Biden Expresses Confidence in Milley Amid Questions About Calls to China


Daily Political Briefing

Sept. 15, 2021Updated 

Sept. 15, 2021, 3:53 p.m. ET

Sept. 15, 2021, 3:53 p.m. ET


Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The country’s senior-most military officer did not bypass his civilian leaders when he called his Chinese counterpart last October and January, his office said on Wednesday, as General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, moved to limit the damage from a book that alleges that he secretly called China twice over concerns that his boss at the time, President Donald J. Trump, might spark a war with Beijing.

General Milley’s spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, said in a statement that “all calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency,” in a reference to the government national security bureaucracy.

“General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution,” the statement said.

General Milley’s “calls with the Chinese and others in October and January,” Colonel Butler said, “were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability.”

Colonel Butler did not speak to the specifics of the conversation, which, according to “Peril,” the new book by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, included reassurances that Mr. Trump had no plans to attack China as part of an effort to remain in power and that the United States was not collapsing.

“Things may look unsteady,” General Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng of China on Jan. 8, two days after Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to try to stop the certification of his election loss, in the second of two such calls. “But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

Yet despite those assurances, the book asserts that General Milley was so concerned about Mr. Trump that he convened a meeting with top commanders later that day to remind them of the procedures for launching a nuclear weapon and that he needed to be involved in such a decision.

The Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, said Wednesday that there was nothing wrong with that, calling it “completely appropriate for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the senior military adviser to the president, to want to see the protocols reviewed.” He added that “I see nothing in what I’ve read that would cause any concern.”

President Biden on Wednesday said he had “great confidence in General Milley.”

“The president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism, and his fidelity to our Constitution,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

But some Republican leaders took to Twitter to express their fury.

“I will be declining this invite to dine with Attempted Coup Leader and Renowned Critical Race Theorist Mark Milley,” Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida wrote, posting a photo of an invitation from the National Defense University to a dinner and reception in October where the general is the featured speaker. It’s unlikely the general extended that invite personally; he took Mr. Gaetz to task in June during a congressional hearing, after Mr. Gaetz criticized military institutions for teaching about systemic racism.

Instead of demurring to the congressman, as military leaders often do during congressional hearings, General Milley retorted that he had read Mao, Marx and Lenin and that “doesn’t make me a communist.”

Still, the last thing the Pentagon wants is the appearance that military leaders have gone around their civilian counterparts, even during the tumultuous last months of the Trump presidency, when Mr. Trump made clear in a series of meetings, officials said, that he was not averse to using the military to help him remain in power.

Similar to other media reports and books released since Mr. Trump left office, “Peril” details how his presidency essentially collapsed in his final months in office, particularly after his election loss and the start of his campaign to deny the results. Top aides — including General Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William P. Barr — became convinced that they needed to take drastic measures to stop him from trampling on American democracy or setting off an international conflict, and General Milley thought that Mr. Trump had declined mentally in the aftermath of the election, according to the book.

A senior Defense official said that Mr. Esper, in the weeks before he was unceremoniously fired by Mr. Trump, also made calls of reassurance to foreign counterparts worried about Mr. Trump.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting from Washington

Al Drago for The New York Times

President Biden plans on Wednesday to meet separately with two Democratic senators who have refused to back the party’s $3.5 trillion economic package, as congressional leaders race to resolve internal divisions over the scope of the plan and how to pay for it.

The two senators — Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — have repeatedly said they will not support a measure so costly, imperiling the chances of a plan that will require the support of all Senate Democrats to pass. Ms. Sinema arrived at the White House early Wednesday morning, while Mr. Manchin is set to meet with Mr. Biden later in the day.

Liberal Democrats have argued that the $3.5 trillion package — packed with spending for climate change programs, public education, health care, child and elder care initiatives and paid leave, and financed by tax increases on the wealthy — is already a compromise. But Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema, who have staked out a more fiscally conservative stance than most in their party, have resisted the price tag. It remains unclear, however, what specific revenue proposals or spending provisions they want to curtail or remove.

