‘No one is gonna steal the election from me’: Echoes of 2020 in NYC mayor’s race

NEW YORK — Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers head to the polls Tuesday to pick the next mayor of the nation’s biggest city. But the closing days of the election, and perhaps the weeks that follow, may as well be a referendum on the ballot itself.

The city’s new ranked-choice voting system, which will allow voters to pick their top five candidates in order of preference, has upended standard political assumptions since the start of the campaign. Now, a racially-tinged battle has erupted over the process, with the leading candidate leveling accusations of voter disenfranchisement after two of his opponents formed a last-minute alliance to bolster their own campaigns.

The claims by frontrunner Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and former NYPD captain, have laid the groundwork for him to contest the results if the race doesn’t go his way — an echo of the fallout from the 2020 presidential election.

Adams, who is Black, implied the alliance between Kathryn Garcia and Andrew Yang was a form of voter suppression, though such arrangements are one of the intended outcomes of ranked-choice voting. Supporters of the borough president went as far as to say the move was intended to “disenfranchise Black voters,” a claim made in statements distributed by the Adams campaign.

The controversy has led to uncertainty about how the outcome of the election will be received, since no ranked-choice tallies will be released until a week after election day and it could be weeks until a final call is made.

Asked Monday if he would accept the results of the election, Adams didn’t make any promises.

“Can you assure voters that’s not what you’re doing here?” a reporter asked, referencing former President Donald Trump’s claims that the presidential election was stolen.

“Yes,” Adams replied. “I assure voters that no one is gonna steal the election from me.”

But experts in ranked-choice voting, which has never been tried in an election of this size, argue Adams’ concerns are overblown — that in most cases the person leading the pack in the polls and the one who emerges with the most first-place votes on election night wins. In fact, Adams may be turning off some voters by casting doubt on the integrity of the election, they say.

“There have been 429 elections in the U.S. that have used ranked-choice voting. In all but 15, the candidate with the most number of first place votes won,” said Alex Clemens, a veteran Bay Area political strategist and lobbyist with Lighthouse Public Affairs. “It’s unusual when that doesn’t happen.”

The dispute about the election process comes after more than six months of concerted campaigning, much of it from behind Zoom screens as the city was still under pandemic lockdown. After a summer of protests against police brutality and chants of “Defund the Police,” a surge in shootings and rash of hate crimes has put public safety at the forefront of voters’ minds, boosting Adams’ anti-crime appeal.

Yang, whose presidential fame helped him dominate early polls, receded as Adams took the lead within the last few months. Garcia’s message of steady management, and endorsements by the New York Times and Daily News helped her surge to first and second place in some recent polls. And Maya Wiley is riding a late wave of support from the city’s far-left, with progressive luminaries like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams backing her campaign in recent weeks.

The new voting system and the rapidly changing dynamics at the top of the field have deprived Adams of the usual comfort a frontrunner would take into an election.

Rob Richie, the president of FairVote, a national nonprofit that advocates for electoral reform, said he was surprised by the vitriol coming from Adams, considering he stands to do pretty well in ranked-choice voting.

“If I was his campaign, I wouldn’t have done some of the same things they’ve done in the last few days,” Richie said. “The more you sort of separate yourself from other people, the more risky that is in a ranked-choice voting strategy.”

The Adams campaign has run a scorched earth operation since Yang, a former presidential candidate, teamed up with Garcia, the former city sanitation commissioner, in the final days of an unruly election season.

Adams said Monday that his competitors were tone deaf for beginning their alliance on Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery that was recently made a federal holiday.

“African Americans are very clear on voter suppression. We know about the poll tax. We know about the fight that we’ve had historically, how you had to go through hurdles to vote,” he said on CNN. “So if [my supporters] feel, based on their perception, that it suppressed the vote, then I respect their feeling.”

Ashley Sharpton, daughter of the Rev. Al Sharpton, said in a statement issued by the Adams campaign that the alliance was "a cynical attempt by Garcia and Yang to disenfranchise Black voters. We didn’t march in the streets all summer last year and organize for generations just so that some rich businessman and bureaucrat who don’t relate to the masses can steal the election from us.”

In early June, well before the Yang-Garcia alliance, Adams had already begun to sow doubt about the ranked-choice process.

“What happens to everyday New Yorkers? The Board of Elections betrayed us once again and didn’t properly educate and get information out,” he said at a Lower Manhattan campaign stop. “It would be lucky if we get these results by January 18. We don’t know how long this is going to take. I'm really troubled about the outcome of this, I hope the counting does not equal the rollout.”

Under the new voting system, adopted by referendum in 2019, if no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote initially, the last-place candidate is eliminated and their supporters’ votes are redistributed to the voter’s second choice. That process continues until someone gets a majority of all votes.

“It’s been held up as a voting rights remedy and it’s been used in many diverse cities,” Richie said. “What it does, in kind of its most straightforward way, is it encourages candidates to reach out to more diverse groups of people.”

In 2018, London Breed, the first Black woman elected mayor of San Francisco, faced a similar scenario to what Adams is facing in New York.

“A Black candidate was leading the polls, and a white candidate and an Asian candidate formed an alliance,” Clemens said. “Ultimately the Black candidate, London Breed, prevailed.”

There are exceptions: In a 2018 Congressional race in Maine, an incumbent Republican was defeated despite winning the most first-choice votes. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, won by picking up more down-ballot votes from two independent candidates. Mayor’s races in Oakland and San Leandro, Calif., and Burlington, Vt., have also been won by candidates who weren’t in first place in initial voting. But those instances represent less than 4 percent of the ranked-choice elections that have been conducted in the U.S.

“The headline for ranked-choice voting is that 96 percent of the time, the leader prevails,” Clemens said.

Other Black leaders condemned Adams’ attempts to inject racial politics into the maneuver by Yang and Garcia.

"It is disingenuous and dangerous to play on the very real and legitimate fears of bigotry and voter disenfranchisement by pretending it's present where it’s not,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who is supporting Wiley, former counsel to de Blasio.

Wiley, who is vying to be the first Black woman elected mayor, also decried Adams’ comments as “cynical and insensitive.”

“The leadership we need right now is a leadership that says, 'Trust in our voting system because it works.' We are not the city where we are suppressing the vote,” she said at a campaign stop in Washington Heights Monday.

Sal Albanese, a former City Council member who was appointed by Adams to the charter revision commission that proposed ranked choice voting for the ballot, said the borough president showed little interest in the process at the time.

“I really never heard from Eric,” said Albanese, who said he attempted to brief Adams but had five scheduled phone calls canceled. “I tried to brief him throughout the process, but it was radio silence.”

Albanese, who is running for Council again, has endorsed Yang.

“I think it’s unfounded,” he said of Adams’ criticisms of the Yang-Garcia alliance. “In my view, it’s a cynical political move. Ranked-choice voting, he understands it fully. He knows that there are alliances that are made.”

Jesse Naranjo, Janaki Chadha and Sally Goldenberg contributed to this report.

Bill de Blasio’s Long Walk to Peace with His City

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—The mayor likes to walk in the middle of the day, preferably around 2:30 p.m. This is the best time, when the sun has traveled across Prospect Park, just beginning its descent west, and when, on weekdays, the shaded trails are empty and still. When most New Yorkers, at home or at work, have someplace else to be.

On Thursday, Bill de Blasio’s city-issued black SUV pulls to the curb. “Can we go get a hot dog?” he asks his staff inside the darkened car. I stood waiting outside. The mayor, nearing his final months in office as the city decides who will replace him in City Hall, has agreed to show off his regular route, a private routine he’s guarded for himself the last year. “If I was doing my walk, I’d go get a hot dog and then go to the restroom,” he tells the staff. Five minutes later, de Blasio is out of the car with his press secretary, a scheduler and a single member of his security detail, all of whom fall back a perfect five paces behind.

“Once we get the hot dog,” he tells me, “I will then take you on the authentic route.”

After walking to 9th Street to acquire the hot dog, we double back two blocks to 11th Street, where he and his wife Chirlane McCray live nearby. “Okay, so you see the proper entry?” he asks. “I go into the 11th Street entrance, because that’s my street. I wouldn’t go to just any entrance. That’s my entrance. We could go through another entrance, but if you want authenticity, we’ll go to 11th Street.”

After the start of the pandemic, this long walk replaced de Blasio’s visits to the YMCA in Park Slope, a neighborhood gym where he has been a member since 1986. The Y became something of a problem: He’d come 11 miles from the mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion just to “come home.” The papers mocked his workouts as extended stretches. In 2019, when de Blasio made his disastrous run for president, infuriating New Yorkers, police unions regularly protested de Blasio outside the gym. Inside the lobby, anonymous leaflets read, “By entering these premises you agree not to run for president.” When Covid arrived, a deeply anxious city wasn’t entirely thrilled with his replacement activity: The walks appeared self-indulgent and disconnected from the nightmare unfolding around him. The tabloids followed him through the park—“De Blasio goes for aimless strolls as city struggles to get by,” a New York Post headline read—and in the photos de Blasio appears as a solitary figure, hunched and alone, making calls on his cell phone.

If these walks seemed aimless and lost to the outward gaze of his own city, it’s clear as we walk, with de Blasio narrating the route as he goes, that they felt like something else entirely to the mayor himself. But only on the eve of the next mayoral race does he seem more ready to share more of himself, of his enjoyment of the city he governs. Eight years into his tenure, de Blasio has arrived at a moment of clarity about the distance that colored his relationship with New York—that he let “tighten him,” he says—and that, by his own admission, hurt him on the job.

