President Biden Tests Positive Again for COVID!

President Joe Biden leads 2nd global COVID-19 summit: 'This pandemic isn't  over' -

Dear Commons Community,

President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 again yesterday, three days after a negative test allowed him to resume work as usual from the Oval Office.

The presidential physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, wrote in a memo that the antigen test represents a “rebound” case of the coronavirus. He attributed it to the Paxlovid treatment Biden was prescribed; the pills are meant to lower the chance of requiring hospitalization for high-risk COVID-19 patients.

“This happens with a small minority of folks,” Biden said in a tweet, adding that he has no symptoms but plans to isolate himself in the White House residence.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added that the president was “feeling fine.”

O’Connor stated that “there is no reason to reinitiate treatment at this time, but we will obviously continue close observation.” His office will provide updates as needed, he wrote.

The White House announced that Biden, who is fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots, initially came down with the virus on Thursday, July 21, experiencing “very mild” symptoms.

Pfizer received an emergency use authorization for its Paxlovid treatment in December, with the Food and Drug Administration permitting its use in patients age 12 and up who weigh at least 88 pounds. Clinical trials showed that the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 89%, but it must be taken within five days of developing symptoms.

A dose of the drug comes in the form of three pills: Two are nirmatrelvir, which inhibits viral replication, and one is ritonavir, which helps the nirmatrelvir work for a longer period of time.

Given the chance of “so-called rebound COVID positivity observed in a small percentage of patients treated with Paxlovid,” O’Connor said, “the president increased his testing cadence, both to protect people around him and to assure early detection of any return of viral replication.”

O’Connor added: “After testing negative on Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning, Thursday morning and Friday morning, the president tested positive late Saturday morning by antigen testing.”

COVID is a disease that does not let up!


Daily News Cover Roasts Trump and LIV Golfers as “Greedy, Evil Cowards”

Dear Commons Community,

A tearful group of protesters stood between two American flags behind a public library, in stark contrast to the festivities at a golf tournament three miles down the road at Donald Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey golf course. 

The group, a band of family members of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, spoke vehemently against the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament being held this weekend at the club owned by the former president.

The group, 9/11 Justice, seeks to bring Saudi Arabian government officials, whom they assert supported the terrorists, to judgment. They are infuriated that Trump once agreed that the Saudi government was responsible, but has changed his tune, they said, to cash in on Saudi efforts to sanitize the nation’s global image through sports.  As reported by the Daily News and The New York Times.

“How much money does it take to turn your back on your country, on the American people?” said Juliette Scauso, who was 4 years old when her father, the firefighter Dennis Scauso, perished in the attacks.

For days, the LIV golfers and Trump have defended their decisions to align with the breakaway tour and accept millions of dollars from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which is overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Critics of the tour say it is another example of the Saudis “sportswashing” atrocities attributed to them — supporting the 9/11 terrorists, killing the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and oppressing women and members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

A protester wore a baseball cap in the style of former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign hat.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times.
Michael Jessie, of Plainville, N.Y., was among the protesters objecting to the tournament.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Trump, who as a presidential candidate in 2016 blamed the Saudis for the 9/11 attacks, said on Thursday that “nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately.

On Friday, the protesters had their chance to respond to both Trump and to the golfers. Many accused the golfers of cowardice for proclaiming sympathy with their cause while still accepting LIV Golf’s money.

“You are taking a stand that you agree with the actions of Saudi Arabia or, just as bad, that you are so incredibly greedy and callous that you really don’t care about these atrocities,” Scauso said.

The organizers came to the protest armed with copies of declassified F.B.I. documents, which they say establish a clear connection between 12 Saudi government officials and the terrorists in the months leading up to the attacks.

“It’s simple,” said Tim Frolich, who was in the South Tower on 9/11. “The Saudis did it. They plotted it, they funded it, and now they are trying to distract every one of those things with a golf tournament 50 miles away from ground zero. It’s deplorable.”

The group urged golf fans to boycott LIV Golf and asked golfers and anyone doing business with the Saudis, including broadcasters, to reconsider. On Friday morning, at a nearby Marriott serving as headquarters for the tour on its Bedminster stop, members of the group approached David Feherty, the former CBS and NBC golf analyst who has defected to join the tour even though it has no American broadcast television contract yet.

Brett Eagleson, the president of 9/11 Justice, asked Feherty if he would listen and perhaps speak to the golfers about the choices they are making.

“He was actually really receptive,” Eagleson said. “He was really open to working with us and having a partnership with us, as opposed to being combative. I’m hopeful.”

