President Biden said Friday that he wanted the military to remove the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases from the control of commanders, a sea change for the military justice system.
An independent commission formally recommended to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III this week that sexual assault, sexual harassment and related cases be shifted to special victims prosecutors outside of the chain of command in the military, something military leaders have long resisted, arguing that it would hinder order and discipline.
“Sexual assault is an abuse of power and an affront to our shared humanity,” Mr. Biden said in a prepared statement. “And sexual assault in the military is doubly damaging because it also shreds the unity and cohesion that is essential to the functioning of the U.S. military and to our national defense.”
While Mr. Austin and Mr. Biden have supported the findings of the commission — which are all but certain to receive pushback from officials from some branches of the military — it will be up to Congress to change the military law.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has a bipartisan measure that would overhaul the way the military prosecutes sexual assault but also other serious crimes, which some lawmakers believe is crucial in adjudicating cases like the one involving Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. Law enforcement officials said she was killed by another soldier at Fort Hood last year.
Her bill has gained support from at least 70 members of the Senate — including many who voted against the same bill in 2014, arguing it would undermine commanders. Reconciling her bill with the vision of the commission will now be in the hands of lawmakers.
In 2019, the Defense Department found that there were 7,825 reports of sexual assault involving service members as victims, a 3 percent increase from 2018. The conviction rate for cases was unchanged from 2018 to 2019; 7 percent of cases that the command took action on resulted in conviction, the lowest rate since the department began reporting in 2010.
“I want to recognize the experience of our service members who have survived sexual assault and the bravery of those who have shared their stories with the world and advocated for reform,” Mr. Biden said, adding, “I hope this announcement offers some reassurance that the Department of Defense leadership stands with you, starting with your commander in chief.”
KABUL, Afghanistan — American troops and their Western allies have departed Bagram, Afghanistan’s largest air base, officials said on Friday, turning over to the Afghan government the sprawling outpost from which the United States waged war for nearly two decades.
With little fanfare and no public ceremony, American troops left the base on Thursday night, U.S. and Afghan officials said. The closure means that major U.S. military operations in Afghanistan are all but over.
“Look, we were in Afghanistan for 20 years, 20 years,” President Biden told reporters on Friday at the White House, where he appeared to discuss the monthly jobs report. Mr. Biden said he had met with Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan, and believed the country had the capacity to sustain its own government. But he said he was concerned “that they deal with the internal issues that they have to be able to generate the kind of support they need nationwide.”
Mr. Biden said the United States could provide some air support to keep Kabul, the capital, from being overrun. But he said that help would be limited.
“We have worked out an over-the-horizon capacity,” Mr. Biden said, “but the Afghans are going to have to do it themselves with the air force they have.” The United States helps maintain the Afghan air force.
The Afghan military “will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism,” said Fawad Aman, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense.
The closing of Bagram, a symbol of the United States’ costly operations in Afghanistan, comes weeks before the planned withdrawal of American troops, who entered the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The United States will leave a contingent of 650 troops to protect its embassy in Kabul.
Some U.S. intelligence estimates predict that the Afghan government could fall to its rivals, the Taliban, in as little as six months after the Americans complete their withdrawal. The Taliban are inching closer to Kabul after having taken about a quarter of the country’s districts in the past two months.
Hundreds if not thousands of members of the Afghan security forces have surrendered in recent weeks, and their counterattacks have taken back little territory from the Taliban. As the Afghan forces fracture, regional militias have appeared with renewed prominence, in an echo of the civil war in the 1990s.
“Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized,” the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, told reporters on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would not hear an appeal from a florist in Washington State who said she had a constitutional right to refuse to create a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding. The move left open a question the court last considered in 2018, when a similar dispute between a Colorado baker and a gay couple failed to yield a definitive ruling.
As is its custom, the court did not give reasons for declining to hear the case, which social conservatives had hoped the justices would use to make a clearer statement favoring religious beliefs over gay rights. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have granted the florist’s petition seeking Supreme Court review.
Lower courts have generally sided with gay and lesbian couples who were refused service, ruling that they are entitled to equal treatment, at least in parts of the country with laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The owners of businesses challenging those laws have argued that the government should not force them to choose between the requirements of their faiths and their livelihoods, citing constitutional protections for free speech and religious liberty.
The case concerning the florist, Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, No. 19-333, started in 2013, when Barronelle Stutzman turned down a request from a longtime customer, Robert Ingersoll, to provide flowers for his wedding to another man, Curt Freed. Ms. Stutzman said her religious principles did not allow her to do so.
The couple and the state both sued, and they won in the state courts, which upheld a $1,000 penalty against Ms. Stutzman.
In a separate announcement on Friday, the Supreme Court declined to take up a libel case filed by the son of a former prime minister of Albania. Notably, however, Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented from the decision not to take the case and argued that the court should reassess its 1964 ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan, a landmark case that established a high bar for public officials alleging libel. That ruling has been a bedrock of First Amendment law for more than half a century. Justice Thomas denounced the explosion of conspiracy theories and other disinformation, while Justice Gorsuch wrote that much had changed since 1964, when there were fewer and more reliable sources of news.