New York is a city of daily rituals, enmeshing its residents’ private moments and memories, the secret history of 8.4 million people, with the public sprawl of an otherwise anonymous city. One of the great mysteries and frustrations of the de Blasio era were the many moments in which New York’s chief executive, the emblem of the city, seemed to resist that emotional connection, when he had as much of it to share as anyone. De Blasio fell in love here, raised his kids here, found a home here, has decades of New York politics under his belt and now talks freely about the “enthralling” lure of a city in recovery. He has his park entrance, his hot dog order (hot sausage with sauerkraut, mustard), the special route he seems proud to show off to a reporter. “All right,” he says, moving to a lane of dirt running parallel to the paved road inside the park. “So now what we specifically do: We go to the dirt. Because it’s nicer to walk on dirt than grass.”

Right away, we pass the baseball diamond where he coached his kids in Little League. The route, usually about three miles long, always leads past the Picnic House at the center of the park, where he and McCray were married in 1994 beneath a tall pin oak tree.

“Every field is a story to me. I have memories all along the way. It’s like we’re humans, who happened at some point to get elected to something? And then that point ends, thanks to God and term limits. And you resume human life,” he says.

“This is where my life played out. Family, marriage, becoming an adult—everything was here. And it’s grounding in a way that’s very particular. If I really want to try to find balance, I could go anywhere, but there’s nothing like doing it here. So that’s why I always did it. I didn’t make it up. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, let me figure out something really inconvenient to do that people will be pissed off by.’”

He has, over time, developed a number of regular routes: One of his favorites is a walk through Green-Wood Cemetery, where the gravestones go for 478 acres. Another cuts through “some quiet streets” near his house in Park Slope. During the pandemic, he was seen walking alone in Murray Hill, a section of Manhattan filled with college bars, and the image seemed sad and solitary. But his favorite is Prospect Park, the massive public green space bordering at least six neighborhoods in Brooklyn. “It’s very egalitarian,” the mayor says. “It’s never had some of the elitism” of Central Park or Gramercy Park.

As we walk, most people don’t seem to recognize the mayor—his face partially obscured by a Russ & Daughters baseball hat, his 6’5” frame moving fast—or if they do, they stay quiet. As we move to a wooded path, the Bridle Trail, shaded by trees on either side and empty, there is a noticeable distance between the mayor and his people.

“I think what I failed to do was to recognize how important it was to let people into [this experience]. And not, particularly in the tougher times, lose that piece of yourself and fail to show it to people,” he says as we go deeper into the woods. “Because I now realize I had known it intellectually, but I didn’t really get it,” says de Blasio, who was a political strategist before he became a candidate and likened the point to “that thing where you might be really good at giving relationship advice to a friend” but can’t take that advice yourself.

“I think I sort of once was lost and now I’m found. I lived my authentic life a long time. I think this job tightened me too much. Or I let it tighten me. I think I’m going back to who I am. That’s also a joyous moment. It really is. This is how I want to live. This is the right way to live.”

Down the hill, a clearing opens in the woods. Two kids are playing on a fallen tree. Smoke rises from a nearby grill pit where a family is cooking. The path leads out of the trees and back onto the lawn to Prospect Park Lake, a sudden wash of blue up ahead. To the right, across the road, past another stretch of green, about 100 yards away, a father and his young son are playing catch with a miniature football. De Blasio is barely in sight before the father stops, spots the mayor, and yells: “No one wants you! You’re the worst. You’re the WORST!” His son watches in silence. “I CAN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO GET OUT.”

De Blasio turns, as if saying goodbye to a cashier. “Have a nice day!” he says, then plows ahead on the trail.

Halfway down the path, like a kid, de Blasio darts to the left, turning off the dirt into a gap in the woods that steeps upward. The opening is tall and narrow, de Blasio-sized, and his tall frame slides through the leaves. “So you have to—” he gestures, ducking. “Come here!”

“Where are we going, what’s happening,” he says, his voice pitched and suddenly ethereal. He’s the guide in a game. “We’re in a mystical paradise. You turn away and everyone is gone! Come with me to a magical place!” The mayor returns. “I didn’t fully get this piece of the park until the pandemic: these inland trails,” de Blasio says, “I kept walking around and one day I saw it, and I was like, ‘What’s that? I gotta go check that out.’”

“Doesn’t it feel different?” He looks around at the trees.

The mayor, the local press agrees, appears to be finally having fun in his job. He is doing daily morning press conferences that take odd and irreverent turns. He is riding the Cyclone at Coney Island, visiting the top of the Empire State Building, eating on camera, enjoying the city. He is acting, as Slate put it, “lighthearted and weird.” His hang-up, as former aides describe it, about not appearing frivolous has not entirely faded, but something has shifted. The “spring of Bill,” which then became the “summer of Bill,” as his City Hall press shop has packaged it to reporters, is perplexing not only because it took so long, too late to change minds, but because it took so very little to make the change.

“Hey, better late than never,” he told the hosts of HOT 97’s “Ebro In The Morning” last week.

The mayor attributes this new energy in part to the city’s recovery—“It’s like everything about New York City is super concentrated in this moment,” he says—and to the piece of him that has let go. He’s learned to “just be,” he says multiple times as he strides through the forested path, ducking past branches. There are other contributing factors: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, beset by scandal over Covid deaths and sexual harassment, is hovering less over the city and its mayor. And the field of candidates in Tuesday’s mayoral race is so totally “petty” and “lacking in a compelling vision”—his words—that not one of them excites de Blasio enough to lock in his vote until Election Day. (When I suggest that people all but assume he is supporting Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and former cop, de Blasio says, “They can say that all they want.”)

This might be bad for the people of New York City, but de Blasio seems to think it’s good for him, for the sureness of his legacy, for the influence of his voice and, maybe most of all, for his peace of mind.

“Look at last night for God’s sakes. Jesus! That was like bad high school debate. It was just so petty,” he says of the final mayoral debate that aired the night before. “It was like, is this really healthy? Is this really as good as it gets?”

De Blasio traces the perimeter of Prospect Park Lake, the cars from Parkside Avenue visible through the trees, moving from one dirt path to the next, heading north past the boathouse. The next person de Blasio passes, a 30-something guy, spots the mayor from afar and averts his gaze, craning his head to the left as he walks. Another woman passes and does a double take, placing the mayor before walking ahead without comment. Only one person stops de Blasio on his walk that day, a young musician who asks de Blasio about arts and culture in the city.

“I mean, the folks who are corrupt, and the folks who really are not in it to help people, go get ’em. But there’s a lot of decent people. And don’t try and like find things that aren’t there,” de Blasio says, turning the conversation back to himself. “So if my sin is, I go for walks, I’m like, really? Think about that! The thing that makes people upset is [me] going for walks.”

There is, of course, more than the walks: de Blasio spent much of the pandemic in his own petty battles with Cuomo. He frustrated parents with a confusing and shifting plan to reopen public schools. After the killing of George Floyd last summer, former City Hall employees staged a series of major protests outside his office and he is now facing a worrying spike in crime in his final months. One public opinion survey in May showed his approval rating above 50 percent, a rare moment above water still touted by his staff. Recent polls show him well below that figure.

In January, de Blasio and aides had what they now refer to as a “reset” meeting. The mayor, worried about losing his “bully pulpit” during this summer’s mayoral race, said he wanted to re-run the “Tale of Two Cities” campaign that swept him into office in 2013 with a message about rampant inequality after 20 years under Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, helping de Blasio build broad support from the Black community. His fear that one of the candidates would run as a viciously anti-de Blasio candidate, as he did with Bloomberg, never played out as sharply as he suspected, nor did, in his view, a candidate emerge with a clear and leading vision. “I think this has been an entirely amorphous election. If they embrace what I did, great. If they don’t, fine,” he says. “The question is: Did the things we started”—his signature issues of universal pre-K and paid sick leave, for example—“did they prove to continue to work and be meaningful, and I think they will. I think they’re going to have a long life, these ideas. And I’m at peace with it.”

To some degree, de Blasio has come to accept New York’s special relationship with its mayors, who function in public life as irrepressible and vivid personalities—figures to like, to dislike, to puzzle over and mock. It seems significant, as a matter of the city’s sensibility, that the next mayor might, for instance, be the city’s first smoker in decades (Kathryn Garcia) or a man who, as a means of self-critique, writes journal entries in the third person (Eric Adams). “This strange animal that is being mayor of New York, it is unlike anything else. I’ve worked with mayors around the country,” he says. “They come up to me and are like, ‘I can’t believe what’s going on, or that that’s happening to you.’ I mean, it’s almost like a sympathy line at every meeting to say: ‘What is going on?’”

Often during his time as mayor, that constant razor’s edge between love and hate, enthralling and impossible, seemed to annoy rather than enamor its mayor. Today it seems to delight him. There is a story he tells about a city council meeting to debate a proposed bike lane on 11th Street in Park Slope. De Blasio supported it, and one of the “old timers,” who didn’t, stood up in the meeting. “He points at me accusatory and says, ‘You don’t know what it’s like on 9th Street!’ I’m like, ‘Dude, I live two blocks from you, I really feel like I do know what it’s like on 9th Street!’”

“It was like I was from an entirely different nationality. I mean, he just thundered, ‘You! You! You interloper!’ It was fabulous!” he says.

