Here’s what you need to know:
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Donald J. Trump’s lawyers on Monday denounced the impeachment case against him as partisan “political theater,” arguing on the eve of the Senate’s trial that he bore no responsibility for the deadly assault on the Capitol and that trying a former president at all was unconstitutional.
In a 78-page brief submitted to the Senate, the lawyers asserted that Mr. Trump’s speech just before the attack “did not direct anyone to commit unlawful actions,” and that he deserved no blame for the conduct of a “small group of criminals” who rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6 after he had urged them to “fight like hell” against his election loss. They also insisted that the Senate “lacks jurisdiction” to try him at all because he was now a private citizen, calling such an effort “patently ridiculous.”
The arguments constituted Mr. Trump’s first sustained defense since the violence of Jan. 6 and came on the same day that Senate leaders agreed to rules of the trial in a bipartisan fashion. The brief concluded with the lawyers urging senators to promptly dismiss the single, bipartisan “incitement of insurrection” charge when the trial convened Tuesday.
“This impeachment proceeding was never about seeking justice,” wrote the lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr., David I. Schoen and Michael T. van der Veen. “Instead, this was only ever a selfish attempt by Democratic leadership in the House to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon all Americans across the entire political spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the Capitol on Jan. 6 by a few hundred people.”
The defense’s road map arrived as the rules and timeline for the trial came into sharper focus on Monday. Top Senate leaders reached a bipartisan agreement for an exceedingly swift proceeding that would begin on Tuesday with up to four hours of debate followed by a vote on the constitutionality question.
Because Mr. Trump is the first ex-president ever to be subject to an impeachment trial, the constitutionality question has loomed over the proceedings. Republicans, in particular, have embraced it to justify a speedy acquittal.
Legal scholars, including prominent conservatives, argue that the founders never intended to exempt someone like Mr. Trump from trial — a president who was impeached while in office but left before senators could judge him. They note that the Senate voted in the 19th century to try a former war secretary, and can do so now for a president who is no longer in office.
The House impeachment managers, echoed that argument in their own five-page memo filed on Monday rebutting Mr. Trump’s effort to dismiss the charge.
“Presidents swear a sacred oath that binds them from their first day in office through their very last,” they wrote. “There is no ‘January Exception’ to the Constitution that allows presidents to abuse power in their final days without accountability.”
They were just as blunt about Mr. Trump’s more substantive defenses: “To call these responses implausible would be an act of charity,” they wrote.
Neither party has much interest in allowing a proceeding, the second impeachment trial of Mr. Trump in just over a year, drag on. Republican leaders worry that days of intense focus on the former president’s mendacious campaign to overturn his election loss could further cleave their party. And for Democrats now in control of Congress and the White House, the proceeding threatens to complicate Mr. Biden’s attempts to quickly pass a nearly $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill.
If a simple majority of senators agree to move forward after Tuesday’s debate, as expected, the prosecution and defense would have up to 16 hours each to present their cases starting at noon on Wednesday. The trial is expected to break Friday evening and reconvene on Sunday to honor the Jewish Sabbath at the request of Mr. Trump’s lawyers. It could conclude as early as next week, faster than any presidential impeachment trial in American history.
The Trump Impeachment ›
What You Need to Know
- A trial is being held to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers into hiding as they met to certify President Biden’s victory.
- The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to impeach him.
- To convict Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to be in agreement. This means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to convict.
- A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with Democrats in beating back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. On the eve of the trial’s start, 28 senators say they are undecided about whether to convict Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate convicts Mr. Trump, finding him guilty of “inciting violence against the government of the United States,” senators could then vote on whether to bar him from holding future office. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it came down to party lines, Democrats would prevail with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
- If the Senate does not convict Mr. Trump, the former president could be eligible to run for public office once again. Public opinion surveys show that he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
House Democrats on Monday rolled out a key plank of President Biden’s stimulus plan, proposing legislation to send direct payments of $1,400 to Americans earning up to $75,000 and households with incomes up to $150,000.
The plan, drafted the day before key committees are scheduled to being meeting to consider it, is at odds with proposals from some Republicans and moderate Democrats who want to curtail eligibility for direct payments, targeting it to lower income people. Mr. Biden has said he is open to such modifications.
