January 18, 2021

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Capitol Riot Arrests, Impeachment and Trump’s Twitter: Live Updates – The New York Times

25 min read
A Trump sign in the reflecting pool near the Capitol in Washington on Friday.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

As Saturday dawned on a White House in turmoil, with President Trump unable to communicate on Twitter and other platforms, momentum for impeaching him a second time was rapidly growing among rank-and-file Democrats and some Republicans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday threatened to impeach Mr. Trump unless he resigned “immediately” for inciting the mob attack on the Capitol this week, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the first Republican senator to follow her lead.

“I want him out,” Ms. Murkowski told The Anchorage Daily News. “He has caused enough damage.”

The House is next scheduled to be in session on Monday, meaning that articles of impeachment cannot be introduced until then. The timing for an impeachment would be tight because Mr. Trump would have fewer than 10 days left in his term.

Yet the Constitution allows House lawmakers to introduce charges and proceed directly to a debate and floor vote in a matter of days, triggering a Senate trial that could take place even after Mr. Trump leaves office. If he were convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from holding office again.

Already, Twitter’s move to permanently suspend Mr. Trump “due to the risk of further incitement for violence” has effectively scuttled his favorite method of communicating with the public, even as he retains his authority as commander in chief. Facebook and other digital platforms have limited his access.

As federal law enforcement officials on Friday announced arrests in connection with Wednesday’s siege, Twitter said that Trump supporters had been using the platform to plan similar attacks, including a proposed one on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings three days before President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

In one of his last Twitter posts before being banned, Mr. Trump said he would not attend the inauguration. He would be the first incumbent in 150 years to skip his successor’s swearing-in.

Mr. Biden on Friday pressed ahead with his agenda, promising an accelerated response to an array of challenges. On Friday, the economy was said to have lost 140,000 jobs in December and officials across the United States reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases in a day for the first time.

In a sharp break with the Trump administration, Mr. Biden intends to release nearly all available doses of coronavirus vaccines soon after he is inaugurated, rather than hold back millions of vials to guarantee second doses will be available. He has vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.

“Our plan is going to focus on getting shots into arms, including by launching a fundamentally new approach, establishing thousands of federally run or federally supported community vaccination centers of various size located in places like high school gymnasiums and N.F.L. stadiums,” Mr. Biden told a radio station in Columbus, Ga., on Friday.

The Trump administration has shipped more than 22 million doses, and millions more are already in the federal government’s hands. Yet only 6.7 million people have received a dose, far short of the federal goal of giving at least 20 million people their first shots by the end of December.

It is unclear how many more Covid-19 inoculations the administration can deliver before Mr. Biden’s inauguration, particularly as more senior officials leave the White House in the wake of the mob violence at the Capitol.

Also unclear: what the Republican Party will look like after Mr. Trump leaves office.

At a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Florida on Friday, the chaos of the past week was a mere afterthought. While the R.N.C. chair, Ronna McDaniel, condemned the attack on the Capitol, neither she nor any other speaker publicly hinted at Mr. Trump’s role in inciting the violence.

“We can’t exist without the people he brought to the party — he’s changed the direction of the party,” Paul Reynolds, a Republican committeeman from Alabama, said of the president. “We’re a different party because of the people that came with him, and they make us a better party.”

Supporters of President Trump prayed for Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, after questioning why he wouldn’t vote to object to Electoral College votes from some states.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In the hours before and after a violent mob urged on by President Trump stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, voters loyal to the president cornered Republican lawmakers who voted to certify the election results, demanding answers and promising revenge. The scenes — sometimes painful, always unresolvable — played out again and again in Washington this week.

A distraught constituent accosted Representative Nancy Mace on Tuesday night at a restaurant in the nation’s capital. Driven by Mr. Trump’s fictitious claims that the election had been stolen from him — and that lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence could clinch him another four years in power during Congress’s official electoral count — the voter had come all the way from Ms. Mace’s home state of South Carolina to witness it. Now, the voter, shaking and in tears, demanded to know why Ms. Mace, a first-term congresswoman, had refused to join the effort.

Calm but firm, Ms. Mace tried to explain that it was not Congress’s role to subvert the results of an election — and that to do so would defy the Constitution.

“It didn’t matter what I said,” Ms. Mace said in an interview. “They didn’t believe it.”

The confrontations — and the scenes of mayhem that unfolded on Wednesday — have brought Republicans face to face with the consequences of their yearslong alliance with Mr. Trump, providing human evidence of the downside of his deep influence on the voters who form their party’s base.

