Live Briefing: Scott Pruitt on Capitol Hill: Round 3 in Progress


“I’m being asked, really constantly asked, to comment on housing and security and travel,” she said. “Instead of seeing articles about efforts to return your agency to its core mission, I’m reading articles about your interactions with the industries that you regulate. Some of this undoubtedly is a result of the ‘gotcha’ age, but I do think there are legitimate questions that need to be answered.’

Here’s what to watch for as Mr. Pruitt testifies.

What the Democrats are likely to ask

Democrats intend, as they did last month, to throw the kitchen sink at Mr. Pruitt. And they have plenty to ask about.

In the three weeks since Mr. Pruitt testified before the two House committees, the public has learned that the administrator has allowed lobbyists and Washington power brokers to arrange his foreign travel, that Mr. Pruitt’s aggressive effort to shroud his meetings and speaking engagements in secrecy was done primarily to avoid uncomfortable and unexpected questions and not out of a concern for security as his staff had claimed, and that E.P.A. aides took steps to conceal a dinner Mr. Pruitt held in Rome with Cardinal George Pell last year after they learned that the cardinal had been charged with sexual abuse.

That’s in addition to a raft of other longstanding questions about Mr. Pruitt’s first-class travel and the need for a 24-hour security detail of at least 20 people that has cost taxpayers more than $3 million so far.

Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, the top Democrat on the panel, said Wednesday that he had asked the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, to investigate whether the E.P.A. acted improperly when it appeared to mock Democrats on Twitter after the Senate voted to confirm the agency’s second-in-command, Andrew Wheeler.

The tweet, sent from the agency’s official account on April 13, said, “The Senate does its duty: Andrew Wheeler confirmed by Senate as deputy administrator of @EPA. The Democrats couldn’t block the confirmation of environmental policy expert and former EPA staffer under both a Republican and a Democrat president.” Mr. Udall asked the accountability office to issue a legal opinion on whether the tweet violated the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits the use of federal funds for publicity or propaganda.

“This communication did nothing to further the public’s understanding of the environment or public health — and as an act of pure partisan taunting, the case is clear for why it represents a violation of federal law,” Mr. Udall said in a statement, adding, “We can add this investigation to the ever-expanding list of Scott Pruitt’s ethical transgressions.”

What Republicans are expected to talk about

This one is tougher. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, chairwoman of the appropriations committee’s environment panel, called for Mr. Pruitt to testify at a time when Republican support for Mr. Pruitt appeared to be on a downswing. Since then, however, Republicans have tamped down criticism of the E.P.A. chief.

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The Behavior That Put Scott Pruitt at the Center of Federal Inquiries

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency faces nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his practices. We break down the accusations by category.



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One notable exception is Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Mr. Grassley on Tuesday threatened to be the first Republican to call on Mr. Pruitt to resign, citing his frustration with the administrator over waivers the E.P.A. has given to small fuel refineries exempting them from a federal ethanol mandate on the nation’s gasoline. While Mr. Grassley is not a member of the committee that Mr. Pruitt will face, his concerns are shared by other corn-state Republicans and could become an issue at the hearing.

If past is prologue, though, Mr. Pruitt is likely to hear Republicans express concerns about his stewardship of E.P.A. in their opening statements but mostly draw attention to the regulatory rollbacks that they, and many of their constituents, support.

What Pruitt is expected to say

Last time around, Mr. Pruitt repeatedly shifted blame to members of his staff for the spending and ethical issues dogging him.

He said his chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, had been solely responsible for giving $72,000 in raises to two aides who previously worked with Mr. Pruitt in Oklahoma. He said career staff members had signed off on spending $43,000 to install a secure phone booth, an expense that was ultimately found to violate federal law. And he said his security detail had insisted he fly first class for his own protection.

In one exchange with Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Mr. Pruitt had to be asked three times if he was the E.P.A. administrator before answering in the affirmative, but avoided answering whether the buck stopped with him.

“That’s not a yes or no answer,” Mr. Pruitt replied then. It’s a safe bet Mr. Pruitt will continue to tread as carefully Wednesday, and the E.P.A. spokesman, Jahan Wilcox, said in a statement that Mr. Pruitt remained focused on policy.

“From advocating to leave the Paris Accord, working to repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States, declaring a war on lead and cleaning up toxic Superfund sites, Administrator Pruitt is focused on advancing President Trump’s agenda of regulatory certainty and environmental stewardship,” Mr. Wilcox said.

Where the president stands

President Trump has remained steadfast in his support for Mr. Pruitt, despite the arguments of several White House aides — including John F. Kelly, the president’s chief of staff — that the administrator should be fired. Asked last week if he still had confidence in Mr. Pruitt, the president replied, “I do.”

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White House Withdraws Jackson Nomination for V.A. Chief Amid Criticism


“These are all false accusations,” Mr. Trump said. “These are false. They’re trying to destroy a man.”

The president said he had already selected a new nominee but would not reveal the name. It will be “somebody with political capability,” he said.

But even as Dr. Jackson and the president were denying the accusations, new ones were coming in. The question on Thursday was whether Dr. Jackson could continue in his role as the president’s physician, one he has filled since 2013.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement only that Dr. Jackson “is a doctor in the United States Navy assigned to the White House and is here at work today.”

The New York Times spoke with two former members of the White House medical office staff on Wednesday, both of whom described a culture under Dr. Jackson where medications were freely distributed and lightly accounted for. They both said they had witnessed Dr. Jackson intoxicated during White House travel, and said it was a regular occurrence while overseas.

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Who is Ronny Jackson, and What Are the Allegations Against Him?

The questions surrounding President Trump’s former nominee to lead the Veterans Affairs Department.



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Both of the former officials separately told of a standing order to leave a bottle of rum and Diet Coke in Dr. Jackson’s hotel room on official travel.

And both said they had been uncomfortable enough with Dr. Jackson’s behavior to file complaints at the time with the White House Military Office. Records of such complaints were not immediately verifiable. They requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Such reports have cast a negative light not only on the current White House vetting process but on the Obama White House, which repeatedly promoted Dr. Jackson and recommended his advancement through the Navy’s highest ranks.

The White House did not immediately announce a nominee to replace Dr. Jackson. His withdrawal ensures that the department, which employs more than 370,000 people and includes vast health and benefits systems, will remain without a permanent leader for at least weeks to come.

Senator Tester did not respond to the president’s threat but did praise the people — mostly past and current members of the military — who came forward to discuss Dr. Jackson’s issues. He did nod to the bipartisan nature of the vetting process at the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the close work he has done with its chairman, Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

“I want to thank the servicemembers who bravely spoke out over the past week,” he said in a statement. “It is my Constitutional responsibility to make sure the veterans of this nation get a strong, thoroughly vetted leader who will fight for them. The next Secretary must have a commitment to reform a strained health care system and a willingness to stand up to special interests who want to privatize the VA. My sleeves are rolled up and ready to work with Chairman Isakson to vet and confirm a Secretary who is fit to run the VA.”