But Eagleson was far less conciliatory about Trump, who he said was more culpable than the golfers, because, as the former commander in chief, he should know better. Eagleson was part of a group that met with Trump at the White House on Sept. 11, 2019. They say Trump urged them to continue their work, which they did with vigor on Friday

Eagleson said Trump’s claim that “nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11” outraged the family members of victims beyond their already simmering anger.

“Our loved ones are the heroes,” he said, “and the golfers and the former president are cowards.”

As the protesters spoke, several passing cars honked horns in support, but a few drivers yelled out in support of Trump and one yelled at the family members to go home.

Winuk, whose brother, Glenn Winuk, a volunteer firefighter, died in the attacks, called the Saudi funds “blood money” and warned that anyone taking it would carry the “stench” of it forever.

“LIV Golf?” he said. “For me and so many more of us, it’s more like death golf.”


David Bloomfield on the Latest New York City Education Budget Fiasco!

School Finance Matters - ASBO New York

Dear Commons Community,

My colleague, David Bloomfield, had an op-ed yesterday in the Gotham Gazette entitled, The Latest Education Budget Fiasco Shows We Must Scrap New York’s School Funding Formula. He reviews the current fiscal crisis that New York City public education finds itself as we head into the new school year.  Here is an excerpt:

“The Trojan Horse called “Fair Student Funding” that allocates $10 billion of city funds to our 1,700 public schools needs to be scrapped. The attractively alliterative system inadequately funds the real needs of schools and, according to an unreleased 2021 Fair Student Funding Task Force study, funnels “additional resources to high schools with “higher achievers” who are disproportionately whiter and wealthier than the overall school population. It concludes “this is not an equitable funding system.”

Fair Student Funding is at the heart of the current school budget crisis, with the mayor mired in debate with an abulic City Council and a lawsuit that may allay his $215 million cut to city schools but fails to address the long-term problems of declining student enrollment and erosion of federal pandemic relief funding.

Fair Student Funding (FSF) was also central to temporary rejection of FSF-based school allocations by the Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), a usually docile mayor-controlled body, when it mutinied over the system’s inadequacies and inequities. In a hasty compromise in exchange for the PEP’s approval, Schools Chancellor David Banks agreed to look into FSF’s weighting of student needs including, for example, providing additional funds for students in temporary housing and foster care.

But nibbling around the edges of how FSF arbitrarily weights student-based expenses does nothing to get at the root problem of what Banks himself calls “this mess.”

The entire piece is worth a read!


New York State Governor Kathy Hochul Declares Monkeypox Emergency!

Dear Commons Community,

Governor Kathy Hochul of New York yesterday declared an emergency in the state over the continued spread of monkeypox.

“I am declaring a State Disaster Emergency to strengthen our ongoing efforts to confront the monkeypox outbreak,” Hochul tweeted.

She added that more than one in four monkeypox cases in the United States are in New York, also having a disproportionate impact on at-risk groups.

As of July 29, New York state had a total of 1,383 confirmed orthopoxvirus/monkeypox cases, according to New York Department of Health’s website.

Earlier on Friday, Brazil and Spain reported the first monkeypox-related deaths outside Africa.

The World Health Organization last week declared a global health emergency, its highest level of alert, over the monkeypox outbreak.

Just when we were relaxing a bit from the COVID!




Russia Has Suffered More than 75,000 Casualties in the Ukraine War!

Russian Air Strikes In Central Ukraine Kill Five As Kyiv Ramps Up Southern Counteroffensive

Dear Commons Community,

More than 75,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured since the Kremlin launched its brutal war on Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to U.S. intelligence.

Speaking to CNN, Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin said the estimate was revealed during a classified briefing with officials from the Biden administration. “We were briefed that over 75,000 Russians have either been killed or wounded [in Ukraine], which is huge. … Over 80% of their land forces are bogged down, and they’re tired,” she said.

That roughly correlates to the number of casualties estimated by CIA Director William Burns on July 20. “I think the latest estimates from the U.S. intelligence community would be, you know, something in the vicinity of 15,000 killed and maybe three times that wounded, so a quite significant set of losses,” Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum.

He went on to say that Ukrainian soldiers had “suffered as well,” but “probably a little less than” enemy forces. More recently, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s senior adviser said military casualties were between 100 and 200 per day.

Ahead of Russia’s invasion, President Biden said Russia had amassed around 150,000 troops, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed that 200,000 were stationed on Ukraine’s borders. No figure has been disclosed by Russia’s Defense Ministry.