Unity on the measure is crucial given that Republicans are unanimous in opposition. Democrats plan to push it through under a special budget process known as reconciliation, which shields it from a filibuster and allows it to pass on a simple majority vote. But given Democrats’ slim majorities, they cannot afford even one defection in the 50-50 Senate and can spare as few as three votes in the House.

The meetings come as House Democrats race to finish committee work on the sweeping package ahead of a self-imposed Wednesday deadline. But intraparty disputes continue to flare, including disagreements over how aggressively to raise taxes on the wealthy and how to ensure the package controls prescription drug prices. Both elements provide crucial revenue to pay for the plan.

Three Democrats — Representatives Scott Peters of California, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Kathleen Rice of New York — have proposed a less aggressive drug pricing alternative than the one party leaders have drafted, which would most likely produce considerably less savings for the government.

If all three Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the leadership’s plan, they could block the legislation from advancing out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, depriving Democrats of a substantial chunk of the revenue they need to finance the reconciliation bill. The committee could take up the issue as early as Wednesday.

Pool photo by Chris Kleponis/EPA, via Shutterstock

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen is pressing Representative Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to include the Biden administration’s full proposal for bolstering the Internal Revenue Service in its $3.5 trillion spending package, arguing that more resources and greater powers to catch tax evaders are crucial for reducing the “tax gap.”

In a letter to Mr. Neal, Ms. Yellen urged lawmakers not to water down a central piece of the proposal, which would give the Internal Revenue Service visibility into the financial accounts of taxpayers through more robust reporting requirements. Treasury officials say that will enable the agency to better crack down on rich people and companies who are not paying what they owe.

Legislation released by House Democrats earlier this week included the $80 billion in additional funding for the I.R.S. that the Biden administration had proposed to help expand staffing and enforcement capacity. However, a separate proposal to enact an “information reporting” regime was absent from the bill.

“As you consider specific policy choices in designing an information reporting regime, it is important to ensure that the reporting regime is sufficiently comprehensive, so that tax evaders are not able to structure financial accounts to avoid it,” Ms. Yellen wrote. “Any suggestion that instead this reporting regime will be used to target enforcement efforts on ordinary Americans is wholly misguided.”

Critics of the proposal have argued that giving the I.R.S. more power to peer into taxpayer financial information represents an invasion of privacy and have said it could lead to frivolous audits for political reasons. The Biden administration insists that audit rates will not rise for taxpayers who earn less than $400,000.

In an addendum to the letter, Mark J. Mazur, Treasury’s acting assistant secretary for tax policy, reiterated Treasury’s estimates that the investment in enforcement staff and new information reporting powers could generate $700 billion in government revenue over a decade. He suggested that Congress might be considering including a more modest reporting mechanism and warned that doing so would be less effective.

“Clearly, this will lower the estimated revenue raised from the proposed reporting regime relative to earlier administration estimates,” Mr. Mazur wrote.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Neal said he had received the letters and underscored the importance of strengthening tax enforcement without adding new burdens to small businesses.

“We are in conversations with the administration on reporting proposals that target sophisticated tax avoidance and evasion without impacting middle-class and working Americans,” Mr. Neal said.

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Pennsylvania Republicans moved on Wednesday to seek personal information on every voter in the state as part of a brewing partisan review of the 2020 election results, rubber-stamping more than a dozen subpoenas for driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers.

The expansive request for personal information, directed at Pennsylvania’s Department of State and approved in a vote by Republicans on a State Senate subcommittee, is the first major step of the election inquiry. The move adds Pennsylvania to a growing list of states that have embarked on partisan-led reviews of the 2020 election, including a widely criticized attempt to undermine the outcome in Arizona’s largest county.

Democrats in the State Senate pledged to fight the subpoenas in court, saying at a news conference after the vote on Wednesday that the requests for identifiable personal information were an overreach, lacked authority and potentially violated federal laws protecting voter privacy.

“Senate Democrats, going forward, intend to take legal action against this gross abuse of power by filing a lawsuit challenging in the courts, and to ask the courts to declare the Senate Republicans’ actions in violation of separation of power, as well as declaring that they had no authority to issue these subpoenas,” said State Senator Jay Costa, the minority leader.

