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Biden wants Harris to have a major role. What it is has not been defined.

WASHINGTON – President Biden was listing his priorities for a coronavirus relief bill during one of his first meetings with reporters as commander-in-chief when he stopped mid-sentence for correct himself.

These elements, Mr Biden said, are what “we think are the priorities,” emphasizing the pronoun. Then, turning to face Vice President Kamala Harris, standing a few steps behind him, he apologized.

It was a rare mistake for the president, who has worked to include Ms Harris in almost all of her public appearances, and has emphasized that she is a full partner in the decisions he makes. These recurring scenes are the most tangible result of Mr Biden’s efforts – and a presidential directive – to treat Ms Harris, the first black woman and vice president, as a full stakeholder as he moves forward. strives to reconcile the nation’s political divisions, tackle racial inequalities and derail the coronavirus pandemic.

“The president has given us clear instructions,” Ron Klain, Mr. Biden’s chief of staff, said in an interview. “Our goal is to get her out as much as possible.”

Ms Harris’ relationship with the president was forged by the outright politics of the Democratic primary campaign, when she became one of Mr Biden’s most vocal opponents. A surprising chemistry with Mr. Biden has made them running mates and that relationship will now be crucial in enabling Ms. Harris to define herself in what historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has said has turned out to be “spectacular work and , I believe, incurable. frustration.”

“She went from that failed campaign to getting the golden ticket, as the chief substitute for a guy who appreciates the role of vice president, and is going to put her out there in that historic role,” said Gil Duran, Ms Harris’ former aide when she was California attorney general. “So the question is, what is she doing with this reset?”

The answer is a work in progress.

The Vice President has already made her presence known, most recently on Friday morning, when she traveled to Capitol Hill before sunrise to vote a tie in the Senate, paving the way for the 1, 1 coronavirus stimulus package. $ 9 trillion from Mr. Biden to move forward without Republican support. .

And as part of the barrier-breaking partnership, Ms Harris has taken on the onus of meeting the expectations of voters, especially people of color, who helped place Mr Biden in the Oval Office. It is a burden that Mr. Klain says he has borne “with grace” even as it weighs heavily on her. Others say it will take time to forge its own course.

For now, the vice president’s personnel advisers appear determined to cement and emphasize his connection to Mr Biden through their joint appearances, while seeking to avoid letting Ms Harris become a rigid figure and model standing alongside. of President, just as Vice President Mike Pence has done for the past four years.

For a model, Ms. Harris doesn’t need to look any further than Mr. Biden. In eight years as vice president, he has carved out his own role alongside President Barack Obama, but not before overcoming a relationship that was initially tough and formal.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris start faster. They spent much more time together than their predecessors – typically four to five hours a day in the White House, assistants say – in part because the coronavirus pandemic has limited their travel.

Ms Harris and Mr Biden typically start the day receiving the President’s daily briefing together in the Oval Office, a tradition restored since the departure of President Donald J. Trump, who had little interest in it. They also quickly embraced the idea of ​​a weekly White House lunch as a private opportunity to build confidence and share their ideas.

When putting together her own staff, Ms. Harris selected people who she believed had a good relationship with the president and his team. She chose Tina Flournoy, who has close ties to Mr. Klain, to run her office. Ashley Etienne, former advisor to President Nancy Pelosi, is its communications director.

Ms Harris also knew the president held Symone Sanders, who worked as a press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign before joining the Biden campaign in high regard. Ms. Sanders is now his press secretary.

The Vice President’s aides have repeatedly stressed that all of her events and public messages are closely coordinated with members of Mr. Biden’s team. A visit by Ms Harris last week to the National Institutes of Health to thank scientists and receive his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine was linked to a speech later today by Mr Biden in which he announced the acquisition 200 million additional doses. vaccine.

The appearance made a lasting impression on Rep. Joyce Beatty, Democrat of Ohio and Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, in the district. In an interview, Ms Beatty said her phone turned on with calls from voters who were newly curious about getting the shots themselves after photos of Ms Harris receiving the photo were posted online.