A former City Hall staffer recently described Bill de Blasio’s mayoralty as an encapsulation of the human condition, which is less grand than it sounds. “The pendulum was always swinging,” the person said. “There were days when he was confident and days when he was riddled with self-doubt. There were days he felt he really embodied what New York City needed in a mayor. And there were days when he lost that.”

In 2013, during the first campaign, when de Blasio was at the bottom of the polls and free from the burden of expectations—“We were lovable losers,” he says—Bill Clinton called him one day after seeing a front-page photo of the candidate and his family dancing at a parade: “‘I saw the photo in the New York Times.’” De Blasio drops into a Clinton impression. “‘And you guys look like you’re having so much fun out there. That’s what people want from a candidate.’”

“He’s one of the great masters. You think I would have written it down,” the mayor says. “I think I heard it, but I didn’t take it in.”

“We are coming into the home stretch,” he says. “I’m giving you a warning. We will end at the stump.” It’s an hour and 15 minutes into the walk and de Blasio has covered 2.53 miles.

The official story of the stump, according to the New York City Parks Department’s forestry director, is that a large pin oak got sick and had to be felled at the height of the pandemic. The Parks Department suspected oak wilt disease, bacterial leaf scorch and symptoms of a disease called Hypoxylon canker. They tried to save the tree, but couldn’t, and it came down last August.

It was on one of his walks that de Blasio discovered what happened to the tree where he and McCray had their wedding.

“There was a tree,” he says. “It’s part of a tree now. I went one day in the middle of Covid and everything was horrible and I’m walking by my tree for solace and my tree’s not there anymore!” he says. “Recalling the great line from Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders: ‘I went back to Ohio and my city was gone.’”

Navigating now to the marriage stump, the mayor takes a left off the main drag, turning into a densely wooded ravine billed by the Park Alliance as New York City’s “last forest.” We head down one trail, another left, then right, then up a steep path, then left again. A trace of sweat gathers on de Blasio’s temple as we emerge from the woods onto a rolling expanse of green leading to the Picnic House at the center of the park.

Even from a distance, the stump is huge. Multiple kids are playing on top of it. It measures five feet across.

The day de Blasio discovered the tree was gone, he called Chirlane from his walk. “It was like one of those weeks when things were going wrong and everything. We were still far from out of Covid. I said, ‘I gotta brace you for this.’” He didn’t want her to see it without warning. “She’s a very sane, mature person. But she was sad.’”

He gestured to the kids playing on the stump, the family picnics.

“But everything else is still here,” he says.

Progressives count their foreign policy wins with Omar flap in rear view

Ilhan Omar started out in Congress as a somewhat lonely critic of decades of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Now, six months into her second term, the Minnesota Democrat has new and diverse allies.

The latest flareup of intra-party frustration with Omar’s progressive brand of foreign policy appears to have calmed — a notable turnaround for a lawmaker the GOP continues to try to turn into a symbol of a Democratic Party hurtling too far leftward. While Omar’s recent comments weren’t as directly disparaging as she’s been in the past, Democrats are showing they’re increasingly comfortable backing her up, particularly as she hammers the Israeli government in ways that buck long-held bipartisan traditions in Washington.

That friendlier posture toward Omar indicates that her party’s shift on America's role in the Middle East was more than just a short-term fixture of the recent 11-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

One of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and a Somali-born refugee, Omar is emblematic of a trend much different from the one portrayed by her Republican detractors: Her perspective is aligned with that of younger Democrats, both inside and outside Congress, who want to center U.S.-Israel policy more closely on the needs of Palestinians.

“Some may call Congresswoman Omar’s comments harmful or piercing. But I think they’re only piercing because we’ve avoided the conversation for so long. And she’s not avoiding it,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a freshman elected on a promise to join her in the liberal alliance known as "the Squad," said in an interview.

“She’s lived through human-rights atrocities, so she’s going to call that out when she sees it," Bowman added. "And we as a party have to support her and we have to also call it out when we see it — whether it’s Israel or another part of the world.”

Omar faced condemnation two years ago when she used what many colleagues saw as antisemitic tropes on Twitter. Democrats, especially Jewish members of the caucus, decried Omar's rhetoric then and have continued to monitor her consistent criticism of settlement activities by the Israeli government that have disproportionately disrupted the lives of Palestinians.

During last month's conflict in Gaza, Omar again slammed Israel for what she described as human-rights abuses; she also posted messages against antisemitism amid an uptick of attacks on Jewish Americans. When Omar pushed for an international investigation into Israeli treatment of Palestinians, she grouped together Israel, the U.S., Hamas and the Taliban to say that all four have committed “unthinkable atrocities.”

A dozen Jewish House Democrats responded with a statement blasting Omar for an “offensive” and “misguided” comparison that “give[s] cover to terrorist groups”; the top six House Democratic leaders also pushed back on Omar for “drawing false equivalencies" while thanking her for clarifying her remark.

That friendly fire toward Omar prompted speculation that the House could move to punish her, but no tangible threat materialized. In fact, a notable number of colleagues — including Jewish Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus — defended Omar and insisted that she was being unfairly targeted because she is a Muslim woman.

“She is attracting much more scrutiny than anybody, like a person like me, would. People are ready to parse every word that she says. And I just think that’s unfair,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), a septuagenarian Jewish American who contended that he wouldn't face similar backlash for his agreement with Omar’s comment.

“The idea that you can’t mention the U.S., Israel and Hamas in the same sentence without being accused of being anti-Semitic? That’s just stupid,” Yarmuth added.

Even as Republicans leaped to deride Omar as antisemitic, it quickly became clear that the majority of Democrats simply wanted to move on. The 12 lawmakers who initially condemned Omar didn’t push the issue further, and Republicans have edged away from their initial flirtation with forcing a vote to kick her off the Foreign Affairs Committee.

A greater number of Democrats used the moment to emphasize that they don't see criticism of the Israeli government’s policies on its own as biased against Jewish people.

“Do you believe in accountability for human rights, for war crimes? How can you believe in it for everybody except yourself, or your friends?” said Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), a Jewish American. “That is what Representative Omar was actually saying. And since I’ve taken that position myself for many years, why does everybody jump on her when she says it?”

The rising number of defenders marks a victory for Omar and fellow progressives, who say their messaging on Israel is getting stronger and attracting more support from across the caucus and the party.

“There were more Jews who didn’t sign that letter than did,” Yarmuth noted, describing the anti-Omar statement as an "overreaction" by the 12 Democrats. “Some of the people probably regret that they did it.”

Progressives were initially furious that the upper rung of Democratic leadership was so quick to push back on Omar’s comments. Still, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) later declined to characterize that response as a "rebuke," and Republicans viewed the cooling-down as their opponents effectively ceding a potential political cudgel.

“The Democrat Party does not support Israel anymore, and they’re fine with helping a terrorist organization. That’s where they are,” said Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the upper chamber's GOP campaign arm. “It’s a good issue for us.”

Republicans have long sought to tie vulnerable Democrats to Omar and use her rhetoric as a political cudgel to paint the entire party as radical. During the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, some GOP lawmakers went as far as to accuse Democrats of supporting the terror group because they were openly pushing for a ceasefire in defiance of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Liberals counter that their position is favorable on the political and policy merits, as a generational divide within the Democratic Party has elevated younger lawmakers' calls for a recalibration in U.S. policy toward Israel. Democrats should consider a foreign-policy doctrine that takes into account the alleged human-rights abuses by U.S. allies, these younger members say, and a party leadership dominated by octogenarians should be encouraging that discussion.

“Young people really look at this through a secular and non-ethnic or cultural or national point of view,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said in an interview. “Young people are saying, why are we paying for this? Why are we supporting this?”

Ocasio-Cortez, a longtime Omar ally who's advocated for a tougher posture with Israel, said she often hears from young Jewish Americans who were “raised with one narrative” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they “do not want their identity tied to this injustice.”

One of several progressives pressing to put conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel, which is critical for its survival in the region, Ocasio-Cortez noted that she has long called for conditioning American aid money to various countries that are suspected of human-rights abuses, not just Israel.

Some lawmakers will confront such issues firsthand in the coming weeks. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will lead a congressional delegation to Israel as early as July 5, according to multiple sources. The number of members and who is going remains fluid, but one source told POLITICO that Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) will be joining Meeks’ first such trip as chair.

Meanwhile, progressives who want to keep reevaluating the U.S.-Israel relationship often add a social justice component to their messaging, underscoring that theirs is an anti-establishment tack. Progressives and young Democrats in particular view the foreign-policy establishment in Washington — which has encompassed a majority from both parties — as a destructive force.

And after a springtime conflict that saw more Democrats expressing deep reservations with President Joe Biden’s strategy of “quiet, intensive diplomacy” as Israel waged retaliatory strikes against Hamas assets in Gaza, liberals sense more of an appetite for taking on the traditional breed of foreign policy that Biden embodies.

“It’s a generational shift of prioritizing human rights and having a human-rights focus in American foreign policy,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). “And it’s definitely a recognition that those rights include Palestinian human rights.”

Sarah Ferris and Laura Barron-Lopez contributed.

Trump's GOP friends and foes unite — to shrug at Dem fury over secret subpoenas

Liz Cheney lost her seat in House GOP leadership over her repeated criticism of Donald Trump. When it comes to the former president's Justice Department subpoenaing Democratic lawmakers' personal data, though, she's holding off on harsh words.

