Live Updates: U.S. Announces Tough New Sanctions on Russia

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Credit…Dimitar Dilkoff/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Biden administration on Thursday announced tough new sanctions on Russia in response to the Kremlin’s interference in American elections and its sprawling hacking operation that breached vital government agencies and private companies.

The United States government said it sanctioned 32 entities and individuals for disinformation efforts and for carrying out the Russian government’s interference in the 2020 presidential election. The country also joined with European partners to sanction eight people and entities associated with Russia’s occupation in Crimea.

In an executive order, President Biden directed the Treasury to prohibit U.S. financial institutions from participation in the primary market for “ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds” issued after June 14, 2021.

The order also designates six Russian companies for providing support to the cyberactivities of the Russian intelligence service.

Widely anticipated, the sanctions come amid a large Russian military buildup on the borders of Ukraine and in Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014.

They comprise what United States officials described as “seen and unseen” steps in response to the hacking, known as SolarWinds; to the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan; and to Russia’s longstanding effort to interfere in U.S. elections on behalf of Donald J. Trump.

In the SolarWinds breach, Russian government hackers are believed to have infected network-management software used by thousands of government entities and private firms in what officials believe was an intelligence-gathering mission.

The United States on Thursday officially named the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service and several connected entities as being responsible for the SolarWinds breach, saying that American intelligence agencies have “high confidence in its assessment of attribution” of responsibility to Russia.

In an advisory, the United States detailed for private companies specific details about the software vulnerabilities that the Russian intelligence agencies used to hack into the systems of companies and governments.

The United States said Thursday it will expel 10 Russian diplomats, including members of the Russian intelligence service, from the country’s mission in Washington, D.C., as part of an effort to inflict a noticeable impact on the Russian government, its finances and its president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, is the lead sponsor of a reparations bill first proposed in 1989 by the late Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

A House committee voted on Wednesday to recommend for the first time the creation of a commission to consider providing Black Americans with reparations for slavery in the United States and a “national apology” for centuries of discrimination. It comes three decades after the measure was first introduced and a century and a half after the end of slavery.

The vote by the House Judiciary Committee was a major milestone for proponents of reparations, who have labored for decades to build mainstream support for redressing the lingering effects of slavery. Democrats on the panel advanced the legislation establishing the commission over Republican objections, 25 to 17.

The bill — labeled H.R. 40 after the unfulfilled Civil War-era promise to give former slaves “40 acres and a mule” — still faces an uphill path. With opposition from some Democrats and unified Republicans, who argue that Black Americans do not need a government handout for long-ago crimes, neither chamber of Congress has committed to a floor vote.

But as the country grapples anew with systemic racism, the bill now counts support from the president of the United States and key congressional leaders.

“We’re asking for people to understand the pain, the violence, the brutality, the chattel-ness of what we went through,” Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, said during a nighttime committee debate. “And of course, we’re asking for harmony, reconciliation, reason to come together as Americans.”

The renewed interest in reparations comes as Mr. Biden has positioned addressing racial inequities at the center of his domestic policy agenda, proposing billions of dollars in investments in Black farmers, business owners, neighborhoods, students and the poor. The White House has said Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion jobs agenda aims, in part, to “tackle systemic racism and rebuild our economy and our social safety net so that every person in America can reach their full potential.”

Proponents of reparations differ on what form, precisely, they should take, though many agree that Mr. Biden’s proposals encompass the kinds of compensation that might be considered the modern-day equivalent of 40 acres and a mule. But that does not mean they are a replacement, they say.

“If this is about the full ramifications on Black wealth, about the destruction of entire businesses or neighborhoods, or the deprivation and loss of land, then we are talking about numbers that are far beyond the reach of what are relatively small programmatic initiatives,” said William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy at Duke University who has written a book on reparations.

Mr. Darity’s vision of reparations primarily focuses on closing the wealth gap between African-Americans and white people, something that he estimates would take $10 trillion or more in government funds.

The bill before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday would establish a body to study the effects of slavery and the decades of economic and social discrimination that followed, often with government involvement, and propose possible ways to address the yawning gap in wealth and opportunity between Black and white Americans. It would also consider a “national apology” for the harm caused by slavery.