Black Americans are nearly three times more likely to die from the coronavirus than white Americans, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but white Americans are more likely to receive the vaccine, in part because of the systemic racism present in health care institutions. The sight of a black woman receiving the vaccine, Ms. Beatty said, “gave people hope and gave them an education.”

These moments, during which Ms. Harris connects with people from across the country, are critical to any future she may have beyond administration. But they are also in line with messages Mr Biden hopes his vice president – as a woman, a minority and a young generation – can deliver on behalf of his agenda.

But, as Mr. Biden is well aware, the more opportunities there are to forge a distinct identity as vice president, the more likely it is to make a mess. As vice president, Mr. Biden’s talkativeness has often caught the well-designed Obama White House by surprise. At times, including in 2012 when he voiced support for same-sex marriage before Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden completely rejected the script.

When Ms Harris was interviewed last week with a West Virginia TV station, her support for the president’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan was interpreted as an attempt to pressure the senator State Democrat Joe Manchin III, who took offense and expressed displeasure at not being warned.

And in a small stream during the same interview, Ms. Harris promoted the clearance of “abandoned landmines” in West Virginia – not “abandoned mining lands” – as an effort to create jobs in the state.

White House officials were quickly in touch with Mr Manchin to control the damage, lining the shutter in publicly praising Mr Manchin’s value for the Biden-Harris agenda.

Ms Harris also faced questions about her family members who were enjoying their relationships with her. Reports that Ms Harris’ daughter-in-law received a modeling contract a week after opening day have raised eyebrows even among the president’s allies. And a business run by Ms Harris’ niece that sells Harris-themed merchandise is an ethical issue for Mr Biden’s assistants since the campaign. The White House said her name would not be used for business activities that “involve endorsement or support,” according to a spokesperson.

This did not diminish the President’s opinion of Ms Harris. White House officials have said Mr. Biden is eager to put it to work, much as Mr. Obama instructed him with the economic recovery program in early 2009. But the fact that the president didn’t not intend to immediately assign him a specific portfolio. inevitably prompted questions about his role in administration.

Instead, Mr Biden gave Ms Harris a slew of high-profile tasks during their first two weeks in office. Just hours after the president announced on inauguration day that the United States was planning to join the World Health Organization, the vice president was on the phone with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the chief executive of the group, reaffirming support for the new administration after M. Trump’s sustained attacks on the world’s leading health institution.

The call sent an early message that she is speaking on behalf of Mr Biden about some of his most critical priorities, but Ms Harris has not been shy about putting pressure on Mr Biden on her own. In recent weeks, aides to the president and vice-president said she had repeatedly insisted that administration policies affect the less fortunate in often neglected urban and rural communities.

In an Oval Office meeting with Mr Biden and his advisers on the first Monday at the White House, Ms Harris urged Jeffrey D. Zients, the coronavirus response coordinator, to provide more details on the use of the Mobile vaccination centers to ensure that poor people living in remote areas could be protected from the virus.

“The vice president pushed us hard, in a very good way, on are there enough mobile units available?” As we ended this meeting, she urged me to say, “Where are we with the mobile immunization units? How many are we going to have, in what period of time? Will they be able to reach rural and urban communities? What progress have you made? Mr. Zients said.

That kind of persistence has left a deep impression on Mr. Biden, his staff say.

It was only hours after Ms Harris sprayed Mr Zients with questions that the President found himself taking credit for his coronavirus relief plan on stage with Ms Harris on his own. Mr Klain, who has served two vice presidents as chief of staff, said the instance was more evidence that Mr Biden had an instinctive understanding of what those moments might feel like.

“It starts with a president who has been there and understands what it feels like to be the person standing behind two steps back at a public event,” Klain said. “I think he has this empathy for his situation which is unique.”

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Biden wants Harris to have a major role. What it is has not been defined.