In a briefing on Monday, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said the number of Russian soldiers who had died in the first three months of the invasion in Ukraine were comparable to the Soviet Union’s losses during its decade-long conflict in Afghanistan.

“A combination of poor low-level tactics, limited air cover, a lack of flexibility, and a command approach which is prepared to reinforce failure and repeat mistakes has led to this high casualty rate, which continues to rise in the Donbas offensive,” the department said.

What an incredible amount of human suffering and for what?  Putin’s twisted view of his destiny.



US economy shrinks for 2nd straight quarter – Recession anyone?

The numbers show the U.S. economy is at least teetering on a recession - Sky News: The Latest News from the World

Dear Commons Community,

As expected, the U.S. economy shrank from April through June this year for a second straight quarter, contracting at a 0.9% annual pace and raising fears that the nation may be approaching a recession.

The decline that the Commerce Department reported yesterday in the gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of the economy — followed a 1.6% annual drop from January through March. Consecutive quarters of falling GDP constitute one informal indicator of a recession.

The GDP report for last quarter pointed to weakness across the economy. Consumer spending slowed as Americans bought fewer goods. Business investment fell. Inventories tumbled as businesses slowed their restocking of shelves, shaving 2 percentage points from GDP.

Higher borrowing rates, a consequence of the Federal Reserve’s series of rate hikes, clobbered home construction, which shrank at a 14% annual rate. Government spending dropped, too.  As reported by the Associated Press.

The report comes at a critical time. Consumers and businesses have been struggling under the weight of punishing inflation and higher loan costs. On Wednesday, the Fed raised its benchmark rate by a sizable three-quarters of a point for a second straight time in its push to conquer the worst inflation outbreak in four decades.

The Fed is hoping to achieve a notoriously difficult “soft landing”: An economic slowdown that manages to rein in rocketing prices without triggering a recession.

Apart from the United States, the global economy as a whole is also grappling with high inflation and weakening growth, especially after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent energy and food prices soaring. Europe, highly dependent on Russian natural gas, appears especially vulnerable to a recession.

In the United States, the inflation surge and fear of a recession have eroded consumer confidence and stirred anxiety about the economy, which is sending frustratingly mixed signals. And with the November midterm elections nearing, Americans’ discontent has diminished President Joe Biden’s public approval ratings and could increase the likelihood that the Democrats will lose control of the House and Senate.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell and many economists have said that while the economy is showing some weakening, they doubt it’s in recession. Many of them point, in particular, to a still-robust labor market, with 11 million job openings and an uncommonly low 3.6% unemployment rate, to suggest that a recession, if one does occur, isn’t here yet.

“The back-to-back contraction of GDP will feed the debate about whether the U.S. is in, or soon headed for, a recession,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. “The fact that the economy created 2.7 million payrolls in the first half of the year would seem to argue against an official recession call for now.”

Still, Guatieri said, “the economy has quickly lost steam in the face of four-decade high inflation, rapidly rising borrowing costs and a general tightening in financial conditions.”

In the meantime, Congress may be moving toward approving action to fight inflation under an agreement announced Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat. Among other things, the measure would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, and the new revenue would be used to lower costs for seniors on medications.

In the wake of yesterday’s second straight negative GDP report, Biden downplayed the news, pointing to continued low unemployment and strong hiring.

“Coming off of last year’s historic economic growth — and regaining all the private-sector jobs lost during the pandemic crisis — it’s no surprise that the economy is slowing down as the Federal Reserve acts to bring down inflation,” the president said in a statement. “But even as we face historic global challenges, we are on the right path and we will come through this transition stronger and more secure.”

The government’s first of three estimates of GDP for the April-June quarter marked a drastic weakening from the 5.7% growth the economy achieved last year. That was the fastest calendar-year expansion since 1984, reflecting how vigorously the economy roared back from the brief but brutal pandemic recession of 2020.

But since then, the combination of mounting prices and higher borrowing costs have taken a toll. The Labor Department’s consumer price index skyrocketed 9.1% in June from a year earlier, a pace not matched since 1981. And despite widespread pay raises, prices are surging faster than wages. In June, average hourly earnings, after adjusting for inflation, slid 3.6% from a year earlier, the 15th straight year-over-year drop.

Americans are still spending, though more tepidly. Yesterday’s report showed that consumer spending rose at a 1% annual pace from April through June, down from 1.8% in the first quarter and 2.5% in the final three months of 2021.