“It's really important for the Department of Justice to ensure that we aren't seeing leaks of classified information,” the Wyoming Republican said in an interview, citing the reported rationale for the Trump administration's secret subpoenas that swept up at least two Democratic colleagues.

Cheney was careful to underscore that she supports the investigation underway by the Justice Department inspector general and wants to see those results before passing judgment. But as Speaker Nancy Pelosi describes the revelations about the Trump Justice Department as worse than former President Richard Nixon's "enemies list," the unruffled reaction from one of Trump's fiercest GOP foes underscores the collective shrug among Republicans.

While Democrats vow to investigate the subpoenas, the GOP is almost unified in its response: The government should investigate leaks of classified information, even if that sweeps up members of the opposite political party — as long as it is within the confines of the law. And they say that applies to Democratic presidents, too.

“If you're leaking, I don't care what your motives are or who you are, you should be investigated for that — whether you're a friend of the president or not a friend of the president,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview. “I would hope I'd say the same thing about President Biden. If he's investigating Devin Nunes and he has reason to, then let the investigation go forward.”

Republicans want to let the Justice Department's internal watchdog finish its work, with House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) last week affirming the importance of an outside conclusion on "whether there was any overreach."

The Justice Department’s hunt to find the source of leaks related to the probe of Trump's ties to Russia swept up at least three prominent figures whom the former president considered his political opponents, including House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who sits on that panel. The leak hunt subpoenas, first reported by The New York Times this month, have sparked a firestorm as Democrats call for testimony on whether Trump may have abused his power.

"What the administration did, the Justice Department, the leadership of the former President goes even beyond Richard Nixon,” Pelosi said on CNN last week.

One of the only Republicans joining her in criticizing the Trump Justice Department's behavior is himself under the scrutiny of a federal sex trafficking investigation.

“DOJ has a very nasty tendency to target its critics, Republican and Democrat,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a statement earlier this month. “I stand against all of it, no matter how much I personally dislike Schiff.”

No GOP lawmakers have acknowledged that their data was swept up into the probe.

Several, such as Stewart and Cheney, made clear that no president should use the powers of government strictly to go after political enemies. But the lack of sympathy among House Intelligence Committee Republicans for Schiff and Swalwell's predicament recalls the bitter polarization that enveloped the panel in 2017 as it investigated whether members of the Trump campaign or the candidate himself sought to tip the scales of the election.

It was also then, Republicans claim, that the committee began leaking like a sieve — a trend they say continued through House Democrats’ first impeachment inquiry into Trump’s contacts with Ukraine in 2019.

“There was literally nothing sacred in that room,” said former Rep. Tom Rooney, of Florida, who served as a senior Republican on the panel during the Russia probe before retiring in 2018.

The tension continued into 2019, when the GOP blamed Schiff for sweeping up the phone records of California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, during Trump's first impeachment. A committee spokesperson at the time denied that investigators had subpoenaed call records for any member of Congress or reporter.

That experience left Republicans committed to probing leaks of classified information.

“Anybody who's alleged to leak information will get investigated, whether that's law enforcement, whether that's a member of Congress. Nobody's above the law,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a former FBI special agent and member of the Intelligence Committee.

The current turbulence over Trump-era subpoenas leaves many unanswered questions, including the number of people whose communications data were mined, whether investigators alerted supervisors after the names of lawmakers surfaced in the records obtained through subpoena and if other companies were subpoenaed for this information as part of the hunt.

Under both Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr, Trump's Justice Department aggressively pursued leak investigations. Another reported target was former White House counsel Don McGahn, who provided key testimony in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Multiple journalists were also targeted.

Democrats are pushing forward full-throttle on investigations, calling to hear from Barr and Sessions — who have both denied knowledge about these secret subpoenas — as well as other Trump administration officials, such as former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

"These are gross abuses of the independence of the Justice Department, and we don't know how far they run,” Schiff said on CBS' "Face the Nation” on Sunday. ”And our new Attorney General has to find out.”

And as skeptical as they are of those Democratic probes, multiple Republicans acknowledged that if the situation were reversed — with the Biden administration investigating their party's House Intelligence Committee members — conservatives would be outraged.

“If we applied one standard for one administration and a different standard for another — one side or the other is going to be upset. I think that's probably just human nature. Well, it's certainly D.C. nature,” said Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), a member of the Intelligence panel.

“I think there's a politicization of the Intelligence Committee in the House, unfortunately."

Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

The pandemic changed how we vote. These states are making the changes permanent.

WASHINGTON — The Covid-19 pandemic is receding in America. But some of the changes it prompted in American elections are here to stay.

A handful of states are locking in voting-rights expansions that they piloted in 2020, extending early voting and absentee balloting programs even as other states add restrictions to voting.

Two states that switched during the pandemic to universal mail voting — mailing ballots to all active registered voters in each election — will now continue that practice permanently, for at least general elections: Nevada and Vermont. Several other states are moving to allow no-excuse mail voting permanently, after allowing it temporarily while Covid-19 raged in 2020.

And while many of the state-level expansions of voting programs are happening in blue states, some red states have made changes as well. Kentucky, where Republicans have legislative supermajorities and former President Donald Trump won the presidential contest by 25 points in 2020, codified in-person early voting for the first time this year.

The move came after voters embraced an emergency version of the program during the pandemic — and it bucks a trend that has seen some red states throw up more voting restrictions in 2021, in the wake of Trump’s defeat.

“We’re the only Republican state, the only conservative state, the only red state — however you want to put it — certainly the only state with a Republican Legislature that has made voting easier this year,” said Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican. “I’m really proud of that.”

Altogether, the changes mean that millions more Americans will receive mail ballots in future elections, and the number could balloon even more if backers in California successfully switch the state to a universal mail voting system. In total, seven states will now have largely mail-based election systems with the two newest additions joining Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

"The reason we did it is because during the pandemic we made the change — obviously, from the safety and the health viewpoint and whatnot — and it worked," Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, said in an interview. The bill, which passed on party lines, will send ballots to voters for general and primary elections, unless they opt out.

The Kentucky law, which the GOP-controlled Legislature passed with bipartisan support before Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed it, adds three days of in-person early voting in the state and allows for counties to establish “voting centers” — where any voters can go to vote, instead of having to vote at a single local precinct — among other changes.

Kentucky voters still need an excuse to vote by mail, which will keep mail absentee voting rates low. Other Republican-controlled states that already offered early in-person voting have also made modest expansions to the practice, too. Soon after Adams’ interview, Louisiana — which like Kentucky has a Republican-controlled Legislature and a Democratic governor — passed a law adding more early voting days for presidential elections. Earlier this year, Oklahoma and Indiana both tacked on an additional day of early voting in some situations, while Georgia's controversial elections law included a provision that will lead to more early-voting opportunities in smaller counties, matching what larger counties already offered.

“A bipartisan approach to election reform is best, because it gets you — I think — number one, a better product. And number two, it’s a better look,” Adams said. “People are going to be suspicious when the other side is writing the election rules and trying to force them through on a party-line vote,” Adams continued, citing efforts by some state Republicans as well as federal Democrats.

Federal Democrats’ broad elections and ethics bill, the “For the People Act,” is likely to fail a procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday.

California could be the next state to make major voting changes, after every active registered voter in the state was mailed a ballot during the 2020 election due to the pandemic. After temporarily expanding mail elections through this year, which would include the effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, lawmakers are driving to make the changes permanent. “We’re already moving in this direction and have the processes in place,” said Democratic state Assemblymember Marc Berman, who is leading the push. (California counties can already opt into mailing all voters a ballot.)

Much of the rest of the movement is coming in the Northeast. The biggest shift came in Vermont, which will now send all active, registered voters mail ballots for general elections. Republican Gov. Phil Scott even urged lawmakers to go further and extend the policy to primaries and local elections when he signed the bill.

“I’m signing this bill because I believe making sure voting is easy and accessible, and increasing voter participation, is important,” Scott said in a statement when he signed the bill. “Having said that, we should not limit this expansion of access to general elections alone, which already have the highest voter turnout.”

Outside of Vermont, there is a broader drive in the Northeast to allow voters to cast ballots by mail without needing an excuse, after most states temporarily allowed for as much during the pandemic.

No-excuse absentee voting has been in broad use in the West, Midwest and along the country’s Southeastern coast. But liberal governors and legislators in the Northeast have lagged behind, even as federal Democrats have agitated for changes.

New Yorkers will vote in November on a constitutional amendment that would effectively allow for no-excuse absentee voting in the state, after the state functionally allowed for it during the 2020 elections. A second amendment vote in front of voters will allow for same-day voter registration. The process to get both amendments on the ballot began in 2019, before the pandemic.

Connecticut also kicked off a process this year for a constitutional amendment on no-excuse mail voting, with both chambers passing a resolution for the first time. But because it failed to get supermajority support in the state House, after most Republicans there voted against it, the Legislature will have to pass the resolution again during their 2023 session to put it on the ballot in 2024.

Massachusetts is also moving ahead toward having mail voting for all its voters after adopting it during the pandemic. The state House tacked an eleventh-hour provision on to a supplemental budget that would permanently extend mail voting in the state, and there is a separate constitutional amendment being considered that would allow for no-excuse absentee voting. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has previously voiced support for allowing any voter to request a mail ballot.

