‘Calling Vote Unfair Doesn’t Make It So’: US Court Tells Trump

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. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP

 

A federal appeals court on Friday flatly dismissed President Donald Trump’s claim that the election was unfair and refused to freeze Joe Biden’s win in the key state of Pennsylvania.

In a scathing review of the Trump campaign’s arguments that the president was cheated in his November 3 reelection bid, three appeals court judges unanimously said that allegations of unfairness were not supported by evidence.

“Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so,” the court said.

In appealing a lower court ruling, the Trump campaign claimed discrimination, the judges noted.

“But its alchemy cannot transmute lead into gold,” the court said.

It was the latest in more than two dozen court defeats around the country for the Trump campaign and Republicans who have alleged fraud and other misconduct contributed to the president’s loss.

Trump persists in arguing that Biden’s clear victory is invalid.

“Just so you understand, this election was a fraud,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Last week a Pennsylvania state court rejected arguments by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani that the millions of votes in the state should be thrown out due to fraud.

The judge in that case, however, embarrassed Giuliani by forcing him to admit that none of his precise claims before the court involved fraud or anything more than technical issues in overseeing the vote count.

On Tuesday the Pennsylvania government officially certified Biden’s victory in the state, and the Trump campaign appealed to federal court to have that certification frozen.

But the appeals court said Trump’s campaign had nothing substantial to argue.

“Its allegations are vague and conclusory,” the judges said.

“It never alleges that anyone treated the Trump campaign or Trump votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or Biden votes.”

With Biden’s national lead in the popular vote and the electoral college now virtually unassailable, the court indicated that another appeal, to the US Supreme Court, would go nowhere.

“The campaign has already litigated and lost most of these issues,” the court said.

“The campaign cannot win this lawsuit. It conceded that it is not alleging election fraud.”

Nevertheless, Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign lawyer who worked with Giuliani on the case, tweeted their intent to appeal.

“The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud … On to SCOTUS!” she said, referring to the Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania Certifies Biden Election Win

US President-elect Joe Biden speaks after a meeting with governors in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 19, 2020.  AFP

 

Pennsylvania officially certified Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory in the state over Donald Trump on Tuesday, a day after the president agreed to a transition but stopped short of conceding.

Governor Tom Wolf tweeted that the Pennsylvania Department of State had “certified” the results of the November 3 vote, after Michigan did the same on Monday, in the latest setback to Trump’s attempts to overturn his defeat.

“As required by federal law, I’ve signed the Certificate of Ascertainment for the slate of electors for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Wolf wrote, referring to Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.

Biden won the state by 81,000 votes out of some 6.9 million cast. Trump had taken the state by 44,000 votes over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Trump had made Pennsylvania, one of the states he needed to win reelection, a key part of his failed legal attempts to overturn his election defeat.

He has claimed, without evidence, that he was defeated due to fraudulent voting and counting practices in several states.

Over the weekend a Pennsylvania judge rejected a legal challenge submitted by the Trump campaign which sought to nullify millions of votes.

And the Pennsylvania Supreme Court turned back another Trump challenge Monday over counting mailed votes where the ballots were not completed perfectly.

Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers officially certified Biden’s win on Monday after he topped Trump by nearly 156,000 votes out of the 5.5 million cast.

Georgia certified Biden’s victory there on Friday after a recount, but will undertake another machine review of the ballots at the Trump campaign’s request. Almost no one expects a different result.

Nevada, another state where Republicans have sought to have Trump’s loss overturned, will certify its vote on Tuesday.

And two other states where Trump has challenged results, Wisconsin and Arizona, have until next week to finalize their counts.

But as in the other states, Trump’s deficit in the vote is unlikely to be significantly affected by recounts and reviews.

State certification is normally routine but Trump’s refusal to admit defeat complicated and delayed the process in key states.

On Monday, Trump acknowledged for the first time that the government agency meant to ease Biden’s transition into the White House must “do what needs to be done.”

But he added: “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!”

AFP

New US Jobless Claims Rise To 778,000

US-workers
(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 19, 2020, hundreds of unemployed Kentucky residents wait in long lines outside the Kentucky Career Center for help with their unemployment claims in Frankfort, Kentucky. Another 1.3 million US workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, continuing the slowdown in the pace of layoffs, the government reported on July 9, 2020.
John Sommers II / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

New applications for jobless aid in the United States saw their second back-to-back weekly increase, according to government data released Wednesday, raising concerns that a renewed economic downturn is beginning.

The Labor Department said 778,000 seasonally adjusted initial claims were filed in the week ended November 21, more than analysts had forecast and an increase of 30,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised figure.

The increase was the first consecutive one since July and brought claims to their highest level in more than a month, as the world’s largest economy grapples with a nationwide surge in Covid-19 cases.

