Biden To Appoint Longtime Aide Blinken As US Top Diplomat

In this file photo taken on June 20, 2016 US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken takes part in a naturalization ceremony on World Refugee Day in recognition of those who have come to the US with refugee or asylum seeker status, at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate seasoned diplomat Antony Blinken as his secretary of state, a decision likely to signal a return to multilateralism after Donald Trump’s shunning of traditional allies, US media reported Sunday.

A mild-mannered policy wonk who is fluent in French and plays guitar on the side, the 58-year-old Blinken is a longtime aide to Biden who served as deputy secretary of state during Barack Obama’s presidency.

 

US President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020. ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP
US President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020. ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP

 

Bloomberg, The New York Times and several other news organizations reported on the plan to nominate Blinken, quoting anonymous sources close to the president-elect.

The Washington Post and other news outlets said that the national security advisor job would go to Jake Sullivan, another veteran Biden aide known for his mastery of policy detail and lack of personal drama.

Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, told ABC News that Biden would make his first cabinet announcements on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Biden To Announce First Cabinet Appointments On Tuesday

Blinken, who would need Senate confirmation, could help reassure the United States’ allies that have been shunned and at times insulted by Trump.

 

In this file photo taken on June 20, 2016 US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken takes part in a naturalization ceremony on World Refugee Day in recognition of those who have come to the US with refugee or asylum seeker status, at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

A committed Europhile, the New York-born Blinken went to high school in Paris — where his stepfather, a Holocaust survivor, practiced law — and later worked himself as an attorney in France.

Polished and courteous, he could hardly be more different in personality than the hard-charging outgoing secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

But one common trait would be their close alliances with their bosses, with Blinken advising Biden since the president-elect’s time as a senator.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on Twitter that Blinken would be a strong secretary of state.

Besides thorough knowledge of foreign policy, Blinken has “a relationship with his boss that allows him to speak truth to power and the authority to speak for his boss,” Haass wrote.

– ‘Standing up for our values’ –
Pompeo, a steadfast loyalist of Trump even as the president refuses to concede defeat, has put a priority on a more confrontational approach to China and containing Iran.

In remarks during the campaign, Blinken said he also saw China as a competitor but was willing to find areas on which to work with Beijing, including in fighting climate change and global pandemics such as Covid-19.

He faulted Trump’s approach, saying that the president needlessly alienated US allies and had reduced American credibility by challenging democratic norms at home.

“We need to be standing up for our values and put them back at the center of our foreign policy, not walk away from them,” Blinken told the Hudson Institute.

Blinken was closely involved in the Obama administration’s sealing of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran that Trump exited.

Blinken has strongly criticized Trump’s withdrawal, noting that Iran has since boosted its nuclear program and stepped up its support for regional proxies, even as its economy takes a hit from US sanctions.

Along with other Biden aides, Blinken has said that the United States should be willing to return to the Iran deal but at the same time seek a stronger and longer-lasting agreement.

READ ALSO: Twitter To Hand @POTUS Account To Biden On Inauguration Day

The rival Republican Party will remain in charge of the Senate unless Democrats win both runoff elections in January in Georgia.

Republicans have made clear that they will exert their power over cabinet choices, but Blinken, well-known after his years working on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, may be a comparatively non-controversial choice.

AFP

Biden To Announce First Cabinet Appointments On Tuesday

In this file photo taken on November 16, 2020, US President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

 

US President-elect Joe Biden will name on Tuesday the first picks to be part of his administration, his chief of staff said, as Donald Trump refuses to concede his loss to the Democrat.

Biden has been pushing ahead with preparations to take over as president in January despite Trump’s moves on multiple fronts to try to undo the results of the November 3 vote.

“You are going to see the first of the president-elect’s cabinet picks on Tuesday of this week,” Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

“You’ll have to wait for the president-elect to say that himself on Tuesday,” he added.

With the clock ticking down to Biden’s January 20 inauguration, Trump’s team has focused on trying to stop battleground states from certifying election results while continuing to pursue   legal challenges that have so far failed.