Democrats control several of the top offices in Pennsylvania — including those of governor, attorney general and secretary of state — and it was not immediately clear what legal basis they might have to challenge the subpoenas. Nor was it clear how the transfer of information would begin to take place, if does proceed, or which people or entities involved in the review would control the information.

The Department of State did not immediately respond to requests for comment or issue a statement on the subpoenas.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, denounced the subpoenas and investigation as “another step to undermine democracy, confidence in our elections and to capitulate to Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.”

The subpoenas, 17 in all, also included a request for communications between state and county election officials. They did not include requests for election machines or equipment.

But election experts still expressed worries about the amount of personal information being requested and the security risks, both to voters and to the electoral process, that could come with such a transfer of information. Such risks have grown increasingly common in partisan election reviews around the country.

“That’s a really bad idea to have private information floating around in a Senate caucus,” said Marian K. Schneider, an elections lawyer for the A.C.L.U. of Pennsylvania. “And it’s really not clear how the data is going to be used, who’s going to be looking at it, who can have access, how it’s going to be secured. And it’s unclear to me why they even need the personally identifying information.”

Republicans in several states have pursued similar reviews — misleadingly labeled “audits” to suggest an authoritative nonpartisan investigation — in the name of protecting “election integrity.” The reviews have often centered on baseless claims and debunked conspiracy theories about the presidential contest, spurred in part by the falsehoods promoted by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies.

President Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, and the results have been reaffirmed by the state’s Department of State.

“The entirety of our proceedings today, issuing subpoenas, is based upon such a noncredible foundation,” said Anthony H. Williams, a Democratic state senator who represents an area near Philadelphia. He added that it was “very troubling and, in fact, leads us to darker days in this country, such as when hearings like these, during the McCarthy era, were held, where voices were silenced and liberties were denied, being bullied by the power of the government.”

State Senator Jake Corman, the top Republican in the chamber, who approved the review last month, portrayed the investigation as merely trying to inform future legislation and lashed back at Democrats, asking what they were “scared of.”

“All we’re doing is seeking facts, seeking information, so that we can make better public policy,” Mr. Corman said.

When questioned by Democrats as to why voters’ Social Security and driver’s license information was necessary for the investigation, State Senator Cris Dush, who is leading the review as chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, brought up unspecific and unfounded claims of ineligible voters casting ballots in the Pennsylvania election.

“Because there have been questions regarding the validity of people who have voted, whether or not they exist,” Mr. Dush said. “Again, we’re not responding to proven allegations, we are investigating the allegations to determine whether or not they are factual.”

He continued: “If we have the sum errors within the voter registration system which allow for such activity, then we have a responsibility as a legislature to create legislation which will prevent that from happening in future elections.”

A chief concern of Democrats, beyond the subpoenas, was which people or companies might gain access to the stockpile of personal information for the nearly seven million Pennsylvanians who cast a ballot in the 2020 election.

State Senator Steven J. Santarsiero, a Democrat from the Philadelphia suburbs, pressed Mr. Dush on his selection process. Mr. Santarsiero asked specifically whether any of the vendors the Republicans are considering have ties to Sidney Powell, the lawyer who has popularized many false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

“The answer to that is I really don’t know, because it is not something that is relevant to my determination,” Mr. Dush responded.

“So it’s possible, then?” Mr. Santarsiero asked.

“It is absolutely possible,” Mr. Dush said.

Virginia Lozano for The New York Times

The Biden administration is trying to build support for proposals to overhaul the nation’s rickety child care system as it pushes Congress to embrace a $3.5 trillion plan to expand social safety programs and looks for ways to combat ongoing labor shortages.

In a new report released on Wednesday, the Treasury Department painted a dire picture of child care in America, outlining what it called failures by the private sector to provide high-quality care at affordable prices and making the case that the federal government must do more to help families care for their children.

“This is not just happenstance — sound economic principles explain why relying on private money to provide child care is bound to come up short,” the report said.

