President Joe Biden flew Tuesday to storm-ravaged New York and New Jersey, just days after inspecting the damage caused by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana — a trail of destruction the Democrat blames on climate change.
Biden — who is pushing a giant infrastructure spending bill, including major funding for the green economy — argues that extreme weather across the United States this summer is a harbinger of worse to come.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden believes the latest devastation shows “the average costs of extreme weather are getting bigger and no one is immune from climate change.”
Ida struck the US Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing major flooding and knocking out power to large parts of the heavily populated region, which is also a main hub for the oil industry.
The departing remnants of the hurricane then caught authorities in the New York region by surprise, with ferocious rainfall triggering flash flooding.
The final blast of the storm killed at least 47 people in the US Northeast as it turned streets into raging rivers, inundated basements and shut down the New York subway.
And while one part of the country buckles under hurricane fallout, California and other parts of the west are struggling to combat ever fiercer wildfires.
Biden was to tour Manville, New Jersey and the New York borough of Queens before making remarks at 4:00 pm (2000 GMT).
With his presidency straining from the aftermath of the Afghanistan pullout and surging Covid infections at home, Biden faces a difficult coming few weeks, including a struggle to get his infrastructure plans through the narrowly divided Congress.
The White House hopes that the dramatic impact from Hurricane Ida in two different parts of the country will galvanize action on the spending bills.
“It’s so imperative that we act on addressing the climate crisis and investing… through his ‘Build Back Better’ agenda, which is working its way through Congress,” Psaki said.
Biden is due to “highlight how one in three Americans live in counties that have been impacted by severe weather events in recent months,” she said.
“Just over the summer, 100 million Americans have been impacted by extreme weather — obviously in the northeast, out west with wildfires, and then in the Gulf Coast.”
President Joe Biden will on Wednesday propose a $2 trillion infrastructure plan aimed at modernizing the United States’ crumbling transport network, creating millions of jobs and enabling the country to “out-compete” China.
The first phase of Biden’s “Build Back Better” program, which he will unveil in a speech in Pittsburgh, will detail massive investment spread over eight years.
It plans to inject $620 billion into transport, including upgrading 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of roads and highways, repairing thousands of bridges and doubling federal funding for public transit.
The president, whom Donald Trump tried to caricature as “Sleepy Joe” and a man without strong ideas or motivation, intends to make the bold infrastructure plan one of his flagship policies.
“He views his role as laying out… a broad vision, a bold vision for how we can invest in America, American workers, our communities,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The investment would be partly paid for by raising corporate tax from 21 percent to 28 percent.
“The President is proposing to fundamentally reform the corporate tax code so that it incentivizes job creation and investment… and ensures that large corporations are paying their fair share,” a senior administration official said ahead of the speech.
The new legislative offensive comes soon after Congress passed a nearly $2 trillion Covid-19 economic stimulus plan.
And Biden’s speech is set to open a bitter battle in Congress, where the Democrats hold only a narrow majority and will face strong opposition from the Republicans.
The coming months will test the negotiating skills of the Democratic president, a veteran of Washington politics and deal-making, to the limit, and the chances of his infrastructure plan passing into law remain uncertain.
– ‘Urgency of the moment’ –
“It’s an important initiative to start the process with the president being very clear that he’s got a plan, and that he’s open to hearing what others think,” the administration official said.
“But what he is uncompromising about is the urgency of the moment and the need to really deliver for the American people and make good on building back better in this moment.”
The plan also vows to “spark the electric vehicle revolution” by building a network of 500,000 EV chargers, replacing 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrifying 20 percent of the famous yellow school buses.
And it aims to make infrastructure more resilient to climate change.
With much of the country’s creaking infrastructure dating back to the 1950s, the dream of new roads, bridges, railways and airports is shared by many Americans.
But building a political consensus to transform Biden’s plan into reality is no easy task.
Both his predecessors Barack Obama and Trump had great ambitions and made heady promises over infrastructure investment, but struggled to make any progress.