For now, the measure would allow individuals earning up to $100,000 and households earning up to $200,000 to be eligible for some payment, though the size of the checks would phase out gradually for those with incomes above $75,000, or $150,000 for a family.
The bill, unveiled by Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was one of a series that Democrats presented on Monday ahead of a week of legislative work to solidify the details of Mr. Biden’s stimulus proposal.
The decision to keep the income cap at the same level as the last round of stimulus payments comes after days of debate among the House Democratic caucus over the size of the checks, as some moderates pushed to restrict the full amount to those who make $50,000 or less and households earning up to $100,000.
The legislation also includes a series of significant changes to the tax code and an increase in an extension of weekly federal unemployment benefits. It would raise the $300-a-week payment to $400 a week and continue the program — currently slated to begin lapsing in March — through the end of August.
The $1.9 trillion plan would also provide for billions of dollars for schools and colleges, small businesses and a provision that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025, a progressive priority.
Credit…Pool photo by Sarah Silbiger
The Senate on Monday approved Denis McDonough to be the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the second largest department in government and the nation’s largest integrated health system.
While Mr. McDonough sailed through his confirmation hearing unscathed and enjoyed bipartisan praise, several Republican senators voted against him for a final 87-to-7 vote. The Republican senators who voted against him — Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Rick Scott of Florida, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Ted Cruz of Texas and Roger Marshall of Kansas — are all allies of former President Donald J. Trump and highlight the division in the party.
Mr. McDonough, who becomes the department’s second non-veteran leader since it became a Cabinet position in 1989, takes over at a time when thousands of veterans and more than 100 V.A. employees have died from the coronavirus. The department has struggled to regain its footing after getting behind on thousands of appointments during the most acute phase of the pandemic.
With its roughly 380,000 employees, scores of medical facilities across the country and a budget of $221 billion that serves over nine million veterans, the department has been dogged over the years by a number of scandals including lengthy wait times for veteran care and other issues.
A $16 billion overhaul of the veterans medical records system was delayed last year amid technical glitches and medical centers are often left waiting months for payments from the department. And the Trump administration left hundreds of vacancies across the department that have yet to be filled by the incoming administration.
Mr. McDonough, 51, who served as White House chief of staff in the Obama administration and in senior roles on the National Security Council, is considered an expert on the many intricacies of the federal government and for getting his hands dirty to correct government missteps. He went to Haiti in 2010 after a devastating earthquake to help manage the evacuations, which were going poorly, and intervened on the wobbly roll out of the websites used to enroll Americans in the Affordable Care Act.
The V.A.’s “capabilities have not always risen to the needs of our veterans,” Mr. McDonough said at his confirmation hearing last month. “I promise to fight every single day to ensure that our veterans have the access to the world-class, compassionate care they have earned.”
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
Citing the desire for a speedy trial, one of former President Donald J. Trump’s defense lawyers reversed himself on Monday, saying he no longer needed the proceedings to pause at sundown Friday for the Jewish Sabbath.
The letter from the lawyer, David I. Schoen, announcing the change came only hours after Senate leaders had released a trial schedule that would include a break from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon in order to accommodate Mr. Schoen’s observance of the commandment not to work on the Sabbath.
A person involved in the planning process said Mr. Schoen’s reversal would likely push the Senate back toward its original plan to work through Friday night and on Saturday before pausing the trial on Sunday. Doing so will likely require last-minute revisions to a rules resolution introduced on Monday, but would allow senators eager to conduct the trial quickly to finish sooner than they might have otherwise.
In a letter to Senate leaders, Mr. Schoen said he appreciated their offer to work around him but he “remained concerned about the delay in the proceedings in a process that I recognize is important to bring to a conclusion for all involved and for the country.”
He said that adjustments that had been made on the former president’s defense team allowed them to proceed on Friday and Saturday, but he did not specify what they were.
“I will not participate during the Sabbath; but the role I would have played will be fully covered to the satisfaction of the defense team,” he wrote.
Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times
The second Senate impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump will open on Tuesday, just over a month after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol the House has charged him with inciting. Senate leaders agreed on Monday to a plan for an exceptionally speedy proceeding that could conclude in less than half the time of his first.
Monday was a day for pretrial motions, and Mr. Trump’s lawyers laid out his defense in a 78-page brief submitted to the Senate, denying that he was responsible for the attack and arguing that in any case, an ex-president could not be tried by the Senate.