The Biden administration has already disbursed nearly $40 billion to help child care providers and day care centers through funds that were approved in the American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed earlier this year. The Treasury Department has also been distributing monthly advance child tax credit payments to families with children.

On Wednesday afternoon, Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the Treasury Department to make the case for more child care funding.

Mr. Biden’s plan includes child care subsidies for low- and middle-income families, universal prekindergarten for children who are 3 and 4 years old and a permanent expansion of the child and dependent care tax credits.

The Treasury report argues that families are currently spending about 13 percent of their income to pay for child care costs for a child under the age of 5. Despite the high costs, child care providers tend to be poorly compensated.

The patchwork nature of the child care system often creates incentives for a parent to leave the labor force, losing access to health insurance and retirement benefits. The United States is currently grappling with a labor shortage, and the Biden administration views bolstering access to child care as a way to get people back to work.

“In basic economic terms, the president’s proposals will expand both demand for and supply of child care,” the report said. “With expanded demand, more children will have access to the rich early experiences and more parents will be able to choose to remain in the labor force.”

Pool photo by Tiziana Fabi/EPA, via Shutterstock

Pope Francis weighed in on Wednesday on a debate roiling the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, where bishops are considering denying Communion to politicians, like President Biden, who support abortion rights.

“I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone,” Francis said, adding that bishops should be pastors, not politicians.

In his usual fashion, the pope did not give a simple, direct answer. But he left little doubt about his view, invoking a phrase he has used before: “Communion is not a prize for the perfect.”

The Vatican in June warned conservative bishops in the country against refusing Communion to Mr. Biden, who is only the second Roman Catholic to be U.S. president.

The Biden administration has been clear about wanting to protect a woman’s right to an abortion, and its fight with Republican lawmakers in Texas over the issue escalated on Tuesday. The Justice Department asked a federal judge to issue an order that would prevent the state from enforcing a law that prohibits nearly all abortions.

The Justice Department argued in its emergency motion that the state adopted the law, known as Senate Bill 8, “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights,” reiterating an argument the department made last week when it sued Texas to prohibit enforcement of the contentious new legislation.

Corey Arnold for The New York Times

President Biden met on Wednesday with top executives from Microsoft, the Walt Disney Company, Kaiser Permanente and other companies that have endorsed vaccine mandates, days after he announced a federal effort to require employees of large companies to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be tested regularly.

The administration sought to use the meeting to show that vaccine mandates are good for the economy while spotlighting employers that have mandates for workers or have praised Mr. Biden’s order. The meeting was meant to rally more business support for mandates.

“It’s about saving lives — that’s what this is all about,” said Mr. Biden, who was flanked by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator.

“Vaccinations mean fewer infections, hospitalizations and deaths, and in turn it means a stronger economy,” he added.

One of the invitees to the meeting, Tim Boyle, the chief executive of Columbia Sportswear, said in an interview on Wednesday that his company had drafted a policy mandating vaccines months ago. But it had held off carrying it out until Mr. Biden announced last week that he was directing the Labor Department to issue an emergency safety declaration that would effectively function as a vaccine mandate for tens of millions of workers. Columbia Sportswear told its workers that it will put a vaccine requirement in place next week.

Mr. Boyle said Columbia was concerned that by acting alone it would risk losing as many as half of its workers in distribution centers and retail stores. Mr. Biden’s order, he said, reduced the risk that workers who don’t want to get vaccinated would quit to work elsewhere.

“There’s much less opportunity for people to go somewhere they don’t need to be vaccinated,” he said.

Mr. Boyle said vaccinations had divided Columbia’s work force. Managers in its Portland, Ore., headquarters have largely embraced the shots, he said, but retail and warehouse workers throughout the country have been more reluctant. He said that hesitancy had hurt the company, with infections and the threat of infection forcing closures and cleanings of locations.

“Those operations are predicated on people working together closely,” he said. Having unvaccinated workers is “highly disruptive.”