The issue keeps coming back to the same question: how to pay for it?
Biden’s new transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, who ran against him in the Democratic primaries, will be on the front lines of the battle, trying to ensure that this time, the stars are all aligned.
“I think that there’s a tremendous opportunity now to have bipartisan support for a big, bold vision on infrastructure,” the youthful politician said.
“Americans don’t need a lot of selling to know that we’ve got to do big things when it comes to our infrastructure.”
US President Joe Biden said Thursday his “expectation” is to run for reelection in 2024, an apparent effort to douse speculation that the oldest person to assume the office will step down after a single term.
The Democratic president also attacked Republican efforts to limit voting, describing the actions in dozens of states that would make it more difficult for millions of people to cast ballots as “sick” and “un-American.”
In his first extended grilling by reporters since taking office on January 20, the 78-year-old president faced questions on topics from immigration and North Korea to whether he would support an end to the filibuster blocking tactic in the US Senate.
When asked about his political future barely two months into his presidency, though, Biden chuckled and said: “My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation.”
When pressed, he added that he is “a great respecter of fate” and did not make firm plans so far in advance, but that if he does run in 2024 he “would fully expect” that Vice President Kamala Harris would be on the ticket.
“She’s doing a great job, she’s a great partner,” he said.
Biden also shrugged off whether he believed 2024 would be a rematch with former president Donald Trump, saying he had “no idea” whether the brash and embattled businessman would run.
Biden won the November election with record turnout that helped him beat Trump by more than seven million votes.
Republican lawmakers in several states have since begun drafting a series of changes to election law that would restrict voting, in moves that would likely hurt Democrats more than Republicans.
Democrats have branded the effort as the most direct assault on American democracy since the Jim Crow era, when state and local governments passed laws that legalized racial segregation.
During a question-and-answer session, Biden swatted aside concerns that such moves to curtail voting rights could cause his party to lose control of the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.
“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick,” Biden said.
“Deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock, when working people are just getting off work? Deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances?” Biden said, citing examples of the proposed changes.
“The Republican voters I know find this despicable,” he said, adding he would “do everything in my power… to keep that from becoming the law.”
President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will lay out a “roadmap” for rebuilding US-Canada relations Tuesday during their first bilateral meeting, a senior official said, although the scrapped Keystone pipeline could present a hurdle.
Following the turbulence of Donald Trump’s presidency, Biden would have hoped to use his well-honed skills of personal connection while meeting face-to-face with the leader of the key ally to the north.
However, the meeting will occur virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the neighboring states to build on their common values from afar instead of in person, a senior US administration official told reporters on the eve of Biden’s first bilateral event as president.
“I think the biggest deliverable from the trip, or from the meeting, is going to be essentially… a roadmap to reinvigorate US-Canada collaboration,” the official said Monday.
Announcements on “next steps” will be made in multiple areas such as diplomacy, transportation or infrastructure, and battling Covid-19, the official said.
Biden and Trudeau will address several mutual priorities, including tackling climate change, revving up the North American economy, the Arctic, and threats to democracy in Myanmar and Venezuela.
“By being on the same line on several subjects, like climate change or economic revival, we can do more together,” Trudeau’s office said, offering similar broad brush strokes.
But the sides will also wade into the thorny issue of China’s “unfair economic practices,” its human rights record and Beijing’s continued detention of two Canadian nationals, according to the senior US official.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in China in 2018 in what was seen as likely retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou that year on a US warrant.
“Certainly we expect the prime minister to raise it, and the president is ready to discuss it,” the official said.
The official would not be drawn on how US-Canada ties might have been damaged during the four-year Trump administration, opting instead to highlight the various “shared interests” between the two countries.
One sticking point that is likely to come up: Biden’s decision to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project fiercely opposed by environmentalists but backed by Ottawa.
Biden rescinded the permit by executive order on his first day in office, fulfilling a campaign commitment, and “the decision will not be reconsidered,” the official said.