In their own filing, the House Democrats who are prosecuting him reiterated their allegation that Mr. Trump “willfully” incited the riot and insisted that he was subject to a Senate impeachment trial.
Here is a broad overview of how the trial will unfold under the rules being discussed.
Tuesday: Four hours of debate, then a procedural vote.
The first public clash between the president’s legal team and the impeachment managers will be over the question of whether the trial is even legitimate under the Constitution.
Senators plan to allow up to four hours of debate between the managers and defense team on the question that has loomed over the proceedings — whether a former president can be tried by the Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors. No former president has ever been, but the Senate did try a war secretary in the 1870s after he left office.
If a simple majority of senators agree to move forward, as expected, the main part of the trial begins.
Wednesday to Friday or Sunday: 16 hours of oral arguments per side.
The prosecution and defense each have up to 16 hours to present their cases, starting at noon on Wednesday under the terms of the deal reached by Senators Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky.
“The structure we have agreed to is eminently fair,” Mr. Schumer said on Monday. “It will allow for the trial to achieve its purpose: truth and accountability.”
Neither side is expected to take the fully allotted time. Senators announced on Monday that they would pause the trial Friday at sundown until Sunday for the Jewish Sabbath based on a request from Mr. Trump’s lawyers. But the defense team reversed itself, meaning the trial will likely run straight through Saturday.
Sunday to early the following week: Senators questions, a possible debate over witnesses and possibly a verdict.
The sequence of what happens next is less certain.
Senators will be allowed at least a day to question the prosecution and defense after they present their cases once their opening presentations conclude.
This time, senators will give the House managers the option to debate and vote on calling witnesses. It is unclear if they will avail themselves of that option.
Mr. Trump declined last week to accept the Democrats’ offer to testify voluntarily at his trial, but the managers have yet to decide whether they will try to subpoena him or any other witness. Doing so could bolster their case, but Democrats are also eager to quickly resume their push to pass the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Whenever the witness question is resolved, the trial will conclude with closing arguments and a final, up-or-down vote on whether to convict Mr. Trump.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
The very first issue to be considered in the opening hours of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday will be the question of whether it is constitutional to put an impeached former president on trial at all.
Senate Republicans who voted last month to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional came under pressure on Sunday to re-evaluate their position when a leading conservative constitutional lawyer, Charles J. Cooper — who has been a close ally and adviser to Republican senators like Ted Cruz of Texas — argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that their claims about the constitutionality of the proceeding were unfounded.
The impeachment put pressure on Senate Republicans to either condone or repudiate Mr. Trump’s conduct. Some set aside the question to instead focus on the process itself, arguing that whether or not Mr. Trump’s actions constituted high crimes and misdemeanors, the Senate could not try him because the Constitution does not allow a former president to stand trial for impeachment.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers are expected to make a narrower and more technical argument that the Constitution forbids a former president to be put on trial.
“The Senate of the United States lacks jurisdiction over the 45th president because he holds no public office from which he can be removed, rendering the article of impeachment moot,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr. and David Schoen, wrote in a 14-page response to the House managers last week.
Democratic House impeachment managers are expected to broadly assert that a president can be put on trial for offenses committed in office, no matter when the trial is held. Otherwise, the Democrats say, there would be no way to hold to account a president who commits wrongdoing in the final weeks of a term.
In the opinion piece, Mr. Cooper took on the Republicans’ assertion that because the penalty for an impeachment conviction is removal from office, it was never intended to apply to a former president.
Mr. Cooper argued that the Constitution gives the Senate the power to bar convicted officials from holding office again, writing, “It defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders.”
Credit…Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, via Associated Press
As former President Donald J. Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial opens, two defense lawyers are in the national spotlight: David I. Schoen, an Alabama-based civil rights and criminal defense lawyer, and Bruce L. Castor Jr., a former district attorney in Montgomery County, Pa., outside Philadelphia.
Neither has worked with the other before, and it remains unclear who has primacy as the lead lawyer on the team. Their uncertain relationship began when Mr. Trump abruptly hired them as his initial defense team for the trial was falling apart; they now find themselves trying to organize without much idea of what to expect.