WASHINGTON – President Biden was listing his priorities for a coronavirus relief bill during one of his first meetings with reporters as commander-in-chief when he stopped mid-sentence for correct himself.

These elements, Mr Biden said, are what “we think are the priorities,” emphasizing the pronoun. Then, turning to face Vice President Kamala Harris, standing a few steps behind him, he apologized.

It was a rare mistake for the president, who has worked to include Ms Harris in almost all of her public appearances, and has emphasized that she is a full partner in the decisions he makes. These recurring scenes are the most tangible result of Mr Biden’s efforts – and a presidential directive – to treat Ms Harris, the first black woman and vice president, as a full stakeholder as he moves forward. strives to reconcile the nation’s political divisions, tackle racial inequalities and derail the coronavirus pandemic.

“The president has given us clear instructions,” Ron Klain, Mr. Biden’s chief of staff, said in an interview. “Our goal is to get her out as much as possible.”

Ms Harris’ relationship with the president was forged by the outright politics of the Democratic primary campaign, when she became one of Mr Biden’s most vocal opponents. A surprising chemistry with Mr. Biden has made them running mates and that relationship will now be crucial in enabling Ms. Harris to define herself in what historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has said has turned out to be “spectacular work and , I believe, incurable. frustration.”

“She went from that failed campaign to getting the golden ticket, as the chief substitute for a guy who appreciates the role of vice president, and is going to put her out there in that historic role,” said Gil Duran, Ms Harris’ former aide when she was California attorney general. “So the question is, what is she doing with this reset?”

The answer is a work in progress.

The Vice President has already made her presence known, most recently on Friday morning, when she traveled to Capitol Hill before sunrise to vote a tie in the Senate, paving the way for the 1, 1 coronavirus stimulus package. $ 9 trillion from Mr. Biden to move forward without Republican support. .

And as part of the barrier-breaking partnership, Ms Harris has taken on the onus of meeting the expectations of voters, especially people of color, who helped place Mr Biden in the Oval Office. It is a burden that Mr. Klain says he has borne “with grace” even as it weighs heavily on her. Others say it will take time to forge its own course.

For now, the vice president’s personnel advisers appear determined to cement and emphasize his connection to Mr Biden through their joint appearances, while seeking to avoid letting Ms Harris become a rigid figure and model standing alongside. of President, just as Vice President Mike Pence has done for the past four years.

For a model, Ms. Harris doesn’t need to look any further than Mr. Biden. In eight years as vice president, he has carved out his own role alongside President Barack Obama, but not before overcoming a relationship that was initially tough and formal.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris start faster. They spent much more time together than their predecessors – typically four to five hours a day in the White House, assistants say – in part because the coronavirus pandemic has limited their travel.

Ms Harris and Mr Biden typically start the day receiving the President’s daily briefing together in the Oval Office, a tradition restored since the departure of President Donald J. Trump, who had little interest in it. They also quickly embraced the idea of ​​a weekly White House lunch as a private opportunity to build confidence and share their ideas.

When putting together her own staff, Ms. Harris selected people who she believed had a good relationship with the president and his team. She chose Tina Flournoy, who has close ties to Mr. Klain, to run her office. Ashley Etienne, former advisor to President Nancy Pelosi, is its communications director.

Ms Harris also knew the president held Symone Sanders, who worked as a press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign before joining the Biden campaign in high regard. Ms. Sanders is now his press secretary.

The Vice President’s aides have repeatedly stressed that all of her events and public messages are closely coordinated with members of Mr. Biden’s team. A visit by Ms Harris last week to the National Institutes of Health to thank scientists and receive his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine was linked to a speech later today by Mr Biden in which he announced the acquisition 200 million additional doses. vaccine.

The appearance made a lasting impression on Rep. Joyce Beatty, Democrat of Ohio and Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, in the district. In an interview, Ms Beatty said her phone turned on with calls from voters who were newly curious about getting the shots themselves after photos of Ms Harris receiving the photo were posted online.