The summit begins with a 45-minute closed-door bilateral meeting with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, along with their Canadian counterparts.
It will then be expanded to a broader bilateral discussion.
Aiming to help the smallest businesses that have been overlooked amid the pandemic, US President Joe Biden wasdue to unveil reforms to a vital aid program on Monday.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been a key lifeline to businesses amid the Covid-19 crisis, but the smallest among them, those least likely to have relationships with banks, often missed out.
The government will open a two-week window starting on Wednesday where only firms with less than 20 employees will be able to apply for relief, the White House announced.
That 14-day period will give banks and lenders to target the 98 percent of the smallest businesses that fall in that category, to receive loans that in most cases are forgiven.
“They are Main Street businesses that anchor our neighborhoods and help families build wealth,” the White House said in a statement, noting that “these businesses often struggle more than larger businesses to collect the necessary paperwork and secure relief from a lender.”
Many of those are owned by women and people of color, especially shops where the owner is the sole employee.
Biden is due to hold an event at the White House to announce the changes later Monday.
The changes also will alter the PPP to ensure sole-proprietorships can receive sufficient aid, remove restrictions on loans for business owners who have a criminal record in the past year, or who are delinquent on federal student loan payments.
He also will reform the program to provide funding to legal immigrants.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) that administers the PPP said earlier this month that the program has approved $103 billion in loans to more than 1.4 million small businesses, with 82 percent of all loans going to businesses requesting less than $100,000.
The aid program was approved in late March 2020 as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that aimed to help firms forced to shut down or that saw earnings collapse.
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday invited US President Joe Biden to visit Germany “as soon as the pandemic situation allows,” her spokesman said, in their first phone call since the Democrat took office.
In what appeared to be a markedly warm call compared to her conversations with Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, Merkel and the new US leader also underlined the importance of working together in the fight against Covid-19.
“The chancellor and the American president agree that stronger international efforts were needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert in a statement.
On that note, she welcomed Biden’s decision to reverse Trump’s decision last July to pull the United States out of the World Health Organization — even as the pandemic was raging.
A few months later in November, Trump also yanked the United States out of the Paris climate accord, claiming it “was designed to kill the American economy” rather than save the environment.
Also lauding Biden’s decision to return to the Paris agreement, Merkel pledged “Germany’s readiness to assume responsibility as it works with European and transatlantic partners in dealing with international tasks”.
Merkel said Thursday during a press conference that there was far more common ground with Washington now that Biden has replaced Trump.
Joe Biden on Wednesday became the 46th president of the United States, vowing a “new day” for the United States after four years of tumult under Donald Trump who in an extraordinary final act snubbed the inauguration.
Two weeks to the day after Trump supporters violently rampaged at the US Capitol to overturn the election results, Biden took the oath on the same very steps alongside Kamala Harris, who was sworn in moments earlier as the first woman vice president.
Biden, putting his hand on a family Bible, repeated after Chief Justice John Roberts the presidential oath — that he will “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
“It’s a new day in America,” Biden wrote on Twitter before the inauguration as, in a sign of his push for unity, he prayed alongside congressional leaders at a Roman Catholic church.
Biden, who at 78 is the oldest president in US history and only the second Catholic, took office amid enormous challenges with the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic having claimed 400,000 lives in the United States.
Central Washington took on the dystopian look of an armed camp, protected by some 25,000 National Guard troops tasked with preventing any repeat of the January 6 attack that left five dead. The Supreme Court reported a bomb threat Wednesday morning.
Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, became the highest-ranking woman in US history and the first person of color as the nation’s number two.
She and her husband Doug Emhoff — America’s first-ever “second gentleman” — were escorted to the inauguration by Eugene Goodman, a Black police officer at the Capitol who lured the mostly white mob away from the Senate chambers in a video that went viral.
With the general public essentially barred from attending due to the pandemic, Biden’s audience at the National Mall instead was 200,000 flags planted to represent the absent crowds.