Two other Northeastern states also currently don’t have no-excuse absentee voting: New Hampshire and Delaware. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, vetoed Democratic-led efforts in 2020 to turn the state into a no-excuse state, and Republicans flipped both of the state legislative chambers in 2020. State Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Democrat who often clashes with the rest of his party on voting rights, also opposes no-excuse mail voting.

And Delaware has also hit a significant roadblock. After the Democratic-controlled state Legislature passed a measure in 2019 setting up for a constitutional amendment that would clear the path for it, the effort sputtered this year after Republicans who previously backed it changed their minds. (A two-thirds majority is needed, which Democrats do not have on their own.)

“It already had bipartisan support — overwhelming bipartisan support, really,” said Morgan Keller of the Delaware ACLU. “Now, all of a sudden, it’s changed because of the national narrative.”

Whitehouse defends affiliation with elite Rhode Island club

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Monday defended his affiliation with an elite Rhode Island beach club, contending that the local news site that first asked him about the club's lack of non-white members "got the facts wrong."

Whitehouse told reporters that Bailey's Beach Club in Newport, Rhode Island, had informed him it did have "diversity of membership." When asked whether he knew if the club counted any people of color as members, the senator added: "I believe that there are. I don't spend a lot of time there."

Controversy over the Whitehouse family's membership at Bailey's flared over the weekend after GoLocalProv, a local news site, asked the Democrat about his family's involvement with the beach club. A GoLocalProv reporter described the club as having an "all-white" membership in a brief interview with Whitehouse and pressed him about whether any non-white members were recently admitted.

Whitehouse told the news site that "I think the people who are running the place are still working on" adding new members of color "and I’m sorry it hasn't happened yet.”

When pressed on whether clubs like Bailey's should "continue to exist," Whitehouse told GoLocalProv that "it’s a long tradition in Rhode Island, and there are many of them. We just need to work our way through the issues."

According to GoLocalProv, Whitehouse and his wife Sandra had long been members at Bailey's, though he transferred his shares in the club to his wife after making a campaign-trail promise to quit the club. The senator said Monday that he did not recall when he transferred his shares in the club to his family.

Asked about any discrepancy between his comments to GoLocalProv and his Monday evening remarks, Whitehouse said he had reconciled the two positions.

"They have a long tradition of being a family club, and they're working on improving diversity," Whitehouse said of Bailey's. "That's pretty fair."

Iran’s next president gives Biden a new nuclear headache

Iran has chosen a new president, which means Joe Biden faces a new dilemma.

Ebrahim Raisi, the victor in Iran’s recent, tightly controlled election, is not just any hardline Iranian politician. He stands accused of an array of human rights abuses, including the mass killing of political dissidents, and former President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on him. Now, Biden and top aides, led by U.S. special envoy for Iran Robert Malley, are facing pressure over whether to lift the sanctions on Raisi as they negotiate with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Hawkish former U.S. officials and analysts in Washington say Biden shouldn’t lift the sanctions, which Trump imposed on Raisi citing his alleged role in human rights abuses. But Iranian officials are implying the sanctions need to be among those the U.S. lifts if the nuclear deal is to be resurrected.

The question is among many that hover over the nuclear talks, which just wrapped up a sixth round this weekend. The discussions have primarily taken place in Vienna, with European officials acting as go-betweens for delegations from Iran and the United States, which do not have formal diplomatic relations and are not directly negotiating with each other.

Officials say the talks are making progress, but no one is willing to definitively predict that a resolution is in sight, and Raisi’s election could complicate the deliberations.

“Everything is being negotiated under the mantra of ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,’ so at this point, nothing is agreed because not everything has been agreed,” a U.S. official familiar with the issue said. “There are fewer [differences] that remain, but almost by definition those that remain are the most difficult to resolve.”

Senior diplomats from Britain, France and Germany echoed those remarks in a statement Sunday, urging all sides to “return to Vienna and be ready to conclude a deal.” Diplomats also are closely watching talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, on a possible extension of a temporary inspections agreement that expires Thursday.

A final arrangement to revive the 2015 deal would have to include the U.S. lifting an array of sanctions and Iran ending many of its nuclear activities, as well as a consensus on how to sequence those steps. The U.S. also wants assurances from Iran that it will commit to follow-on talks about a more expansive, longer-lasting deal, while Iran wants U.S. pledges that Washington won’t back out of a revived 2015 agreement the way Trump did.

Biden administration officials are largely avoiding discussing specifics about their negotiating position in public.

They won’t say, for instance, whether they are making it a condition that Iran explicitly commit in writing to future talks about a bigger deal. The Biden administration hopes those future talks can cover issues such as Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for proxy militias and terrorist groups. Such future talks also would likely include addressing concerns raised by the scientific knowledge that Iran has gained over the past two years.

The administration’s critics warn that, once the U.S. lifts many sanctions to revive the original agreement, Biden will lack necessary leverage to persuade or force Iran back to the table, no matter what Tehran says now.

But U.S. officials say their Iranian counterparts have indicated that they want, among other things, more economic relief than what the original nuclear deal offers, so Tehran has an incentive to come back for more discussions.

“The same conditions that brought about the [original deal] could bring about a follow-on deal because there still are issues on which Iran wants more from the U.S. and issues on which the U.S. and others want more from Iran,” the U.S. official said.

U.S. officials also won’t say, at this stage, whether they’ll agree to lift the sanctions on Raisi.

Raisi, 60, is a cleric with long experience in Iran’s regime, including overseeing its judiciary. He is implicated in many human rights abuses, among them an alleged role in the mass executions of political prisoners in the 1980s. Raisi, who will take over the presidency in August, won an election Friday that was manipulated in his favor after many candidates were disqualified. That manipulation upset a large number of ordinary Iranians, and voter turnout was unusually low.

Among U.S. officials, there’s some confidence that Raisi’s election isn’t an insurmountable obstacle to reviving the 2015 deal.

For one thing, Raisi has indicated he is on board with a return to the deal. The timing could offer him some political cushion. Should the two countries agree on a return to the deal before he takes office, he can blame his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, if the agreement’s revival fails to bring Iran enough economic relief. Should Iran experience an economic boom due to the deal’s revival, Raisi can claim credit.

But negotiators in Vienna are wary of the possibility that Raisi could try to make a mark early on by injecting additional demands into the negotiations.

On Monday, he held a news conference in which he demanded that the United States “lift all oppressive sanctions against Iran.” He said Iran’s ballistic missile program is “non-negotiable” and ruled out limits to Iran’s support for militias outside its borders.

Those are topics U.S. officials hope to address as part of a broader follow-on deal with Iran. Raisi ruled out a meeting with Biden, which was unlikely to happen in the first place. When asked about his role in the 1980s executions, Raisi largely deflected, saying, according to media reports, “I am proud of being a defender of human rights and of people’s security and comfort as a prosecutor wherever I was.”

In Iran’s Islamist governance system, final authority rests with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who seems inclined to reach an arrangement with Washington that will remove many of the sanctions that have damaged his country’s economy. Raisi is close to Khamenei and may succeed him as supreme leader, and he is likely to ultimately follow Khamenei’s instructions on how to approach the current talks.

Some recent history also bodes well: the talks that led to the 2015 deal originally began under another hardline Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though they were later handled by the team assembled by Rouhani, the outgoing Iranian president, who is considered a moderate.

Whether the Biden administration agrees to lift the sanctions on Raisi could come down to how it decides to categorize them.

When Trump left the nuclear deal, in 2018, he reimposed all the nuclear-related U.S. sanctions that had been lifted by the agreement. He then went further, heaping sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program but also for human rights abuses, support for terrorism and other issues. (Even when the nuclear deal was fully in place, the U.S. had kept on Iran an array of non-nuclear sanctions, including ones related to human rights. Trump simply added more.)

Iranian officials have demanded that all the Trump-era sanctions be lifted. “They avoid focusing on specifics — they say all [Trump-era sanctions] should be lifted and don’t focus on individual names,” the U.S. official familiar with the situation told POLITICO. But by definition that includes the sanctions on Raisi, which Trump levied in 2019.

U.S. officials already have communicated to Iran that Biden will not lift every single sanction imposed by Trump, because many of them appeared to have a legitimate basis. But they’ve also indicated some Trump-era sanctions appeared aimed at making it harder to return to the nuclear deal, not punishing Iran for terrorism or other non-nuclear reasons. The suggestion is that those sanctions could be lifted.

It is rare for the United States to sanction the head of a foreign government. In theory, the sanctions limit Raisi’s ability to travel, including coming to New York for United Nations gatherings.

Already, some critics of the original nuclear deal are insisting that the Biden administration, which has made a point of touting its commitment to human rights, keep the sanctions on Raisi. Amnesty International recently said the incoming Iranian president should be investigated for “crimes against humanity.”

“You look at Raisi’s record and the sanctions are warranted,” said Michael Singh, who served in former President George W. Bush’s National Security Council. “If you’re serious about targeting human rights abusers, then Raisi falls in that category.”

Manchin holds out until last minute on elections vote

Sen. Joe Manchin declined on Monday to commit to advancing Democrats’ sweeping elections bill, saying he would need more assurances that his proposed changes would be adopted.

It may seem like a picayune matter given that no Republicans support the bill and the GOP is expected to filibuster the effort on Tuesday. But Democrats want to send a political message, and they need Manchin’s vote to paint a more vivid contrast with Republicans’ blockade.