The concerns raised on Capitol Hill over Dr. Jackson’s nomination were bipartisan and emerged after the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee interviewed more than 23 people, including current and former military personnel, who had worked alongside him. The accusations included a hostile work environment, the improper dispensing of prescription drugs to White House staff and reporters during official travel, and intoxication while traveling with the president.

The White House had initially moved to defend Dr. Jackson against what officials there called “ugly” abuse and false accusations. And he indicated repeatedly in interactions with reporters that he intended to stay the course.

But the nomination was clearly in peril when the top senators on the committee announced on Tuesday that they would postpone a confirmation hearing for Dr. Jackson scheduled for the next day, pending further investigation.

On Wednesday, the committee’s Democratic staff released a two-page document fleshing out the accusations. They were explosive.

In one instance, Dr. Jackson stood accused of providing such “a large supply” of Percocet, a prescription opioid, to a White House Military Office staff member that he threw his own medical staff “into a panic” when it could not account for the missing drugs, the document said.

In another case, at a Secret Service goodbye party, the doctor got intoxicated and “wrecked a government vehicle.”

And a nurse on his staff said that Dr. Jackson had written himself prescriptions, and when caught, had simply asked a physician assistant to provide him with the medication.

An aide to Mr. Tester said each of the allegations included in the document was based on information provided by two or more individuals.

President Trump nominated Dr. Jackson to the position in March after firing his first Veterans Affairs secretary, David J. Shulkin, an experienced hospital administrator and veteran of the department’s medical system. The decision was largely made out of a personal affinity for Dr. Jackson, who did not undergo the kind of policy vetting that usually accompanies a nomination to a cabinet post.

Mr. Trump had strongly defended Dr. Jackson on Tuesday as “one of the finest people that I have met,” but he also suggested that Dr. Jackson might soon withdraw from consideration, amid what the president characterized as partisan attacks from Capitol Hill.

“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,” Mr. Trump said. “The fact is, I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for?”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that Dr. Jackson had been through at four background checks, including by the F.B.I., during his time at the White House. She said that none had turned up areas for concern.

But even before the accusations about his conduct became public, Dr. Jackson was expected to face tough questioning from senators from both parties skeptical of his inexperience managing a large bureaucracy and of his views on key policy debates gripping the department. The Veterans Affairs Department is the federal government’s second largest and Dr. Jackson had little to no experience with policy or leading a large staff.

Mr. Isakson, who had backed Mr. Tester’s decision to investigate, said Thursday morning that it was the White House’s decision to make, and that he would work to confirm a new secretary once nominated.

“I respect his decision, and I thank Admiral Jackson for his service to the country,” Mr. Isakson said. “I will work with the administration to see to it we get a V.A. secretary for our veterans and their families.”

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Don Blankenship, West Virginia Candidate, Lives Near Las Vegas and Mulled Chinese Citizenship


He is one of three leading Republican contenders heading into the May 8 West Virginia primary, even though he is lugging around enough political baggage to disqualify a candidate most anywhere else.

That Mr. Blankenship retains a political hope is a consequence of West Virginia’s sharp shift to the right, driven by seething hostility to the Obama presidency, both its social changes and its perceived “war” on coal. The emergence of a former coal boss with a criminal record as a potential Senate nominee seems partly an expression of many West Virginia voters’ desire to poke a thumb in the eye of the Washington establishment, Republicans very much included.

Mr. Blankenship offers no apology for his many contradictions and personal and business decisions, some of them previously undisclosed. Though he lives a baronial lifestyle thanks to a fortune built on coal scratched from West Virginia’s mountains, he says the size and origins of his wealth are no one’s business. He is the only candidate in either party in the Senate race who has not disclosed his personal finances as required by law to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. There isn’t “much of a penalty” for flouting the law, he explained in an interview, justifying his refusal.

“I don’t personally think anybody should have to disclose private information,” he said while awaiting the start of a “meet the candidates” event last week in Cabin Creek, W.Va.

National Republican leaders are alarmed that Mr. Blankenship could emerge as the winner of the primary, which they fear would cost them a winnable seat in November against Senator Joe Manchin, a vulnerable Democrat.

In a highly unusual move, a super PAC linked to Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky senator and Republican leader, began saturating the West Virginia airwaves last week with an ad attacking Mr. Blankenship for poisoning local drinking water from his former coal mines. The nearly $745,000 campaign of TV and digital ads is meant to boost the chances of two conventional Republicans in the race, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Representative Evan Jenkins. A Fox News poll conducted last week found a fluid race, with Mr. Blankenship trailing his rivals but about one in four voters undecided.

On Monday, responding to the attack ads, Mr. Blankenship brought up Mr. McConnell’s marriage to Elaine Chao, the secretary of transportation, and questioned whether the majority leader faced a conflict of interest in foreign relations. Ms. Chao’s father is “a wealthy Chinaperson,” Mr. Blankenship said, speaking on a West Virginia radio show, adding, “And there’s a lot of connections to some of the brass, if you will, in China.”

“I read in books that people think he’s soft on China,” he said of Mr. McConnell.

China, as it happens, is a topic of personal interest to Mr. Blankenship. His fiancée, Farrah Meiling Hobbs, was born there. The two met on a flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas about eight years ago, Mr. Blankenship said. According to the website of an international trading company Ms. Hobbs founded, she is “a former Chinese professional basketball player and part-time model” who moved to the United States in 1996.

In 2016 Ms. Hobbs and Mr. Blankenship paid $2.4 million in cash to buy the palatial home near Las Vegas that Mr. Blankenship claims in court papers is his principal residence. It is a six-bedroom, eight-bath Spanish-style mansion with marble floors and a dolphin sculpture beside the pool, according to an online real estate site. (He also owns a residence in West Virginia.)

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Mr. Blankenship’s primary residence is a $2.4 million villa with palm trees and an infinity pool in Henderson, Nev.

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Luxury Homes of Las Vegas

It was purchased just before Mr. Blankenship began a one-year prison sentence following his conviction on a misdemeanor count related to the 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch mine, the deadliest mine accident in the United States in 40 years.

Though Mr. Blankenship stepped down that year as chief executive of the Massey Energy Company, he exited with his sumptuous earnings intact. Massey paid him $17.8 million in his last year. He gained an additional $86.2 million when the company was later sold, by one estimate.

Part of Mr. Blankenship’s assets are now paying for some $2 million of TV and digital ads — far more than his rivals — that seek to muddy the picture of his 2015 conviction by painting him as a victim of a politically driven “Obama judge” and “Obama prosecutors.”

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A memorial in Whitesville, W.Va., for the 29 miners killed in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in 2010, the deadliest mine accident in the United States in 40 years.

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Ty Wright for The New York Times

Family members of the 29 Upper Big Branch victims said it was crushing to watch those ads, in which Mr. Blankenship portrays himself as a champion of safety and refuses responsibility for the loss of life.

“I want Mr. Blankenship to say he’s sorry, I want him to feel contrition, I want him to feel compassion,” said Dr. Judy Jones Petersen, whose brother Dean Jones died in the explosion. “People have to understand that Mr. Blankenship is a bad man. Your character doesn’t change.”