Black Americans are nearly three times more likely to die from the coronavirus than white Americans, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but white Americans are more likely to receive the vaccine, in part because of the systemic racism present in health care institutions. The sight of a black woman receiving the vaccine, Ms. Beatty said, “gave people hope and gave them an education.”

These moments, during which Ms. Harris connects with people from across the country, are critical to any future she may have beyond administration. But they are also in line with messages Mr Biden hopes his vice president – as a woman, a minority and a young generation – can deliver on behalf of his agenda.

But, as Mr. Biden is well aware, the more opportunities there are to forge a distinct identity as vice president, the more likely it is to make a mess. As vice president, Mr. Biden’s talkativeness has often caught the well-designed Obama White House by surprise. At times, including in 2012 when he voiced support for same-sex marriage before Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden completely rejected the script.

When Ms Harris was interviewed last week with a West Virginia TV station, her support for the president’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan was interpreted as an attempt to pressure the senator State Democrat Joe Manchin III, who took offense and expressed displeasure at not being warned.

And in a small stream during the same interview, Ms. Harris promoted the clearance of “abandoned landmines” in West Virginia – not “abandoned mining lands” – as an effort to create jobs in the state.

White House officials were quickly in touch with Mr Manchin to control the damage, lining the shutter in publicly praising Mr Manchin’s value for the Biden-Harris agenda.

Ms Harris also faced questions about her family members who were enjoying their relationships with her. Reports that Ms Harris’ daughter-in-law received a modeling contract a week after opening day have raised eyebrows even among the president’s allies. And a business run by Ms Harris’ niece that sells Harris-themed merchandise is an ethical issue for Mr Biden’s assistants since the campaign. The White House said her name would not be used for business activities that “involve endorsement or support,” according to a spokesperson.

This did not diminish the President’s opinion of Ms Harris. White House officials have said Mr. Biden is eager to put it to work, much as Mr. Obama instructed him with the economic recovery program in early 2009. But the fact that the president didn’t not intend to immediately assign him a specific portfolio. inevitably prompted questions about his role in administration.

Instead, Mr Biden gave Ms Harris a slew of high-profile tasks during their first two weeks in office. Just hours after the president announced on inauguration day that the United States was planning to join the World Health Organization, the vice president was on the phone with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the chief executive of the group, reaffirming support for the new administration after M. Trump’s sustained attacks on the world’s leading health institution.

The call sent an early message that she is speaking on behalf of Mr Biden about some of his most critical priorities, but Ms Harris has not been shy about putting pressure on Mr Biden on her own. In recent weeks, aides to the president and vice-president said she had repeatedly insisted that administration policies affect the less fortunate in often neglected urban and rural communities.

In an Oval Office meeting with Mr Biden and his advisers on the first Monday at the White House, Ms Harris urged Jeffrey D. Zients, the coronavirus response coordinator, to provide more details on the use of the Mobile vaccination centers to ensure that poor people living in remote areas could be protected from the virus.

“The vice president pushed us hard, in a very good way, on are there enough mobile units available?” As we ended this meeting, she urged me to say, “Where are we with the mobile immunization units? How many are we going to have, in what period of time? Will they be able to reach rural and urban communities? What progress have you made? Mr. Zients said.

That kind of persistence has left a deep impression on Mr. Biden, his staff say.

It was only hours after Ms Harris sprayed Mr Zients with questions that the President found himself taking credit for his coronavirus relief plan on stage with Ms Harris on his own. Mr Klain, who has served two vice presidents as chief of staff, said the instance was more evidence that Mr Biden had an instinctive understanding of what those moments might feel like.

“It starts with a president who has been there and understands what it feels like to be the person standing behind two steps back at a public event,” Klain said. “I think he has this empathy for his situation which is unique.”