“It’s a day a lot of us have been trying to visualize for a long time. We couldn’t have guessed that the visual would be quite like this,” Pete Buttigieg, the former presidential contender tapped by Biden as transportation secretary, told reporters.
Biden nonetheless brought in star power — absent four years ago with Trump — as Lady Gaga sang the national anthem and Tom Hanks prepared for a televised evening appearance with the new president.
Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama and first ran for president in 1987, plans to kick off his tenure with a flurry of 17 orders to turn the page on Trump’s divisive reign.
Officials said Biden will immediately rejoin the Paris climate accord and stop the US exit from the World Health Organization and set new paths on immigration, the environment, Covid-19 and the economy.
He will also 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.
Many overseas leaders breathed a sigh of relief at the end of Trump’s hawkish, go-it-alone presidency, with Biden’s team pledging greater cooperation with the rest of the world.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called Biden’s inauguration “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.”
Trump vows to be back
For the first time in 152 years, the sitting president did not accompany his successor to the inauguration after Trump for two months falsely alleged that fraud cost him a second term.
Several hours before the inauguration, Trump, 74, and first lady Melania Trump walked a short red carpet on the White House lawn to the Marine One helicopter, which flew near the inauguration-ready Capitol before heading to Andrews Air Force Base on Washington’s outskirts.
“This has been an incredible four years,” Trump told several hundred cheering supporters in a campaign-style event before flying off for the last time in Air Force One en route to his Florida resort.
“We will be back in some form,” vowed Trump, who retains a hold on much of the Republican Party despite being the first president to be impeached twice.
Trump did not address Biden by name but, in a rare hint of graciousness, wished the next administration “great luck and great success.”
A spokesman said Trump maintained one tradition by leaving a letter for Biden, although the contents were unknown.
Mike Pence, the outgoing vice president who clashed with Trump in his final days by acknowledging he could not overturn the election, was attending the inauguration alongside former presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and their wives — including Hillary Clinton, for whom Biden’s victory was especially sweet four years after her narrow, surprise defeat to Trump.
Last-minute Trump pardons
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.
Trump also at the last minute ended a ban on his administration’s officials serving as lobbyists — an order he had issued with fanfare at the start of his presidency as he vowed to “drain the swamp” of Washington.
However, neither Trump nor his relatives enjoyed pardons, amid speculation he could use the legally dubious tactic of a preemptive pardon to fend off future charges.
Trump will still be in focus at the Capitol as the Senate considers convicting him after he was impeached for inciting the mob earlier this month.
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.
US President Donald Trump bestowed a rare award on King Hamad of Bahrain on Tuesday, acknowledging the Gulf state’s normalisation of ties with Israel on his last full day in office.
Trump, who sees Arab recognition of Israel as a key overseas achievement of his presidency, already conferred the same award on King Mohammed VI of Morocco last week for his move to restore ties.
Announcing his bestowal of the Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, on King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Trump also paid tribute to Bahrain’s hosting of a June 2019 conference on the economic dimensions of his controversial Middle East peace plan, which broke with decades of international consensus and was boycotted by the Palestinians.
“King Hamad has shown extraordinary courage and leadership through his support of the Vision for Peace and his decision to establish full diplomatic relations with the State of Israel,” the official Bahrain News Agency quoted Trump as saying.
“King Hamad has challenged old assumptions about the possibility for peace in the region, and in doing so, positively reshaped the landscape of the Middle East for generations,” Trump added.
Just across the Gulf from Iran, Bahrain is a longstanding Western ally which is home to the US Fifth Fleet.
In 2011, with support from neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the Sunni ruling family crushed month-long Shiite-led protests for an elected prime minister.
It has since banned the two main opposition parties and thrown dozens of dissidents in jail.
The Legion of Merit is a military award that was created to honour allied leaders in World War II and had gone into obscurity until it was revived by Trump, who last month also presented it to the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan.
On Wednesday at noon, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in and the Trump presidency will be over.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Sunday that ties between Kabul and Washington are expected to deepen in areas of counter-terrorism and building peace as he congratulated Joe Biden on his election victory.