In his campaign, Mr. Blankenship positions himself as a West Virginia populist, an “American competitionist” who stands for unfettered capitalism. The heart of the government’s case against him at trial was that he rapaciously sought profit while ignoring mine safety.

Yet he identifies the new frontier of uninhibited capitalism as China. In a telephone conversation he recorded in 2009, introduced at his trial, Mr. Blankenship said he might move to Asia where governments enforce fewer regulations.

“I’m actually considering moving to China or somewhere and being more like George Washington if I can get citizenship,” he said. “I can probably get citizenship in India. I’d rather be in China.”

In the interview, he repeated this sentiment and freely discussed his financial history in China, though he said foreign citizenship was no longer a priority for him — perhaps dual citizenship would be useful, he mused.

He expressed admiration for how Beijing exercises central control over its economy.

“Americans confuse the words communism and dictatorship,” he said. “The Chinese are running a dictatorial capitalism and it’s very effective. That’s the way corporations are run. Corporations are not a democracy.”

Before his foreign travel was restricted after his arrest in 2014, Mr. Blankenship was a frequent enough visitor to China that he opened a bank account there. “When I go over there I don’t have to carry a lot of money with me,” he said in the interview. “If you go over there and you spend some time, you can easily spend a good bit of money.”

Ms. Hobbs and Mr. Blankenship formed a business together in 2012, Generator World, to import home generators made in China. According to records from Panjiva, which tracks global trade, a shipment of 386 items was sent from Fuzhou, China, the next year to Ms. Hobbs’s company, Amerasia International.

“They arrived and we did sell them, but we didn’t grow the business or continue it,” Mr. Blankenship said. “I wasn’t in a position to do that.” It was a dry reference to his trial, sentence and one-year parole, which will end the day after the May 8 primary.

In the absence of much public polling, the clearest sign that Mr. Blankenship is a threat in the race is the hefty advertising budget of national Republicans who seek to disqualify him with voters.

Otherwise, signs of his support can be elusive. He draws sparse crowds to his events, and when he appears at multicandidate gatherings, he shows little knack for political skills. Rather than working a room, he keeps to himself, as he did at the Mineral County Lincoln Day dinner on Friday in Keyser.

“I don’t think someone who’s on parole at this moment in time should be running for office,” Jessica Imes, a voter at the dinner, said.

Mr. Morrisey, the attorney general, moved easily among the party activists dining on stuffed chicken breast and mashed potatoes beneath a giant stuffed moose head at the local Order of Moose hall. His campaign has spent little time attacking Mr. Blankenship, in the belief that primary voters recognize that Republicans should not run a convicted criminal in the general election.

“I think he would get crushed in the fall, crushed,” Mr. Morrisey said.

“The hypocrisy runs deep in this race,” he added. “He’s a Nevada resident. He abandoned West Virginia when we really needed people to stand up to Barack Obama.”

Although Mr. Blankenship maintained in numerous court proceedings that his principal residence was Nevada, he still owns a home in West Virginia, in Mingo County not far from where he was raised. He said he paid property taxes in West Virginia but not income taxes.

There is nothing legally barring him from seeking a Senate seat from the state if he declares a primary residence elsewhere.

He scoffed at the notion that voters might regard him as an outsider, even a carpetbagger, because he lives mostly in Nevada.

“Many people have two homes,” he said. “Most coal miners now have one in Tennessee and one in West Virginia.”

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Shrugging Off Trump Scandals, Evangelicals Look to Rescue G.O.P.


But Christian conservatives say Mr. Trump has also more than honored his end of the bargain that brought reluctant members of their ranks along during his presidential campaign. He has begun the process of moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, won the confirmation of numerous judges and a Supreme Court Justice who seem likely to advance their anti-abortion cause, moved against transgender protections throughout the government, increased the ability of churches to organize politically and personally supported the March for Life.

“I don’t know of anyone who has worked the evangelical community more effectively than Donald Trump,” said Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which this year plans to devote four times the money it spent in the 2014 midterms.

In essence, many evangelical leaders have decided that airing moral qualms about the president only hurts their cause.

“His family can talk to him about issues of character,” said Penny Young Nance, the president of Concerned Women for America, an evangelical organization that is framing the midterm elections to potential donors as a civilizational struggle.

So far, the decision by most conservative evangelical leaders to double down on their support for Mr. Trump is playing out like most of the other moments when skeptics of the president believed he had finally undermined himself with his base.

A poll released last week by the Public Religion Research Institute found white evangelical approval for Mr. Trump at its highest level ever: 75 percent. Only 22 percent said they had an unfavorable view of the president.

Much as in the 2016 presidential campaign, Christian conservative events are designed to be highly visible and to convey the movement as one united voice. Hundreds of evangelical leaders plan to gather in June at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for a conspicuous show of support for Mr. Trump. The event will be part pep rally, part strategy session.

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Penny Young Nance, center, is president of Concerned Women for America, an evangelical organization that is framing the midterm elections to potential donors as a civilizational struggle.

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Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Paula White, a pastor for Mr. Trump for more than 16 years, has facilitated events for conservative evangelicals to meet senior White House officials, including a gathering for women and another for pastors of megachurches in recent weeks.

“Let’s pray there’s not apathy,” Ms. White said.

In the states, leading religious and socially conservative groups will be propped up by the Republican National Committee, which will encourage voter registration at churches and schedule round tables with local pastors and evangelical liaisons close to the president.

Some of the organizers call themselves “the watchmen on the wall,” a reference to guards who looked over Jerusalem from the Book of Isaiah.

The message to energize Christian conservatives has twin purposes: to inspire them to celebrate their victories and to stoke enough grievance to prod them to vote.

But in a midterm election, no singular political enemy will emerge the way Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Instead, leaders of the movement plan to lean hard into a message that fans fears and grudges: that the progressive movement and national media mock Christian life and threaten everything religious conservatives have achieved in the 15 months of the Trump administration.

“Show the left that you can put labels on us, you can shame us. But we’re not giving up,” said Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, who explained that many conservatives of faith see attacks on Mr. Trump as an attack on their judgment.

The Family Research Council has already activated its network of 15,000 churches, half of which have “culture impact ministries” that organize congregations to be more socially and civically engaged. The group’s efforts will gear up with voter registration drives around the Fourth of July and voter education that will focus on a half-dozen states that could determine control of the Senate.

Their tactics are almost identical to the work they used during the presidential campaign to unite a fractured evangelical base. The June meeting in Washington is a follow-up to a gathering in New York in the summer of 2016 that soothed tensions after it became apparent that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee.

Leaders of the Christian right have not only largely accepted Mr. Trump’s flaws and moved on; they seem to almost dare the president’s opponents to throw more at him. Ms. Nance said she heard a common sentiment from volunteers and supporters who did not seem bothered by the allegations of Mr. Trump’s infidelity. “We weren’t looking for a husband,” she said. “We were looking for a body guard.”