A Pennsylvania judge on Saturday threw out Donald Trump’s claims of widespread electoral fraud there in a scathing ruling which excoriated the Trump team’s legal strategy.

“Donald Trump’s been rejecting democracy. He has been… launching baseless claims of voter fraud, baseless litigation rejected by 34 courts,” Klain told ABC.

“It’s corrosive, it’s harmful, but… it’s not going to change the outcome of what happens here at 12 noon on Jan. 20: Joe Biden will become the next president of the United States.”

AFP

Georgia Recount: Trump Blames Secretary Of State, Governor For Loss

 

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 20: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Donald Trump held his first press conference in over a week to make an announcement on prescription drug prices as he continues to challenge the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP
TASOS KATOPODIS / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

 

 

Donald Trump’s continual insistence on election fraud as the reason for his loss in the 2020 US election has lingered despite hand recounts in the state of  Georgia.

Joe Biden was proclaimed winner in Georgia with 12,670 votes after being officially certified by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

In a recent tweet, Trump blamed Republican party members Raffensperger and  Georgia Governor, Brian Kemp for his loss in the state after they refused his team a look at illegal ballots which would have given him and his party members victory.

 

He further went on to say this in his tweet

READ ALSO: Georgia Recount Complete, Affirms Biden Win – Local Officials

”…Why won’t they do it, and why are they so fast to certify a meaningless tally.”

 

Despite his ongoing claims of election fraud, his political rival president-elect Joe Biden has been busy with organising his cabinets with Ron Klain to be his incoming chief of staff and nine close campaign aides being appointed to key positions in the White house.

Georgia Recount Complete, Affirms Biden Win – Local Officials

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

 

The US state of Georgia has completed a manual recount of all the ballots cast there in the presidential election, and the results confirm Joe Biden’s win in the state, a local official announced Thursday.

“The audit confirmed that the original machine count accurately portrayed the winner of the election,” a statement posted on the website of Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger said.

The confirmation makes Biden the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the southern US state in almost three decades, despite his rival Donald Trump’s claims of fraud.

READ ALSO: Biden Celebrates His 78th Birthday

Trump’s campaign will likely demand yet another recount.

While a growing number of Republicans are calling for Trump’s administration to recognize Biden as president-elect, the party’s leaders on Capitol Hill have attempted to humor the president — while some conservatives are doubling down in his support.

Republican Jim Jordan wrote the House Judiciary Committee calling for an investigation into the election’s integrity “amid troubling reports of irregularities and improprieties.”

But more than two weeks after the election, a Pew Research poll shows Americans approve of Biden’s conduct far more than Trump’s.

Sixty-two percent said Biden’s conduct since November 3 has been excellent or good, compared to just 31 percent who said the same of Trump.

Biden Speaks To Trump Allies Netanyahu, Modi

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

 

US President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday held his first talks since his victory with the prime ministers of Israel and India, allies of Donald Trump who has not conceded defeat.

Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had a notoriously rocky relationship with the last Democratic president, Barack Obama, that he was determined “to ensure that the US-Israel relationship is strengthened and enjoys strong bipartisan support.”

Biden “reiterated his steadfast support for Israel’s security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state,” the president-elect’s office said in a statement.

The office of Netanyahu, who had vigorously challenged the 2009-2017 Obama-Biden administration over its diplomacy with Iran and push for Palestinian rights, said he had a “warm” conversation with the president-elect.

Biden also spoke to President Reuven Rivlin, whose position is largely ceremonial.

“I said that as an old friend of Israel he knows our friendship is based on values beyond partisan politics,” Rivlin wrote on Twitter.

Biden separately voiced optimism about working with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had heaped praise on Trump in two giant joint rallies in Texas and Gujarat.

India enjoys support across party lines in Washington but Democratic lawmakers have increasingly voiced concern about human rights under the Hindu nationalist Modi, including his championing of a controversial citizenship law and revocation of autonomy in Muslim-majority Kashmir.

