House Republicans on Friday elected Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, a vocal defender of Donald J. Trump, as their No. 3 leader, moving swiftly to replace Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was deposed this week for her refusal to stay silent about the former president’s election lies.
The secret-ballot vote, which unfolded in a basement auditorium at the Capitol, was the culmination of a remarkable campaign by Republicans to purge a vocal critic of Mr. Trump from their ranks, solidifying his grasp on the party and cementing a litmus test for its leaders of unswerving loyalty to the former president.
Ms. Stefanik, 36, who campaigned as a pragmatic moderate when she was elected to Congress in 2014 and has sometimes crossed party lines to vote with Democrats, in recent years has become a strident ally of Mr. Trump. Republican leaders, citing her messaging discipline and fund-raising prowess, had effectively anointed her as Ms. Cheney’s successor even before the Wyoming Republican, a staunch conservative, was voted out of leadership on Wednesday.
On Friday, Ms. Stefanik beat out Representative Chip Roy of Texas, an arch-conservative who had framed his candidacy as a protest against what he called an ill-considered rush by House leaders to install a Republican who did not represent the party’s core values. The vote to elect her was 134-46.
On the heels of House Republicans’ vote to force Ms. Cheney out of leadership for her refusal to stay quiet about Mr. Trump’s false narrative of a stolen election, Ms. Stefanik’s ascendancy offered a stark contrast. Unlike Ms. Cheney, she voted on Jan. 6 to invalidate electoral votes for President Biden, and in the months since has repeated several of Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election. She has also endorsed the Arizona election audit, a Republican-led endeavor that critics in both parties have described as a blow to democratic norms and a political embarrassment.
Ms. Cheney, who was embarking on something of a media tour to press her concerns about her party in the wake of her ouster, has criticized Republicans who continue to perpetuate the falsehood that the election was illegitimate, noting that courts considered and rejected scores of challenges.
Mr. Trump endorsed her candidacy several times from Mar-a-Lago, including writing on Thursday night that he supported her “by far” over Mr. Roy.
In seeking the third-ranking Republican post in the House, Ms. Stefanik had pledged to unite the conference as it tries to take back the majority in the 2022 midterm elections, and billed herself as a messenger who would not make comments that put members on the spot on issues like election integrity, as Ms. Cheney had.
“The job of the conference chair is to represent the majority of the House Republicans, and the vast majority of the House Republicans support President Trump, and they support his focus on election integrity and election security,” Ms. Stefanik told Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to Mr. Trump, last week in an interview.
The job, she said, “is not to attack members of the conference and attack President Trump.”
Still, Ms. Stefanik has drawn some criticism from hard-right members of the conference who have questioned her conservative bona fides, noting a number of votes opposing key aspects of Mr. Trump’s agenda that she cast in the early days of his presidency, including opposing his emergency declaration to build a wall at the southern border and voting against his signature 2017 tax cut bill.
“We must avoid putting in charge Republicans who campaign as Republicans but then vote for and advance the Democrats’ agenda once sworn in,” Mr. Roy wrote in a three-page broadside scrutinizing her voting record that he circulated on Tuesday.
As dissension boiled in their ranks, House Republicans quickly turned on the chairman of their conference, the member of the leadership team responsible for party messaging. After a swift vote, the occupant of that office was unceremoniously dumped.
The year was 1998 and the ousted leader was Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, who became a casualty of election losses that November and internal unrest over the tumultuous reign of Speaker Newt Gingrich.
It was an episode that could be instructive for Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was bounced from that same leadership post on Wednesday for speaking out about President Donald J. Trump’s election lies and Republican denialism surrounding the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. Mr. Boehner famously proved that being out does not necessarily mean being down forever when he resurrected himself eight years later to become the leader of the party and ultimately speaker in 2011.
“Now before me, most people in my position just left,” Mr. Boehner said in an interview recounting his fall and rise. “You know, I wasn’t that smart.”
Mr. Boehner, a co-host of a recent fund-raising event for Ms. Cheney, said he was not inclined to dispense advice. But he said he believed she had opportunities.
“She is a smart lady and she has a big platform,” he said. “The question is, how do you play those cards?”