Mr. Schoen, 62, graduated from Boston College Law School and has had an eclectic, decades-long legal career. He has done extensive work on public interest and civil rights cases in the South about matters like police and prison violence and ballot access. Among his many cases, he played a significant role in a class-action lawsuit that challenged Alabama’s foster care system, and he represented the Ku Klux Klan in successfully challenging a law that forbade them from marching while wearing hoods and without paying a fee.
An observant Jew, Mr. Schoen requested that Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial be paused if it continues past sundown on Friday, to allow him to observe the Sabbath until it ends on Saturday evening. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said he would “accommodate” the request, which could prolong what both sides had hoped would be a quick proceeding.
Mr. Castor, 59, who did not respond to a request for an interview, brings a different set of experiences. After earning his law degree from Washington and Lee University, he served two terms as the elected district attorney in Montgomery County and a later stint as the Pennsylvania solicitor general. He has since worked as a criminal defense lawyer.
He is most famous for his unapologetic defense of his decision in 2005 not to prosecute Bill Cosby after a Temple University employee, Andrea Constand, accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting her.
Mr. Castor was recommended to Mr. Trump and his advisers by his cousin, Stephen R. Castor, a House Republican staff lawyer who helped lead the president’s early defense against his first impeachment in 2019. Stephen Castor clashed with Democrats over Mr. Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine into announcing a corruption investigation into Joseph R. Biden Jr., his political rival.
Mr. Castor and Mr. Schoen must now defend the former president against a charge of “incitement of insurrection” related to the riot at the Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6.
Together, the lawyers are expected to argue that the Senate lacks constitutional jurisdiction to try former officials and that Mr. Trump’s incendiary language before the riot fell short of what could yield an incitement conviction if he had been charged in a criminal court because of the First Amendment.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
Top House Democrats are preparing to unveil legislation that would send up to $3,600 per child to millions of Americans, as lawmakers aim to change the tax code to target child poverty rates as part of President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
The proposal would expand the child tax credit to provide $3,600 per child younger than 6 and $3,000 per child up to 17 over the course of a year, phasing out the payments for Americans who make more than $75,000 and couples who make more than $150,000. The draft 22-page provision, reported earlier by The Washington Post and obtained by The New York Times, is expected to be formally introduced on Monday as lawmakers race to fill out the contours of Mr. Biden’s stimulus plan.
“The pandemic is driving families deeper and deeper into poverty, and it’s devastating,” said Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and one of the champions of the provision. “This money is going to be the difference in a roof over someone’s head or food on their table. This is how the tax code is supposed to work for those who need it most.”
The credits would be split into monthly payments from the Internal Revenue Service beginning in July, based on a person’s or family’s income in 2020. Although the proposed credit is for only a year, some Democrats said they would fight to make it permanent, a move that could reshape efforts to fight child poverty in America.
The one-year credit appears likely to garner enough support to be included in the stimulus package, but it will also have to clear a series of tough parliamentary hurdles because of the procedural maneuvers Democrats are using to muscle the stimulus package through, potentially without Republican support.
The House Democratic leadership is aiming to have the stimulus legislation approved on the chamber floor by the end of the month, and Congress moved last week to fast-track Mr. Biden’s stimulus plan even as details of the legislation are still being worked out. Buoyed by support from Democrats in both chambers and a lackluster January jobs report, Mr. Biden has warned that he plans to move ahead with his plan regardless of whether Republicans support it.
Chris Cameron and Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.
Credit…Erik S Lesser/EPA, via Shutterstock
The office of Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, on Monday started an investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overturn the state’s election results, including a phone call he made to Mr. Raffensperger in which Mr. Trump pressured him to “find” enough votes to reverse his loss.
Such inquiries are “fact-finding and administrative in nature,” the secretary’s office said, and are a routine step when complaints are received about electoral matters. Findings are typically brought before the Republican-controlled state board of elections, which decides whether to refer them for prosecution to the state attorney general or another agency.
The move comes as Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney of Fulton County, which encompasses much of Atlanta, is weighing whether to begin a criminal inquiry of her own. A spokesman for Ms. Willis declined to comment on Monday.
The January call was one of several attempts Mr. Trump made to try to persuade top Republican officials in the state to uncover instances of voting fraud that might change the outcome, despite the insistence of voting officials that there was no widespread fraud to be found. He also called Gov. Brian Kemp in early December and pressured him to call a special legislative session to overturn his election loss. Later that month, Mr. Trump called a state investigator and pressed the official to “find the fraud,” according to those with knowledge of the call.