Biden said he hoped to cooperate with Modi on common challenges including the Covid pandemic, regional security, climate change and, in a delicate choice of words, on “strengthening democracy at home and abroad.”

The Indian foreign ministry said Modi for his part called for cooperation on promoting access to affordable vaccines and also conveyed greetings to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, whose mother was born in India.

Trump has refused to concede defeat two weeks after the election but the leaders of virtually all countries have congratulated Biden except Russia, Mexico, Brazil, North Korea and Slovenia.

Biden’s first calls took place with US allies who had tense ties with Trump including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

AFP

US Senate Blocks Trump’s Candidate For Federal Reserve Job

In this file photo taken on February 13, 2020, Judy Shelton testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee during a hearing on their nomination to be member-designate on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, DC.  Sarah Silbiger / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

 

The US Senate on Tuesday blocked President Donald Trump’s controversial pick from joining the Federal Reserve board, at least for now.

Two Republicans joined Democrats in opposing Judy Shelton, a strident critic of the central bank who has faced an unprecedented public wave of resistance from dozens of well-known economists and Nobel laureates.

Vice President-elect and Senator Kamala Harris returned to Washington to cast the tie-breaking vote, interrupting planning for President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

However, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also voted no making the final tally 50-47, likely a strategic move which leaves the door open for him to call for another vote.

Covid-19 complicated the voting, as two Republican senators were unable to vote because they were in quarantine, including Chuck Grassley of Iowa — who missed a vote for the first time since 1993.

A third Republican who was absent publicly opposed Shelton’s nomination.

Shelton was an outspoken supporter of low-interest rates when President Barack Obama was in office.

Her nomination was one of several Trump made that would have undermined the political independence of the US central bank.

“We need a reliable Federal Reserve to help manage our economy in this pandemic. Judy Shelton’s dangerous ideas would devastate our economy, and her lack of commitment to using the full force of the Fed to provide COVID-19 relief is unacceptable,” Harris said on Twitter after the vote.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 7, 2020, after being declared the winners of the presidential election. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP)

 

Shelton also has expressed support for returning to the gold standard — where the currency is tied to a fixed quantity of gold — believing that such a system would guarantee stability for exchange rates.

However, a return to the gold standard is viewed as unrealistic and outdated by the majority of economists — it was abandoned in 1971 by President Richard Nixon.

Fed nominations are always bipartisan, but Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the upper chamber, lambasted Shelton as supremely unfit for the position.

She is “without a doubt one of the most unqualified nominees I have ever seen for our nation’s central bank,” he said on the Senate floor, criticizing her as an “economic weather vane pointing whichever way she thinks the partisan winds are blowing.”

AFP

Trump Fires Top US Election Security Official

US President Donald Trump delivers an update on “Operation Warp Speed” in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on November 13, 2020. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Donald Trump on Tuesday fired the government’s top election security official, who had rejected the president’s unsubstantiated claims of “massive” fraud in the vote he lost to Joe Biden.

Trump announced on Twitter the termination “effective immediately” of Chris Krebs, who leads the agency that jointly declared “the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”

Trump, who refuses to acknowledge that he lost his bid for reelection to Democrat Biden, has repeatedly claimed without evidence that the voting and count were replete with fraud.

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

“Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

Krebs, who reportedly told friends last week he expected to be removed, appeared to confirm it in a tweet on his personal account.

– No evidence –
“Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow,” he wrote.

Krebs was in charge of fending off possible foreign and domestic hacker intrusions into myriad voting machines, sorting and counting machines, databases and other systems that states and localities rely on to tally ballots.

Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Krebs and his team had “worked diligently to safeguard our elections.”

“Instead of rewarding this great service, President Trump is retaliating against Director Krebs and other officials who did their duty,” he said in a statement.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse wrote: “Chris Krebs did a really good job — as state election officials all across the nation will tell you — and he obviously should not be fired.”

The challenge was even tougher this year because of the complexities of the coronavirus, which forced a sweeping turn to voting by mail.