On policy issues, President Biden can take days or weeks to make up his mind as he examines and second-guesses himself and others. It is a method of governing that can feel at odds with the urgency of a country still reeling from a pandemic and an economy struggling to recover.
Interviews with more than two dozen current and former Biden associates provide an early look into how Mr. Biden operates as president — how he deliberates, whom he consults for advice and what drives his decisions as he settles into the office he has chased for more than three decades.
What emerges is a portrait of a president with a short fuse, who is obsessed with getting the details right — sometimes to a fault, including when he angered allies and adversaries alike by repeatedly delaying a decision on whether to allow more refugees into the United States.
Those closest to him say Mr. Biden is unwilling, or unable, to skip the routine. As a longtime adviser put it: He needs time to process the material so that he feels comfortable selling it to the public. But the approach has its risks.
Four months after supporters of President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol in a deadly riot, a growing number of Republicans in Congress are mounting a wholesale effort to rewrite the history of what happened on Jan. 6, downplaying or outright denying the violence and deflecting efforts to investigate it.
Their denialism — which has intensified for weeks and was on vivid display this week at a pair of congressional hearings — is one reason that lawmakers have been unable to agree on forming an independent commission to scrutinize the assault on the Capitol. Republicans have insisted that any inquiry include an examination of violence by antifa, a loose collective of antifascist activists, and Black Lives Matter. It also reflects an embrace of misinformation that has become a hallmark of the Republican Party in the age of Mr. Trump.
“A denial of finding the truth is what we have to deal with,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday. “We have to find the truth, and we are hoping to do so in the most bipartisan way possible.”
A House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the riot on Wednesday underlined the Republican strategy. Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the chairman of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, used his time to show video of mob violence purportedly by antifa that had unfolded 2,800 miles away in Portland, Ore.
His fellow Freedom Caucus member, Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina, used his turn to question whether rioters involved in the Capitol attack had actually been Trump supporters — despite their Trump shirts, hats and flags, “Make America Great Again” paraphernalia, and pro-Trump chants and social media posts.
“I don’t know who did the poll to say that they were Trump supporters,” Mr. Norman said.
Another Republican, Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia, described the scene during the assault and its aftermath as appearing like a “normal tourist visit” to the Capitol. At least five people died in connection with the riot (not four police officers, as an earlier post said). Nearly 140 people were injured.
“Let’s be honest with the American people: It was not an insurrection,” Mr. Clyde said, adding that the House floor was never breached and that no firearms had been confiscated. “There was an undisciplined mob..”
Immediately after the attack, many Republicans joined Democrats in condemning the violent takeover of the building known as the citadel of American democracy. But in the weeks that followed, Mr. Trump, abetted by right-wing news outlets and a few members of Congress, pushed the fiction that it had been carried out by antifa and Black Lives Matter, a claim that the federal authorities have repeatedly debunked. Now, a much broader group of Republican lawmakers have settled on a more subtle effort to cloud and distort what happened.
A former aide to Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, filed a lawsuit on Thursday claiming that he was fired after complaining about his boss’s disregard for safety measures meant to protect congressional staff members from the coronavirus, which he said resulted in an outbreak in Mr. Lamborn’s office.
The former aide, Brandon Pope, said in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, that he had tested positive for the virus on Nov. 19, one day after learning that Mr. Lamborn and two other staff members had contracted the virus.
Calling Mr. Lamborn the source of his own infection, either direct or indirect, Mr. Pope, 35, said his boss had misled his aides and the Office of the Attending Physician for Congress about his exposure. The lawsuit claims that Mr. Lamborn had slept in his Capitol Hill office and had close contact with infected staff members.
In the 16-page lawsuit filed against the office of Mr. Lamborn, Mr. Pope said that the representative had mostly barred aides in his district office in Colorado Springs from working remotely last year and made few accommodations to ensure social distancing or the wearing of masks.
When Mr. Pope told Mr. Lamborn and his chief of staff about his concerns, the lawsuit said, they dismissed them and eventually terminated him from his job as a defense and business adviser in December. From the start of the pandemic, Mr. Pope said, the message from Mr. Lamborn and Mr. Lamborn’s wife to the staff about the dangers of the virus had been clear.