President Biden will host a naturalization ceremony on Friday afternoon at the White House as part of an effort by the federal government to swear in almost 10,000 new citizens in celebration of Independence Day.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the naturalization process, announced that it was holding 170 naturalization ceremonies across the country between June 30 and July 7, including the White House event and a June 30 virtual swearing-in by Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, for 22 military service members who were serving overseas.
The event with Mr. Biden will be the first naturalization ceremony at the White House since President Donald J. Trump hosted one during the Republican National Convention last August, using the trappings of presidential power during a campaign event in a departure from previous presidents that was widely criticized.
The five people who were naturalized were surprised they were invited to the White House, but some said they did not learn that the ceremony was broadcast until they were told by friends that they were on television.
The decision to feature the event during the convention also angered some Citizenship and Immigration Services officials, and led some to ask whether Chad F. Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary at the time, had violated rules prohibiting political activity. Mr. Wolf had said he was unaware the event would be broadcast during the convention.
Friday’s ceremony at the White House will also be a reminder of the sharp contrast in immigration policy under the two administrations. Mr. Trump’s denigration of migrants was the centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign, and he issued a torrent of orders that reduced refugee admissions; narrowed who is eligible for asylum; made it more difficult to qualify for permanent residency or citizenship; tightened scrutiny of applicants for high-skilled worker visas; and sought to limit the length of stay for international students.
The Biden administration intends to expand the legal immigration system, proposing policies that would help more foreigners move to the United States.
In a statement announcing the ceremonies, Citizenship and Immigration Services noted efforts to remove barriers to naturalization, including ending the use of a more difficult citizenship test the Trump administration put in place.
“U.S.C.I.S. reaffirms its commitment to making the naturalization process accessible to all who are eligible,” the agency said. “Reverting to the 2008 civics test was in keeping with other updates with the same purpose.”
Former President Donald J. Trump hit the campaign trail again last weekend, and he certainly seemed happy to be back in the spotlight. He bashed President Biden and undocumented immigrants, repeated his false claims of a stolen 2020 election, and hinted at a possible run for the presidency again in 2024.
But as he contemplates a return to politics, he has a more immediate question to contend with: Will he be able to stay out of legal trouble?
On Thursday, the Manhattan district attorney’s office charged the former president’s real estate company, the Trump Organization, with running a 15-year scheme to help executives avoid taxation. A top Trump executive, Allen Weisselberg, was accused of dodging taxes on $1.7 million in income; he surrendered to the district attorney’s office on Thursday.
Mr. Weisselberg’s was the first indictment to come out of a lengthy investigation that is being conducted by that office, and it could signal a turning point. If he agrees to testify against the former president, Mr. Weisselberg would be a powerful witness: He has long been one of Mr. Trump’s closest financial advisers, and Mr. Trump once praised him for his willingness to do “whatever was necessary to protect the bottom line.”
After the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Mr. Trump was impeached for a second time — something that hadn’t happened to any previous U.S. president. If he were to be indicted on a criminal charge, that too would be a first for a former president.
Ed Rollins, the chairman of the Great America PAC, which backed Mr. Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns but has not pledged to support him in 2024, said that Mr. Trump remained the presumptive front-runner for the Republican nomination. Still, he said in an interview, the threat of criminal prosecution “certainly makes it more difficult” for Mr. Trump to claim the party’s mantle.
“You have to be adding people, adding players, convincing people that, ‘My loss was detrimental to the country,’” Mr. Rollins added. “People are going to be saying: ‘Tell me why I should go back to you. Why should I put money into your campaign?’”
And the Manhattan D.A.’s investigation is only one of a smattering of legal obstacles that Mr. Trump may need to overcome, as he considers a possible return.
Hiring leapt back up in June as employers added 850,000 workers, the government reported Friday. It was the strongest gain in 10 months and a fresh sign that the labor market’s recovery is gaining momentum.
The unemployment rate rose slightly, to 5.9 percent, the Labor Department said.
The report follows several promising economic developments this week. Consumer confidence, which surged in June, is at its highest point since the pandemic’s onset last year. Stocks closed out the first half of the year at record highs, and businesses’ plans for capital investments are rising. The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that the economy was on track to recover all the jobs lost in the pandemic by the middle of next year.
“I think it’s a very solid and strong report and very encouraging that we’re seeing over the last few months continued increase in the net job creation,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist for Oxford Economics. She noted that the totals fell below the one million mark that the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, has said he would like to see. Still, she added, “the momentum is moving in the right direction.”
At the moment, 6.8 million fewer jobs exist than before the pandemic. Millions of people have dropped out of the labor force, however, and “job openings far outnumber the applicants,” said Karen Fichuk, chief executive of the staffing company Randstad North America. “It is truly across the board right now.”