The West Virginia Democrat opposes the Democrats’ sweeping elections bill but is undecided on whether to vote to start debate on it. All other Senate Democrats have co-sponsored the legislation.

Manchin has proposed a compromise bill focused on expanding early voting and ending partisan gerrymandering; it would cut some of the bill’s other elements, like publicly financed elections. He told reporters on Monday he’s still working on his compromise with fellow Democrats and that “there’d have to be an agreement to get on the substitute.”

“I hope they make some changes, agree with some changes,” Manchin said. “We put out an awful lot of changes that hopefully the country will agree with.”

Senate Majority Chuck Schumer and other Democrats have suggested that advancing the bill is the only way to adopt Manchin’s alterations. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin complimented Manchin’s work on Monday but also said he wasn’t sure where Manchin would come down.

Judge tosses bulk of suit against feds from Lafayette Park protesters

A federal judge has dismissed the bulk of a series of lawsuits against the federal government over the use of force to drive Black Lives Matter protesters out of Lafayette Park last year, but will allow protesters to continue to seek damages from Washington, D.C. and Arlington County, Va. over the actions of their police forces.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected demonstrators’ claims for damages against former officials such as President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, as well as some current federal officials.

Friedrich, a Trump appointee also declined to consider requests for an injunction barring similar uses of force against protesters in the future.

“The plaintiffs’ claims of impending future harm are too speculative to confer standing to seek an injunction,” Friedrich wrote in a 51-page decision released Monday afternoon.

“Such harm would require that plaintiffs again demonstrate in Lafayette Square; that agencies headed by the official-capacity defendants again respond to the demonstration; that federal officers again use that law enforcement response as cover to deliberately target non-violent peaceful demonstrators; and that one or more of the plaintiffs again be targeted. This hypothetical chain of events is simply too speculative to confer standing for injunctive relief.”

However, Friedrich said she would consider the plaintiffs’ First Amendment challenge to current restrictions on the use of the park located just to the north of the White House.

The judge rejected arguments that the handling of the protesters amounted to seizing or detaining them under federal law.

The suits claim that "the officers attacked and improperly dispersed the protesters—they did not restrain them or attempt to seize them in place,” the judge wrote. “Indeed, quite the opposite was true—the officers attempted to cause the protestors and fleeing crowd to leave their location, rather than cause them to remain there.”

The suits generally alleged that authorities used excessive force to disperse protesters gathered in the park last June, deploying tear gas and pepper balls and using shields to charge into the assembled crowd. Demonstrators also said officials acted in political retaliation on behalf of Trump, who had urged police across the country to be aggressive against demonstrators he said were engaged in violence and damage to property.

Some protesters also claimed that the effort to drive them out of the park was aimed at making way for Trump to walk through the park and conduct a photo-op he held that afternoon outside St. John’s Church just outside the square.

However, an Interior Department watchdog report issued earlier this month said Trump’s visit to the park a short time after the demonstrators were driven out came as a surprise to many of the law enforcement officials involved. The inspector general report did find several other flaws in the response. The review also was also generally limited to Interior Department personnel.

After coming under the leadership of President Joe Biden’s appointees earlier this year, the Justice Department pressed arguments to dismiss the case against the former federal officials. That triggered criticism from some liberals, who complained that DOJ was defending inappropriate conduct by Trump-era appointees.

In an apparent response to those criticisms, Justice Department attorneys filed a notice with the court last week reporting that “preliminary settlement discussions” had taken place in the case.

In a statement Monday, a lawyer for protesters expressed disappointment in the judge's ruling.

"Today’s ruling essentially gives the federal government a green light to use violence, including lethal force against demonstrators, as long as federal officials claim to be protecting national security, said Scott Michelman of the American Civil Liberties Union's District of Columbia chapter. “Under today’s decision, Lafayette Square is now a Constitution-free zone when it comes to the actions of federal officials. Not only is this decision a stunning rejection of our constitutional values and protesters’ First Amendment rights, but it effectively places federal officials above the law."

Maya Wiley says she should be mayor of New York. Former City Hall colleagues aren’t so sure.

NEW YORK — The leading liberal candidate in the New York mayor’s race already knows City Hall well: She spent more than two years as legal counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

But as Maya Wiley surges in the closing stretch of the Democratic primary, following a slew of endorsements from marquee progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), it’s that same on-the-job experience that’s giving her some trouble on the campaign trail.

Wiley in recent weeks has drawn renewed scrutiny of her time working for de Blasio, who won two terms as mayor but has become so polarizing a figure that Wiley has tried to distance herself from the fellow Democrat since she launched her campaign.

“I’m a woman who stands on her own two feet,” Wiley said at the first mayoral candidates’ forum last fall — a point she has repeated throughout the campaign when asked about her ties to de Blasio.

Wiley, who is a former assistant U.S. attorney, worked for years as a civil rights lawyer and was a legal analyst for MSNBC, tends to bristle when reporters focus on her stint in the de Blasio administration.

“You know, I don’t think I’m the only woman in New York City that is always wondering why we’re being asked to respond about a man we worked for,” she said at a campaign stop Saturday. “All I can say is I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to serve the city of New York, grateful to have been the first Black woman to be a counsel to New York City mayor.”

But her time in City Hall is the most relevant experience she’s had for the position she’s currently seeking — and she gets mixed reviews from former colleagues in the de Blasio administration.

Wiley was hired for the counsel’s job soon after de Blasio took office in 2014, and left in the summer of 2016 to become head of the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Former colleagues interviewed by POLITICO, all of whom requested anonymity to speak freely about their former co-worker, call her everything from committed and principled to ineffective and misguided. While they say she espoused the same left-leaning views then as she does now, some criticized Wiley for failing to implement her progressive ideals when she had the chance to do so as an adviser to the mayor.

Wiley touts her successes in expanding access to broadband internet and increasing contracts for minority and women owned businesses, but both efforts have had stumbles. She was the counsel to the mayor as he pursued risky fundraising practices that led to multiple investigations, though none of them resulted in charges. Wiley also designed the legal strategy behind, and became the public face of, the mayor’s failed effort to shield his emails with consultants from public scrutiny.

She came under attack from a rival at the final primary debate last week over her work on expanding access to broadband, her signature project while she was at City Hall.

Ray McGuire, a former Wall Street executive, called universal high-speed internet something Wiley “has promised, on which she’s not delivered.”

“One and a half million New Yorkers don’t have broadband on your watch,” he said at the debate, sponsored by POLITICO, WNBC and Telemundo 47.

“Not under my watch, Ray — that is a falsehood, and it has to be called out,” Wiley shot back.

Wiley said delays in expanding broadband, recently reported by The City, happened after she left the administration. She says she’s proud of getting free internet installed at all apartments at NYCHA’s Queensbridge Houses. Two other developments that were slated to get universal broadband, the Red Hook and Mott Haven Houses, still have not received the service, McGuire pointed out.

“I left city government five years ago, very grateful to have had the opportunity,” Wiley said, citing her work on a lawsuit against Verizon for failing to install high-speed internet in all neighborhoods in the city.

Wiley has touted her police reform credentials, but one former City Hall staffer said she was not a strong voice within the administration on key legal controversies around policing.

“She was not considered a serious lawyer,” the staffer said. “The consensus, frequently, was that she got us into a lot of problems legally.”

The de Blasio administration, acting on advice from the Law Department — a separate entity from the mayoral counsel’s office — stopped releasing many police disciplinary records that had been routinely published for years, citing a state law known as 50-a. The law was ultimately repealed last year amid calls for police reform following the murder of George Floyd.

Wiley did not fight that approach, and was not an effective counter to the more conservative legal tendencies of then-Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter, the staffer said.

“I she thought it was so terrible, she could have gone to the mayor and said, ‘The Law Department’s screwing this up, here’s what’s going on.’ But she didn’t do that,” the person said. Nor was she aggressive in pushing to have the NYPD take disciplinary action against Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who killed Eric Garner, which the Law Department maintained the city could not do while a federal investigation remained pending.

“Everybody around her likes her and agreed with her ideologically on a lot of things, but there was never a lot of heft,” the person said. “She either didn’t care enough or didn’t know how to muster the internal organization it would take to change the mayor’s view, or couldn’t win the argument against Zach.”

A former senior administration official also said Wiley signed off on the decision not to fire Pantaleo.

Wiley has said she disapproved of the mayor’s handling of 50-a and the Pantaleo case, but declined to detail what she did from her counsel’s job to press the issues, citing attorney-client privilege.

When asked to respond to the criticisms Saturday, Wiley maintained she was proud of the work she did during her time with the mayor.

“Look, there are so many good things that happened in this administration while I was there, like paid family leave ... IDNYC — which was a real game changer not just for New Yorkers but also our undocumented community — and the reality is I left five years ago and continue to serve government and the people of New York as a volunteer,” she told POLITICO.

“I can’t speak for other people’s views or opinions,” she added. “I can say I am running to be the mayor who confronts the bureaucracy, who confronts developers, and who confronts the NYPD so we are truly serving the needs of all our people and so we are keeping all our people not just safe but able to afford to live in this city.”

Karen Hinton, a former de Blasio press secretary whose tenure overlapped with Wiley’s, said the attorney frequently stood up to the mayor — even if her advice was ultimately not heeded.

“She had a firm belief on what she thought the mayor should do, the city should do, and she wasn’t scared about contradicting the mayor or differing with the mayor,” said Hinton, who is volunteering for Wiley’s campaign in the closing stretch.