Spending on goods like appliances and furniture, which had soared while Americans were sheltering at home early in the pandemic, dropped at a 4.4% annual rate last quarter. But spending on services, like airline trips and dinners out, rose at a 4.1% rate, indicating that millions of consumers are venturing out more.

Before accounting for surging prices, the economy actually grew at a 7.8% annual pace in the April-June quarter. But inflation wiped out that gain and then some and produced a negative GDP number.

Against that backdrop, Americans are losing confidence. Their assessment of economic conditions six months from now has reached its lowest point since 2013, according to the Conference Board, a research group.

“If we aren’t yet in a recession, we soon will be,″ said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist for the economic consulting firm Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. “An economy rapidly losing momentum combined with aggressive monetary tightening is not a recipe for a soft landing or any other type of happy ending.″

Mr. Shapiro might be right!



Fox News Not Covering Trump Speeches Live – Instead Gives Airtime to Mike Pence!

Donald Trump puts Mike Pence in charge of US coronavirus response |  Coronavirus | The Guardian

Dear Commons Community,

Fox News didn’t air any of former President Donald Trump’s recent speech in Washington, D.C., live, a noted shift for the conservative news outlet after effectively serving as an arm of his campaign before and during his presidency.

Trump went to Washington on Tuesday for his first visit to the nation’s capital since he left the White House after losing his reelection bid to Democrat Joe Biden. In his speech, the former president turned to familiar themes, echoing his lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen while multiple investigations into his efforts to remain in power and pressure those around him to overturn the Electoral College vote are underway.

Though Fox News hasn’t carried most of Trump’s events live over the past year, as it did while he was in office, Tuesday was notably different: Former Vice President Mike Pence was speaking the same day, less than a mile away from his old boss.

Fox News broadcast about 17 minutes of that speech uninterrupted, including moments when Pence — who is considered a likely candidate to run for the presidency in 2024 — outlined what he called his “freedom agenda.” As reprote4d  by The Huffington Post.

“Some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future,” Pence said in his speech Tuesday to the Young America’s Foundation. “I believe conservatives must focus on the future to win back America. We can’t afford to take our eyes off the road in front of us because what’s at stake is the very survival of our way of life.”

The shift in support from the news network comes amid several searing editorials published by the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal last week, papers that, like Fox News, are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The editorials slammed the former president, calling him “unworthy” to hold office again, pointing to his refusal to condemn his supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with some in the mob calling for Pence to be hanged.

“Trump only wanted one thing during that infamous afternoon: to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to decertify the election of Joe Biden,” the Post’s editorial board wrote Friday. “He thought the violence of his loyal followers would make Pence crack, or delay the vote altogether.”

Fox News aired more than 20 hours of Trump’s campaign rallies live in 2019 and nine hours over a nine-day period in 2020.

Trump appears to have noticed the snubs from Fox News. On Monday, the president took to his social media network to blast “Fox & Friends,” a onetime bastion of Trumpism, for airing polling numbers for a hypothetical matchup of Republican candidates for the 2024 race. Those figures showed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rising in standing.

“That show has been terrible,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. “Gone to the ‘dark side.’”

There is a bit of trouble in Trump land!



U.S. Offers to Swap Russian Arms Dealer, Viktor Bout, for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan!

Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan: Biden administration offers convicted Russian arms dealer in exchange for detained Americans - CNNPolitics

Viktor Bout, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan

Dear Commons Community,

The Biden administration has offered to free the imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to secure the release of Brittney Griner and Paul N. Whelan, two Americans imprisoned in Russia who the State Department says were wrongfully detained. As reported by The New York Times and CNN.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said yesterday that the United States had “put a substantial proposal on the table” and that he would soon press for the Americans’ return in his first conversation with his Russian counterpart since Russia invaded Ukraine five months ago.

Mr. Blinken’s comments represented the first time that the United States had confirmed that it had made a formal proposal to persuade Russia to release Ms. Griner, an American basketball star who has been detained for months on drug charges, and Mr. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was sentenced in Russia in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges.

The notion of trading Ms. Griner for Mr. Bout surfaced in Russian news media several weeks ago. U.S. officials would not publicly discuss the idea at the time and stressed their concern about potentially incentivizing the detention of Americans abroad by foreign actors looking to win concessions.

Yesterday, however, Mr. Blinken said the two countries had “communicated repeatedly and directly” about the proposal, though he would not provide details or describe the Russian response, saying he did not want to endanger sensitive negotiations with Moscow.