It helps explain the searing anger that has prompted many Republicans to belatedly turn against Mr. Trump after years of enabling him and seeking his validation. But it also reflects the conundrum in which the Republican Party finds itself, beholden to voters who have internalized the president’s falsehoods and been emboldened by his divisive talk.

“Their hearts, minds and wallets were taken advantage of,” Ms. Mace said, her voice rising in fury. “Millions of people across the country who were lied to. These individuals, these hardworking Americans truly believe that the Congress can overturn the Electoral College.”

Many Republican members of Congress stoked that belief this week when they objected to Mr. Biden’s victory in battleground states and backed the challenges in votes that illustrated their party’s rift. In the House, more than half the Republicans, including the party’s top two leaders, voted in support of the challenges, while in the Senate, fewer than 10 Republicans did so and the leaders were vocally opposed.

The videos that emerged from the standoffs dramatized the yawning distance between elected Republicans in Washington who are increasingly desperate to peel away from the president and their constituents who say they will never let go.

On Friday, supporters of Mr. Trump swarmed Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, at his gate at Ronald Reagan National Airport, calling him a “traitor.”

“You know it was rigged, you know it was rigged,” a woman yelled as he was ushered away by a security detail. “You garbage human being. It’s going to be like this forever, wherever you go, for the rest of your life.”

And a maskless woman approached Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, on Tuesday night as he waited to fly to Washington, calling him a “disgusting shame” for not standing with the president. Once on board, Mr. Romney was greeted by supporters of Mr. Trump chanting “Traitor!”

Some Republicans, like Senators Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Todd Young of Indiana, both of whom voted to certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, tried to reason with their constituents, working through their concerns point by point in scenes captured on video outside the Capitol.

But Mr. Cramer and Mr. Young could not persuade them that what the president and many of their Republican colleagues had told them was wrong — that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the election, and no way for Congress to overturn the results.

Adam Johnson was arrested on Friday for participating in the breach of the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday.
Credit…Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

The man pictured in a viral photo cradling the lectern of Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the raid Wednesday of the U.S. Capitol was arrested by U.S. Marshals on Friday night in Florida.

The photo of Adam Johnson, of Parrish, Fla., quickly circulated online in the wake of the mob attack. It showed Mr. Johnson sporting a wide smile as he waved to the camera with one hand and hauled off the lectern with the other. On his head was a Trump cap, with the number “45” on the front.

Jail booking records from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office give scant details about the arrest of Mr. Johnson, 36, but show that he was arrested on a federal warrant. The records list a few identifying tattoos as “God, wings, cross.”

Authorities also arrested Richard Barnett on Friday, the man pictured with his feet kicked up on Ms. Pelosi’s desk during the Capitol siege. Mr. Barnett, who was arrested in Bentonville, Ark., will appear in federal court on Tuesday and will ultimately be extradited to Washington, D.C.

The photo of Mr. Johnson, taken by Win McNamee, a Getty Images photographer, and the subsequent arrest suggest that authorities will use the myriad photographs and videos of the raid to pursue additional arrests. The F.B.I. posted images to its Twitter account and website on Friday asking the public for information about the people who were pictured.

“My Office, along with our law enforcement partners at all levels, have been expeditiously working and leveraging every resource to identify, arrest, and begin prosecuting these individuals who took part in the brazen criminal acts at the U.S. Capitol,” said Michael Sherwin, the top federal prosecutor in Washington, in a statement.

According to the Bradenton Herald, which is based in Bradenton Fla., people who know Mr. Johnson identified him to the F.B.I. soon after the image emerged. The newspaper reported that Mr. Johnson had posted on social media just before the Capitol raid, disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement and Washington police officers, calling the officers “corrupt” and “picking the sides of criminals.”

The Justice Department announced charges for another 13 individuals following the riot, though Mr. Johnson was not included on that list. The charges include entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

But the extent of the judicial consequences from the chaos remains unclear. On Friday, the Seattle Police Department said it placed two officers on administrative leave after receiving information that they were in Washington on Wednesday. The Police Department’s Office of Police Accountability is reviewing the case and will refer any potential illegal activity for criminal investigation.

“The Department fully supports all lawful expressions of First Amendment freedom of speech, but the violent mob and events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol were unlawful and resulted in the death of another police officer,” Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said in a news release, adding that if any officers “were directly involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, I will immediately terminate them.”