Under Krebs, CISA had also warned several times that Russians and Iranians were making attempts to break into US systems, as Russians had tried in 2016.

The White House was reportedly particularly unhappy about a CISA webpage set up to fight disinformation called “Rumor vs Reality.”

The page rejected claims Trump and others have made, including that many votes were made in the names of dead people, that counting the ballots days after election day is not normal and that shifting vote counts indicate fraud.

Through numerous reviews, investigations and lawsuits, no evidence has come up of any significant distortion or loss of votes, by accident or fraud.

“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” an official group of senior US federal and state election officials said in a report last week.

And on Monday, a group of 59 top election security experts also dismissed claims of significant malfunction or fraud, saying the claims “either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.”

AFP

Trump Sought Options From Aides About Striking Iran Nuclear Site: Report

. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

Two months before he is due to leave office, President Donald Trump asked top aides about the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear facilities, The New York Times reported Monday.

During a meeting at the Oval Office last Thursday, the outgoing Republican leader asked several top aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, “whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks,” the newspaper said.

The senior officials “dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike,” warning him that such an attack could escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of his presidency, the Times wrote.

Trump reportedly asked the question after a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that Iran was continuing to stockpile uranium.

According to the Times, the most likely target of such a strike would have been Natanz, where the IAEA reported that Tehran’s “uranium stockpile was now 12 times larger than permitted under the nuclear accord that Mr Trump abandoned in 2018,” three years after it was signed in a bid to curb Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Iran has long been Trump’s bete noire, and he first reintroduced sanctions and then tightened them even further after scrapping the nuclear accord.

European partners in the accord have struggled to keep the deal afloat despite Trump’s efforts to torpedo it, and are hoping for a renewed diplomatic approach after the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden on November 3, although Trump refuses to concede his loss.

The Trump administration has pledged to step up the punitive measures, which some critics see as an attempt to build up a “wall of sanctions” that Biden would have difficulty tearing down once he takes office.

-AFP

Trump Retracts Apparent Admission Of Defeat

This combination of pictures created on September 29, 2020 shows Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and US President Donald Trump speaking during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. JIM WATSON, SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

President Donald Trump appeared accidentally to admit his election defeat in a tweet on Sunday morning — before reversing course to claim he won, and once again push unsubstantiated claims of mass fraud in the vote.

Trump has refused to concede the November 3 US election to challenger Joe Biden, and repeatedly said he intends to overturn the result through legal cases.

His aides say he is preparing for a second term in office despite the vote count confirming Biden’s clear victory.

“He won because the Election was Rigged,” Trump tweeted early Sunday.

The phrasing — coming two days after a slip in which he said “time will tell” if he remains president — was immediately seized upon as one more step towards admitting defeat.

But the president soon followed up with a sharp U-turn, tweeting “He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go.”

Thousands of Trump supporters rallied in Washington on Saturday, backing his claims of fraud, with clashes erupting in the evening with rival protesters.

At least 20 people were arrested, reports said, including four for firearm violations and one for assault on a police officer.

Trump himself made a drive-past of the rally in his armored motorcade, on his way to play golf, smiling through his limousine window to wild cheers and signs saying “Best prez ever” and “Trump 2020: Keep America Great.”

– Large pro-Trump rally –

Many of Trump’s tweets over the weekend alleging the election was rigged against him have been tagged by Twitter as containing “disputed” information.

John Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, told CNN’s “State of the Union” show on Sunday that “as every day goes by, it’s clearer there isn’t any evidence” of fraud.

“Donald Trump lost… by a free and valid election,” Bolton said, adding “I don’t expect him to go graciously. I do expect him to go.”

On Saturday, at least 10,000 people — few wearing masks — massed in Washington’s Freedom Plaza before marching to the Supreme Court in a raucous atmosphere reminiscent of a Trump campaign rally.

After dark, groups of Trump supporters and counter-protesters clashed on the streets, scuffling and throwing punches.