“Afghanistan looks forward to continuing/deepening our multilayered strategic partnership with the United States — our foundational partner — including in counterterrorism & bringing peace to Afghanistan,” Ghani wrote on Twitter.
Biden’s victory was also welcomed by ordinary citizens, who thought he might slow what some see as a too-hasty withdrawal of US troops.
US President Donald Trump’s administration signed a deal with the Taliban on February 29 that agreed to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by May 2021.
“Biden will also finish the war, but he wants to bring the war to a responsible end, not rushing like Trump,” said Mohammad Dawood, a garment seller in Kabul.
“He will slow down the withdrawal from Afghanistan and will keep some troops here, which is good news.”
The withdrawal of troops has been a cornerstone of Trump’s plans to end America’s longest war.
His administration agreed to fully disengage in exchange for a commitment from the Taliban to stop trans-national jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State from operating in Afghanistan.
The US military has already shut several bases across the country and pulled out thousands of troops as agreed.
Timor Sharan, a lecturer at the American University in Afghanistan, said on Twitter that the incoming Biden administration will have a “more tolerant” approach to peace talks, as Washington’s deal with the Taliban was “terrible” and gave no leverage to the government.
That excluded the Afghan government from negotiations, however, and also saw almost 6,000 Taliban prisoners released — much to the displeasure of authorities.
Days after the release of prisoners, peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government to end the war were launched in the Qatari capital.
The talks, which commenced on September 12, have failed to make any significant progress so far.
Violence, however, has surged across the country, including in Kabul, with the Taliban stepping up daily attacks against Afghan security forces.
Scores of people were killed in two attacks in the capital targeting educational institutions within days of each other.
Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group, but officials have blamed the Taliban.
“Joe Biden’s election as president is good news for Afghanistan,” said Ahmad Jawed, a university student in Kabul.
“I think he will not repeat mistakes committed by Trump. I think Biden will even reconsider the US-Taliban deal and then somehow keep some troops in Afghanistan.”
World leaders rushed to congratulate US president-elect Joe Biden, with many expressing hopes of unity and cooperation following four years of explosive Donald Trump diplomacy.
While Trump refused to accept the results of the election, many world leaders made it clear they backed the announcement that Biden had won with running mate Kamala Harris:
– Nigeria –
President Muhammadu Buhari, leader of Africa’s most populous nation, called for “greater engagement” with the continent.
He said he looked forward to “enhanced cooperation between Nigeria and the United States, especially at economic, diplomatic and political levels, including especially on the war against terrorism”.
– Germany –
“Congratulations!” said Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I wish luck and success from the bottom of my heart.
“Our transatlantic friendship is irreplaceable if we want to overcome the great challenges of our times,” she said in a tweet issued by a government spokesman.
– France –
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “The Americans have chosen their President. Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris! We have a lot to do to overcome today’s challenges. Let’s work together!”
– Britain –
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulated Biden “on his election as President of the United States and Kamala Harris on her historic achievement.
“The US is our most important ally and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities, from climate change to trade and security.”
– Ireland –
Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin was one of the first to take to Twitter, tweeting: “I want to congratulate the new President Elect of the USA @JoeBiden. Joe Biden has been a true friend of this nation throughout his life and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead. I also look forward to welcoming him back home when the circumstances allow!”
– Greece –
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted: “Congratulations to US President-Elect @JoeBiden. Joe Biden has been a true friend of Greece and I’m certain that under his presidency the relationship between our countries will grow even stronger.”
– Italy –
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted: “We are ready to work with the President-elect @JoeBiden to make the transatlantic relationship stronger. The US can count on Italy as a solid Ally and a strategic partner.”
– Spain –
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted: “Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. We wish you good luck and all the best. We are looking forward to cooperating with you to tackle the challenges ahead of us.”
– Israel –
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, called Biden a “great friend of Israel”, congratulating him and Harris on their victory.
He tweeted: “I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the US and Israel.”