“Both claimed that COVID was a hoax and asserted that the pandemic was being used to alter the course of the congressional and presidential elections,” the lawsuit said.
Cassandra Sebastian, a spokeswoman for Mr. Lamborn, 66, who was first elected to the House in 2006, denied the allegations in an emailed statement on Thursday.
“The workplace safety allegations made by Mr. Pope are unsubstantiated and did not result in the termination of his employment,” Ms. Sebastian said. “Congressman Lamborn looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light.”
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, said Mr. Pope was hired to work as a Wounded Warrior Fellow in Mr. Lamborn’s district office in August 2019 after he retired from military service as a captain in the Marines who had served in Afghanistan. Mr. Pope was then hired last May to a full-time position as a defense and business adviser to Mr. Lamborn, according to the lawsuit. He worked in Washington in June and July of last year, the lawsuit said.
A decrease in migrant children who arrived alone at the southern border last month gave Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas some ammunition to try to persuade senators on Thursday that the Biden administration is making progress containing a surge of migrants.
But April also set a record for the total number of migrants apprehended at the border, and Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee told the secretary that what they called a crisis has only gotten worse.
More than 178,000 migrants were caught last month trying to cross the American border with Mexico, a slight increase over the record-setting numbers seen in March, according to the latest data from Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Homeland Security Department. Most of the migrants were from Central America, fleeing violence, poverty and natural disasters.
Of those, more than 17,000 were migrant children who arrived alone, were apprehended by Border Patrol officers and then transferred to federal shelters where they wait as officials try to place them with family members or other sponsors living inside the United States. The number is down 9 percent from March.
The number of migrants who try to cross the southern border typically increases in the spring months. Both the Obama administration in 2014 and the Trump administration in 2019 saw unusually high numbers of children arriving at the border alone.
But this year has been worse, and the situation at the border has become a partisan flash point, with Republicans contending that migrants are taking advantage of weak Biden administration policies.
“The crisis today is unprecedented, far worse than it was last year, and even substantially worse than 2019, when everyone considered it a crisis,” said Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the top Republican on the committee.
Mr. Mayorkas and other Biden officials have avoided describing the situation on the southern border as a crisis. And they point to recent successes of transferring the children out of the Border Patrol’s jail-like facilities and into large shelters overseen by the Health and Human Services Department. For example, on March 29, 5,767 migrant children were held in Border Patrol detention facilities for an average of 133 hours, nearly twice as long as what is legally allowed. At the same time, 11,886 children were in shelters run by Health and Human Services.
Those numbers have shifted after the government was able to bring on a network of emergency shelters. As of Wednesday, there were 536 migrant children in Border Patrol custody for an average of 24 hours. And 20,397 children were under the care of Health and Human Services, waiting in government custody to be placed, ideally, with a family member as their cases move slowly through the immigration court system. Many of the children who arrived at the border in 2019 are still in the country waiting to see an immigration judge.
For Republicans, the watchword is “crisis.”
“I see an extraordinary crisis,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said on Thursday.
“I mean, do you recognize this as an alarming crisis?” he asked Mr. Mayorkas.
Mr. Mayorkas responded, “I look at immigration as a challenge that has been persistent for many, many years,” but was cut off by Mr. Romney who pointed to border data that was on display in the hearing room and said, “Is this not a massive failure?”
A network of conservative activists, aided by a British former spy, mounted a campaign during the Trump administration to discredit perceived enemies of President Trump inside the government, according to documents and people involved in the operations.
The campaign included a planned sting operation against Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, and secret surveillance operations against F.B.I. employees.
The operations against the F.B.I., run by the conservative group Project Veritas, were conducted from a large home in the Georgetown section of Washington that rented for $10,000 per month. Female undercover operatives arranged dates with the F.B.I. employees with the aim of secretly recording them making disparaging comments about Mr. Trump.
The campaign shows the obsession that some of Mr. Trump’s allies had about a shadowy “deep state” trying to blunt his agenda — and the lengths that some were willing to go to try to purge the government of those believed to be disloyal to the president.