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Video: New York wakes up to major snowstorm

New York City wakes up to major snowstorm On Monday morning, six inches of snow had already fallen in New York City, as officials braced for widespread power losses and high winds. The winter storm is expected to produce more than a foot of snow in some areas, according to the New York Times.

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Champ and Major go to Washington.

The new residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have arrived: the two German Shepherds of the Biden family, Champ and Major.

The dogs officially joined President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, at the White House on Sunday, said Michael LaRosa, a spokesperson for Dr. Biden.

“Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace, and Major loved running on the south lawn,” LaRosa said in a statement.

Dr Biden confirmed their arrival on Twitter Monday. “Champ and Major have joined us at the White House!” she wrote.

Their arrival ends the longest period of pet-free presidential residence since President Andrew Johnson’s tenure from 1865 to 1869, according to the Presidential Pet Museum.

The Biden family obtained Champ from a breeder in 2008 after Mr. Biden was elected vice president, according to Politico, and they adopted Major in 2018 through the Delaware Humane Association, making him the first dog. rescue to live in the White House.

Mr. Biden has occasionally posted on social media about his pets. “No campaign ruff days when I have a major motivation,” Biden wrote on Instagram in October.

Later in the month he wrote on Twitter: “Some Americans celebrate #NationalCatDay, some celebrate #NationalDogDay – President Trump celebrates neither. That says a lot. It’s time to return a pet to the White House.

The tradition of presidential pet ownership dates back to George Washington’s two terms and has been carried on by 31 of the 46 presidents. Donald J. Trump was the first president in more than a century without a pet. Johnson, the last animal-free president, was known to leave flour for a family of white mice that lived in his room, according to the Presidential Pet Museum.

Major and Champ’s predecessors weren’t just cats and dogs: Theodore Roosevelt had horses, dogs, a hyacinth macaw parrot, kangaroo rats, five guinea pigs and a one-legged rooster, as well as a badger. short temper named Josiah and a green garter snake named Emily Spinach. Calvin Coolidge kept a raccoon, named Rebecca, according to the Presidential Pet Museum. Herbert Hoover had several dogs as well as a wild opossum named Billy.

More recent four-legged White House residents include Bo and Sunny, two Portuguese water dogs owned by Barack Obama and his family.

The Bidens have also said they plan to have a cat.

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Federal authorities warn that the breach in the Capitol will be a “major driver of violence.”

The murderous breach on Capitol Hill last week will be a “major engine of violence” for armed militias and racist extremists targeting the presidential nomination next week, according to a joint intelligence bulletin released by federal authorities.

The ‘boogaloo’, a movement that seeks to start a second civil war, and extremists aiming to start a racial war “may exploit the consequences of the Capitol breach by carrying out attacks to destabilize and force a climactic conflict in the United States. ”, According to the bulletin published by the National Center for the fight against terrorism and the departments of justice and internal security, which was widely distributed to law enforcement agencies across the country.

The bulletin, dated January 13, is titled “Violent Extremists Within Family Emboldened After Capitol Violation, Rise in Domestic Terrorism, Threat of Likely Violence Amidst Political Transitions and Beyond.” Anti-government militias and racist extremists “quite possibly represent the greatest threats from domestic terrorism in 2021,” the agencies said.

Federal officials wrote that extremist groups viewed the Capitol violation as a success and were galvanized by the death of Ashli ​​Babbitt, a QAnon follower who was shot dead by police as she attempted to enter in the President’s hall, very protected, just outside. the bedroom of the House. Extremists could perceive this death as “an act of martyrdom”, according to the bulletin.

The Capitol Breach, along with QAnon’s conspiracy theories, will likely prompt these extremists to “engage in more sporadic, solitary or small-cell violence against common” extremist “targets, including minorities and racial institutions. , ethnic or religious. , law enforcement, and government officials and buildings, ”according to the bulletin.

