Trump Leaves White House, Skipping Biden’s Inauguration

Outgoing US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

 

President Donald Trump left the White House for the last time on Wednesday, skipping the inauguration of successor Joe Biden as the 46th US president in an extraordinary break with tradition.

Drawing a curtain on the most tumultuous administration of modern times, Trump is being ousted by a polar opposite with the Democrat Biden intent on charting a new course to tackle Covid-19 and unite a splintered nation.

A small crowd waved goodbye as Trump, 74, and First Lady Melania Trump walked a short red carpet and boarded the Marine One helicopter shortly after 8:15 am (1315 GMT), for the short flight to the air base where they will continue to Florida on board Air Force One.

“I just want to say goodbye,” Trump told the gathering, calling his time in office “the honor of a lifetime.”

Trump will be at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida when Biden, a 78-year-old former vice president, is sworn in at noon on the US Capitol’s western front.

 

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania make their way to board Marine One before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. –  (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

 

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take the oath of office at the very spot where pro-Trump rioters clashed with police two weeks ago before storming Congress in a deadly insurrection.

While a transition of power will occur much as it has for more than two centuries, this inauguration is unlike any other.

READ ALSO: Biden Plans Immediate Orders On Immigration, COVID-19, Environment

Official Washington has taken on the dystopian look of an armed camp, protected by some 25,000 National Guard troops tasked with preventing any repeat of this month’s attack.

And with the pandemic raging, the general public is essentially barred from attending the swearing-in, leading to the unprecedented sight of an empty National Mall on Inauguration Day.

 

Ivanka Trump (C), husband Jared Kushner (C-L), their children, Eric (R) and Donald Jr. (2nd R), Tiffany Trump (L) and Trump family members stand on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland as they arrive for US President Donald Trump’s departure on January 20, 2021. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)

 

With the death toll soaring past 400,000, Biden on Tuesday led a powerful tribute to victims of Covid-19 as he arrived in Washington.

“It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation,” Biden said in somber remarks in front of the Lincoln Memorial, once more stressing the need to unite the country after Trump’s chaos.

– Trump snub –

On the Mall’s grassy expanse, some 200,000 flags have been planted to represent the absent crowds at the inauguration.

Trump broke days of silence Tuesday with a pre-recorded farewell video address in which — for the first time — he asked Americans to “pray” for the success of the incoming administration.

But Trump has yet to personally congratulate Biden, who first ran for president in 1987, on his win, and the 11th-hour message followed months spent persuading his Republican followers that Democrat cheated his way to election victory.

In one of his last acts before departing the White House, Trump issued scores of pardons to people convicted of crimes or facing charges, including several key allies.

Influential former Trump aide Steve Bannon — charged with defrauding people over funds raised to build the Mexico border wall, a flagship Trump policy — was among 73 people on a list released by the White House.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 20: President Donald Trump boards Marine One as he departs the White House on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Eric Thayer/Getty Images/AFP

 

However, neither Trump nor his relatives were listed, amid speculation he could use the legally dubious tactic of a preemptive pardon to fend off future charges.

Former Trump fund-raiser Elliott Broidy was similarly pardoned, after pleading guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws.

The rapper Lil Wayne, who last month pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, and faced 10 years in jail, also made the list.

Tensions have soared on Capitol Hill, where the Senate is expected to put Trump on trial soon following his record second impeachment by the House of Representatives over the Capitol riot.

The spectacle will clash with the opening days of Biden’s tenure, as the new president seeks to swiftly confirm his Cabinet picks and push through ambitious legislation — including a $1.9 trillion rescue package.

– ‘I’ll get right to work’ –

“We don’t have a second to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face as a nation,” Biden tweeted late Tuesday.

“That’s why after being sworn in tomorrow, I’ll get right to work.”

He plans to kick off his tenure by rejoining the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, according to aides, who said Biden would sign 17 orders and actions just hours after being sworn in, setting new paths on immigration, the environment, Covid-19 and the economy.

 

Outgoing US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk from Marine One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on January 20, 2021. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)

 

In first-day moves, he will end Trump’s much-assailed ban on visitors from several majority-Muslim countries and halt construction of the wall that Trump ordered on the US-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration, the aides said.

To symbolize the new spirit of unity, Biden has invited the two top senators — Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Mitch McConnell — and other congressional leaders to attend a church service with him Wednesday before the inauguration.