A protester carries a sign in front of the U.S. Capitol on Saturday.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

When Simon & Schuster canceled its plans this week to publish Senator Josh Hawley’s book, he called the action “a direct assault on the First Amendment.”

And when Twitter permanently banned President Trump’s account on Friday, his family and his supporters said similar things. “We are living Orwell’s 1984,” Donald Trump Jr. said — on Twitter. “Free-speech no longer exists in America.”

The companies’ decisions may have been unwise, scholars who study the First Amendment said, but they were perfectly lawful. That is because the First Amendment prohibits government censorship and does not apply to decisions made by private businesses.

It is certainly possible to violate the values embodied in the First Amendment without violating the First Amendment itself. But the basic legal question could hardly be more straightforward, said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor at the University of Utah. And, she said, it should not have been lost on Mr. Hawley, who graduated from Yale Law School and served as a law clerk to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

“It’s become popular — even among those who plainly know better — to label all matters restricting anyone’s speech as a ‘First Amendment issue,’” she said. “But the First Amendment limits only government actors, and neither a social media company nor a book publisher is the government. Indeed, they enjoy their own First Amendment rights not to have the government require them to associate with speech when they prefer not to do so.”

Mr. Hawley’s book, titled, as it happens, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” was to have been published in June. In canceling it, Simon & Schuster said that “it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints” but that Mr. Hawley had crossed a line in light of “the disturbing, deadly insurrection that took place on Wednesday in Washington.”

The publisher was free to make that decision, Professor Magarian said, but that does not mean it was the right one.

“I want a wide range of ideas, even those I loathe, to be heard, and I think Twitter especially holds a concerning degree of power over public discourse — Hawley’s right about that much,” he said. “But any suggestion that people like Trump and Hawley, and the viewpoints they espouse, will ever lack meaningful access to public attention is ludicrous. We should worry about private power over speech, but presidents and senators are the last speakers we need to worry about.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, too, said the free speech interests involved in suspending Mr. Trump’s Twitter account were complicated.

“We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions,” said Kate Ruane, an A.C.L.U. lawyer. “President Trump can turn to his press team or Fox News to communicate with the public, but others — like the many Black, brown and L.G.B.T.Q. activists who have been censored by social media companies — will not have that luxury.”

As it happens, the Supreme Court may decide as soon as Monday whether to hear a case about Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, one that nicely illustrates some of the distinctions raised by the recent developments. Lower courts have ruled that Mr. Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking users from his account.

Outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn before the march started.
Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Democrats laid the groundwork on Friday for impeaching President Trump a second time, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California threatened to bring him up on formal charges if he did not resign “immediately” over his role in inciting a violent mob attack on the Capitol this week.

The threat was part of an all-out effort by furious Democrats, backed by a handful of Republicans, to pressure Mr. Trump to leave office in disgrace after the hourslong siege by his supporters on Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Although he has only 11 days left in the White House, they argued he was a direct danger to the nation.

Ms. Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders continued to press Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to wrest power from Mr. Trump, even though Mr. Pence was said to be against it. The speaker urged Republican lawmakers to pressure the president to resign immediately. And she took the unusual step of calling Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss how to limit Mr. Trump’s access to the nation’s nuclear codes and then publicized it.

“If the president does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues.

At least one Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, followed Ms. Pelosi’s lead and told The Anchorage Daily News that she was considering leaving the Republican Party altogether because of Mr. Trump.

“I want him out,” she said. “He has caused enough damage.”

At the White House, Mr. Trump struck a defiant tone, insisting that he would remain a potent force in American politics even as aides and allies abandoned him and his post-presidential prospects turned increasingly bleak. Behind closed doors, he made clear that he would not resign and expressed regret about releasing a video on Thursday committing to a peaceful transition of power and condemning the violence at the Capitol that he had egged on a day before.

Among enraged Democrats, an expedited impeachment appeared to be the most attractive option to remove Mr. Trump and register their outrage at his role in encouraging what became an insurrection. Roughly 170 of them in the House had signed onto a single article that Representatives David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and others intended to introduce on Monday, charging the president with “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States.”

Democratic senators weighed in with support, and some Republicans appeared newly open to the idea. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska indicated he would be open to considering articles of impeachment at a trial. A spokesman for Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she was “outraged” by Mr. Trump’s role in the violence, but could not comment on an impeachment case given the possibility she could soon be sitting in the jury.

Even Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader and one of Mr. Trump’s most influential allies for the past four years, told confidants he was done with Mr. Trump, although there was no sign that Mr. McConnell was joining the calls to remove him.