The person briefed on the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic negotiations, said the United States offered in June to trade Mr. Bout for Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan, and that President Biden — who has been under growing political pressure to free the Americans — backed the offer. The offer was first reported by CNN.

Mr. Bout, who is known as the “Merchant of Death,” is serving a 25-year federal prison sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to people who said they planned to kill Americans. The Kremlin has demanded his release for years.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s comments represented the first time the U.S. had confirmed that it had made a formal proposal to persuade Russia to release Ms. Griner.

Speaking at the State Department, Mr. Blinken said he expected to talk with Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, in the coming days and would urge him to accept the proposal. The two men last spoke in January at a meeting in Geneva, weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 led to a near-total shutdown of American diplomacy with Russia. Mr. Blinken avoided so much as shaking Mr. Lavrov’s hand at a Group of 20 foreign ministers meeting in Bali earlier this month.

Mr. Biden has been under pressure to secure the freedom of Ms. Griner in particular, whose wife, Cherelle, and several Democratic-aligned political groups have publicly urged him to strike a deal to win her release. Mr. Biden spoke to Cherelle Griner this month.

In mid-July, W.N.B.A. players took the court at their All-Star Game wearing jerseys bearing Ms. Griner’s number, 42. And on Tuesday, NBC News aired an interview with Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine freed from a Russian prison in April after three years of detention, in which he said the White House was “not doing enough” to free Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan.

William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, addressed talk of a potential prisoner swap during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum last week.

“These are awful and shameful steps to hold American citizens for political leverage,” Mr. Burns said. “The Russians are quite coldblooded about this right now.”

Mr. Burns said it was unclear why the Kremlin has long been determined to secure the release of Mr. Bout, 55, a former Soviet military officer who made a fortune in global arms trafficking before he was caught in a federal sting operation.

“That is a good question because Viktor Bout is a creep,” Mr. Burns said. Some analysts believe that Mr. Bout enjoys loyalty from former criminal associates with continued influence at the Kremlin.

In 2010, Mr. Bout agreed to sell arms to undercover U.S. federal agents who said they belonged to Colombia’s FARC rebel group, which the United States classified at the time as a terrorist organization. Prosecutors said Mr. Bout did not object when the agents said they intended to use the weapons to kill American troops supporting Colombia’s military.

In an interview last month, however, the judge who sentenced Mr. Bout, Shira A. Scheindlin, said that Mr. Bout “was not a terrorist, in my opinion. He was a businessman.” She added that she felt the mandatory 25-year sentence she was forced to impose was too high and that a trade of Mr. Bout for Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan would be reasonable.

Let’s hope Russia accepts this deal!


Clarence Thomas Will Not Teach Law Course at George Washington University after Student Protests!

Justice Clarence Thomas won't teach class at DC law school |

Dear Commons Community,

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will not lead a constitutional law course at George Washington Law School in the Fall as planned, a school spokesperson told HuffPost, following student protests calling for his termination.

An online petition to give Thomas the boot received more than 10,000 signatures in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to roll back abortion rights in late June. Yet George Washington Law stood by Thomas, even as student activists urged classmates to contact the school’s dean demanding the justice’s removal.

Thomas’ precise reasons for opting out are not clear; he did not respond to a request for comment. His co-instructor, Gregory Maggs, said in an email to students that Thomas was “unavailable,” according to the GW Hatchet.

A George Washington University spokesperson put it the same way, saying in a statement that “Justice Thomas informed GW Law that he is unavailable to co-teach a Constitutional Law Seminar this fall.”

“The students were promptly informed of Justice Thomas’ decision by his co-instructor who will continue to offer the seminar this fall,” the statement said.

Thomas and Maggs had been teaching together for more than 10 years, according to the Hatchet.

“For those of you still interested in taking the course, I assure you that we will make the best of the new situation,” Maggs, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, reportedly told students in his email.

A George Washington course catalog describes the seminar, titled Leading Cases in Context, as an opportunity to study “a more complete story of a number of leading cases than is usually presented in Constitutional Law courses.”

“Opinions in leading Supreme Court cases usually reveal only part of a complex story,” the description says. “Although they discuss the facts immediately leading to the litigation, they often do not fully expose the motivations of the litigants or the social and political context of legal controversies. The opinions also cannot describe the reactions to the Court’s decisions or the decisions’ subsequent influence.”

Protests erupted nationwide when the Supreme Court issued its ruling last month on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Justice Samuel Alito penned the majority opinion. Thomas concurred, adding his suggestion that the high court reconsider other cases that cemented various other civil rights in America, such as the right of same-sex people to marry.