Overseas leaders weighed in to mark the end of a presidency which has deviated from orthodox American foreign policy.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani hailed the White House departure of “tyrant” Trump, saying “the ball is in America’s court” to return to a landmark nuclear deal and lift sanctions on Tehran.

And Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the inauguration would “be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy,” as well as “the resounding proof that, once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

Biden Plans Immediate Orders On Immigration, COVID-19, Environment

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 19: President-elect Joe Biden speaks at a memorial for victims of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at the Lincoln Memorial on the eve of the presidential inauguration on January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President-elect Joe Biden plans to kick off his new administration Wednesday with orders to restore the United States to the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, aides said.

Biden will sign 17 orders and actions just hours after being sworn in as US leader to break from policies of departing President Donald Trump and set new paths on immigration, the environment, fighting Covid-19 and the economy, they said.

In first-day moves, he will end Trump’s much-assailed ban on visitors from several majority-Muslim countries and halt construction of the wall that Trump ordered on the US-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration, the aides said.

He will also set a mask mandate on federal properties to stem the spread of Covid-19; restore protections of valuable nature reserves removed by Trump; and seek freezes on evictions and protection for millions behind on their mortgages due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He also plans to send a bill to Congress to revamp immigration policies and give millions of undocumented migrants living inside the country a path to citizenship that the Trump administration denied.

Biden’s staff said he wanted to hit the ground running given the deep health and economic challenges facing the country.

Biden “will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward,” the aides said in a statement.

“These actions are bold, begin the work of following through on President-elect Biden’s promises to the American people, and, importantly, fall within the constitutional role for the president.”

– New approach to Covid –

Many of the actions will take government policies back to where they were on January 19, 2017 — the final day of the Barack Obama-Joe Biden administration, before Trump entered office and took a wrecking ball to many of their initiatives.

Jeff Zients, the new president’s point-man for fighting the pandemic, said Biden would start by establishing an office of Covid-19 response inside the White House.

A 100-day “masking challenge” will be led with a presidential order for wearing masks in all federal properties and activities, setting the standard for private companies, individual states and communities to follow suit, Zients said.

Wednesday “starts a new day, a new, different approach to managing the country’s response to Covid-19 crisis,” he said.

That includes reversing Trump’s decision to leave the World Health Organization.

To underscore Biden’s decision, Zients said, leading US coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci will lead a delegation to take part in the WHO Executive Board meeting on Thursday.

“America’s withdrawal from the international arena has impeded progress on the global response and left us more vulnerable to future pandemics,” he said.

Gina McCarthy, the new administration’s chief climate advisor, said returning to the 2016 Paris accord was essential to making fighting climate change a central tenet of Biden administration policy.

Biden will reverse Trump decisions to ease emissions and efficiency standards, and rescind the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a large project that would bring relatively high-polluting Canadian oil into the United States.

“The day-one climate executive orders will begin to put the US back on the right footing, a footing we need to restore American leadership, helping to position our nation to be the global leader in clean energy and jobs,” said McCarthy.

Other actions by the new president will require a government-wide, proactive equality effort for minority groups, in hiring, contracting, and service.

“The President-elect has promised to root out systemic racism from our institutions,” said Susan Rice, his Domestic Policy Council director.

UK COVID-19 Strain In Over 60 Countries, Says WHO

 

The UK coronavirus strain has spread to at least 60 countries, the World Health Organization reported on Wednesday, after US President-elect Joe Biden led a moving tribute to American victims.

Covid-19 has claimed more than two million lives globally since it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan more than a year ago, while the total number of reported cases is edging towards 100 million, according to an AFP tally.

The arrival of mass inoculation drives in the United States, Europe, and Asia had brought hope that the end of the epidemic was in sight.

But deep concern over new variants of the deadly pathogen has triggered governments around the world to toughen constraints on restriction-weary populations as officials grapple with how to slow infections until vaccines become widely available.

In its weekly update, the WHO announced the strain first found in the UK was now in 10 more countries than seven days ago.

It said the South African variant — which similarly is believed to be more transmissible — has been reported in 23 countries and territories.

The number of new deaths climbed to a record high of 93,000 over the previous week, it added, with 4.7 million new cases reported over the same period.