Concerned Women for America’s fund-raising pitch claims, “This is our Esther moment,” referring to the biblical heroine whose resourcefulness saved Persia’s Jews from annihilation hundreds of years before Jesus. The group plans to have get-out-the-vote organizers in 10 states where Democrats are defending Senate seats in states where Mr. Trump won.

Mike Mears, the Republican National Committee’s director of strategic partnerships and faith engagement, described the midterm campaign as “a call to arms.”

“You like what the president is doing?” he asked. “We need your help.”

The danger for Republicans is the many evangelicals who do not like what the president is doing. His petty insults, coarse language, lack of humility and private life are difficult to square with Christian faith, opponents say. The president has helped devalue character, morality and fidelity as essential qualities in political leaders, they say.

A meeting of evangelical leaders in Illinois last week featured a frank and candid discussion of the president’s failings, prompting some pro-Trump attendees to walk out.

But for evangelicals loyal to Mr. Trump, the criticism is irrelevant. They say that as challenging as the political realities may be, they remain hopeful that voters understand what is at stake. “We are living in unusual times,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and one of Mr. Trump’s earliest evangelical supporters. “And after what happened in 2016, I think anything is possible.”

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Romney Failed to Win at Utah Convention, but Few Believe He’s Doomed


“It would be a mistake to say that what happened in the convention was about Donald Trump,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. “This was about other factors,” he went on. “Delegates do not like power being taken away from them.”

Mr. Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who moved to Utah after serving as governor of Massachusetts, remains popular among this state’s heavily Mormon Republican electorate, and he is expected to cruise to victory in the primary and general elections. (Mr. Romney is also Mormon.)

But he encountered two daunting hurdles on Saturday: the deeply conservative nature of delegates who attend Utah Republican conventions and, because of a change in the rules governing the nominating process, a fear among these activists that they are losing their grip on the state party.

There is a long history of the G.O.P. conventions favoring more hard-line candidates, but their preference has of late mattered less to primary voters. In 2016, Gov. Gary Herbert failed to win a majority of convention delegates but went on to win renomination in the primary by a 44-point margin. And in a special House race last year, Representative John R. Curtis finished fourth at the convention and still won the primary and general elections.

These Republicans were not stymied by the conventions because of a controversial 2014 state law allowing candidates to earn a position on the primary ballot by gathering signatures from voters. Party activists resent this change, seeing it as an attempt to dilute their influence, and it has emerged as a litmus test question in their universe for Republican candidates, even as much as any policy issue.

Some of Mr. Romney’s advisers knew that his well-documented history of ideological swerving and recently declared residency in the state would not be received well in a room of 3,627 delegates who are more conservative than their would-be standard-bearer and are now on edge about their relevance.

But much like in the lead-up to Mr. Romney’s presidential bid in 2012, when some of his associates urged him to stay away from the hard-right Iowa caucuses, he had little interest in circumventing the party process. Not wanting to be seen as bigfooting the state party, he gathered signatures to appear on the primary ballot but also submitted to Utah’s caucus-convention system, which includes a series of local delegate-selection meetings leading up to the state convention.

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State Representative Mike Kennedy speaking at the Utah State Capitol last week.

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Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Mr. Kennedy is a three-time state legislator and family doctor whose convention speech focused on slashing the national debt, supporting Mr. Trump’s immigration policies and repealing Obamacare. In an email, he pledged support for the president and vowed to continue campaigning, despite Mr. Romney’s significant financial advantage.

But few in the state expect Mr. Kennedy to pose much of a threat. On Monday, as Mr. Romney toured the tulip festival, parents laden with strollers and toddlers gave him the celebrity treatment.

None had known that Mr. Romney would be stopping by.

“Oh my god,” said one woman, whipping out her cellphone, “it’s Mitt Romney.”

Daniel Roberts, 65, a retired schoolteacher, tapped the candidate on the shoulder and asked to shake the hand of the “next president.”

“Mitt Romney has a huge reputation that follows him,” Mr. Roberts said. “I really have no idea what the other guy’s stances are — and I’m not really interested.”

Still, the convention rejection of Mr. Romney was embarrassing given his stature in the state.

The man who just a few years ago was debating President Barack Obama before millions of viewers took the stage on Saturday with 11 other candidates — including an Abraham Lincoln impersonator who had legally changed his name to that of the former president but, reading from parchment-type paper, still referred to Mr. Lincoln in the third person.

And after putting 9,250 miles on his pickup truck driving to caucus gatherings in living rooms and school cafeterias around the state, Mr. Romney still lost.

But Utah Republican leaders said Mr. Romney was wise to risk the momentary failure of losing the convention so as not to be seen as too good for the sort of activists who typically do the unglamorous work of volunteering each campaign.

“If there was going to be a backfire for Mitt, that would have happened if he had taken the 30,000-foot approach and skipped the convention,” said Gregory Hughes, Utah’s state house Speaker. “But by working to earn the support of the delegates he made it closer than I thought it would be.”

Mr. Hughes said Mr. Romney’s two most glaring weaknesses were fused in the minds of many delegates.

“This is a guy from Massachusetts, where he had very different political leanings,” he said.

Convention delegates who backed Mr. Kennedy echoed that assessment.

“He’s not been in the state forever and he’s been wishy-washy, flip-flopped on issues over the years,” said Eugene Christensen, a 55-year-old delegate from Bear River City.

But in a demonstration of why Mr. Romney faces little threat in the primary, Mr. Christensen quickly added that while he is disposed toward Mr. Kennedy, he is still in “wait-and-see mode” and believes that the former Massachusetts governor would do “a good job” as the state’s newest senator.

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The Fight for Wisconsin Is On as Outside Money Pours Into Senate Race


The big spending doesn’t just signal that each party sees the Senate seat as winnable. It’s also a measure of intensity on both sides to prevail in Wisconsin after Donald J. Trump shocked Democrats in 2016 by being the first Republican presidential nominee to carry the state since 1984. National Democrats are bent on winning it back in 2020 — and getting Ms. Baldwin re-elected is a crucial step toward that goal.

The fight may become the most expensive Wisconsin Senate race ever: An analysis by the state Democratic Party found that nearly $10 million in advertising had already aired or been purchased by outside groups against Ms. Baldwin or in favor of Mr. Nicholson. (Mr. Nicholson’s camp put the number at nearly $9 million.) At least another $3.7 million in advertising is underway sponsored by outside groups in favor of Ms. Baldwin.

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Donations and ads by Republicans from outside Wisconsin have propelled the Senate candidacy of Kevin Nicholson, who has never run for public office.

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Lauren Justice for The New York Times

The advertising by political action committees like Restoration PAC and Americas PAC — both heavily financed by the hard-right industrialist Richard Uihlein — has propelled the first-time candidacy of Mr. Nicholson, and underscores the influential role that outside conservative PACs play in this politically polarized state. Organizations funded by Mr. Uihlein and the billionaire Koch brothers have devoted millions to assuring continued Republican control of the Senate, and many conservatives view Ms. Baldwin, 56, as a beatable first-term senator who symbolizes the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party.