Trump seemed to be following the evening’s events, accusing the city’s mayor of “not doing her job” and calling on the police to “get going — do your job and don’t hold back.”

The latest vote tallies gave the Democrat Biden a clear win in the state-by-state Electoral College that decides the presidency, with 306 votes against Trump’s 232. Two hundred and seventy votes are required for election.

AFP

Trump Still In Defiant Spirit, But Says Of His Future: ‘Who Knows’

US President Donald Trump delivers an update on “Operation Warp Speed” in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on November 13, 2020.
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Donald Trump said Friday that “time will tell” if he remains president, in a momentary slip of his unprecedented refusal to concede his election defeat and help Democrat Joe Biden prepare to take power.

Trump broke his silence after a week without on-camera comments, speaking at a Rose Garden event to herald the imminent authorization of a coronavirus vaccine.

During a short speech about the vaccine work, Trump insisted that he would never again call for a lockdown to curb the virus’ spread.

Then he added: “Hopefully, the, the whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be, I guess time will tell.”

The hint of doubt in Trump’s mind came despite him continuing to push a conspiracy theory that mass fraud — for which no evidence exists — robbed him of victory in the November 3 election.

On Friday, Trump tweeted thanks to supporters backing his claim that the “Election was Rigged” and said he might “stop by and say hello” at rallies planned in Washington on Saturday.

A number of groups under the banners of “Stop The Steal”, “Million MAGA March” and “Women for America First” have planned rallies for the day.

Speakers are reported to include prominent Trump supporters, including US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has promoted the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

QAnon adherents claim Trump is waging a secret war against a global liberal cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

Trump continues to block Biden’s ability to prepare his transition ahead of inauguration on January 20 and he has filed numerous lawsuits — unsuccessfully — to challenge vote counts around the country.

On Friday, a judge in Michigan issued another rejection of Republican claims of fraud.

Trump was speaking just after television networks projected results in the final two undeclared states — Biden winning the former Republican stronghold of Georgia in an extremely close race, and Trump getting North Carolina.

Those last tallies gave Biden a solid overall final win in the state-by-state Electoral College that decides the presidency with 306 votes against Trump’s 232.

– Trump hunkers down –

Throughout the post-election period, Trump has been absent in public at least from normal presidential duties and notably silent about dramatically soaring coronavirus infection rates around the country and steadily rising deaths.

He has only left the White House to play golf twice and to attend a brief Veterans’ Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Earlier Friday, Trump attended a briefing in the Oval Office on the vaccine search — one of the first times he has had official business on his public schedule since the election.

But Trump did not take questions after his Rose Garden remarks. He hasn’t had any sort of press conference since the election and his last public remarks were on November 5, when he falsely claimed to have won.

According to the website factba.se, which keeps track of Trump’s pronouncements, this was the longest he’d gone without speaking on camera since he became president.

– Alternate realities –

Despite his own intelligence officials’ declaration Thursday that the election was “the most secure in American history,” Trump and his right-wing media allies show no sign of giving up their quest to get the results overturned.

“President Trump believes he will be President Trump, have a second term,” spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News.

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro also told Fox Business on Friday that “we think he won that election.”

“We are moving forward here at the White House under the assumption that there will be a second Trump term,” he said.

Biden, meanwhile, is steadily preparing to take over on January 20 and the list of world leaders accepting that he will be the new president keeps lengthening.

China was the latest nation on board, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying “we express our congratulations.”

However, Biden’s newly appointed chief of staff, Ron Klain, told MSNBC late Thursday that moves by Trump to block the incoming administration from access to confidential government briefings posed a growing risk.

Klain highlighted the inability to join in on preparations for rolling out the Covid vaccine in “February and March when Joe Biden will be president.”

“The sooner we can get our transition experts into meetings with the folks who are planning the vaccination campaign, the more seamless,” he said.

Top Republicans remain outwardly loyal to Trump, but there appears to be widening discomfort within the party over the blocking of Biden’s transition team.