Several of the business leaders who met with Mr. Biden have installed mandates already, for at least part of their work force, including Disney, Walgreens and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Pool photo by Saul Loeb

WASHINGTON — Simone Biles, the most accomplished gymnast in history, did not want to be in Congress on Wednesday, testifying to a Senate committee about the F.B.I.’s mishandling of one of the biggest sexual abuse cases in United States history.

Sitting at the witness table alongside three of her former teammates on the United States national team, Biles said she couldn’t imagine being less comfortable. But she chose to publicly address lawmakers for herself, as a survivor of that abuse, but also for other athletes, especially children, whom she feels compelled to protect.

Biles, 24, broke down in tears when explaining that she does not want any more young people to endure the suffering that she has at the hands of a pedophile. She and hundreds of other girls and women were molested by Lawrence G. Nassar, the former national team doctor. He is now serving what amounts to life in prison for multiple sex crimes.

“To be clear. I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said.

McKayla Maroney also testified, describing, in moving detail, how the F.B.I. mistreated her when she told agents how Nassar molested her again and again, even just before she won her Olympic gold medal. She had told them about a time when she and Nassar were in Tokyo for a competition and he molested her. She thought she “was going to die that night because there was no way he was going to let me go.”

When she finished telling the F.B.I. about the abuse, trauma she hadn’t even told her mother about yet, she said the agents answered, “Is that all?” She was just a teenager, and she felt crushed by their lack of empathy.

“Not only did the F.B.I. not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney testified. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.”

After the gymnasts spoke, the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, testified about the agency’s botched handling of the Nassar sexual abuse case, the first public questioning of the failure to properly investigate a sexual abuse case that shook the sports world to its core. Wray, who became the agency’s director in 2017, apologized to the victims, and said he was “heartsick and furious” when he heard that the F.B.I. had made so many errors in the case before he took charge of the agency.

“We need to remember the pain that occurred when our folks failed to do their job,” he said, referring to the victims’ suffering. He added that the F.B.I. would make changes to make sure the mismanagement never happens again.

The hearing comes days after the F.B.I. fired one agent who initially worked on the case investigating Nassar, the former national gymnastics team doctor who ultimately was convicted on state charges of abusing scores of gymnasts, including Olympians, under the guise of physical exams.

And it comes two months after the Justice Department’s inspector general released a report that sharply criticized the F.B.I. for making crucial errors in the matter. Those errors allowed Nassar to continue treating patients for eight months at Michigan State University, where he practiced, and in and around Lansing, Mich., including at a local gymnastics center and a high school.

Nassar, who is serving what amounts to life in prison for sexual misconduct, was able to molest more than 70 girls and women while the F.B.I. failed to act, the inspector general’s report said.

To kick off the hearing, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, scolded the F.B.I. for its “dereliction of duty,” “systematic organizational failure” and “gross failures” in the case, and said lawmakers would like to know from the F.B.I. how and why those failures happened and why it decided not to pursue charges against its agents who made devastating errors in the case.

“It shocks the conscience when the failures come from law enforcement itself, yet that’s exactly what happened in the Nassar case,” Durbin said.

Two F.B.I. agents initially assigned to the case no longer work for the agency. Michael Langeman, a supervisory special agent in the F.B.I.’s Indianapolis office, was fired in the days leading up to Wednesday’s hearing, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. Those people did not want their names published because they do not have the authority to speak about the case. The Washington Post was the first to publish news of Langeman’s firing.

Langeman, who was not immediately available for comment, was not named in the inspector general report, but his actions as the special supervisory agent, and his multiple crucial missteps, were described in detail. The report said Langeman should have known that Nassar’s abuse was probably widespread, yet he did not investigate the case with any urgency.

Langeman interviewed just one of the three elite gymnasts who gave U.S.A. Gymnastics details of Nassar’s abuse and did not properly document that interview or open an investigation. In an interview report Langeman filed with the F.B.I. 17 months after he spoke to that gymnast — Maroney, who was not named in the report — he included statements she did not make, according to the report.

Like other agents initially involved in the case, Langeman also did not alert local or state officials of Nassar’s alleged abuse, violating F.B.I. policy that states that crimes against children “invariably require a broad, multijurisdictional, and multidisciplinary approach.”