“The Secretary of State’s office investigates complaints it receives,” Walter Jones, a spokesman for the office, said in a statement on Monday. “The investigations are fact-finding and administrative in nature. Any further legal efforts will be left to the Attorney General.”
David Worley, the sole Democrat on the state elections board, said Monday that administrative inquiries by the secretary of state’s office could result in criminal charges.
“Any investigation of a statutory violation is a potential criminal investigation depending on the statute involved,” he said, adding that in the case of Mr. Trump, “The complaint that was received involved a criminal violation.”
Not long after the call to Mr. Raffensperger became public, several complaints were filed. One came from John F. Banzhaf III, a George Washington University law professor.
Former prosecutors said Mr. Trump’s calls might run afoul of at least three state laws. One is criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, which can be either a felony or a misdemeanor; as a felony, it is punishable by at least a year in prison. There is also a related conspiracy charge, which can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony. A third law, a misdemeanor offense, bars “intentional interference” with another person’s “performance of election duties.”
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
Senator Richard C. Shelby, a shrewd force in the Senate for more than 30 years and a longtime political powerhouse in his home state of Alabama, said on Monday that he would not seek a seventh term.
Mr. Shelby, 86, a onetime conservative Democrat who switched to the Republican Party in 1994, had been hinting that he would not run again, and said in an interview that he had decided to bring his time in Washington to a close.
“There is a season for all of this and I recognize that,” he said. “I had a good run, and I still have a couple of years left.”
“I didn’t mean to stay there that long,” added Mr. Shelby, who was first elected to the House from Tuscaloosa in 1978 and the Senate in a strong year for Democrats in 1986.
His retirement next year will touch off an intramural scramble for the open seat among Republicans, but Democrats have little chance of picking off a seat in deep-red Alabama, particularly in a midterm election with a Democrat in the White House.
He is the fourth Senate Republican to disclose he will not run in 2022, joining Senators Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
In 2017, Mr. Shelby injected himself into the state’s race for the Senate seat left vacant when Jeff Sessions became attorney general, making it clear that he could not vote for the Republican candidate Roy Moore, a former judge who had been accused of trying to establish relationships with teenage girls while he was in his 30s.
Mr. Shelby will exit as his state’s longest-serving senator. Though he has had some health issues in the past, he said he is “spry” these days.
“Although I plan to retire, I am not leaving today,” he said in a statement.
During his long career, Mr. Shelby achieved the rare feat of chairing four separate Senate committees — Banking, Intelligence, Rules and, lastly, Appropriations, a perch he used to direct billions of federal dollars back home for space and law enforcement-related facilities as well as transportation projects that provided jobs and other opportunities for Alabamians.
Mr. Shelby was elected to the Senate in 1986, defeating Republican Jeremiah Denton, a former Vietnam prisoner of war and one of a wave of Republicans elected on Ronald Reagan’s coattails in 1980.
He was considered a “boll weevil,” a group of conservative Southern Democrats who often formed a bloc with Republicans against liberal Democratic initiatives, named for a pest common in the South that destroys cotton crops and is difficult to eradicate.
Credit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
John Fetterman — the media-savvy political battering ram who serves as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor — announced on Monday that he is running in 2022 for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican incumbent Pat Toomey.
The 6’8” former mayor of Braddock, Pa., a struggling postindustrial town near Pittsburgh, is positioning himself as the rarest of figures in 21st American politics — a populist Democrat hoping to unite the party’s left wing with Rust Belt voters who backed former President Donald J. Trump.
The announcement video posted on his Twitter page weaves together clips of appearances on liberal mainstays like “The Colbert Report” with images of a set-jawed Mr. Fetterman stomping through the gritty streets of small town Pennsylvania in work boots.
“These places across Pennsylvania feel left behind, they don’t feel part of the conversation,” Mr. Fetterman, 51, said in his voice-over. “That’s why Donald Trump went to these small counties, and held these big rallies. We cannot afford to take any vote for granted.”
At the same time, Mr. Fetterman is not shying away from his political positions — marijuana legalization, expanded LGBTQ rights, support for some elements of the Green New Deal (sans the fracking ban) and a minimum-wage increase — that place him comfortably in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Mr. Fetterman’s announcement was long expected in a race that is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in an especially consequential midterm election. He has already raised about $1.4 million, and secured the support of several unions.