Biden leads tributes

The US is by far the worst-hit nation with more than 400,000 deaths, and incoming Commander-in-Chief Biden focused on healing at a memorial for victims on the eve of his inauguration.

Almost a year after the US registered its first fatality, the pace of the pandemic has picked up with 100,000 deaths in the past month alone.

“It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation,” Biden said in sombre remarks on Tuesday in Washington at the National Mall reflecting pool, where lights were turned on as a memorial to those who have died.

“Let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all who we lost,” Biden said.

The President-elect has made tackling the pandemic his top priority, as he prepares to take office in Washington on Wednesday.

He is already being forced to take action, with his aides contradicting an order from outgoing President Donald Trump to lift travel bans to Europe and Brazil designed to stop the spread.

Beijing lockdown

In China, which has largely brought the virus under control, a partial lockdown was imposed on the capital Beijing on Wednesday, with 1.6 million residents banned from leaving the city.

The country is battling its largest resurgence of Covid-19 cases in nearly a year, although the official figures are startlingly low compared to the rest of the world: just seven cases were reported in Beijing on Wednesday.

Authorities ordered residents of the southern Beijing district of Daxing — which includes one of the city’s two international airports — to remain indoors.

But in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people now synonymous with the coronavirus, there were scenes of relaxation and travel freedoms this week.

Wet markets throng with shoppers, elderly dancers rehearse in the parks, and bars sell “Wuhan Stay Strong” craft beer.

“Wuhan had a tough year in 2020,” Wang Chen, a 20-year-old resident, told AFP outside the exhibition, adding that China “handled the crisis very well.”

Olympic spirit

Despite mounting case numbers, organisers of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics are “unwavering” on holding the event this year.

In an interview with AFP ahead of the six-month countdown, Games CEO Toshiro Muto insisted the sporting showpiece was still possible, but conceded people are “anxious”, including in Japan where Tokyo is under a state of emergency.

“We are not discussing cancellation,” he said, while admitting organisers couldn’t rule out staging the event without spectators.

“Holding the Games is our unwavering policy, and at this point in time we’re not discussing anything other than that.”

However, his view was in contrast to that of a senior official from the London 2012 Games Keith Mills, who told the BBC Tokyo officials should be making plans to cancel.

Meanwhile, on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, dozens of foreigners caught without masks have been subjected to an unusual punishment — push-ups in the street.

Video footage showed people in T-shirts and shorts doing the vigorous exercise on pavements in the sweltering tropical heat, as masked security officials stood over them.

AFP

Biden’s Inauguration Day: From Oath-Taking To Honouring COVID-19 Victims

US President-Elect Joe Biden speaks at Major Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III National Guard /Reserve Center in New Castle Airport on January 19, 2021, in New Castle, Delaware, before departing for Washington, DC.
JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Joe Biden will be sworn in on Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States, during a day steeped in tradition and ceremony that nonetheless has been altered due to the pandemic and tight security after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 17: A tent is seen outside of the Blair House, where President-elect Joe Biden will stay the night before this week’s inauguration on January 17, 2021
Sarah Silbiger / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Night at Blair House

Biden and his wife Jill will spend Tuesday night in the lavish Blair House, located opposite the White House on Lafayette Square, that the US government uses to host special guests and visiting dignitaries.

Religious services

On Wednesday morning Biden, a devout Catholic, will attend Mass at St Matthews church in Washington, and has invited Congressional leaders from both political parties.

Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman Kevin McCarthy will represent the Republicans, while Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi will also attend, sources have told AFP.

Taking the oath

Biden will then travel in a motorcade to the Capitol, the site of the January 6 riot by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, where the inauguration ceremony gets underway at 11:00 am (1600 GMT).

He will be sworn in after Vice President-elect Kamala Harris takes her vow, then will give his inaugural speech, during which he is expected to outline his vision to tackle America’s multiple crises and his plan to “build back better.”

The National Mall that runs from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial will be closed due to Covid-19 fears and because of tight security stemming from the January 6 attack.

Lady Gaga is due to sing the national anthem, while Jennifer Lopez is also set to give a musical performance.

As is custom, the newly inaugurated 46th US president will then dine with members of Congress in the Capitol building.

Arlington National Cemetery

In the afternoon, Biden will head to Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington to place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, accompanied by former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Trump, who is shunning the day’s events, will not be there.

