden, are eager to quickly shift to consideration of an infrastructure and jobs package that could easily consume the rest of the summer.

They have also been advised by Democratic elections lawyers that unless a voting overhaul is signed into law by Labor Day, it stands little chance of taking effect before the 2022 midterm elections.

Both the House and the Senate are still expected to vote this fall on another marquee voting bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill would put teeth back into a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that made it harder for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to enact voting restrictions, which was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 2013. While it does have some modest Republican support, it too appears to be likely doomed by the filibuster.

“This place can always make you despondent,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. “The whole exercise of being a member of this body is convincing yourself to get up another day to convince yourself that the fight is worth engaging in. But yeah, this certainly feels like an existential fight.”

Jonathan Weisman, Luke Broadwater and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

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Garland Rebuffs a Potential Broad Look at Trump-Era Justice Dept.

The attorney general said that various inspector general inquiries would help uncover any wrongdoing and that he wanted to avoid politicizing the work of career officials.,

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick B. Garland backed away on Tuesday from doing a broad review of Justice Department politicization during the Trump administration, noting that the department’s independent inspector general was already investigating related issues, including aggressive leak hunts and attempts to overturn the election.

Democrats and some former Justice Department employees have pressed Mr. Garland to uncover any efforts by former President Donald J. Trump to wield the power of federal law enforcement to advance his personal agenda. Their calls for a full investigation grew louder after recent revelations that Mr. Trump pushed department officials to help him undo his election loss and that prosecutors took aggressive steps to root out leakers.

Answering questions from reporters at the Justice Department on Tuesday, Mr. Garland said that reviewing the previous administration’s actions was “a complicated question.” He noted that managers typically sought to understand what previous leaders had done.

“We always look at what happened before,” he said. But he stopped short of saying that he would undertake a comprehensive review of Trump era Justice Department officials and their actions, in part to keep career employees from concluding that their work would be judged through changing political views.

“I don’t want the department’s career people to think that a new group comes in and immediately applies a political lens,” Mr. Garland said.

He also invoked the investigations by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, noting that they spoke to the question of whether Mr. Trump had improperly used the department’s powers to investigate and prosecute.

“It’s his job to look at these things,” Mr. Garland said of Mr. Horowitz. “He’s very good at this — let us know when there are problems and what changes should be made, if they should be. I don’t want to prejudge anything. It’s just not fair to the current employees.”

Mr. Horowitz said this month that he was investigating decisions by federal prosecutors to secretly seize reporters’ phone records in investigations of leaks of classified information to the press early in the Trump administration.

Mr. Horowitz is also examining subpoenas to Apple for subscriber information that ultimately belonged to House Democrats, including Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Schiff had called on Mr. Garland last week to do a “top-to-bottom review of the degree to which the department was politicized during the previous administration and take corrective steps.”

The inspector general is also examining whether current or former Justice Department officials improperly attempted to use the department to undo the election results, following reports that at least one former official pushed leaders to do so. And he is looking into whether Trump administration officials improperly pressured the former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, Byung J. Pak, to resign over his decision not to take actions that would cast doubt on the results of the election.

Mr. Garland also said in a statement this month that the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, was looking for “potentially problematic matters deserving high-level review.” But he made clear that she was not undertaking the kind of full investigation that critics of the Trump administration have called for.

Mr. Garland also told reporters that he planned to issue a memo on the federal death penalty in the coming weeks, which the Trump administration had revived after nearly two decades of disuse. President Biden has said he opposes the federal death penalty.

“I have been personally reviewing the processes of the department,” Mr. Garland said. “I expect before too long to have a statement.”

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Saudi Operatives Who Killed Khashoggi Received Paramilitary Training in U.S.

The training, approved by the State Department, underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments.,

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WASHINGTON — Four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by the State Department, according to documents and people familiar with the arrangement.

The instruction occurred as the secret unit responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was beginning an extensive campaign of kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, to crush dissent inside the kingdom.

The training was provided by the Arkansas-based security company Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The company says the training — including “safe marksmanship” and “countering an attack” — was defensive in nature and devised to better protect Saudi leaders. One person familiar with the training said it also included work in surveillance and close-quarters battle.