Opponents of reparations often argue that the wrongs of slavery are simply too far past and too diffuse to be practically addressed now. They question why taxpayers, many of whom came to the United States long after slavery ended, should foot a potentially large bill for payments or other forms of compensation to Black Americans.

Roy L. Brooks, a law professor at the University of San Diego who has also written on the issue, argues that the purpose of reparations should not be viewed as primarily monetary nor something that can be dealt with in the course of normal policymaking, no matter how effective.

“The purpose has to be bringing about racial reconciliation, and it can’t get swallowed up in generic domestic legislation, or else the significance is lost,” he said.

The Biden administration will approve  billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, including F-35 fighter jets, according to a State Department spokesman.
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The Biden administration plans to suspend sales of many offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia that were approved under the Trump administration, but it will allow the sale of other matériel that can be construed to have a defensive purpose, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The plan, which Congress was briefed on last week, is part of the Biden administration’s review of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that the White House announced soon after President Biden’s inauguration.

The original sales were met with strong opposition last year from congressional Democrats, who are angry over the countries’ involvement in the war in Yemen and wary of transferring advanced military technology to authoritarian Middle Eastern nations with ties to China.

The Biden administration will approve $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, according to a State Department spokesman, including F-35 fighter jets and armed Reaper drones. Administration officials had signaled that those arms, sold to the Emirates soon after it signed a diplomatic agreement with Israel brokered by the Trump administration, were likely to be approved.

The fate of arms sales to Saudi Arabia had been less clear. Mr. Biden, who has said that he wants to reset Washington’s relationship with Riyadh, announced in February that he would end “all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales,” but the White House did not provide further details.

Since then, U.S. officials have debated which weapons sold under the Trump administration might plausibly be used for Saudi Arabia’s self-defense, including against missile and drone attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, whom the Saudis have been fighting in Yemen. Even as Biden administration officials have criticized Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, they have repeatedly pledged to help the Saudis defend themselves.

After its review, the administration plans to suspend the sale of air-to-ground offensive weapons used by fixed-wing aircraft — mainly fighter jets and drones — to Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials said. This includes systems that can turn regular bombs into precision-guided munitions.

The suspension is aimed at addressing one of the main concerns in the Yemen war: the killings of civilians, including many children, because of the Saudi-led coalition’s use of such bombs.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has vowed to make civil rights enforcement a priority at the Justice Department.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland urged senators on Wednesday to confirm President Biden’s nominees for top Justice Department posts, saying that he will be ill-equipped to enforce civil rights protections without them.

He said that the department was doing “everything within our power” to get confirmed Vanita Gupta as the department’s No. 3 and Kristen Clarke as the head of its Civil Rights Division.

“I meant it when I told the Senate Judiciary Committee that they have skills that I do not have. They have experiences that I do not have,” Mr. Garland said in remarks to the National Action Network, the civil rights organizations founded by Rev. Al Sharpton.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee forced Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, to bring Ms. Gupta’s nomination to a floor vote without the panel’s support to advance her nomination to be associate attorney general, a role that oversees several key divisions, including civil rights, antitrust and civil, as well as grants to the nation’s police departments.

Republicans have expressed skepticism about her approach to policing issues and other policies, though Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the committee chairman, accused them of misrepresenting Ms. Gupta’s views.

During Ms. Clarke’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Republicans on the panel criticized her past comments on policing, judicial nominees and religious groups that defied pandemic-era restrictions on gatherings, signaling that she was also unlikely to receive their support.

Mr. Biden has said that his administration will tackle civil rights issues, a promise that has taken on urgency amid an uptick in violence against Asian-Americans and the high-profile trial of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer accused by prosecutors in Minnesota of murdering George Floyd, a Black man.

Mr. Garland told the civil rights leaders that he has requested a larger budget to support the Justice Department’s civil rights mission, ordered an expedited review to determine how to use the department’s resources to combat hate crimes and telegraphed his intent to scrutinize whether government agencies, including police departments, engaged in “patterns or practices that deprive individuals of their federal or constitutional rights.”

But he said that “dedicated, experienced leadership is also needed” to curb law enforcement misconduct, ensure the right to vote, and combat discrimination in housing, education and employment.

“I meant it when I said I needed both of them, and their experiences and skills, to be successful as attorney general,” Mr. Garland said of Ms. Gupta and Ms. Clarke, both veteran civil rights lawyers.

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