 

Members of the National Guard gather near the US Capitol, ahead of the 59th inaugural ceremony for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Washington, DC on January 19, 2021. .
Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

White House

From Arlington, Biden will travel by motorcade to the White House and is expected make the last part of the journey on foot and enter his new home surrounded by a military cordon.

Biden is due to sign his first executive orders shortly after arriving.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 17: Members of Florida National Guard stand guard at the Lincoln Memorial on January 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. Raedle/Getty Images/AFP
JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Honoring the pandemic’s victims

At 8:25 pm, Biden and Harris will give a speech at the Lincoln Memorial, honoring the 400,000 people that have died from Covid-19 in America.

Shortly after, actor Tom Hanks will host a show called “Celebrating America” that will be broadcast on all major US networks.

Jon Bon Jovi, the Foo Fighters, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Luis Fonsi are among the guests expected to perform.

AFP

Biden Unveils $1.9 Trillion Economic Plan As US Recovery Buckles

US President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP
File photo: US President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP

 

President-elect Joe Biden will propose injecting $1.9 trillion into the US economy when he takes office next week, as evidence mounts that the recovery from the sharp downturn caused by Covid-19 is flagging.

With his fellow Democrats narrowly controlling both houses of Congress, Biden has a shot at passing what would be the United States’ third massive pandemic aid package.

Dubbed the American Rescue Plan, the proposal released Thursday includes a host of measures aimed at revitalizing the world’s largest economy.

READ ALSO: We Must Start Talking About Local Vaccine Production – Osinbajo

Biden aims to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, help struggling state and local governments, safely reopen schools, roll out a massive Covid-19 vaccination campaign and raise the size of stimulus checks Congress approved last month.

“The return on these investment in jobs, racial equity will prevent long-term economic damage, and the benefits will far surpass the cost,” Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware. “In this moment of crisis… we cannot afford inaction.”

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi embraced Biden’s plan, vowing to put it before lawmakers.

“We will get right to work to turn President-elect Biden’s vision into legislation that will pass both chambers and be signed into law,” they said in a joint statement.

 

File photo: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks prior to signing an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images/AFP

 

But this is just the first step, and the officials said Biden intends to present a second “recovery” plan to lawmakers soon after his inauguration on Wednesday aimed at spurring hiring and fighting climate change.

“We’ll use taxpayers’ dollars to rebuild America. We’ll buy American products, supporting millions of American manufacturing jobs, enhancing our competitive strength in an increasingly competitive world,” Biden said.

– Uncertain path –
The government on Thursday reported a spike in new jobless claim filings in the first week of 2021 to nearly a million, its highest level since August, while official data last week showed the economy shed jobs in December.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Scientists Identify Possible COVID-19 Treatment Drug, Says Osinbajo

Biden, 78, will take office after a tumultuous transition that saw a violent mob invade the US Capitol, egged on by outgoing President Donald Trump, as lawmakers were meeting to certify the Democrat’s election victory.

His stimulus proposal builds on two massive relief packages Congress approved in 2020, both increasing and extending through September unemployment benefits that have helped tens of millions of people pay their bills after losing their jobs during the pandemic.

It additionally calls for devising a way to maintain those programs if unemployment stays high, and also continues expanded government food assistance as the country struggles with some of its highest hunger levels in modern times.

But controversy could await the plan’s provision of $350 billion in funding to state and local governments, which Republican lawmakers blocked throughout last year.

Also potentially challenging is the president-elect’s move to increase the size of stimulus checks Americans received in the December package to $2,000, which would fulfill a campaign promise.

But with only the slimmest of majorities in Congress — including an evenly split Senate where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could have a tie-breaking vote — Democrats will have to woo some Republicans if anyone in their party breaks ranks.

One Democratic senator has already expressed hesitation over increasing the payments, but earlier this week Republican Senator Marco Rubio told Biden he would back the additional aid.

The proposal also calls for $160 billion to fight Covid-19, including through a national vaccination campaign, and $170 billion for schools, with the goal of getting most institutions with students in kindergarten through eighth grade open in the first 100 days of his administration.

– Would it work? –
Prior to the release of the specifics, Michael Feroli of JP Morgan predicted Congress could pare Biden’s plan down to the $900 billion range, matching the measure approved last month.

Even the smaller amount would boost GDP growth this year to 5.3 percent and in 2022 to 2.6 percent, he said, a “remarkable expected turnaround” aided also by negligible inflation and the Federal Reserve’s maintenance of low borrowing rates.