Langeman later said he had filed an initial report about Nassar, asking for the case to be transferred to the Lansing office because that’s where Nassar was based at Michigan State. But the paperwork wasn’t found in the F.B.I. database, the inspector general’s report said.

W. Jay Abbott, a special agent in the F.B.I.’s Indianapolis office, also is no longer with the F.B.I., after retiring in 2018. The report said he made false statements to Justice Department investigators and also “violated F.B.I. policy and exercised extremely poor judgment under federal ethics rules.” According to the report, he had been angling for a job with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, and discussed it with Steve Penny, who was then the president of U.S.A. Gymnastics. Abbott applied for the job with the U.S.O.P.C., but didn’t get the position — yet told Justice Department investigators that he never applied.

Hundreds of girls and women who were abused by Nassar have been waiting to hear from the F.B.I. about the mistakes in the case. Biles, the Olympic gold medalist, has been vocal about wanting to know “who knew what, and when” about Nassar. She won a silver medal and a bronze medal at the Tokyo Games after dropping out of the team competition because of a mental health issue.

Biles testified alongside former teammates Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, who is known as “Athlete A” in the Nassar case because she was the first elite gymnast to report the abuse to U.S.A. Gymnastics. That was in July 2015. The Lansing office of the F.B.I. opened its official investigation into Nassar in October 2016.

Adam Goldman contributed reporting from Washington.

Correction: Sept. 15, 2021

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of a capsule summary with this article misstated the middle initial of the former U.S.A. Gymnastics national team doctor at the center of the abuse scandal. He is Lawrence G. Nassar, not Lawrence J.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

SACRAMENTO — A Republican-led bid to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom of California ended in a decisive defeat on Tuesday, as Democrats in the nation’s most populous state closed ranks against a small grass-roots movement that accelerated with the spread of Covid-19.

Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host, led 46 challengers hoping to become the next governor, but Californians strongly affirmed their support for Mr. Newsom in a special election that cost the state an estimated $276 million.

The Associated Press called the race for Mr. Newsom, who had won in a 62 percent landslide in 2018, less than an hour after the polls closed on Tuesday. About 65 percent of the nearly nine million ballots counted by 1 a.m. Pacific time said the governor should stay in office.

“It appears that we are enjoying an overwhelmingly ‘no’ vote tonight here in the state of California, but ‘no’ is not the only thing that was expressed tonight,” Mr. Newsom told reporters late Tuesday.

“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud and voter suppression. We said yes to women’s fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body, her faith, her future. We said yes to diversity.”

The result reflected the state’s recent progress against the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 67,000 lives in California. The state has one of the nation’s highest vaccination rates and one of its lowest rates of new virus cases — which the governor tirelessly argued to voters were the results of his vaccine and mask requirements.

Though polls showed that the recall was consistently opposed by some 60 percent of Californians, surveys over the summer suggested that likely voters were unenthusiastic about Mr. Newsom. As the election deadline approached, however, his base mobilized.

Electoral math did the rest: Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one in California, and pandemic voting rules encouraged high turnout, allowing ballots to be mailed to each of the state’s 22 million registered, active voters with prepaid postage. More than 40 percent of those Californians voted early.

Since early this year, when it became clear that the recall would have the money and time to qualify for the ballot, Mr. Newsom campaigned relentlessly. Noting that Mr. Elder had built a career bashing liberal causes, the governor painted him as a Trump clone who would foist far-right policies on a state that has been a bastion of liberal thinking.

“Vote no and go,” the governor told voters, suggesting that they stick to voting against recalling him and not even dignify the second question on the ballot, which asked who should replace Mr. Newsom if the recall succeeds.

Millions of voters chose not to answer the second question, with Mr. Elder receiving nearly half of the vote from those who did. As of early Wednesday morning Kevin Paffrath, a Democrat, had received about 10 percent of the vote, and Kevin Faulconer, a Republican and former mayor of San Diego, had garnered about 9 percent.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom gave a victory speech after defeating California’s Republican-led recall vote in a landslide.Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s five-minute victory speech came not to a crowd of cheering supporters like the one he addressed with President Biden Monday night in Long Beach, but to a group of reporters gathered in Sacramento.