“I remember her being very articulate and direct with him. She wasn’t scared of him. She didn’t hesitate to give her opinion, and when they disagreed, they disagreed,” Hinton said. “At some point, she became a little frustrated with the fact that he often didn’t listen to her, and that’s why I think she decided to move along.”

Indeed, Wiley has frequently brought up her decision to leave the post.

“I quit five years ago. I voted with my feet in 2016,” she said at an NY1 debate. “I’m proud of the opportunity to get every single apartment in Queensbridge Houses free broadband. I’m proud to have helped get the first sanctuary city law passed in this city that helped protect undocumented immigrants from ICE. I’m proud that we got women and minority-owned business contracts up from $500 million, when I got a title with no resources and no staffing.”

Her lack of direct responsibility over city agencies hampered her ability to get things done, one former City Hall staffer said, saying she did not significantly move the needle on expanding broadband or MWBE participation.

“I can’t say my impression of her was that she was that effective at managing projects mostly because I didn’t see a lot of results out of her. She would talk about stuff and she had good ideas, but it never felt like she had a plan to implement those ideas other than talking about them,” the former staffer said.

“There’s no question Maya was very smart. A lot of people thought very highly of her, me included,” the person said. “But it wasn’t like I was blown away by her ability to really make change within the government. ... You’re fighting against a large city bureaucracy that wants to keep doing things the way [they] are done. But that’s true when you’re mayor, too.”

Wiley’s biggest public stumble at City Hall came when she declared that a group of personal advisers to de Blasio should have their communications exempted from the public information laws because they were considered “agents of the city.”

The term was widely mocked, and thousands of pages e-mails were ultimately released after the city lost a legal battle with NY1 and the New York Post. “Everybody was stunned,” a former staffer said, describing the internal reaction when Wiley coined the term publicly.

As the mayor’s in-house lawyer, Wiley also played a role in advising him on fundraising practices, though she has maintained her guidance was not always followed. The mayor’s solicitation of donations for a nonprofit called the Campaign for One New York drew heavy legal scrutiny. A federal investigation led to no charges, but prosecutors said publicly that de Blasio intervened on behalf of donors seeking favors from the city.

Other former co-workers praised Wiley’s management skills.

“People were very loyal to her that were on her team. She was very focused on bringing in talent with diverse perspectives and backgrounds. She really cultivated those individuals,” one former aide said.

“She approaches things like a lawyer. She wants to know both sides of an argument,” the person said. “She can come to a decision quickly.”

Trump’s fundraising arm is back advertising on Facebook

Former president Donald Trump’s fundraising arm is once again advertising on Facebook after the social media giant banned the ex-president from using the site.

Starting late last week, Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, a joint venture between Trump’s Save America leadership PAC and his Make America Great Again PAC, has spent $3,506 on Facebook ads promoting Trump’s upcoming rally outside Cleveland, Ohio and calling for donations to his fund.

Another ad, targeting President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, asks supporters to donate to “STOP SLEEPY JOE.”

“After just a few months in office, it’s clear that Biden is nothing more than a washed-up, career politician who has no clue what he is doing. There is a CRISIS at our border, gas prices have SKYROCKETED, and America is in DECLINE! Please donate now to show President Trump what you REALLY think about Joe Biden,” the ad says.

The ads link to Trump’s Save America fundraising page, which is run by the Republican digital ad firm WinRed.

The amount of money behind the ads is incredibly small as these expenditures go. But the use of the platform is what’s notable: Trump is fundraising on a mammoth social network that still considers him persona non grata.

Earlier this month Facebook announced it would suspend Trump from its platform for two years — until January 2023 — after which it would re-assess whether he should be reinstated. Trump was initially banned from the site for posts that encouraged his supporters to riot at the Capitol on January 6.

“In establishing the two year sanction for severe violations, we considered the need for it to be long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future, and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself,” said Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg in a company blog post in June.

The recent expenditures by Save America Joint Fundraising Committee on Facebook underscore that the Trump Facebook suspension was only likeness and voice, and not organizational. Earlier this year, the site took down a video interview Lara Trump conducted with her father-in-law on grounds that he was essentially skirting the ban by getting his words posted through a cut out.

The Facebook page managed by Save America — which posts under the username Team Trump — has continued to post on Facebook following the Capitol Hill riots. But it has hardly exhibited the type of provocative behavior that got Trump himself booted. The last post was in March wishing supporters a happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Facebook did not return a request for comment.

The new ads also suggest that Trump’s aides recognize the utility of the social media site in organizing and raising money. The Trump campaign relied heavily on Facebook to drive small dollar donations in addition to Trump connecting with his supporters via messages shared to his page.

Exiled from the site, Trump has railed against the social media company and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and hinted that he wouldn’t return to Facebook even if allowed. “Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!”

Trump also called the ban “an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!”

Despite the ban, Trump has still continued to have an enormous reach because of Trump-friendly pages like Breitbart News and “President Donald Trump Fan Club” according to a study by the New York Times.

White House: Biden's Catholic faith is not 'political'

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that President Joe Biden did not interpret his Catholic faith “through a political prism,” declining to comment on a recent decision by U.S. Catholic bishops that could result in a rebuke of the president for his views on abortion.

“Joe Biden is a strong man of faith. And as he noted just a couple of days ago, it’s personal. He goes to church, as you know, nearly every weekend. He even went when we were on our overseas trip,” Psaki told reporters — referring to the president and first lady’s attendance at a Sunday service last week at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the English seaside town of St. Ives.

“It’s personal to him. He doesn’t see it through a political prism,” Psaki added at her White House briefing. “And we’re not going to comment otherwise on the inner workings of the Catholic Church.”

Psaki’s remarks come after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the drafting of a “teaching document” last Friday that some supporters say will serve as an admonishment of Biden and other Catholic politicians for receiving communion while holding political positions that run counter to church doctrine.

Biden, the second Catholic president, is known as a deeply religious man who frequently cites Scripture in his public remarks and often carries rosary beads in his pocket. He has also spoken and written at length about how his faith helped him grieve the deaths of his wife and 1-year-old daughter after a car accident in 1972, as well as the death of his son Beau in 2015 due to brain cancer.

Still, Catholics have questioned his devotion to the faith in recent years, as he competed in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and campaigned against then-President Donald Trump — who enjoyed enormous support from evangelical Christian voters.

In October 2019, Biden was denied communion at a South Carolina Catholic church because of his longstanding advocacy for abortion rights. “I am not going to discuss that,” Biden said of the incident at the time. “That is just my personal life.”

A view from the van: On the road with New York mayoral contender Kathryn Garcia

NEW YORK — “You need to cool off a bit before we talk,” New York city mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia told me as we both sat in her giant air-conditioned van, recovering from a press conference in 90° F weather, regretting our clothing choices for the day.

Earlier, she and Andrew Yang had given a 20-minute press conference on a shadeless sidewalk in Lower Manhattan, explaining their surprising decision to campaign with each other — but without her giving an endorsement to Yang, as many political observers had theorized she would do. After chasing them throughout Queens that morning, and waiting for their joint Q&A with the press for a half hour later (and not drinking enough water and being ever so slightly shocked by their joint decision), I’d nearly passed out during the press conference under my linen blazer.

To only slightly exaggerate, the official Garcia van had just saved my ass.

An unusual sight zipping through the five boroughs this campaign season, the green and blue campaign van served as convenient transportation, a storage unit on wheels, a mobile office with a Wi-Fi hotspot, a portable A/C unit, a water station (“Usually we have more water, but I think I drank all the water that I usually have,” she said), and, most importantly, advertising: A six-foot tall image of Garcia’s face is plastered on the side next to the words GARCIA FOR MAYOR, turning it into a mobile billboard wherever she went.

And in a campaign where too many candidates competed for the attention of any New Yorker, the former sanitation commissioner-turned-sort-of-frontrunner was taking all the advantages she could get — and trying to squeeze as much A/C time as she could. Earlier that day, Yang had spoken with delight about how he’d hitched a ride to Manhattan on the Garcia-mobile. On Monday he debuted his own bus, the YANGATRON, along with a packed schedule of 14 events for the day.

As we zoomed down the FDR Drive toward the Staten Island Ferry, Garcia spoke with POLITICO about her unusual choice to campaign with her rival, explained her decision to withhold an endorsement and expressed her hope about the future of ranked choice voting.

“Ranked choice gives you an opportunity to do things collaboratively to promote voting,” she said.

POLITICO: OK, a lot of [Yang’s] supporters were super surprised in Queens. I was overhearing some guys going, ‘Oh, no, she totally screwed him over. But it was a total --

Garcia: Oh, no, no, no. They never would have had me not know what I was gonna say. They absolutely knew what I was gonna say.

POLITICO: OK. Yeah, he didn't seem as fazed and shocked by it as, I think, a couple of us were.

Garcia: You know, he knew. That was scripted.

POLITICO: What was the reasoning behind that strategy?

Garcia: It is really driven by, for us, how do we win this election? How do we get the votes? And ranked choice gives you an opportunity also to do things collaboratively to promote voting. And we've done things before. We did the press conference on the one city permit back when it was — it was a long time ago. I was cold, I was wearing a coat — I don't remember exactly when it was, but I know that I was wearing a coat. And I actually tried to get, when I did the foster care policy, I actually tried to get all of the candidates to show up. I was like, how can we not all agree on this? Like, this is a super important issue, well to me personally, and I was like, why can't we all come together? I mean, some of them put statements out. But they didn't show up. I thought maybe they'd show up. I thought it would have been an interesting way to promote the positives of ranked choice voting.