Other possible Democratic rivals include two members of Congress, Rep. Conor Lamb and Rep. Brendan Boyle, along with State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. Ex-Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite and former federal prosecutor William McSwain are among possible entrants in what is expected to be a crowded Republican field.
This is not the first time Mr. Fetterman has sought Mr. Toomey’s seat. In 2014, he finished a distant third behind the veteran state official Katie McGinty, who was subsequently defeated by Mr. Toomey.
After running successfully for the state’s number-two post in 2018, Mr. Fetterman established himself as one of Mr. Trump’s most persistent and colorful critics.
Case in point: In December, he demanded Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, make good on his promise to pay $1 million for any cases of voter fraud discovered in the country, after Pennsylvania officials announced that a Trump supporter voted illegally.
Mr. Patrick has not paid up.
The United States will rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council, nearly three years after President Donald J. Trump withdrew the country from it, the State Department announced Monday.
While President Biden pledged during the presidential campaign to rejoin the council, doing so is expected to cause a political backlash: Mr. Trump’s allies have warned that rejoining would effectively allow the body to continue ignoring human rights abuses committed by council members such as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced on Twitter on Monday that the United States is “back at the table.”
“When it works well, the @UN Human Rights Council shines a spotlight on countries with the worst human rights records and can serve as a beacon for those fighting against injustice and tyranny,” Mr. Blinken said.
The United States will return to the council, the world’s most important human rights body, as a nonvoting observer, and full membership will be assessed later this year.
The decision, reported earlier by The Associated Press, comes at a time when nations facing widespread criticism for human rights abuses have tried to influence how the council assesses wrongdoing. China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela are all members.
Mr. Trump withdrew from the council in 2018 over what he and his allies called unfair targeting of Israel. The departure made the United States the first country to leave voluntarily. But the Trump administration continued give robust financial support to the body.
Mr. Blinken said the move “did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”
Credit…Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
Representative Ron Wright, Republican of Texas, died on Sunday after battling Covid-19 in the hospital, his office said on Monday. He was 67.
Mr. Wright announced on Jan. 21 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus after coming into contact earlier in the month with someone who had the virus. In the statement about Mr. Wright’s death, his office said that he and his wife, Susan, had both been hospitalized in Dallas for the past two weeks.
The statement did not confirm whether the virus caused the death of Mr. Wright, who had also been undergoing treatment for cancer.
He is the first seated member of Congress to die after battling the virus. Luke Letlow, a Louisiana Republican elected in November, died a few days before he was scheduled to be sworn in.
“Congressman Wright will be remembered as a constitutional conservative,” the congressman’s office said in a statement. “He was a statesman, not an ideologue.”
“As friends, family, and many of his constituents will know, Ron maintained his quick wit and optimism until the very end,” the statement continued. “Despite years of painful, sometimes debilitating treatment for cancer, Ron never lacked the desire to get up and go to work, to motivate those around him, or to offer fatherly advice.”
Mr. Wright, a sixth-generation resident of Tarrant County, has represented Texas’ sixth congressional district since 2018. A former city council member, he was a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, said on Twitter that Mr. Wright “was a gentleman who cared deeply about public service.”
Saddened to lose a Texas colleague to COVID-19. I served with Ron on the Education and Labor Committee, and he was a gentleman who cared deeply about public service. My condolences to his family and friends. https://t.co/MFRrdPczID
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) February 8, 2021
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, said on Monday that Mr. Wright was a colleague who “led with principle, integrity, and thoughtfulness” and “emulated the very best of America.”
Prior to serving in Congress, Mr. Wright had been the chief of staff for his predecessor, Representative Joe Barton.
“Ron was not only a dedicated public servant, a principled conservative, and a proud Texan, he was also a loving father and grandfather,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said in a statement. “Ron’s life is a testament to his unshakable faith and now he rests with the Lord, having fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said members of Congress are praying for Mr. Wright’s family and the loved ones of the more than 460,000 Americans who have died from the virus.
“May it be a comfort to Congressman Wright’s wife Susan, their children Rachel, Derek and Justin, and their nine grandchildren, and the entire Wright family that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time,” she said.