He dispensed with the typical laundry list of thanks to key political allies and instead sought to frame the entire recall campaign as the latest battle in a broader fight against the forces aligned with former President Donald J. Trump.

“Democracy is not a football, you don’t throw it around,” Mr. Newsom said. “It’s more like an antique vase. You can drop it, smash it into a million different pieces. And that’s what we’re capable of doing if we don’t stand up and meet the moment and push it back.”

Mr. Newsom’s triumph over the recall, he essentially said, was less a cause for celebration than it was an excuse to exhale. A California campaign that Democrats framed as one between the science of the pandemic, multicultural democracy and abortion rights didn’t leave the governor with much room for a victory lap.

The issues he mentioned at the beginning of his speech — promoting vaccines, diversity and women’s rights — are reflected in much of California’s current policy. This wasn’t a campaign Mr. Newsom ran with a platform of moving the state forward; it was a continuation of his warning that if Republicans take control, they would usher in a dystopian, Trump-inspired wasteland.

“We may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country,” Mr. Newsom said. “The Big Lie, the Jan. 6 insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country, what’s happening with the assault on fundamental rights, constitutional rights of women and girls, it’s a remarkable moment in our nation’s history.”

In California, where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one, this message was more than enough to carry the day, with a blowout margin that mirrored the 2020 presidential election result in the state.

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Voters across California cast their ballots in a recall election to decide the political fate of Gov. Gavin Newsom. The Democrat’s main challenge is from the Republican candidate Larry Elder.Ryan Young for The New York Times

The coronavirus pandemic helped propel the recall attempt of Gov. Gavin Newsom to the ballot in California, and on Tuesday, his handling of the pandemic was an overriding issue as about two-thirds of voters decided he should stay in office.

Across the nation’s most populous state, voters surveyed by New York Times reporters outside polling places cited Mr. Newsom’s pandemic restrictions and support for vaccine mandates as key factors in whether they voted to oust or keep him. The recall served as a preview of next year’s midterm elections nationally, with voters sharply divided along partisan lines over issues such as masks, lockdowns and mandatory vaccinations.

In San Francisco, Jose Orbeta said he voted to keep Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, in office, calling the recall a “waste of time.”

“It’s a power grab by the G.O.P.,” said Mr. Orbeta, a 50-year-old employee of the Department of Public Health. He said Mr. Newsom had done a “decent job” leading California through the pandemic despite his “lapse of judgment” in dining at the French Laundry during the height of the outbreak.

In Yorba Linda, a conservative suburb in Orange County, Jose Zenon, a Republican who runs an event-planning business with his wife, said he was infuriated by Mr. Newsom’s pandemic restrictions and support for vaccine mandates. He pointed to examples of his friends leaving for other states, such as Arizona, Nevada and Texas.

“That train out of here is really long, and we might be getting on it, too,” Mr. Zenon said, just after voting for Larry Elder, the Republican talk-radio host who led the field of challengers hoping to take Mr. Newsom’s job.

“The rules this governor made put a lot of businesses in an impossible position — we were without income for 10 months. Here we live in a condo, we want to have a home, but it’s just impossible. Something’s got to change.”

Some voters in an increasingly politically active constituency of Chinese Americans supported the recall. They blamed Mr. Newsom for a rise in marijuana dispensaries, homeless people and crime that they said are ruining the cluster of cities east of Los Angeles where Chinese immigrants, many of them now American citizens, have thrived for years.

“We really don’t like the situation in California,” said Fenglan Liu, 53, who immigrated to the United States from mainland China 21 years ago and helped mobilize volunteers in the San Gabriel Valley.

“No place is safe; crime is terrible. Newsom needs to go. This is failed management, not the pandemic.”

In the wealthy Orange County suburb of Ladera Ranch, Candice Carvalho, 42, cast her ballot against the recall because, she said, “I thought it was important to show that Orange County isn’t just Republicans.”