POLITICO: I guess that if you think about it, you and Yang do have a very sunny attitude towards politics, which makes this sort of event kind of make sense for both of you.

Garcia: We actually do really want to do it. Because we actually care about the city. Like, not driven by, 'I need a title.'

POLITICO: I'm surprised that the other candidates haven't really jumped on this idea. Eric Adams — I think just said that this was like — I think someone's talking to him just now. And he's like, Oh, this is a stunt, a desperate stunt. I can find the actual quote, but it was something along that line.

Garcia: A desperate stunt? No, Eric, we're winning. That's your problem. And I think he's surprised at all his traditional politics is not as effective,

[The Garcia Van passes by a man trying to parallel park] I don't think that guy's fitting in that space. I mean, I could be wrong.

POLITICO: A friend of mine just bought a RAV4. And he's parking it in Brooklyn. Somehow he does it.

Garcia: A RAV4 is not that big. I had an XC-90 when the kids were little.

POLITICO: Oh, my God.

Garcia: Yeah. And I could parallel park that. I'm in Park Slope? I mean, literally, I live blocks from my mother and I lived there since [my son] Alex was one.

POLITICO: "Height of hypocrisy." It looks like that's what [Adams] said.

Garcia: I don't see how I was a hypocrite. I don't see how Andrew was a hypocrite.

POLITICO: He says that Garcia was justifiably offended when Yang kept saying he is number two.

Garcia: That's actually not what offended me. I'm fine with taking his number two votes. I was offended by the deputy mayor. I was never running for that, I was running for mayor. And in ranked choice, actually, if you don't want to be the number one, you could be like, I don't know, related to them. You got to vote for that person number one.

But you do want twos, you do want threes. You know, the whole point is that then that forces you to campaign city wide, that you actually are more positive and don't need to be negative because if someone's absolutely in love with someone else? They're in love with Paperboy Prince? I want Paperboy Prince's number twos. That's what this is about.

POLITICO: But I don't really recall Eric Adams actively reaching out to campaigns to do something like this.

Garcia: No, no, he's running a very traditional campaign. You know, he's gonna do his method. He's got a new story every day. But now, I'm going to go get the union vote. I'm gonna go get these endorsements. I'm gonna get these electeds.' Like, it's a very traditional approach. That's not ranked choice. Ranked choice is different.

POLITICO: OK, I don't know if any, has anyone asked you exactly how this specific van idea came into being? Because I am a fan of custom wraps. This is a lot.

Garcia: We always have the literature and the podium and all the other stuff you need to carry around. I can leave my bag in here! It's very hard to campaign. This is one thing. All the women candidates have to pay attention to makeup and lipstick and all the men do not.

POLITICO: That makes sense for the air conditioning then. So you don't melt.

Garcia: So you don't melt. There was one day where they had me ride a bike and it was this hot. And I was just like, I've melted. I was like I don't even know if I should bother trying to put more makeup on, because it’s just sliding off my face.

POLITICO: And then when people are like, 'You can use that [makeup] fix it spray,' that's a lie.

Garcia: That's a lie. It does not work. Not when it's super super hot. The van has been fabulous.

POLITICO: What are the essentials you keep stocked in the van? Makeup, a Wi-Fi hotspot...

Garcia: And usually we have more water. But I think I drank all the water that I usually had. I went through like all of my bottles of water already today.

POLITICO: Seems like you picked up a lot of really good practical tips for campaigning. Anything different that you've learned in this process, then, that have shocked you or surprised you after working so long in city politics?

Garcia: Yeah, the political favors. The political favors really surprised me, because I also always had a job where you did the opposite. You never did a political favor. Because that would not be right. And you're not treating everyone equally. But you find out things. I'm just not — I'm not — I can't play that game. I wasn't doing it.

POLITICO: Like the dark art of oppo?

Garcia: Like how some of the endorsements go down, or like, right now — The New York Post's being basically the Eric Adams machine against me every single day.

POLITICO: The [New York Times] endorsement must have really helped you?

Garcia: Oh, yeah. It was amazing. And to me, quite awesome. I did the interview [with the Editorial Board.] It was on Google Meet. And I just get so little feedback from the screen. Like if we'd been in a room, I felt like I would know whether or not, Did they like me? Were they feeling very supportive? But I get nothing. So when I walked out of doing it, my staff is like, What do you think? I was like,Well, I made the case. But it's a screen. I can't tell if they were really positive or not. And we actually found out — we were doing debate prep, or we were supposed to be doing debate prep. And Nicole's boyfriend texted it to her.


Garcia: So that was a good moment. That was one way to get out of debate prep. But I know Mara [Gay] just wrote a phenomenal, a phenomenal editorial. I felt it really captured me.

POLITICO: Going back to the cynicism of the favor trading and all that. I'm probably just a terrible burned out person who hates politics, but I think that was why I was a little bit like: 'So Andrew's giving you his endorsement for number two on his ballot. But you're not necessarily saying, 'Put Andrew Yang number two on your ballots if you're voting for me.'

Garcia: Right. And which is actually consistently where both of us have been for this entire race.


Garcia: He's been saying put Kathryn number two, and I've been saying, I'm not telling you who my number two is, and that I do want people to rank their [own] ballots for them.'

Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal nears its big reveal

The Senate’s bipartisan group is racing to finalize an accord on infrastructure, hoping to clinch a deal totaling $579 billion in new spending as soon as this week.

The group of 21 senators, roughly evenly split between both parties, is sketching out its spending plan in far greater detail than previously reported, with a four-page breakdown circulating Capitol Hill and reviewed by POLITICO. But the effort is still a work in progress, with senators set to meet again on Monday night and staff working near-constantly to refine the numbers.

"We're continuing to work and flesh it out," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key member of the group who had lunch with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Monday afternoon. "There's a sense of growing optimism, that perhaps we can show our country and the world that we can come together on something that makes a real difference in people's lives."

Details on how to pay for the proposal remain elusive, though the group has identified funding mechanisms for legislation that could total more than $1 trillion when new spending is included with the current transportation baseline. The White House has rejected proposals to gradually increase the gas tax alongside inflation as well as charge fees for electric vehicles. And Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday questioned such heavy reliance on public-private partnerships.

Details have remained scant other than an early spending breakdown from last week, and there’s been no public disclosure of the still-evolving talks as everything remains in flux. President Joe Biden's trip overseas last week was an additional complication. The group could make an announcement on more details this week.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who separately sought a deal with Biden, said on Monday that Biden’s increased engagement will be helpful “because he really wants the bipartisan deal.” But she also said the brushback from the White House to the bipartisan group’s proposed pay-fors “is the same pushback I got.”

“Pay-fors will be the big issue. As it was with me,” Capito said, noting the Senate is about to take a two-week recess. “We’re only here this week.”

Biden is expected to meet with negotiators this week, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

The spending breakdown was circulated among the negotiating senators to help set up congressional committees who would begin drafting legislation, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The source said the document on Monday is a “fair representation” of where things stand but the numbers are subject to change.

The group proposes spending $360 billion for roads, bridges and major projects; $48.5 billion for public transit; $66 billion for rail; $55 billion for water infrastructure; $65 billion for broadband and $73 billion for power infrastructure. In addition, the group is proposing spending $47.2 billion on climate resiliency, $25 billion for airports, $10 billion on electric buses and $16 billion for ports.

It also outlines bringing in pieces of a large Energy Committee bill that Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is working on to deal with abandoned mines, weatherization and power and climate related provisions.

Many of the top-line numbers include a more detailed breakdown of the proposed spending. For example, of the $360 billion for roads and bridges, $258 billion is for highways, $40 billion is for bridges and the rest is for transportation alternatives, federal lands and tribal infrastructure. Of that money, $110 billion represents new spending.

The group proposed spending about $830 billion, according to an outline obtained by POLITICO, which includes some current spending on highway programs. Altogether, the new spending is still set to total $579 billion and total spending is expected to clock in around $1 trillion or more, depending on the timeline of how the money is parceled out.

But not all of the spending figures are finalized, and some of those details may require more work among the group’s 21 supporters. Last week, the group swept up support of 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans, though many Democrats are hesitant to sign on without more certainty about how to fulfill the party’s other priorities.

Senators still need to refine how to pay for the bill. Republicans say any agreement must be fully paid for and not raise taxes. And negotiators now must replace the gas tax and electric vehicle fees they had previously discussed.

Complicating things further, liberals are also pushing for commitments from their party leaders to pass a more sweeping spending package dealing with Democratic priorities like climate change and paid leave alongside a bipartisan deal.

Manchin, who is part of the working group, has not signaled yet whether he would commit to a package that only has Democratic support and would potentially contain trillions of spending for Democrats’ domestic priorities. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has Democrats on a “two-track” system, playing out the bipartisan negotiations while also preparing a possible party-line fallback plan under budget reconciliation.

A pair of officials from Biden’s legislative affairs team reiterated the dual-track approach in a call with senior House Democratic aides on Monday, according to several people listening.

Shuwanza Goff and Louisa Terrell said they are looking at both a bipartisan bill and reconciliation option, while assuring Democratic staffers that the White House was committed to going big.

“We're not going to waste our time,” Terrell said on the call.

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.