Federal officials also wrote that “the shared false narrative of a ‘stolen’ election,” the false claim perpetuated by President Trump, “may lead some individuals to believe that there is no political solution to answer to their grievances and that violent action is needed. “

The January 6 rally in Washington, DC, and the subsequent breach of the Capitol also provided an opportunity for militia members and extremists from different groups to meet, which could increase the will, capacity and motivation of extremists to attack and undermine a government. they consider it illegitimate.

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11th hour approval for major changes to Medicaid in Tennessee

With 12 days to go, the Trump administration on Friday approved a long-standing conservative goal: to issue state Medicaid funding in the form of a capped block grant.

The structural experiment in Tennessee, which would become effective once approved by the state legislature, would last 10 years. Block grants for Medicaid have been a priority for Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a former consultant who has helped states draft waiver requests.

“What we’ve tried to do is take some of what we thought were some of the wins, some of the positive things about block grants that people have been talking about for years,” Ms. Verma said. “And we’ve tried to review and respond to some of the criticisms.”

Tennessee patient advocates, who fear the new structure will cause the poor to lose access to health care, say they are planning a court challenge, and the Biden administration will almost certainly seek to reverse it when it is will take over the Department of Health and Social Services. .

But last week the Trump administration tried to slow down the reversal of its Medicaid experiences. Traditionally, these waivers are agreements between the HHS and the states that can be broken with minimal hassle. But Ms. Verma has sent letters to state Medicaid directors, asking them to sign, “as soon as possible,” new contracts that detail more elaborate processes to end the waivers. Under the terms of the contract, the federal agency agrees not to end a waiver with less than nine months notice.

“It’s so blatant,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. “She’s trying to handcuff the Biden administration.”

Ms Verma said contracts were a way to ensure that waivers were only revoked if they were detrimental. “We want to make sure that people don’t take office and, on a political whim, end the waivers,” she said.

The waiver allows Tennessee, one of the twelve states that have not adopted the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, to abandon the normal structure of the Medicaid program. Within this structure, the federal government establishes detailed rules to determine who should be covered and what benefits they are offered in return for an unlimited commitment to pay a share of Medicaid patient bills. Tennessee would have new freedom to change the services covered by its program, but its annual funding would be capped according to a formula.

If Tennessee spends less than the block grant amount, it will be allowed to keep 55% of the savings to be spent on a wide range of “health” related services. If he spends more, the difference will have to be made up with public funds. The waiver sets certain limits on what aspects of the program can be changed and would allow the spending limit to increase if more people enrolled in Medicaid, as typically happens in times of economic downturn.

A key area of ​​flexibility in the waiver concerns prescription drugs. Generally, Medicaid should cover a wide variety of drugs, but it is guaranteed to pay the lowest price of any buyer in the United States. Tennessee will be allowed to renegotiate prices with drug manufacturers and may refuse to cover drugs if it deems the prices too high. Massachusetts had submitted a waiver requesting a similar authority without a broader block grant, and it was denied.

In Tennessee, doctors and hospital groups, among others, have criticized the proposal. “The vast majority of comments received by CMS opposed the demonstration proposed by Tennessee,” notes the approval document.

Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, called the program a “legacy.”

“We have shown that a partnership is a better model than dependency,” he told reporters.

The waivers were a centerpiece of Ms. Verma’s tenure at Medicaid. In addition to the Tennessee block grant waiver, it has approved Medicaid work requirements for certain adults in 12 states. Federal courts have repeatedly overturned these waivers, and few of them are in effect.

Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, a legal aid group that helps poor Tennessians, said she was trying to encourage lawmakers to reject the waiver. A block grant, which she has consistently opposed, fits particularly poorly with a public health crisis, she said, in which health spending could accelerate in unusual ways. “The only way it makes sense is in the context of the Trump administration burning while walking out the door,” she said.

She also noted a history of challenges the state has faced in managing its more traditional Medicaid program. “It’s hard to imagine a state that would be more suited to a block grant than ours,” she said.


Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.