There is no evidence that the American officials who approved the training or Tier 1 Group executives knew that the Saudis were involved in the crackdown inside Saudi Arabia. But the fact that the government approved high-level military training for operatives who went on to carry out the grisly killing of a journalist shows how intensely intertwined the United States has become with an autocratic nation even as its agents committed horrific human rights abuses.

It also underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments and demonstrates how little oversight exists for those forces after they return home.

Such issues are likely to continue as American private military contractors increasingly look to foreign clients to shore up their business as the United States scales back overseas deployments after two decades of war.

The State Department initially granted a license for the paramilitary training of the Saudi Royal Guard to Tier 1 Group starting in 2014, during the Obama administration. The training continued during at least the first year of former President Donald J. Trump’s term.

Louis Bremer, a senior executive of Cerberus, Tier 1 Group’s parent company, confirmed his company’s role in the training last year in written answers to questions from lawmakers as part of his nomination for a top Pentagon job during the Trump administration.

The administration does not appear to have sent the document to Congress before withdrawing Mr. Bremer’s nomination; lawmakers never received answers to their questions.

In the document, which Mr. Bremer provided to The New York Times, he said that four members of the Khashoggi kill team had received Tier 1 Group training in 2017, and two of them had participated in a previous iteration of the training, which went from October 2014 until January 2015.

“The training provided was unrelated to their subsequent heinous acts,” Mr. Bremer said in his responses.

He said that a March 2019 review by Tier 1 Group “uncovered no wrongdoing by the company and confirmed that the established curriculum training was unrelated to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

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Louis Bremer, an executive at Tier 1 Group’s parent company, was chosen for a top Pentagon post during the Trump administration, but his nomination was withdrawn amid questions about the training of Saudis.Credit…Rod Lamkey/Sipa

Mr. Bremer said that the State Department, “in collaboration with other U.S. departments and agencies,” is responsible for vetting the foreign forces trained on U.S. soil. “All foreign personnel trained by T1G are cleared by the U.S. government for entry into the United States before commencement of training.”

In a statement, Mr. Bremer said that the training was “protective in nature” and that the company conducted no further training of Saudis after December 2017.

“T1G management, the board and I stand firmly with the U.S. government, the American people and the international community in condemning the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” he said.

A 2019 column by David Ignatius of The Washington Post first reported that members of the Khashoggi kill team had received training in the United States. He wrote that the C.I.A. had “cautioned other government agencies” that some special-operations training may have been conducted by Tier 1 Group under a State Department license.

The issue was central to Mr. Bremer’s contentious confirmation hearing and the written questions from senators, asking him what role, if any, Tier 1 Group had in training Saudis who had participated in the Khashoggi operation.

A State Department spokesman declined to confirm whether it awarded licenses to Tier 1 Group for the Saudi training.

“This administration insists on responsible use of U.S. origin defense equipment and training by our allies and partners, and considers appropriate responses if violations occur,” said the spokesman, Ned Price. “Saudi Arabia faces significant threats to its territory, and we are committed to working together to help Riyadh strengthen its defenses.”

A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not comment.

Mr. Trump weighed installing the head of Cerberus, Stephen A. Feinberg, in a top intelligence post last year, but the appointment was never made. While the Trump administration had appointed Mr. Feinberg to lead the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board in 2018, questions emerged about potential conflicts of interest. Cerberus formerly owned the military contractor DynCorp, which among other things provides intelligence advice to the United States and other clients.

It is unclear which members of the Khashoggi kill team participated in the Tier 1 Group training. Seven members of the team belonged to an elite unit charged with protecting Prince Mohammed, according to an American intelligence report about the assassination declassified in February.

The role of operatives from the so-called Rapid Intervention Force in the Khashoggi killing helped bolster the American intelligence case that Prince Mohammed approved the operation.

“Members of the R.I.F. would not have participated” in the killing without his consent, according to the report. The group “exists to defend the crown prince” and “answers only to him,” the document said.