“Tammy Baldwin is very vulnerable,” said Brad Courtney, the state’s Republican chairman, calling her one of the Senate’s most liberal members. “There’s going to be lots of money coming into Wisconsin.”

Even in this rural area of small farms, nearly two hours from Milwaukee, it’s hard to avoid the drumbeat of ads, which began well before the traditional start of campaign season.

“I hear a lot of stuff on the radio,” said Gary Buchholz, a soil technician who was part of the crowd at J & J Fireball Lanes, a local bowling alley, and plans to vote for Ms. Baldwin. “I don’t like the money that comes in from out of state, huge amounts of money trying to influence Wisconsin elections.”

Partly to counter the advertising, an energized Democratic base is organizing early, determined to retain the Senate seat held by their party since 1957, when William Proxmire was elected to the unexpired term of Joseph McCarthy, who had died in office. Yet Wisconsin has become a Republican stronghold: The state not only voted for Mr. Trump, but has also become a laboratory for conservative policy ideas under its two-term governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican-controlled legislature.

In November, Ms. Baldwin is expected to face either Mr. Nicholson or Leah Vukmir, a conservative state senator favored by the state’s Republican establishment. Ms. Vukmir, 59, has also benefited from political action committee spending, with a $935,000 ad buy by a group called Wisconsin Next PAC, funded partly by the Beloit businesswoman Diane Hendricks. Ms. Vukmir has also received scores of endorsements from state Republicans, including the support of Reince Priebus, a Wisconsinite who served as White House chief of staff.

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Leah Vukmir, a conservative Wisconsin state senator, is favored by many establishment Republicans in the party’s primary for Senate in August.

Credit
Lauren Justice for The New York Times

Democrats privately expressed concern that the negative advertising has whittled away at Ms. Baldwin’s support. A March poll by Marquette Law School revealed that her approval rating was a mere 37 percent.

Fearing a reprise of the 2016 Wisconsin Senate race — when outside groups targeted the Democratic candidate, Russ Feingold, who lost even though he had held a lead two months before the election in a Marquette poll over the incumbent Republican, Senator Ron Johnson — Ms. Baldwin’s campaign has already dug into her formidable campaign chest. Her campaign said it planned to have 60 field organizers in place statewide by the end of next month.

Ms. Baldwin’s campaign also said it had released television advertising earlier than any incumbent Senate Democrat nationally, including one last week emphasizing her support for Wisconsin’s cheese industry. Dairy farms have been a staple of rural areas of Wisconsin like Portage, the county seat of Columbia County, one of 23 Wisconsin counties carried by Mr. Trump that President Barack Obama had won in 2012. The industry has been hard-hit statewide, particularly in Columbia County.

“We’re in a crisis situation, losing a farm a day,” said Sarah Lloyd, whose family milks 350 cows and who supports Ms. Baldwin, partly because of her efforts to bolster a milk price federal insurance program.

Cheesy Video by Tammy Baldwin

Ms. Lloyd, who previously ran for Congress, was among about 100 Democrats who braved a harsh April snowstorm to attend the party’s annual county dinner at a motel in this town of about 11,000 residents. Despite the weather, organizers said the meeting was the second-biggest turnout of Democrats ever in Columbia County.

“Hillary took Wisconsin for granted,” said Ms. Lloyd, referring to the 2016 Democratic nominee. “We’re not going to let that happen again.”

The next day, with snow still falling, a hardy group of about 150 Republicans turned out for a Lincoln-Reagan Day luncheon in Mequon, an affluent and reliably Republican suburb of Milwaukee.

Photo

Ms. Baldwin has emerged as the top target for many national Republicans in the 2018 midterms. Donors from outside the state are spending twice as much money on the race so far than any other Senate contest this year.

Credit
Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Addressing the crowd at the River Club of Mequon, in a ballroom with a panoramic golf course view, State Representative Jim Ott shared his concerns about a “blue wave” in November, describing how “40 angry Democrats” had taken over his normally staid town hall meeting.

The results of two recent Wisconsin elections in which outside spending was a factor have added to Republican worries.

In a January special election upset, a local medical examiner, a Democrat, easily defeated a Republican state legislator for a State Senate seat held by Republicans for 17 years. In that race, the Republican got help from radio and digital advertising by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded group. Then, in April, in a statewide Supreme Court election, a liberal judge from Milwaukee County defeated a county circuit judge backed by conservatives. The winner in that race received a boost from digital ads paid for by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an organization headed by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

In many ways, the dynamics in Wisconsin mirror what’s happening nationally within the Republican Party, with deeply conservative newcomers allying with outside donors to challenge more traditional Republicans.

The insurgent candidacy of Mr. Nicholson — a Wisconsin native and Bronze Star recipient who has earned more than $1 million in the past two years as a consultant — appears to have been shaped in large part by the money of Mr. Uihlein, the founder of a shipping and industrial supply company.

Long a power broker in Illinois and Wisconsin political circles, Mr. Uihlein has taken a more aggressive national approach this year, spending $20 million to back conservatives in races across the country. In March of last year, a new Uihlein-backed PAC, Solutions for Wisconsin, announced that Mr. Uihlein had contributed $2 million to support a Senate run by Mr. Nicholson. In all, according to a recent Democratic Party analysis, spending by Uihlein-funded groups in favor of Mr. Nicholson and against Ms. Baldwin exceeds $5.4 million. Mr. Uihlein did not respond to a request for an interview regarding the Wisconsin Senate race.

WI-LIKE REAGAN Video by RestorationPAC

Mr. Nicholson, a telegenic 40-year-old who always seems to have a fresh haircut, said he had begun exploring the idea of a Senate run well before Mr. Trump’s election, seeking support both inside the state and from national donors.

“The coalition is very impressive,” Mr. Nicholson said, reeling off a list of six groups supporting him, including four groups that have received large donations from Mr. Uihlein. “We have a lot of groups stepping in to say, ‘We’re going to help you take back that seat.’”

Mr. Nicholson’s political metamorphosis from Democrat to Republican has attracted thinly veiled criticism from some within the party who question his sincerity. Ms. Vukmir, who worked as a registered nurse for many years, told the crowd in Mequon, “I’m 100 percent pro-life and I have always been 100 percent pro-life.”

It was an apparent reference to Mr. Nicholson’s evolved position on abortion. In 2000, while president of the national College Democrats, Mr. Nicholson spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, emphasizing his support for a woman’s right to choose, among other liberal causes.

Mr. Nicholson has given various interviews about his transformation from Democrat to Republican, saying that he departed the 2000 convention disillusioned with the party.

Perhaps illustrating the political polarization of this state, Mr. Nicholson says he hasn’t spoken with his Democratic parents in more than a year, blaming their estrangement on his political choices. “No doubt, obviously for them, it created a lot of frustration and disagreement that I feel the way I do and they made a decision that I think is unfortunate,” Mr. Nicholson said.

His parents are donors to Ms. Baldwin’s campaign.