Aside from ever-present concerns about pay and benefits, workers are particularly interested in jobs that allow them to work remotely at least some of the time. According to a Randstad survey of more than 1,200 people, 54 percent say they prefer a flexible work arrangement that doesn’t require them to be on-site full time.
Health and safety concerns are also very much on the minds of workers whose jobs require face-to-face interactions, the survey found.
“This is a trickier phase of the recovery,” said Sarah House, a senior economist with Wells Fargo. Last year, millions of workers were only temporarily laid off and able to slot back into their previous positions with little delay once reopening began.
Now, employers and workers are “having to make new matches and new connections, and that just takes more time,” she said.
Economists also point to a widespread reallocation of labor — like rounds of musical chairs on a mammoth scale — in which workers are re-evaluating their options. During the pandemic, many workers who had held restaurant and retail jobs may have taken positions in warehouses and manufacturing plants.
At the same time, the appetite for pandemic-driven jobs such as couriers and grocery store workers are ebbing as sectors like leisure and hospitality ramp up. A big chunk of June’s gains — 343,000 — were in that sector.
The education sector also showed a big pickup in hiring, although economists caution that seasonal adjustments could inflate the estimated gains. That is because there is normally a large drop in the number of teachers when schools let out for the summer. Accounting for that traditional decline may be complicated by the fact that not as many educators were working because of pandemic-related school closings.
Becky Frankiewicz, president of the staffing company ManpowerGroup North America, said that with so many employers in search of workers, “the core challenge now is enticing workers back to the work force.”
Governors in 26 states have moved to end distribution of federal pandemic-related jobless benefits even though they are funded until September, arguing that the assistance — including a $300 weekly supplement — was discouraging people from returning to work.
In states where benefits have already been cut off, though, recruiters have not seen a pickup in job searches or hiring. “I would have expected to see more people engage at a higher rate in the work force when the federal subsidies were ended,” Ms. Frankiewicz said. “We have not seen that correlation yet.”
The online job site Indeed surveyed 5,000 people in and out of the labor force and found that child care responsibilities, health concerns, vaccination rates and a financial cushion — from savings or public assistance — had all affected the number looking for work. Many employers are desperate to hire, but only 10 percent of workers surveyed said they were urgently seeking a job.
And even among that group, 20 percent said they didn’t want to take a position immediately.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on Thursday imposed a moratorium on federal executions pending a review of the Justice Department’s policies and procedures, reversing the Trump administration’s decision to resume executions of federal death row inmates last year after a nearly two-decade hiatus.
“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Mr. Garland said in a memo to Justice Department leaders. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”
Mr. Garland said in his memo that the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, would supervise a review of Justice Department policies related to federal executions that were implemented by former Attorney General William P. Barr. He asked that several of the department’s divisions, including the Bureau of Prisons, the criminal division and the civil rights division, participate, along with other federal agencies and outside advocacy groups.
After 17 years without executions, the Justice Department under Mr. Barr began to execute federal death row inmates last summer. He argued that the Justice Department under both parties had sought the death penalty and that the government owed “the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
The Trump administration ultimately executed 13 people, more than three times the number of people put to death by the federal government in the previous six decades.
Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said President Biden approved of Mr. Garland’s decision.
“As the president has made clear, he has significant concerns about the death penalty and how it is implemented, and he believes the Department of Justice should return to its prior practice of not carrying out executions,” Mr. Bates said.
As a candidate, Mr. Biden said that he would work to abolish federal executions and incentivize states to follow suit.
The Supreme Court also said in March that it would review an appeals court’s decision to overturn the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
Should the Biden administration withdraw its support for the death penalty against Mr. Tsarnaev, the Supreme Court case would become moot.
Mr. Garland has asked the department to review policies implemented in the last two years that paved the way to restart federal executions.
President Biden plans to propose a tailpipe emissions rule this month that would largely mimic the Obama administration’s standards, which President Donald J. Trump jettisoned in 2019.
At the same time, according to four people familiar with the plan, the Biden administration is starting to write more stringent rules that could force carmakers to increase sales of electric vehicles but could also face political pushback and disrupt the auto industry.
Mr. Biden has set the most ambitious climate agenda of any American president, pledging to cut the pollution driving global warming by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Meeting that goal would require transforming the nation’s economy away from fossil fuels, including a rapid shift from internal combustion engines to zero-emissions electric vehicles.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department are expected to propose a requirement that passenger vehicles sold by automakers average about 51 miles per gallon of gasoline by 2026. That would be more stringent than the standards set by Mr. Trump — about 44 miles per gallon by the same year — and slightly less ambitious than the rules enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012, which required roughly 51 miles per gallon by 2025.
Gina McCarthy, Mr. Biden’s top climate adviser, is weighing how to write a more ambitious rule, which would run until at least 2030, in a way acceptable to auto companies and union workers.