Justice Dept. Asking Top Pence Aides about Trump in its Jan. 6 Investigation

Grand jury testimony of Pence aides brings Justice Department January 6 probe into Trump's White House

Marc Short, Donald Trump, and Greg Jacob

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times and other media are reporting that federal prosecutors have directly asked witnesses in recent days about former President Donald J. Trump’s involvement in efforts to reverse his election loss, a person familiar with the testimony said yesterday, suggesting that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation has moved into a more aggressive phase.

Mr. Trump’s personal role in elements of the push to overturn his loss in 2020 to Joseph R. Biden Jr. has long been established, both through his public actions and statements and evidence gathered by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

But the Justice Department has been largely silent about how and even whether it would weigh pursuing potential charges against Mr. Trump, and reluctant even to concede that his role was discussed in senior leadership meetings at the department.

Asking questions about Mr. Trump in connection with the electors plot or the attack on the Capitol does not mean the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into him, a decision that would have immense political and legal ramifications.

The department’s investigation into a central element of the push to keep Mr. Trump in office — the plan to name slates of electors pledged to Mr. Trump in battleground states won by Mr. Biden — now appears to be accelerating as prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington ask witnesses about Mr. Trump and members of his inner circle, including the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, the person familiar with the testimony said.

In April, before the committee convened its series of public hearings, Justice Department investigators received phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump White House, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

Two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence testified to the federal grand jury in the case last week, and prosecutors have issued subpoenas and search warrants to a growing number of figures tied to Mr. Trump and the campaign to forestall his loss.

A spokesman for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland declined to comment, saying the Justice Department did not provide details of grand jury proceedings. The department’s questioning of witnesses about Mr. Trump and its receipt of the phone records were reported earlier by The Washington Post.

If a decision were made to open a criminal investigation into Mr. Trump after he announced his intention to run in the 2024 election, as he continues to hint he might do, the department’s leadership would be required to undertake a formal consultation process, then sign a formal approval of the department’s intentions under an internal rule created by former Attorney General William P. Barr and endorsed by Mr. Garland.

But in recent days, Mr. Garland has repeatedly asserted his right to investigate or prosecute anybody, including Mr. Trump, provided that is where the evidence leads.

“The Justice Department has from the beginning been moving urgently to learn everything we can about this period, and to bring to justice everybody who was criminally responsible for interfering with the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another, which is the fundamental element of our democracy,” Mr. Garland told “NBC Nightly News” in an interview broadcast on Tuesday, when asked to comment on criticism that his investigation was moving too slowly.

The questions about Mr. Trump focused on, among other topics, the plan he was pushing to derail congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory on Jan. 6, 2021, the person familiar with the testimony said.

The two Pence aides who testified to the grand jury — Marc Short, who was his chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, who was his counsel — were present at an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4, 2021, when Mr. Trump sought to pressure Mr. Pence into embracing the plan to cite the competing slates of electors as justification to block or delay the Electoral College certification.

In recent weeks, the Justice Department also seized phones from two key figures, John Eastman, the lawyer who helped develop and promote the plan to upend the Electoral College certification, and Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who was at the center of the related push to send the slates of electors pledged to Mr. Trump from states Mr. Biden won.

Prosecutors have also issued grand jury subpoenas to figures connected to the so-called fake electors scheme. Those who have received the subpoenas have largely been state lawmakers or Republican officials, many of whom put their names on documents attesting to the fact that they were electors for Mr. Trump from states that were won by Mr. Biden.

The subpoenas, some of which have been obtained by The New York Times, show that prosecutors are interested in collecting information on a group of pro-Trump lawyers who helped to devise and carry out the plan, including Mr. Eastman and Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.

There are also indications that the tense standoff between the Justice Department and congressional investigators over the transcripts of interviews conducted for the Jan. 6 committee hearings is easing. The House is set to begin handing over some of the transcripts and intends to increase the pace in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with the situation.

Members of the committee have said they are still considering making a criminal referral to the Justice Department in hopes of increasing the pressure on Mr. Garland to prosecute Mr. Trump.

Mr. Garland shrugged off that suggestion.

“I think that’s totally up to the committee,” he said in his NBC interview. “We will have the evidence that the committee has presented, and whatever evidence it gives us, I don’t think that the nature of how they style, the manner in which information is provided, is a particular significance from any legal point of view.”

This is an interesting, first-step development on the part of the Justice Department into the January 6th insurrection!