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Hack ‘likely’ came from Russia, says US in late official statement on major intrusion

US intelligence agencies have officially named Russia as the “likely” source of the large-scale US government and private enterprise hacking, and said the operation was “underway” nearly a month after its discovery.

The statement issued jointly on Tuesday by four government agencies was a clear rebuke of President Trump’s efforts, in Twitter posts, to suggest that China was behind the hack. But within intelligence agencies, there is little doubt about Russia’s responsibility. No information has been gathered indicating China, according to people briefed on the material.

The statement also highlighted how U.S. intelligence agencies continue to catch up, after being alerted in mid-December by private security firms to the widest and deepest penetration of U.S. computer networks of times. modern. Intelligence agencies concluded with a high degree of confidence that Russia was responsible for the hacking, according to people briefed on the analysis.

This statement is as final a blame on Russia as the United States has made, and echoes early statements of 2016 about the Kremlin’s interference in the elections. It took months in this case to link the attacks to the orders given by President Vladimir V. Putin.

Mr. Putin and his main intelligence agency, the SVR, were not mentioned in the statement released on Tuesday. But the general conclusion that Russia was the likely source of the penetration of American systems had already been announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then Attorney General William P. Barr.

Tuesday’s statement was carefully crafted, in a nod to Mr. Trump’s personal skepticism of Russian guilt.

But whatever its wording, the formal conclusion opens the way for retaliation, likely from President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. after taking office. Mr. Biden, unlike Mr. Trump, said whoever was behind the operation would pay a high price.

According to the statement, an as yet unidentified cyber actor, possibly of Russian origin, is responsible for most or all of the recently discovered and ongoing cyber compromises of government and non-government networks.

He added: “At the moment, we believe it was, and continues to be, an intelligence-gathering effort. We are taking all necessary steps to understand the full scope of this campaign and respond accordingly. “

The characterization of the intrusion as an “intelligence gathering effort” is significant because it shows that there is no indication yet that the Russians have implanted malware in American systems intended to disrupt power grids or modify data. government or private databases.

But in interviews over the past two weeks, government and private officials have said they are still discovering the scope of the intrusions, and it may take months to determine whether Russia or others could do so. more malicious use of the “back doors” they have placed. in systems.

The statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security seemed very similar in wording to the one the White House was set to release nearly two weeks ago. But it was pulled after Mr Trump erupted against his intelligence officials and said they had no evidence to link the action to Russia.

The various agencies have already created ad hoc working groups to deal with hacking, but the formal creation of a new working group is a reflection of the fact that bringing the full extent of the huge Russian piracy under control will take time. and is beyond the capacity of a single government agency.

While the computers of many agencies were infected with the backdoor providing access, Russian intelligence agencies were shrewd in which of those doors they opened and what information they stole, complicating the investigation of the material that had been taken.

The establishment of the task force will help the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the National Security Agency share information better and faster, according to government officials.

In addition to trying to better understand what the Russian spies have taken, the task force will also examine what is needed to repair existing computer networks and ensure that no further vulnerabilities remain in government networks created by them. Russian hackers.

Members of the task force will also start trying to put in place new procedures to try to prevent similar future vulnerabilities from being exploited by conflicting powers.

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Arts major group leader departs from workplace complaints

Robert Lynch, chief executive of Americans for the Arts, the powerful national advocacy group, withdrew amid complaints and inquiries about the organization’s equity and diversity practices and the management of its workplace.

Lynch, who has held the leadership position for more than three decades, will take paid leave, the group’s board of directors said in a statement on Wednesday. “It has become evident that despite our best efforts, we have not met our goals of leading, serving and advancing the various networks of entities and individuals who cultivate the arts in America,” the statement said.