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The Fight for Wisconsin Is On as Outside Money Pours Into Senate Race


The big spending doesn’t just signal that each party sees the Senate seat as winnable. It’s also a measure of intensity on both sides to prevail in Wisconsin after Donald J. Trump shocked Democrats in 2016 by being the first Republican presidential nominee to carry the state since 1984. National Democrats are bent on winning it back in 2020 — and getting Ms. Baldwin re-elected is a crucial step toward that goal.

The fight may become the most expensive Wisconsin Senate race ever: An analysis by the state Democratic Party found that nearly $10 million in advertising had already aired or been purchased by outside groups against Ms. Baldwin or in favor of Mr. Nicholson. (Mr. Nicholson’s camp put the number at nearly $9 million.) At least another $3.7 million in advertising is underway sponsored by outside groups in favor of Ms. Baldwin.

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Donations and ads by Republicans from outside Wisconsin have propelled the Senate candidacy of Kevin Nicholson, who has never run for public office.

Credit
Lauren Justice for The New York Times

The advertising by political action committees like Restoration PAC and Americas PAC — both heavily financed by the hard-right industrialist Richard Uihlein — has propelled the first-time candidacy of Mr. Nicholson, and underscores the influential role that outside conservative PACs play in this politically polarized state. Organizations funded by Mr. Uihlein and the billionaire Koch brothers have devoted millions to assuring continued Republican control of the Senate, and many conservatives view Ms. Baldwin, 56, as a beatable first-term senator who symbolizes the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party.

“Tammy Baldwin is very vulnerable,” said Brad Courtney, the state’s Republican chairman, calling her one of the Senate’s most liberal members. “There’s going to be lots of money coming into Wisconsin.”

Even in this rural area of small farms, nearly two hours from Milwaukee, it’s hard to avoid the drumbeat of ads, which began well before the traditional start of campaign season.

“I hear a lot of stuff on the radio,” said Gary Buchholz, a soil technician who was part of the crowd at J & J Fireball Lanes, a local bowling alley, and plans to vote for Ms. Baldwin. “I don’t like the money that comes in from out of state, huge amounts of money trying to influence Wisconsin elections.”

Partly to counter the advertising, an energized Democratic base is organizing early, determined to retain the Senate seat held by their party since 1957, when William Proxmire was elected to the unexpired term of Joseph McCarthy, who had died in office. Yet Wisconsin has become a Republican stronghold: The state not only voted for Mr. Trump, but has also become a laboratory for conservative policy ideas under its two-term governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican-controlled legislature.

In November, Ms. Baldwin is expected to face either Mr. Nicholson or Leah Vukmir, a conservative state senator favored by the state’s Republican establishment. Ms. Vukmir, 59, has also benefited from political action committee spending, with a $935,000 ad buy by a group called Wisconsin Next PAC, funded partly by the Beloit businesswoman Diane Hendricks. Ms. Vukmir has also received scores of endorsements from state Republicans, including the support of Reince Priebus, a Wisconsinite who served as White House chief of staff.

Photo

Leah Vukmir, a conservative Wisconsin state senator, is favored by many establishment Republicans in the party’s primary for Senate in August.

Credit
Lauren Justice for The New York Times

Democrats privately expressed concern that the negative advertising has whittled away at Ms. Baldwin’s support. A March poll by Marquette Law School revealed that her approval rating was a mere 37 percent.

Fearing a reprise of the 2016 Wisconsin Senate race — when outside groups targeted the Democratic candidate, Russ Feingold, who lost even though he had held a lead two months before the election in a Marquette poll over the incumbent Republican, Senator Ron Johnson — Ms. Baldwin’s campaign has already dug into her formidable campaign chest. Her campaign said it planned to have 60 field organizers in place statewide by the end of next month.

Ms. Baldwin’s campaign also said it had released television advertising earlier than any incumbent Senate Democrat nationally, including one last week emphasizing her support for Wisconsin’s cheese industry. Dairy farms have been a staple of rural areas of Wisconsin like Portage, the county seat of Columbia County, one of 23 Wisconsin counties carried by Mr. Trump that President Barack Obama had won in 2012. The industry has been hard-hit statewide, particularly in Columbia County.

“We’re in a crisis situation, losing a farm a day,” said Sarah Lloyd, whose family milks 350 cows and who supports Ms. Baldwin, partly because of her efforts to bolster a milk price federal insurance program.

Cheesy Video by Tammy Baldwin

Ms. Lloyd, who previously ran for Congress, was among about 100 Democrats who braved a harsh April snowstorm to attend the party’s annual county dinner at a motel in this town of about 11,000 residents. Despite the weather, organizers said the meeting was the second-biggest turnout of Democrats ever in Columbia County.

“Hillary took Wisconsin for granted,” said Ms. Lloyd, referring to the 2016 Democratic nominee. “We’re not going to let that happen again.”

The next day, with snow still falling, a hardy group of about 150 Republicans turned out for a Lincoln-Reagan Day luncheon in Mequon, an affluent and reliably Republican suburb of Milwaukee.

Photo

Ms. Baldwin has emerged as the top target for many national Republicans in the 2018 midterms. Donors from outside the state are spending twice as much money on the race so far than any other Senate contest this year.

Credit
Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Addressing the crowd at the River Club of Mequon, in a ballroom with a panoramic golf course view, State Representative Jim Ott shared his concerns about a “blue wave” in November, describing how “40 angry Democrats” had taken over his normally staid town hall meeting.

The results of two recent Wisconsin elections in which outside spending was a factor have added to Republican worries.

In a January special election upset, a local medical examiner, a Democrat, easily defeated a Republican state legislator for a State Senate seat held by Republicans for 17 years. In that race, the Republican got help from radio and digital advertising by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded group. Then, in April, in a statewide Supreme Court election, a liberal judge from Milwaukee County defeated a county circuit judge backed by conservatives. The winner in that race received a boost from digital ads paid for by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an organization headed by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

In many ways, the dynamics in Wisconsin mirror what’s happening nationally within the Republican Party, with deeply conservative newcomers allying with outside donors to challenge more traditional Republicans.

The insurgent candidacy of Mr. Nicholson — a Wisconsin native and Bronze Star recipient who has earned more than $1 million in the past two years as a consultant — appears to have been shaped in large part by the money of Mr. Uihlein, the founder of a shipping and industrial supply company.

Long a power broker in Illinois and Wisconsin political circles, Mr. Uihlein has taken a more aggressive national approach this year, spending $20 million to back conservatives in races across the country. In March of last year, a new Uihlein-backed PAC, Solutions for Wisconsin, announced that Mr. Uihlein had contributed $2 million to support a Senate run by Mr. Nicholson. In all, according to a recent Democratic Party analysis, spending by Uihlein-funded groups in favor of Mr. Nicholson and against Ms. Baldwin exceeds $5.4 million. Mr. Uihlein did not respond to a request for an interview regarding the Wisconsin Senate race.

WI-LIKE REAGAN Video by RestorationPAC

Mr. Nicholson, a telegenic 40-year-old who always seems to have a fresh haircut, said he had begun exploring the idea of a Senate run well before Mr. Trump’s election, seeking support both inside the state and from national donors.