Senator James Lankford told Tulsa Radio KRMG earlier this week that he was giving Trump until the end of the week to allow Biden access to the daily presidential intelligence briefing or “I will step in.”

-AFP

‘No Evidence’ Of Compromised Votes, US Election Officials Say

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

 

There is no evidence of compromised ballots or corrupt voting systems in the US election, officials said Thursday, as a top Democrat accused Republicans who refuse to accept President-elect Joe Biden’s win of “poisoning” democracy.

Their messages came hours after President Donald Trump once again cried foul, retweeting a baseless claim that an election equipment maker “deleted” 2.7 million votes for him nationwide.

Biden, who leads by more than five million in the popular vote, cemented his victory late Thursday by winning Arizona, US networks said, flipping the state Democratic for the first time since 1996.

Arizona gives Biden a 290-217 lead over Trump in the Electoral College, with 270 needed to win the White House.

With most Republican lawmakers having yet to acknowledge Biden’s win, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s top Democrat, accused them Thursday of “denying reality” and “auditioning for profiles in cowardice.”

“Instead of working to pull the country back together so that we can fight our common enemy Covid-19, Republicans in Congress are spreading conspiracy theories, denying reality and poisoning the well of our democracy,” he said.

Senior US federal and state election officials meanwhile in a statement rejected Trump’s claims of fraud, saying that “the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”

The statement was issued by the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, a public-private umbrella group under the primary federal election security body, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” they said.

“While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too,” the statement said.

It was signed by the heads of the National Association of State Election Directors and the National Association of Secretaries of State — the officials who manage elections at the state level — and by the chairman of the US Election Assistance Commission.

– ‘Absurd circus’ –
The statement came just hours after Trump’s retweet, which in addition to claiming 2.7 million “deleted” votes also said hundreds of thousand had been switched from him to Biden in Pennsylvania and other states.

US President Donald Trump speaks during election night in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, early on November 4, 2020. MANDEL NGAN / AFP
US President Donald Trump speaks during election night in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, early on November 4, 2020. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

It was the latest in a series of bogus assertions Trump and Republicans have put forth in order to reject Biden’s victory.

Republican lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have stood firm with Trump by supporting his refusal to concede and backing his legal challenges.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in Thursday to demand Republicans stop what she called an “absurd circus” and turn to combatting the pandemic.

“Now that the people have expressed their views, Joe Biden has won (and) Kamala Harris will be the first woman vice president of the United States,” Pelosi said.

Political experts believe Republicans may be invoking such a strategy as a way to rile up Trump’s base before two US Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the chamber.

A total of 161 former national security officials, including some who worked with Trump, additionally warned the current administration’s continued delay in recognizing Biden’s victory is posing “a serious risk to national security.”

In a letter, the group including ex-Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel and Trump’s former National Security Council senior counterterrorism director Javed Ali urged General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy to recognize Biden as the apparent president-elect.

Without a GSA signoff, transition funds and other resources including access to intelligence briefings cannot flow to Biden and his team, but Murphy has refused to budge.

AFP

Trump Bans US Investment In Chinese Firms That Help Military

This combination of file pictures created on April 4, 2017 shows US President Donald Trump in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016 and China’s leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on December 5, 2012. Ed Jones, Paul J. RICHARDS / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump signed an order Thursday that will ban Americans from investing in Chinese firms that could help Beijing’s military and security apparatus.

The executive order said the Chinese government obliges private firms to support these activities and through capital markets “exploits United States investors to finance the development and modernization of its military.”

The ban takes effect January 11 just days before Trump’s presidency ends and is the latest move in increasingly tense US relations with the Asian power.

Investors have until November 11, 2021 to divest any holdings in the banned companies, according to the order.

Trump declared a national emergency saying American investors are helping China “to directly threaten the United States homeland and United States forces overseas, including by developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction, advanced conventional weapons, and malicious cyber-enabled actions against the United States and its people.”

The prohibition targets a list of 31 companies, including telecoms, aerospace and construction firms, according to press reports.

AFP