Other aspects of Biden’s plan include expanding tax credits aimed at fighting poverty and helping working parents afford childcare, plus extending a moratorium on evictions.

The plan offers flexible credits and grants for the small businesses that are major employers but have struggled to survive as states imposed restrictions to stop the virus.

AFP

Biden Names Samantha Power As US Aid Chief, Boosts Role

(FILES) In this file photo former US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks about the global refugee crisis at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC, June 29, 2016. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

 

President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated former ambassador Samantha Power, a forceful advocate of humanitarian diplomacy, to lead US foreign aid and elevated the position’s role.

Power, if confirmed as administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), would sit on the National Security Council along with John Kerry, the former secretary of state tapped as climate envoy — for the first time giving such prominence to the two issues.

“Samantha Power is a world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity — challenging and rallying the international community to stand up for the dignity and humanity of all people,” Biden said in a statement.

“As USAID administrator, Ambassador Power will be a powerful force for lifting up the vulnerable, ushering in a new era of human progress and development and advancing American interests globally.”

Power would be the best-known figure ever to lead USAID, a new indication that Biden plans to put a focus on overseas assistance, which Secretary of State-nominee Antony Blinken has said will be “at the center of our foreign policy.”

A former war correspondent born in Ireland, Power won the Pulitzer Prize for her 2002 book “A Problem from Hell” in which she critiques the US reluctance to label and prevent genocide around the world.

Power, 50, was an early supporter of Barack Obama who in his second term as president made her US ambassador to the United Nations.

In a memoir published in 2019 entitled “The Education of an Idealist,” Power described the struggles to fit her vision into the reality of governance, including her unsuccessful push for more action on Syria by Obama, who feared stronger US intervention would become a quagmire.

At USAID, Power will face an early test in seeing how US assistance can bridge inequalities that have been aggravated by the Covid-19 crisis, which the World Bank has estimated could plunge up to 115 million people worldwide into extreme poverty.

Outgoing president Donald Trump has been a staunch critic of foreign aid, saying the United States should focus on itself, although bipartisan coalitions in Congress have rejected his more drastic proposals of cuts.

The Trump administration has largely seen aid through the prism of competition with China and other powers, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boasting that the United States is “the most generous nation in the history of the world.”

Power would succeed acting USAID chief John Barsa, a Trump advisor who has raised controversy for installing outspoken conservatives and demanding the United Nations remove references to “reproductive health.”

AFP

Pence Rejects Invoking 25th Amendment To Remove Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Advisor Jared Kushner, speaks in the Oval Office to announce that Bahrain will establish diplomatic relations with Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC on September 11, 2020. Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

US Vice President Mike Pence told House leaders Tuesday he does not support invoking the 25th Amendment process to remove Donald Trump, all but guaranteeing an impeachment vote against the besieged president.

“With just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment,” Pence wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, referring to the process that would declare Trump unable to fulfill his duties and install Pence as acting president for the remainder of the term.

“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution,” he said.

 

A fly rests on the head of US Vice President Mike Pence as he takes notes during the vice presidential debate against US Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California Kamala Harris in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (ERIC BARADAT / AFP )
A fly rests on the head of US Vice President Mike Pence as he takes notes during the vice presidential debate against US Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California Kamala Harris in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (ERIC BARADAT / AFP)

 

Democrats mobilized rapidly to begin the process to have Trump removed after he encouraged his supporters last Wednesday to “march” to the US Capitol and “fight.”

In a violent insurrection, the rioters stormed past outnumbered police, rampaged through and ransacked the building, and interrupted Congress as it was certifying Joe Biden’s election victory.

Pence, who was presiding over the vote, as well as Pelosi and other lawmakers, were forced to take shelter. Five people died during the unrest including a US Capitol Police officer.

READ ALSO: England Opens Mass Vaccination Sites As COVID-19 Spike Fears Spread

The vice president’s letter came just hours before the House of Representatives was to vote on a resolution that calls on Pence to initiate the 25th Amendment process and “declare what is obvious to a horrified nation: that the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”

Pelosi has said Pence’s failure to trigger that process would lead to a Trump impeachment vote on Wednesday. She has described Trump as being “unhinged.”