Members of the team that killed Mr. Khashoggi were involved in at least a dozen operations starting in 2017, according to officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the campaign.

Mr. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Post, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, his body dismembered using a bone saw. The assassination brought widespread condemnation on Prince Mohammed, who has publicly denied any knowledge of the operation.

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The instruction occurred as the secret unit responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was beginning a campaign ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to crush dissent inside the kingdom.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Eight defendants were sentenced to up to two decades in prison last year, but human rights advocates criticized the punishments as aimed at lower-level agents while sparing their leaders.

The C.I.A. concluded that the prince directed the operation, but Mr. Trump said that the evidence was inconclusive and that America’s diplomatic and economic relationship with the kingdom took priority. After President Biden took office and debated the issue with his advisers before the release of the declassified intelligence report, his administration announced sanctions on Saudis involved in the killing, including members of the elite unit who protect Prince Mohammed, but chose not to directly punish the crown prince.

The earlier iteration of the training, which took place during the Obama administration, occurred before Prince Mohammed consolidated power in the kingdom. His predecessor as crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, was a close ally of the United States and in particular John O. Brennan, who served as C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama.

Prince bin Nayef was the Saudi counterterrorism chief and collaborated closely with Obama administration officials in working to dismantle Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group’s affiliate based in Yemen.

In 2017, Prince bin Salman pushed Prince bin Nayef from power and executed a broader campaign to wrest power from his rivals — including a notorious episode of imprisoning Saudi royals and businessmen at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.

The Trump administration considered him a valuable partner in the Middle East — especially for the administration’s strategy to isolate Iran — and Prince bin Salman developed a close relationship with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who served as a senior adviser to Mr. Trump.

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Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and President Barack Obama in the White House in 2015. In 2017, Prince bin Nayef was pushed from power and remains under house arrest.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Prince bin Salman, the son of King Salman, is the next in line to the Saudi throne. Prince bin Nayef remains under house arrest in the kingdom.

The Tier 1 Group website lists numerous American special operations and intelligence units as clients, along with “specialty units that do not require recognition.” It said it also trains “OGA special operator teams” — one pseudonym for C.I.A. paramilitary units — as well as “international allied forces.”

Under federal rules that restrict foreign sales of American arms and military expertise, Tier 1 Group was required to apply for licenses to train the foreign operatives. Those license applications were examined by State Department officials — who were processing tens of thousands of licenses per year — and approved.

The approval would have allowed members of the Saudi Royal Guard to enter the United States on visas processed by the American Embassy in Riyadh. The path is similar to the one followed by Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, a Royal Saudi Air Force officer who opened fire in 2019 at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., where he was receiving military flight training. The attack killed three people and wounded eight.

Tier 1 Group was founded to train U.S. military personnel, taking advantage of an expanded Pentagon budget for military personnel training in basic counterinsurgency skills, according to former American officials familiar with its operations.

One of the company’s founders, Steve Reichert, a former Marine, was working as an instructor for the security contractor then known as Blackwater when he met Mr. Feinberg. With Mr. Feinberg’s backing, Mr. Reichert set up Tier 1 Group, according to Mr. Reichert’s 2020 account of the company’s founding and former intelligence officials familiar with the efforts.

But as U.S. military training budgets began to shrink, the company, like other private security firms, began searching for new clients. By 2014, it was beginning to train foreign military units, including Saudis.

Decisions about granting licenses to American firms to train foreign nationals are usually made after getting input from numerous government agencies, said R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs during the Trump administration. The Pentagon and intelligence agencies often play a role, he said.

“These things don’t just come out of the ether,” he said.

Mr. Cooper said he could not recall any discussion about the Tier 1 Group training of Saudis, even after Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. He said there were intense deliberations inside the Trump administration about how to respond to the killing after the government concluded that Prince Mohammed most likely approved it.

In the end, he said, administration officials did not want to squander America’s relationship with the kingdom — and the strategy of isolating Iran — by taking a heavy-handed approach after Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

“No government is going to flush a significant bilateral relationship over this murder, no matter how horrific it was,” he said.

Adam Goldman contributed reporting.

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