“The coalition is very impressive,” Mr. Nicholson said, reeling off a list of six groups supporting him, including four groups that have received large donations from Mr. Uihlein. “We have a lot of groups stepping in to say, ‘We’re going to help you take back that seat.’”

Mr. Nicholson’s political metamorphosis from Democrat to Republican has attracted thinly veiled criticism from some within the party who question his sincerity. Ms. Vukmir, who worked as a registered nurse for many years, told the crowd in Mequon, “I’m 100 percent pro-life and I have always been 100 percent pro-life.”

It was an apparent reference to Mr. Nicholson’s evolved position on abortion. In 2000, while president of the national College Democrats, Mr. Nicholson spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, emphasizing his support for a woman’s right to choose, among other liberal causes.

Mr. Nicholson has given various interviews about his transformation from Democrat to Republican, saying that he departed the 2000 convention disillusioned with the party.

Perhaps illustrating the political polarization of this state, Mr. Nicholson says he hasn’t spoken with his Democratic parents in more than a year, blaming their estrangement on his political choices. “No doubt, obviously for them, it created a lot of frustration and disagreement that I feel the way I do and they made a decision that I think is unfortunate,” Mr. Nicholson said.

His parents are donors to Ms. Baldwin’s campaign.

Continue reading the main story

For Politicians Scraping Bottom, a Scarce Resource: Impeachment Lawyers


“The interesting thing about an impeachment — and people always need to keep this in mind — is it’s inherently a political exercise, and not a legal exercise,” said David Ellis, who prosecuted Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois during his Senate trial in 2009 when Mr. Blagojevich was convicted and removed from office. “It’s governed by the legislature, not the courts. Courts have all sorts of procedural protections built in — due process rights, impartial juries — but you cannot perfectly analogize that to the legislative realm.”

With impeachments still relatively rare, even as some Democrats talk of removing President Trump from office, lawyers working recent cases in state capitals like Montgomery, Ala., have found little precedent to guide them. Instead they often find that the processes long codified in constitutions can, in modern practice, be murky to the point of inviting chaos.

That lack of clarity invites clashes about privileges and subpoena power, legislative authority and access to evidence. Arcane-seeming subjects may be able to reshape a state’s approach to executive power. And a particular brand of politics — fueled by self-flagellation, piety, pride and legal jeopardy — seems to thread through every threatened impeachment.

“There’s a common structure, but as far as how you’re supposed to do it on the ground, substantively or procedurally or in terms of burden of proof, there’s a lot of debate on that, and not a lot of consensus,” said Jackson R. Sharman III, who was special counsel to the Alabama legislative committee that investigated Gov. Robert Bentley before his resignation last year.

The absence of norms lends extraordinary influence to the lawyers who are often tasked with speedily setting up something resembling, but not always behaving like, a traditional investigation and trial.

Mr. Ellis was counsel to the state’s House speaker when legislative leaders urged him to take the case, a role he said he accepted only after “a pregnant pause.” He had about two weeks to prepare for trial.

Mr. Garber, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer who once edited his high school newspaper, more or less fell into impeachments as a legal niche. After Mr. Garber’s bid for Connecticut state treasurer faltered — he was “the silver medalist,” he noted wryly — Gov. John G. Rowland’s office sought the lawyer’s help for a federal corruption investigation. Mr. Rowland had lawyers on his staff, but, like those in all governor’s offices, they were far more familiar with legislative haggling than with inquiries that could lead to prison terms.

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Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri has been criminally charged with two felonies. A state legislative committee will decide in the coming weeks whether to pursue impeachment.

Credit
Julie Smith/The Jefferson City News-Tribune, via Associated Press

Mr. Rowland resigned before lawmakers could decide whether to impeach him. But Mr. Garber, who describes his work as safeguarding the institutional traditions and privileges of the governor’s offices he represents, had stumbled into a legal arena in which few others were experts.

He was later asked to advise Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, whom lawmakers eventually declined to impeach over accusations connected to his whereabouts while he visited his mistress in Argentina.

And then last year, Mr. Garber, whose usual work includes handling regulatory investigations and international trade issues, was on Mr. Bentley’s team after the Alabama governor was enmeshed in a sex scandal. He said his name comes up so often because there are so few in the field.

“Because so much of what happens isn’t reported or recorded or even known, one of the things I bring to the process is the sense of having done them and spent a lot of time studying them,” Mr. Garber said.

At the federal level, the United States Senate has conducted just 19 impeachment trials in its history; nearly all have been of federal judges, including the most recent, in 2010. State legislatures have impeached a host of lower-ranking officials, from a university regent in Nebraska to a Kentucky agriculture commissioner, but only 16 governors have ever been impeached, and almost all were before the Great Depression.

Although some governors, like Mr. Sanford, withstand the pressure, modern governors tend to succumb to political or legal realities and leave office before an impeachment can happen.

Neither Mr. Bentley, who now practices dermatology in an Alabama college town, nor Mr. Sanford, a member of Congress, responded to messages. Mr. Blagojevich and Mr. Rowland, who were convicted of corruption charges after leaving office, are in federal custody.

For Mr. Garber, whose bills are often paid with tax dollars because he is not representing a governor’s personal interests, part of his job is ensuring that politics alone do not settle impeachments and undermine the authority of governors for generations to come.

His goal, he said, is to argue “that our constitutional system is set up so that elections don’t get overthrown because of political whims, that elections have consequences and we don’t throw those out absent very, very serious acts that affect the public official’s office, that are proven with a high degree of certainty after a fair process.”

Missouri lawmakers are still grappling over how they will reckon with Mr. Greitens, who has been criminally charged with two felonies: invasion of privacy, for photographing a nude or partially nude person without the person’s knowledge or consent, and for tampering with computer data for allegedly obtaining a charity’s donor list and using it for political fund-raising.

The governor has denied criminal wrongdoing and rebuffed demands for his resignation, calling the efforts against him “a witch hunt.” A legislative committee will decide in the coming weeks whether to pursue the impeachment process that is broadly outlined in the Missouri Constitution.

Mr. Garber, who teaches about political investigations and impeachments at Tulane University’s law school and largely splits his time between Washington, Hartford and New Orleans, declined to detail any of his plans for the Missouri case. His record, though, suggests that he will argue, in public and in private, that lawmakers should not hastily negate the voters’ choice for governor and should save impeachment for a most exceptional case.

Like just about every impeachment lawyer these days, he is likely to look to history, where the proceedings against President Richard M. Nixon remain especially important for lawyers working in state capitols. More than 40 years later, it remains a lesson in the strategies and risks that come with representing the most powerful figures in government.

“Institutions, even something so sophisticated as the White House,” Mr. Garber observed, “aren’t set up to deal with these kinds of crises.”

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Mitt Romney Fails to Bypass Utah Primary for U.S. Senate


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Mitt Romney, who is running for a United States Senate seat in Utah, failed to secure the Republican nomination at the party’s convention on Saturday. He will compete against State Representative Mike Kennedy in a June primary.