But Pence told Pelosi that her call for invoking the 25th Amendment was misplaced, saying it was designed to “address presidential incapacity or disability,” not as a “means of punishment or usurpation.”

He also pointed out that despite intense pressure from within his party to invalidate the electoral votes from swing states won by Biden, he fulfilled his consitutional duty to certify the results.

“I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our nation,” he wrote.

Earlier in the day Trump said the 25th Amendment was of “zero risk” to him.

AFP

Biden Urged To Renounce Sole Control Of US Nuclear Weapons

US President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP
File photo: US President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP

 

 

A former US defense secretary has called on President-elect Joe Biden to reform the system that gives sole control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to the president, calling it “outdated, unnecessary and extremely dangerous.”

The call from William Perry came the same day US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with the nation’s top military leader about ensuring that an “unhinged” President Donald Trump not be able to launch a nuclear attack in his final days in office.

“Once in office, Biden should announce he would share authority to use nuclear weapons with a select group in Congress,” said Perry, who served under President Bill Clinton.

He was writing in Politico magazine with Tom Collina of the Ploughshares Fund, which advocates for stronger nuclear controls.

They said Biden, who takes office January 20, should also declare that the United States will never start a nuclear war and would use the bomb only in retaliation.

The piece argues that the current system gives the president — any president — “the godlike power to deliver global destruction in an instant,” an approach the authors call “undemocratic, outdated, unnecessary and extremely dangerous.”

Perry, who was defense minister from 1994 to 1997, calls Trump “unhinged” and adds, “Do we really think that Trump is responsible enough to trust him with the power to end the world?”

American presidents are accompanied at all times by a military aide who carries a briefcase known as “the football” which contains the secret codes and information needed to launch a nuclear strike.

Perry and Collina warn that presidents possess the “absolute authority to start a nuclear war.

“Within minutes, Trump can unleash hundreds of atomic bombs, or just one. He does not need a second opinion. The Defense secretary has no say. Congress has no role.”

They then ask: “Why are we taking this risk?”

Such vast presidential authority, the article notes, dates from the waning days of World War II, when President Harry Truman decided, after the nuclear horror unleashed by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, that the power to order the use of atomic weapons should not be left in the hands of the military — that it should be up to the president alone.

AFP

Biden Urged To Renounce Sole Control Of US Nuclear Weapons

US President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP
File photo: US President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP

 

A former US defense secretary has called on President-elect Joe Biden to reform the system that gives sole control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to the president, calling it “outdated, unnecessary and extremely dangerous.”

The call from William Perry came the same day US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with the nation’s top military leader about ensuring that an “unhinged” President Donald Trump not be able to launch a nuclear attack in his final days in office.

“Once in office, Biden should announce he would share authority to use nuclear weapons with a select group in Congress,” said Perry, who served under President Bill Clinton.

He was writing in Politico magazine with Tom Collina of the Ploughshares Fund, which advocates for stronger nuclear controls.

READ ALSO: Facebook And Twitter Block Trump’s Account For Breaking Rules

They said Biden, who takes office January 20, should also declare that the United States will never start a nuclear war and would use the bomb only in retaliation.

The piece argues that the current system gives the president — any president — “the godlike power to deliver global destruction in an instant,” an approach the authors call “undemocratic, outdated, unnecessary and extremely dangerous.”

Perry, who was defense minister from 1994 to 1997, calls Trump “unhinged” and adds, “Do we really think that Trump is responsible enough to trust him with the power to end the world?”

American presidents are accompanied at all times by a military aide who carries a briefcase known as “the football” which contains the secret codes and information needed to launch a nuclear strike.

Perry and Collina warn that presidents possess the “absolute authority to start a nuclear war.

“Within minutes, Trump can unleash hundreds of atomic bombs, or just one. He does not need a second opinion. The Defense secretary has no say. Congress has no role.”

They then ask: “Why are we taking this risk?”

Such vast presidential authority, the article notes, dates from the waning days of World War II, when president Harry Truman decided, after the nuclear horror unleashed by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, that the power to order the use of atomic weapons should not be left in the hands of the military — that it should be up to the president alone.

AFP

Trump’s Impeachment Is For Congress To Decide, Says Biden

This combination of file pictures created on October 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump (L) and former Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. JIM WATSON, Morry GASH / AFP
This combination of file pictures created on October 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump (L) and former Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. JIM WATSON, Morry GASH / AFP

 

 

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday strongly indicated he does not back moves to impeach President Donald Trump, saying the quickest way to get him out of office is through the transition in two weeks.