– Iraq –
President Barham Saleh extended “warmest congratulations” to Biden, describing him as “a friend and trusted partner in the cause of building a better Iraq. We look forward to working to achieve our common goals and strengthening peace and stability in the entire Middle East”.
– Egypt –
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt, the most populous Arab country, looked forward to “strengthening strategic bilateral ties between Egypt and the US in the interest of both countries and peoples”.
– Jordan –
The King of Jordan, Abdullah II, tweeted his congratulations to the pair: “I look forward to working with you on further advancing the solid historic partnership between Jordan and the United States, in the interest of our shared objectives of peace, stability and prosperity.”
– Canada –
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “I look forward to working with President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, their administration, and the United States Congress as we tackle the world’s greatest challenges together.”
– Australia –
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wished Biden and Harris “every success”.
“The Australia-US Alliance is deep and enduring, and built on shared values. I look forward to working with you closely as we face the world’s many challenges together,” he said on Twitter.
– New Zealand –
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a popular leader who had verbally jousted with Trump, congratulated Biden and Harris in a tweet focused on cooperation.
“With so many issues facing the international community, your message of unity is one we share. New Zealand looks forward to working with you both!”
– Indonesia –
Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed his “warmest congratulations” to Biden and Harris. He said: “The huge turn out is a reflection of the hope placed on democracy.”
– Japan –
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga focused his congratulatory message on security issues.
“Warm congratulations to @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the Japan-US Alliance and ensure peace, freedom, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” Suga wrote on Twitter.
– South Korea –
South Korean President Moon Jae-in tweeted: “Congratulations to @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. Our alliance is strong and the bond between our two countries is rock-solid. I very much look forward to working with you for our shared values.”
– India –
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Biden’s win as “spectacular” while highlighting Harris’s Indian heritage.
“Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans,” Modi said in a tweet to Harris.
“Chitti” is a Tamil term of endearment for the younger sisters of one’s mother, which Harris used in her acceptance of the Democratic nomination for vice president.
– Afghanistan –
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said ties between Kabul and Washington would deepen over counterterrorism as he congratulated Biden.
“Afghanistan looks forward to continuing/deepening our multilayered strategic partnership w/ the United States — our foundational partner — including in counterterrorism & bringing peace to Afghanistan,” Ghani wrote on Twitter.
– South Africa –
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Twitter his government looked forward to “working with you and deepening our bonds of friendship and cooperation”.
– Mexico –
However, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said it was too soon to congratulate Biden and he would wait for “all legal issues” in the US election to be resolved.
“We don’t want to be imprudent. We don’t want to act lightly and we want to respect people’s self-determination and rights,” Lopez Obrador, who has had good relations with Trump, told reporters.
– NATO –
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg described Biden as a “strong supporter of our Alliance”.
Stoltenberg, who often had to adapt to Trump making unexpected announcements about US troop drawdowns from NATO deployments, said in a tweet he looked forward to working with Biden.
“A strong NATO is good for both North America and Europe,” he said.
Leaders from the Group of Seven, which the United States heads this year, had been scheduled to meet by videoconference in late June after COVID-19 scuttled plans to gather in-person at Camp David, the US presidential retreat outside Washington.
Trump created suspense just over a week ago, however, when he announced that he might hold the huge gathering in-person after all, “primarily at the White House” but also potentially parts of it at Camp David.
– ‘Cannot agree’ to trip –
l became the first leader to decline the in-person invitation outright.
“Considering the overall pandemic situation, she cannot agree to her personal participation, to a journey to Washington,” her spokesman said Saturday.
Her response followed ambivalent to vaguely positive reactions to the invitation from Britain, Canada and France.
The 65-year-old chancellor is the oldest G7 leader after Trump, who is 73. Japan’s Shinzo Abe, also 65, is several months younger than Merkel. Their age puts them at higher risk from the coronavirus.
The G7 major advanced countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — hold annual meetings to discuss international economic coordination.
Russia was thrown out of what was the G8 in 2014 after it seized Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, an annexation never recognized by the international community.