Mr. Lynch, 71, has been a strong advocate for resources for non-profit arts organizations; he is also part of the Biden-Harris Transition Team for the Arts and Humanities. His departure from his post at AFTA, where his annual compensation was over $ 900,000, according to tax returns, was voluntary and effective immediately, the statement said. (The Biden-Harris transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

His absence was supposed to allow for a thorough examination of AFTA, which has an endowment of more than $ 100 million. “It is Bob’s firm belief – which is unfortunately shared by the Board – that the most appropriate course of action now is to allow investigations to proceed without distraction and in the best interests of the organization’s mission. and the land, ”the statement said.

The move follows a growing body of criticism from current and former AFTA employees and members of the advisory board, who have said the organization is failing in its mission of diversity, equity and social responsibility. ‘inclusion. There were also complaints of sexual harassment and for a management culture based on intimidation rather than transparency. Critics had called for Mr Lynch’s resignation because, they said, he had long been indifferent to the issues they had listed. The fury was also the subject of a Washington Post report this week that detailed the issues, including reports of widespread retaliation among its senior executives.

In recent months, as calls for AFTA have multiplied to diversify its leadership and better serve creative communities and artists of color, the group has publicly defended its actions and pledged to do better. It is one of a number of arts organizations, large and small, that have been forced to reckon with a history of inequity in its ranks and programs recently.

In its statement, AFTA said it would now be the subject of two independent investigations, one by law firm Proskauer Rose related to the work environment, and the other by the consultancy firm. Hewlin Group, which will focus on AFTA’s diversity policies and procedures. , equity and inclusion.

Former Board Member, Former US Army Brigadier. General Nolen Bivens will lead the group as interim chairman and chief executive, the board said.

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Despite slashed plans, Biden’s inauguration offers benefits to major donors.

Boeing said it was donating $ 1 million to Mr Biden’s inauguration, noting that this was in line with his past contributions to the inaugural committees.

Representatives from Bank of America and Ford Motor Company also said their companies intended to donate.

“We have supported the inauguration events of many administrations on a non-partisan basis because we see it as part of our civic engagement for an important national event,” said Bill Halldin, a spokesperson for Bank of America, in a press release. “The private sector has traditionally done this and we plan to provide support for ceremonies in January, if appropriate, given the health crisis and other factors that could have an impact.”

But liberal activists issued a letter to Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee on Wednesday, urging him to forgo donations from all companies – a policy adopted by former President Barack Obama when he was inaugurated in 2009, but not in 2013. .

“The acceptance of up to $ 1 million from each company is of particular concern given that this year’s grand opening will be mostly remote and the costs of the event itself will be significantly reduced,” a coalition wrote. about 50 progressive groups, led by Demand Progress, which raised concerns about the ties between Mr. Biden’s team and the American company.

“The willingness to raise so much money without a clear use is baffling, and the appearance of doing so is baffling, as we must strive to eradicate the unfettered corruption that defined the Trump era,” wrote the groups.

Biden’s team has so far not released many details regarding plans for a groundbreaking in January, other than a statement on Tuesday urging people not to travel to attend the event, given the pandemic .

“Our goal is to create an inauguration that ensures the safety of people, honors the great traditions of the presidency, and showcases the Biden-Harris administration’s renewed American vision for inclusive, equitable and unified citizenship,” Tony Allen, general manager of the groundbreaking committee, said in the statement.

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Video: Stimulus talks have made ‘major progress’, says McConnell

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Stimulus talks have made ‘major progress’, says McConnell

Majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell has said congressional leaders are approaching an agreement on a coronavirus relief package of around $ 900 billion.

The Democratic leader and I worked in the evening alongside the Speaker of the House and the Republican House leader. We have made major progress in developing a targeted pandemic relief plan that could pass both chambers with bipartisan majorities. We are committed to continuing these urgent discussions until we have an agreement. And we have agreed not to leave the city until we have made the law. The American people need more help. It’s that simple. Further targeted relief has been expected for months. We need money for the distribution of vaccines. We need to put the paycheck protection program back in place to save jobs, we need to continue to provide for laid-off Americans. Congressional leaders on both sides will continue to work until this is done.

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