Trump supporters during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Many of the rioters are being identified through the use of facial recognition technology.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

After the Capitol riot, Clearview AI, a facial-recognition app used by law enforcement, has seen a spike in use, said the company’s chief executive, Hoan Ton-That.

“There was a 26 percent increase of searches over our usual weekday search volume,” Mr. Ton-That said.

There are ample online photos and videos of rioters, many unmasked, breaching the Capitol. The F.B.I. has posted the faces of dozens of them and has requested assistance identifying them. Local police departments around the country are answering their call.

“We are poring over whatever images or videos are available from whatever sites we can get our hands on,” said Armando Aguilar, assistant chief at the Miami Police Department, who oversees investigations.

Two detectives in the department’s Real Time Crime Center are using Clearview to try to identify rioters and are sending the potential matches to the F.B.I.’s Joint Terrorism Task Force office in Miami. They made one potential match within their first hour of searching.

“This is the greatest threat we’ve faced in my lifetime,” Mr. Aguilar said. “The peaceful transition of power is foundational to our republic.”

Traditional facial recognition tools used by law enforcement depend on databases containing government-provided photos, such as driver’s license photos and mug shots. But Clearview, which is used by over 2,400 law enforcement agencies, according to the company, relies instead on a database of more than 3 billion photos collected from social media networks and other public websites. When an officer runs a search, the app provides links to sites on the web where the person’s face has appeared.

In part because of its effectiveness, Clearview has become controversial. After The New York Times revealed its existence and widespread use last year, lawmakers and social media companies tried to curtail its operations, fearing that its facial-recognition capabilities could pave the way for a dystopian future.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the Oxford Police Department in Alabama is also using Clearview to identify Capitol riot suspects and is sending information to the F.B.I. Neither the Oxford Police Department nor the F.B.I. has responded to requests for comment.

Facial recognition is not a perfect tool. Law enforcement says that it uses facial recognition only as a clue in an investigation and would not charge someone based on that alone, though that has happened in the past.

When asked if Clearview had performed any searches itself, Mr. Ton-That demurred.

“Some people think we should be, but that’s really not our job. We’re a technology company and provider,” he said. “We’re not vigilantes.”

A window is boarded up in a hallway of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Friday. President Trump’s role in inspiring the mob violence had prompted many Democrats to support investigations into Trump and his aides.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Twelve years ago, when the last Democratic president took office, he did not seek broad inquiries into officials from the previous administration for their use of torture practices, or for domestic eavesdropping. Nor did he pursue prosecutions of Wall Street executives for crimes that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

This time, Democrats are not willing to be so accommodating: They want to hold President Trump, his family and his enablers accountable for acts they believe didn’t just break norms, but broke the law.

Once President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office on Jan. 20, wide segments of his party are eager to see investigations and prosecutions of an array of Trump aides and allies — an effort, they say, that would bolster the rule of law after a presidency that weakened it and serve as a warning to future presidents that there will be consequences for illegal actions taken while in office.

The rioting at the Capitol has only intensified that desire. More than a dozen Democrats interviewed in recent days said the president’s role in inspiring the mob violence had prompted them to change their positions: They now want the Biden Justice Department to investigate the president and his aides.

So far, Mr. Biden has not taken a position on impeachment, let alone launching criminal investigations. He has said he would leave any decisions about it to his Justice Department, which he has promised will return to the pre-Trump norm of maintaining independence from the White House. His choice of Merrick B. Garland, a centrist judge, as his nominee for attorney general is another indication of his more measured approach to pursuing investigations and indictments.

But interviews with more than 50 current and former Democratic elected officials, Democratic National Committee members and party activists found an overwhelming consensus across the party’s ideological spectrum toward holding Mr. Trump personally accountable and launching congressional and Justice Department investigations into him, his family and his top aides — not only for inciting last week’s violent mob at the Capitol but for a host of other actions during his presidency.

The transgressions they cite include collusion with Russia, tax fraud, illegal pressure on state elections officials, using federal offices for political activity and violation of the constitutional provision that prohibits a president from profiting from foreign governments.

Former national security officials want the Senate to quickly confirm President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s national security team, including Antony Blinken, his pick for Secretary of State. 
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

A bevy of top former national security officials from both parties have drafted an open letter urging the Senate to quickly confirm President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s national security team, warning of the need to have a fast transition of executive power after a week of chaos in the nation’s capital.