The work of the G7 is now more important than ever as countries struggle to repair coronavirus-inflicted damage.
– Virus crisis –
The White House had previously said the huge diplomatic gathering would be a “show of strength” when world economies are gradually reemerging from shutdowns.
The virus is progressing at different speeds across the globe, with infection numbers falling in many of Europe’s most affected countries.
Trump’s announcement came after he flew to Florida earlier in the day to watch the first launch of a commercial company rocket to carry humans into orbit, ushering in a new era in space travel.
The launch was a rare bright spot in the United States Saturday as clashes broke out and major cities imposed curfews amid ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd, an African American who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The demonstrations are taking place against the ongoing US coronavirus crisis: The United States is the worst-hit country for COVID-19 infections, recording more than 1.7 million cases and over 103,680 deaths.
Meanwhile, the number of workers filing for jobless benefits since the virus arrived in the country passed 40 million earlier in the week.
US President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to shutter social media platforms after Twitter for the first time acted against his false tweets, prompting the enraged Republican to double down on unsubstantiated claims and conspiracy theories.
Trump will sign an executive order “pertaining to social media” on Thursday, aides to the president said, without offering more detail about its contents.
Twitter tagged two of his tweets in which he claimed that more mail-in voting would lead to what he called a “Rigged Election” this November.
There is no evidence that attempts are being made to rig the election, and under the tweets Twitter posted a link which read: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”
For years, Twitter has been accused of ignoring the president’s violation of platform rules with his daily, often hourly barrages of personal insults and inaccurate information sent to more than 80 million followers.
But Twitter’s slap on the wrist was enough to drive Trump into a tirade — on Twitter — in which he claimed that the political right in the United States is being censored.
“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” he said.
He plunged right back into his narrative that an increase in mail-in ballots — seen in some states as vital for allowing people to avoid crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic — will undermine the election.
“It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots,” wrote Trump, whose reelection campaign has been knocked off track by the coronavirus crisis.
His torrent of angry tweets earned a top-10 trending hashtag: #TrumpMeltdown.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg also waded in to the row, telling Fox News that his social network — still the biggest in the world — has a different policy.
“I just believe strongly that Facebook should not be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” Zuckerberg said in a snippet of the interview posted online Wednesday by Fox.
“I think, in general, private companies, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”
Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey fired back on his own platform Wednesday night, saying that the website’s effort to point out misinformation did not make it an “arbiter of truth.”
“Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves,” he tweeted.
He doubled down on the new policy, writing: “Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”
– ‘Blatant lies’ –
Kate Ruane, at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Trump has no power to regulate Twitter.
The constitution “clearly prohibits the president from taking any action to stop Twitter from pointing out his blatant lies about voting by mail,” she said.
For all his protests, Trump is a political giant on social media.
By contrast, his Democratic election opponent, Joe Biden, has only 5.5 million Twitter followers.
Social media suits Trump’s unorthodox communications style and his penchant for conspiracy theories, rumors and playground-style insults.
Now that he faces Biden, Barack Obama’s vice president, Trump is again using Twitter to attack his popular predecessor.
His murky claim that the Democrat was part of a “coup” attempt during the early days of his administration has a Twitter hashtag — #ObamaGate — that the president uses regularly.
The claim that Twitter is biased against conservatives fits the White House narrative that the billionaire president is still an outsider politician running against the elite.
The row is a useful smokescreen when Biden is homing in on widespread dissatisfaction with Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has left more than 100,000 Americans dead.
Polls consistently show Biden in a strong position, despite barely having left his home during weeks of social distancing measures — and his relatively meager social media presence.
An unrepentant Trump also resumed spreading a conspiracy theory Wednesday about a prominent television critic, Joe Scarborough, whom the president is trolling with accusations that he murdered a woman in 2001.
There has never been any evidence that Scarborough, a host on MSNBC, had anything to do with the death of Lori Klausutis, who was a staffer in his office when he was a Republican congressman.