She expressed frustration that the recall was taking so much attention at a critical moment in the pandemic.

“It was a waste of money and completely unnecessary,” she said. “And I’m a little shocked we’re focusing on this now.” While she acknowledged knowing little about the specifics of state election laws, she said it seemed “slightly too easy” to get the recall attempt on the ballot.

Rory Doyle/Reuters

A report released on Tuesday that examined poverty in the United States has invited comparisons of the effectiveness of government stimulus in response to the two most recent economic emergencies: the 2009 financial crisis and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the pandemic, the share of people living in poverty in the United States fell to a record low last year — a finding that economists and policymakers across the political spectrum have hailed as a sign that the emergency stimulus program worked.

Robert Reich, the Berkeley economics professor who served as labor secretary under President Clinton, tweeted that the data proved government aid was effective in fighting poverty. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, head of the conservative American Action Forum and a former adviser to Senator John McCain, told the DealBook newsletter that the recent stimulus was “the best policy response to a recession the U.S. has ever seen.”

But there is still room for interpretation. According to the report, a measure of the poverty rate that accounts for the impact of government programs fell to 9.1 percent of the population last year, from 11.8 percent in 2019. But the official rate, which was devised in 1963 by a Polish immigrant and Social Security administrator, Mollie Orshansky, is based almost entirely on the cost of food and leaves out some major aid programs, rose last year to 11.4 percent. (The difference between poverty measures was once a plotline in “The West Wing.”)

So, was the pandemic stimulus the “best” emergency response? One thing it has going for it is a seemingly flattering comparison to the government’s efforts in the financial crisis in 2009.

As David Leonhardt of The Morning newsletter recently wrote, President Obama’s 2009 economic aid package has long been seen as a failure, even though the economy began growing again within a few months of its passage and it likely helped stave off an even deeper downturn. Government benefits and tax changes lifted 53 million Americans out of poverty last year, more in absolute and relative terms than in 2009, according to calculations from the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But consider the other side of the ledger. In 2009, the government spent $810 billion on its stimulus. Last year’s increase in government aid was some $1.8 trillion. That translates, very roughly, to around $35,000 per person lifted out of poverty versus $20,000 in 2009, though not all the money in either package went to lower-income Americans.

The debate over cost and efficiency will influence whether the government should spend trillions more, as President Biden and many Democrats now want, to fund more permanent government aid programs. Detractors, including many Republicans, can point to data showing a seeming drop in the benefit per dollar spent as a reason to be cautious.

But Arloc Sherman, an economist at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said spending now could save money later.

“I would not say the 2020 stimulus was a less effective stimulus,” he said. “But it could have been more efficient and effective if we had a comprehensive and well-designed security system in the first place.”

Nina Westervelt for The New York Times

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York arrived at the Met Gala on Monday evening dressed in a custom Brother Vellies ivory wool jacket dress with an organza flounce and the message “Tax the Rich” emblazoned in red across her back.

Designers and corporate sponsors generally pay the hefty price of admission — $35,000 a ticket, or $200,000 to $300,000 a table — for the gala’s guests, who typically include a quorum of Kardashians, Hollywood A-listers and supermodels. The star-studded event is often referred to as the Oscars of fashion.

Many New York City elected officials are invited as well, as “guests of the museum” who do not pay to attend.

Regardless, Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance — and dress — provided easy fodder for her most reliably triggered critics. On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s eldest son, tagged her as a fraud for sending a message about taxing the rich “while she’s hanging out with a bunch of wealthy leftwing elites.”

More surprising was the criticism Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, generated from the left — a chorus of dissatisfaction from progressives and self-described socialists disappointed by a gesture they said caricatured a progressive cause and underscored their sense that she is not maximizing her ability to fight for working people from Congress.

But among Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s defenders was Maya Wiley, the former New York City mayoral candidate whose campaign Ms. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed earlier this year.

“To walk into a space that’s about art, fashion, luxury and wealth and say, ‘Here is the conversation we have to confront, but I’m going to confront it in the vernacular of the event,’ is brilliant,” Ms. Wiley said.


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