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Political Notebook

Biden, lawmakers pay tribute to slain Capitol Police officer

President Biden gave a coin to Logan Evans, son of late US Capitol Police officer William "Billy" Evans, during a memorial service as Evans lay in honor in the Rotunda at the US Capitol.
President Biden gave a coin to Logan Evans, son of late US Capitol Police officer William "Billy" Evans, during a memorial service as Evans lay in honor in the Rotunda at the US Capitol.Drew Angerer/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — His children waited for him at the top of the East Capitol steps Tuesday, holding their mother’s hands as the military honor guard carried William “Billy” Evans’s coffin into the Capitol.

All rose in the Rotunda as the doors swung open, and President Biden and members of Congress put their hands on their hearts. The Capitol Police saluted, and the honor guard laid Evans upon a catafalque that once held the coffin of President Abraham Lincoln.

Feet away from Biden, in the front row, Evans’s young son, Logan, wore his father’s police cap while clutching a teddy bear. Evans’s daughter, Abigail, had on a dark dress.

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It was the second time in less than three months that mourners gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to honor a fallen police officer. Evans, like Brian Sicknick before him, was protecting members of Congress and others on Capitol Hill from a violent incursion and died in the line of duty.

Evans, 41 and a Massachusetts native, was killed April 2 when he and another Capitol Police officer, standing in front of a steel barricade near the Russell Senate Office Building, were struck by a car whose driver intentionally rammed the barrier, authorities said. The other officer survived, and the driver was fatally shot by police.

Inside the Rotunda on Tuesday morning, several dozen socially distanced mourners sat around the coffin, which was draped in an American flag. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, addressed the group, the president picked up a toy that Abigail, 7, had dropped and handed it back to her.

Then Biden, who also had come to the Rotunda to honor Sicknick, rose before the mourners and spoke words of grief and solace.

To Evans’s mother, Janice, he said: “Mom, I didn’t know Billy, but I knew Billy. I grew up with Billies. . . . Billy was always the kid, if you got in a fight and you were outnumbered 3 to 1, he’d jump in, knowing you’d both get beat. He was the one who always kept his word. If he said he’d be there, he’d be there.”

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And of Evans’s fellow officers, he said: “Never . . . has so much strain and responsibility been placed on the shoulders of Capitol Police.” He added, “You watch them do their duty with pure courage and never complain.”

Evans is officially listed as the sixth Capitol officer to die in the line of duty. Another was Sicknick, 42, who died Jan. 7, a day after he and scores of fellow officers were injured by a riotous mob that besieged the Capitol in support of President Trump’s false election-fraud claims.

Washington Post

Biden names choice to lead Census Bureau

President Biden on Tuesday said he would pick the president of the American Statistical Association to lead the Census Bureau as it works toward releasing data from the 2020 census that will be used for redrawing congressional and legislative districts.

If confirmed, Robert Santos, who is Mexican-American, would become the first person of color to serve as a permanent director of the Census Bureau, the nation’s largest statistical agency. Santos is vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute. The San Antonio native is an expert in survey sampling. He has 40 years of experience in survey design and social science and policy research.

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Associated Press

At USAID, Power would work with new tools

WASHINGTON — Near the end of the 2014 documentary “Watchers of the Sky,” which chronicles the origins of the legal definition of genocide, Samantha Power grows emotional. At the time, Power was President Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, and, she said, had “great visibility into a lot of the pain” in the world.

From that perch, preventing mass atrocities abroad required “thinking through what we can do about it, to exhaust the tools at your disposal,” Power said in the film. “And I always think about the privilege of, you know, of getting to try — just to try.”

Few doubt Power’s zeal — given her career as a war correspondent, human rights activist, academic expert, and foreign policy adviser — even if it has meant advocating military force to stop widespread killings.

Now, as President Biden’s nominee to lead the US Agency for International Development, she is preparing to rejoin the government as an administrator of soft power, and resist using weapons as a means of deterrence and punishment that she has pushed for in the past.

A Senate committee is expected to vote Thursday on her nomination to lead one of the world’s largest distributors of humanitarian aid.

If she is confirmed, Biden will also seat her on the National Security Council, where during the Obama administration she pressed for military invention to protect civilians from state-sponsored attacks in Libya in 2011 and Syria in 2013. (However, she opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq.)

That she will be back at the table at the council — and again almost certain to be debating whether to entangle American forces in enduring conflicts — has concerned some officials, analysts, and think tank experts who demand military restraint from the Biden administration. Biden appears to be leaning that way: He has embraced economic sanctions as a tool of hard power and is expected to announce a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, ending the United States’ longest war.

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“If you’re talking about humanitarianism, famine, the wars — really, other than natural causes, war is the No. 1 cause of famine around the world,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, told Power last month during her Senate confirmation hearing. “Are you willing to admit that the Libyan and Syrian interventions that you advocated for were a mistake?”

Power did not. “When these situations arise, it’s a question almost of lesser evils — that the choices are very challenging,” she said.

By its very nature, the US aid agency takes a long-term view of the world compared with the immediacy of military action. Beyond the roughly $6 billion in humanitarian aid it is delivering this year to disaster-ridden nations, the agency seeks to prevent conflict at its roots, largely bolstering economies, countering state corruption and fostering democracy and human rights.

That mission is central to Biden’s foreign policy and will perhaps prove nowhere more pivotal than in his global competition with China.

Last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured allies that they would not be backed into an “‘us-or-them’ choice with China” as the two superpowers vie for economic, diplomatic and military advantage.

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Instead, the United States is highlighting what officials call China’s malign ideology and self-interests as it expands an influence campaign across Africa, Europe, and South America with financial loans, infrastructure funds, coronavirus vaccines, and advanced technology.

Officials said China’s much-debated Belt and Road Initiative was a prime battleground for USAID to challenge Beijing.

Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, a former assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights for Obama, described a “perception that China is exporting corruption” with its loans and development projects.

For example, a study in February by the International Republican Institute, a private nonprofit group that receives government funding and promotes democracy, concluded that Panama’s decision in 2017 to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan “appears to have been driven by payoffs” from China. It also noted that Nepal regularly revoked the legal status of Tibetan refugees after becoming economically reliant on Beijing.

“There is one issue that has risen to the top in this administration that I know she is very focused on, and that’s fighting corruption,” Malinowski said of Power. “And USAID has a very important role to play there, potentially.”

The aid agency and the State Department have budgeted about $2 billion on programs to foster democracy, human rights, and open governance abroad in the 2021 fiscal year — one-third as much as funding for humanitarian assistance.

It is an area that Power is expected to expand.

New York Times