Credit
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune, via Associated Press

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Mitt Romney was forced on Saturday into a Republican primary for a United States Senate seat in Utah as he looks to restart his political career by replacing Orrin G. Hatch, a longtime senator who is retiring.

Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts and the Republican candidate for president in 2012, remains the heavy favorite to win the Senate seat in November. But he could have bypassed a primary altogether by earning a majority of votes on Saturday at the state’s G.O.P. convention.

Instead, the far-right party delegates preferred State Representative Mike Kennedy, who got 51 percent of the vote to Mr. Romney’s 49 percent.

Voters will decide between the candidates in a June 26 primary that Mr. Romney had previously secured his spot for by collecting enough signatures. Jenny Wilson, a councilwoman in Salt Lake County, is the leading Democratic candidate in a state that has had only Republican senators since 1977.

At the convention, Mr. Romney faced 11 other candidates, mostly political newcomers who questioned his criticism of President Trump and the depth of his ties to Utah.

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Knowledge Gap Hinders Ability of Congress to Regulate Silicon Valley


Beyond the typical political gridlock that has stymied action in Congress, technology and the companies that sell access to it are particularly protected.

The Facebook hearings this week revealed a vast knowledge gap between Silicon Valley and the nation’s capital, where lawmakers struggled to grasp how the technology works and which problems — misinformation, sharing of data to third parties or political biases coded into algorithms — needed to be addressed.

Inaction does not reflect a lack of will so much as a failure of expertise.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen an issue where everybody seemed to be on the same sheet of music,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Thursday.

If Congress does not follow through with new rules for internet companies, “we’ll look like a bunch of idiots,” Mr. Graham added.

Avoiding that dunce cap will be difficult. Lawmakers will confront Silicon Valley’s powerful new lobbying establishment. Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple now hold the biggest corporate lobbying budgets in Washington and spent a combined $49.7 million in 2017 on direct lobbying, which does not include their outside lobbying trade groups, up 24 percent from the previous year. They have hired top privacy experts into their lobbying troops to defeat privacy and other internet laws.

Facebook has said it would embrace some regulation, with Mr. Zuckerberg saying this week that rules for internet companies were “inevitable.” But he also indicated that it would have to be the “right” regulations, and he was not willing to commit on the spot to several ideas posed by lawmakers.

The hearings spurred new momentum for the introduction of privacy laws. On Thursday, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, and John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, introduced legislation that would allow consumers to opt out of getting tracked on a site. The bill would also mandate simpler privacy policies.

One new bill would restrict data collection of students using classroom technology, and another would require companies to get permission before collecting and sharing user data. That would move the United States closer to rules about to take effect next month in Europe. An earlier bill would mandate more disclosure on Facebook advertising purchases.

Mr. Zuckerberg said this week that the company would make tools for the European privacy rules available for all users, but Facebook has not specified if stronger privacy would be the default for global users. Other internet and online advertising firms have criticized the European rules known as General Data Protection Regulation as onerous.

Nevertheless, the creation of any regulations in coming months is doubtful. Most lawmakers said in the hearings that they were concerned about privacy and foreign interference on social media during the 2016 election. But several Republicans also expressed anxiety over regulations that could slow the growth of Silicon Valley, a beacon for the American economy.

“These are tough ones. Privacy versus innovation versus security versus freedom — these are always tough questions,” said Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona. He said he would most likely support the political ad disclosures bill but added, “When we step in, are we always late?”

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Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, left, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, as Mr. Zuckerberg testified this week before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees.

Credit
Leah Millis/Reuters

This week, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, introduced the Consent Act, which would require companies to get permission before tracking and sharing data. But even he pointed to Washington’s short attention span. Companies like Facebook, he said, would try to stand in Congress’s way.

“They will try to make it more complex than it is,” he said.

“The question is timing,” Mr. Blumenthal added, pointing to the difficult midterm elections in November and the desire by many legislators to do as little as possible until then. “This session, everybody says, is over as far as serious legislating is concerned.”

Mr. Graham, who said regulations were necessary, also acknowledged the pitfalls of moving too fast.

“I’d hate to be the senator that killed an effort to have reasonable regulation,” Mr. Graham said. But, he conceded, “You really need to know what you are signing up for.”

Beyond the short term, the hearings may have laid the foundation for broader privacy regulations in coming years, analysts said. The most likely action to follow Mr. Zuckerberg’s grilling is the passage of a bill that requires financial disclosures of political advertising on social media, a law similar to broadcast television and radio political ad disclosures.

Narrow regulatory ideas could gain momentum that prevent online location tracking, strengthen privacy protections for children and teens and require stronger disclosures for data breaches. But the government’s light hand on Silicon Valley will continue for some time even as the European Union prepares to enact comprehensive privacy rules that limit data collection and push companies to ask permission before sharing information about users.

Even if seats in the House and Senate shift after the midterm elections, any privacy laws would be at least a couple of years away, said Paul Gallant, a technology policy analyst at the Cowen Group.

“If Democrats win the House in November, the chances of legislation would rise, although a likely Republican Senate would still make passage an uphill battle,” Mr. Gallant said.

A big problem is the lack of technological expertise in Congress, and the informational imbalance with the tech companies’ lobbyists.

In 2011, tech lobbyists blanketed the Senate Judiciary Committee after former Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, introduced a geolocation privacy bill.

Internet firms brought in engineers and deployed their outside lobbying groups to warn lawmakers that Mr. Franken’s bill was dangerous and technically flawed, said Alvaro Bedoya, a former staff member for Mr. Franken who is now the executive director of the Georgetown Center for Privacy and Technology.

Another obstacle to action is a disagreement on regulatory priorities.

Indeed, Mr. Graham identified a grab bag of problems that he wanted addressed with Facebook, most of which are not being addressed by any current legislative proposals.

He mentioned terrorism content, Facebook’s “monopoly” and political bias as regulatory targets. At Mr. Zuckerberg’s hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, other lawmakers brought up data breaches, foreign interference and censorship, particularly of the pro-Trump internet personalities Diamond and Silk.

“I want somebody to look at how they set these machines up, not just for Facebook, but other people, to make sure that the algorithms are not being politically motivated,” Mr. Graham said.

The lack of technological knowledge was glaring. Members mostly comprised lawyers or former business people, and many are just getting acquainted with social media, artificial intelligence, autonomous self-driving cars, drones and other technologies that they are charged to oversee.

Diversity in government has become a platform issue for Brianna Wu, a former software designer who is running for the 8th House district in Massachusetts.

Ms. Wu watched Mr. Zuckerberg’s hearings and was struck by the basic lack of knowledge members had in how the site works, such as the business model of ad-supported websites and how messaging apps like Facebook’s WhatsApp works. Before the hearings, many of the members brought in technology experts from academic institutions to prepare them for Mr. Zuckerberg’s appearance.

“Most people can understand why guns are a threat,” she said. “With technology, people don’t understand fundamentally what the threat is. That is a threat to democracy.”

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