“The quickest way that will happen is us being sworn in on the 20th,” said Biden, who will take the oath of office on January 20.

“What actually happens before or after, that is a judgment for the Congress to make. But that’s what I am looking forward to: him leaving office.”

Biden was addressing reporters in his hometown of Wilmington two days after Trump encouraged a mob of supporters to march on Congress.

Democratic leaders in Congress have growing momentum for attempting to impeach Trump for the second time in his presidency. There is little support so far among Republicans, although they too have loudly condemned Trump’s behavior.

This was Biden’s first extended reaction to the talk of impeaching Trump or trying to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment removing the president from office.

Biden’s hesitancy to support his party on impeachment reflects the fact that he already faces a mammoth task in working to heal divisions in US society.

“We’re going to do our job and Congress can decide how to proceed,” Biden said.

“The idea that I think he shouldn’t be out of office yesterday is not an issue. The question is what happens with 14 days to go, 13 days left to go?”

Biden Says Trump Decision To Skip Inauguration A ‘Good Thing’

President-elect Joe Biden introduces key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments at the Queen Theatre on November 24, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP
President-elect Joe Biden introduces key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments at the Queen Theatre on November 24, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President-elect Joe Biden welcomed Donald Trump’s announcement on Friday that he won’t attend the January 20 inauguration, calling it a “good thing.”

“I was told on the way over here that he indicated he wasn’t going to show up at the inauguration,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware.

“One of the few things he and I have ever agreed on,” Biden said. “It’s a good thing, him not showing up.”

“He’s been an embarrassment to the country,” Biden said.

“He’s not fit to serve,” the president-elect added of Trump, who is facing the possibility of being impeached next week for inciting his supporters to storm the US Capitol.

“He exceeded even my worst notions about him,” Biden said. “He’s one of the most incompetent presidents in the history of the United States of America.”

Biden said Vice President Mike Pence would be welcome at his inauguration.

Biden’s remarks came after Trump tweeted earlier Friday that he would not attend the inauguration.

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th,” Trump tweeted.

Biden Promises Economic Help Is On The Way

File photo: President-elect Joe Biden Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President-elect Joe Biden on Friday introduced the final members of his “worker power” economic team and pledged to provide more help for struggling families and small businesses.

Speaking just one day after lawmakers finally certified his election victory following the invasion of the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump, Biden announced he would next week unveil a relief program for the pandemic-ravaged economy.

The far-reaching package including stimulus checks to taxpayers and an increase in the minimum wage will be a top priority for Biden, along with accelerating the Covid-19 vaccine rollout that he called “a travesty.”

“We need more direct relief flowing to families, small businesses, including finishing the job of getting people the $2,000 in relief direct payment,” he said.

The $600 stimulus checks included in an aid package Congress approved in late December “is simply not enough,” Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Senate blocked an effort to increase the second round of stimulus payments to $2,000, but Biden said families are having “to choose between paying rent, putting food on the table (and) keeping the lights on.”

His team also will give special attention to small businesses, especially those owned by minorities, and provide “support to help them get through the other side of this crisis”

He lamented that under the Trump administration “big, well-connected businesses jumped in front of the line” to get aid, and vowed to tighten controls to prevent fraud.

In an aid package passed in December, Congress approved $284 billion for a second round of loans to small businesses via the Paycheck Protection Program, which are due to roll out starting next week.

Biden said money is needed to reopen schools safely, and also for state and local governments to retain teachers, police officers and firefighters.

With Democrats poised to take control of both houses of Congress following victories in two Senate runoff races in Georgia, Biden said he hopes to win support for increasing the US minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“I’ve long said that we need to reward work, not just wealth, in this country. People in both parties recognize it’s time to raise the minimum wage,” he said.

If confirmed by the Senate, the nominees he introduced Friday will play key roles in implementing his economic programs.

He named Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as Commerce Secretary, Boston mayor and former union president Martin Walsh as Labor Secretary, and Isabel Guzman, a former official in Barack Obama’s administration, as Small Business Administration chief.

Raimondo would be involved in negotiating the aftermath of trade wars instigated by Trump, as well as in the ongoing debate over how to regulate tech giants.