“As former senior national security officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations, we urge the Senate to swiftly confirm the national security cabinet nominees put forth by President-elect Biden,” the former officials wrote.

“Alejandro Mayorkas, Antony Blinken, Avril Haines, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and Lloyd Austin represent the best of America: our patriotism, our diversity, our commitment to excellence, and our values,” the letter reads, referring to Mr. Biden’s picks for the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, director of National Intelligence, ambassador to the United Nations and secretary of defense, respectively. “Our nation needs these highly qualified and experienced officials in office and ready to serve on day one of the Biden-Harris administration.”

The letter is signed by nineteen leaders including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, former Homeland Security Secretaries Tom Ridge, Janet Napolitano and Jeh C. Johnson and James R. Clapper, a former director of national intelligence, and others who held top posts in Republican and Democratic administrations.

Lloyd J. Austin III, Mr. Biden’s pick for secretary of defense, will need a congressional waiver to be confirmed, a requirement for any Pentagon chief who has been retired from active-duty military service less than seven years.

Some members of Congress have balked at the waiver, citing the tradition of civilian control of the military, and this extra step requires a vote in the House and Senate, which will likely delay a vote on his confirmation. Mr. Austin, a former four-star Army general who retired in 2016, is the only one of Mr. Biden’s nominees to have a scheduled confirmation hearing.

“America’s allies and adversaries alike are closely watching this period of transition between administrations,” the letter says. “Given the many challenges facing the country, the smooth transfer of power in departments and agencies that are essential for national security is critical.”

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaking in Delaware on Friday.
Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday promised an accelerated response to a daunting and intensifying array of challenges as the economy showed new signs of weakness, the coronavirus pandemic killed more Americans in one day than ever, and Congress weighed impeaching President Trump a second time.

As Washington remained consumed with the fallout from the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday and Democrats stepped up their efforts to hold Mr. Trump accountable for his role in inciting the attack, Mr. Biden signaled that he intended to keep his focus on jobs and the pandemic, declining to weigh in on whether the House should impeach Mr. Trump.

On a day the Labor Department reported that the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, ending a seven-month streak of growth after the country’s plunge into recession in the spring, Mr. Biden said there was “a dire, dire need to act now.”

He pledged to move rapidly once he becomes president to push a stimulus package through Congress to provide relief to struggling individuals, small businesses, students, local governments and schools.

Mr. Biden and his aides have not yet finished the proposal or settled on its full amount. Forecasters expect further job losses this month, a casualty of the renewed surge of the coronavirus pandemic met by state and local officials’ impositions of lockdowns and other restrictions on economic activity meant to slow the spread.

“The price tag will be high,” Mr. Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del.

“It is necessary to spend the money now,” he said, apparently referring to his entire batch of economic plans, including both immediate aid and a larger bill that includes infrastructure spending. “The answer is yes, it will be in the trillions of dollars.”

The Biden team is also preparing a wave of economic actions that will not require congressional approval. Mr. Biden’s aides said on Friday that the president-elect would direct the Education Department to extend a pause on student loan payments that was initially issued under Mr. Trump. Mr. Biden called on Congress on Friday to take “prompt action” to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour.

He also pledged to ramp up efforts to slow the spread of the virus, which is now claiming 4,000 lives each day — more than those who perished during the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Biden’s team said the president-elect would immediately release all government-held vaccines when he takes office, breaking sharply from Mr. Trump’s practice of holding back some shots for second doses.

“People are really, really, really in desperate shape,” Mr. Biden said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, framed her request as an effort to prevent nuclear weapons being launched by “an unhinged president.”
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday took the unprecedented step of asking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about “available precautions” to prevent President Trump from initiating military action abroad or using his sole authority to launch nuclear weapons in the last days of his term.

In a phone call to the chairman, Gen. Mark A. Milley, Ms. Pelosi appeared to be seeking to have the Pentagon leadership essentially remove Mr. Trump from his authorities as the commander in chief. That could be accomplished by ignoring the president’s orders or slowing them by questioning whether they were issued legally.

But General Milley appears to have made no commitments. Short of the cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment or removing Mr. Trump through impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate, it is unconstitutional to defy legal orders from the commander in chief.

Ms. Pelosi’s request, which she announced to the Democratic caucus as an effort to prevent “an unhinged president” from using the nuclear codes, was wrapped in the politics of seeking a second impeachment of Mr. Trump.

Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for General Milley, confirmed that the phone call with the speaker had taken place but described it as informational. “He answered her questions regarding the process of nuclear command authority,” he said.

But some Defense Department officials clearly resented being asked to act outside of the legal authority of the 25th Amendment and saw it as more evidence of a broken political system. They said that some political leaders were trying to get the Pentagon to do the work of Congress and cabinet secretaries, who have legal options to remove a president.

The one issue that has worried officials the most is Iran’s announcement that it has begun enriching uranium to 20 percent purity — near the quality to make a bomb. In December, Mr. Trump asked for military options that might be taken in response to Iran’s escalating production of nuclear fuel, but he was talked out of it by a number of top officials, including General Milley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Helene Cooper contributed reporting.

Asylum seekers from Honduras waiting in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, near the border city of El Paso for a chance to apply for asylum in the United States last March.
Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

A federal judge on Friday blocked the Trump administration from implementing a rule, set to take effect next week, that would have closed the doors of the United States to most asylum seekers.

The sweeping clampdown on asylum would have prevented a large swath of people from qualifying for protection in the United States by narrowing eligibility. Applicants who had not first sought asylum in a transit country through which they had passed; had lived in the United States for a year without permission or had claimed persecution based on sexual orientation would be disqualified.

Though President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. could take action to reverse the policy once in office, it would take several months to undo it because it had already been finalized.

Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court for Northern California issued a nationwide injunction on procedural grounds, saying that the acting Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, lacked authority to impose the rule because he had not been properly confirmed for his position. In his decision, Judge Donato pointed out that it was the fifth time that a court had ruled against the government on the same grounds.

“In effect, the government keeps crashing the same car into a gate, hoping that someday it might break through,” the judge, an Obama appointee, wrote in his 14-page opinion.

Justice Department lawyers had argued that the restrictions were necessary to curb abuse of an asylum system that they said was overwhelmed with frivolous claims. Immigrant advocates and lawyers said that the policy would have spelled the demise of the U.S. asylum system.

“The rule would have been the death knell for many asylum seekers,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School. “The court’s decision today leaves the door open for people fleeing persecution.”

The rule would have gutted the U.S. asylum system and violated both U.S. and international law, he said.

President Trump had used Twitter to build his base and spread his messages, which were often filled with falsehoods and threats.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Twitter said on Friday that it had permanently suspended President Trump from its service “due to the risk of further incitement for violence,” effectively cutting him off from his favorite method of communicating with the public and capping a series of actions by mainstream sites to limit his online reach.

In a blog post explaining its decision, Twitter said that Trump supporters had been using the platform to plan additional attacks like the one on the Capitol on Wednesday — including, it said, “a proposed secondary attack on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings on Jan. 17” — and that Mr. Trump’s posts had encouraged his supporters in those plans.

The move came two days after supporters of Mr. Trump stormed the Capitol, leading to at least five deaths. Mr. Trump praised the rioters in multiple tweets, including one saying, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”

Twitter said in its blog post, “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

It concluded that Mr. Trump’s tweets since Wednesday’s attack were “likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on Jan. 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.”

Mr. Trump tried to evade the ban late Friday by using the @POTUS Twitter account, which belongs to sitting U.S. presidents, to lash out at the company. But his messages were almost immediately removed by Twitter. The company forbids users to try avoiding a suspension with secondary accounts.

Twitter’s move was a forceful repudiation of Mr. Trump, who had used the platform to build his base and spread his messages, which were often filled with falsehoods and threats. Mr. Trump regularly tweeted dozens of times a day, sending flurries of messages in the early morning or late evening. In his posts, he gave his live reactions to television news programs, boosted supporters and attacked his perceived enemies.

In a statement late Friday, Mr. Trump said Twitter was trying to silence him. He said he was negotiating with other sites and promised a “big announcement soon,” adding that he was looking at building “our own platform.”

A day earlier, Facebook had barred Mr. Trump for the rest of his term, and other digital platforms — including Snapchat, YouTube, Twitch and Reddit — also recently limited Mr. Trump on their services.

The actions were a stark illustration of the power of the social media companies and how they could act almost unilaterally when they chose. For years, they had positioned themselves as defenders of free speech and had said the posts of world leaders like Mr. Trump should be allowed because they were newsworthy. The companies had rejected touching his account, even after they were assailed for allowing misinformation and falsehoods to flow.

Mr. Trump himself never expected that to change. When allies raised the possibility of social media companies banning him, he repeatedly replied, “They’ll never ban me.”

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