Another 311,675 people, not seasonally adjusted, filed claims under a program for workers not normally eligible — a program set to expire at the year’s end unless Congress, which is deadlocked on passing more stimulus for the economy, decides to renew it.

 

READ ALSO: Germany To Hold General Election, Choose Merkel’s Successor By Sept 2021

 

“Weekly unemployment insurance claims are moving in the wrong direction,” Robert Frick of Navy Federal Credit Union said, noting the 0.2 percent drop in the insured unemployment rate to 4.1 percent as of the week ended November 14 was smaller than expected and another worrying sign.

Claims have been trending downwards for months after spiking into the millions in March as the pandemic began, but they have yet to dip below the worst single week seen in the 2008-2010 global financial crisis.

The data also said more than 466,000 people moved from the time-limited regular unemployment benefits as of the week ended November 7 to a special program passed during the pandemic that provides aid to the long-term unemployed, which will also expire at year’s end.

All told, nearly 20.5 million people were receiving aid as of the week ended November 7.

Lawmakers in March expanded the unemployment safety net and increased weekly payments to the jobless with the passage of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, but many of its provisions have expired and Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on how much to spend.

Even though the unemployment rate has decreased in recent months, reaching 6.9 percent in October, Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics warned that weekly data shows a labor market under stress.

“With infections continuing to rise at an elevated pace and curbs on business operations widening, layoffs are likely to pick up over coming weeks,” she said in an analysis.

 

.-AFP

US To Distribute 6.4 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses In First Tranche

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

 

The United States plans to distribute 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the first week after it is cleared for emergency use, which is likely next month, officials said Tuesday.

A committee of the Food and Drug Administration meets on December 10 to decide whether to green light the medicine, with the US confronted by soaring numbers of deaths and new cases.

Latest figures on Tuesday showed that the country had recorded a total of 259,600 Covid deaths and 12.5 million cases — with over 2,000 deaths and 167,000 new cases in just the last 24 hours.

General Gustave Perna, chief operations officer for the government’s Operation Warp Speed, told reporters some 40 million doses of vaccine would be available by the end of December.

That figure includes another vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes for Health, which announced some preliminary efficacy results last week and is also close to applying for emergency approval.

The Pfizer vaccine has ultra-cold long-term storage requirements of -70 degrees Celsius, and the company has developed special containers with dry ice to keep it cool for up to 15 days.

Perna said that 64 jurisdictions across the US — including the 50 states, territories like the capital Washington and Puerto Rico and Indian reservations — received their allocation numbers on Friday.

The amount they receive will be proportionate to their population size.

The federal government will issue recommendations for who should be prioritized — likely the elderly, high-risk, and frontline workers — but local authorities will make the final decision for themselves.

Vaccinations will begin in retirement homes within 48 hours of the emergency approval, health secretary Alex Azar said. The government has partnered with CVS Health for the retirement home program.

AFP

‘America Is Back’: Biden Unveils National Security Team

 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

 

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday introduced a seasoned national security team which he said was prepared to resume US leadership of the world once Donald Trump leaves the White House.

The six women and men he has chosen to be his key diplomats and intelligence advisors said they would implement a return to multilateralism, global cooperation and fighting climate change after four years of Trump’s go-it-alone policies.

“It’s a team that will keep our country and our people safe and secure,” Biden said, introducing his picks for secretary of state, national security advisor, intelligence chief, homeland security and other key cabinet jobs.

“It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back. Ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” Biden said.

READ ALSO: Trump Finally Agrees To Biden Transition, But Still Not Conceding

Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, vowed to pursue cooperation around the world, saying that the United States cannot solve global problems on its own.

“We have to proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence,” Blinken said.

“As the president-elect said, we can’t solve all of the world’s problems alone. We need to be working with other countries, we need their cooperation. We need their partnership,” Blinken said.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s choice to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, echoed those sentiments.

“I want to say to you: America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back,” she said.

“The challenges we face — a global pandemic, a global economy, the global climate change crisis, mass migration and extreme poverty, social justice — are unrelenting and interconnected, but they’re not unresolvable if America is leading the way.”

Former secretary of state John Kerry, who Biden chose as his special envoy on climate change, confirmed the new administration would bring the US back into the Paris climate accord after Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 deal.

But Kerry also warned that the Paris pact he helped negotiate was not enough to fight global warming, and called Tuesday for a UN conference in Glasgow next year to push for more.

“You’re right to rejoin Paris on day one. And you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough,” he said to Biden.

Biden also introduced Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas, tapped to become Homeland Security secretary; Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, and Jake Sullivan as his White House national security advisor.

All three pledged to maintain an environment of professionalism among the government officials they will oversee, obliquely referring to the politicization of much of government work that left much of the bureaucracy dispirited under Trump.

 

AFP

US Election: Michigan Certifies Biden’s Victory

US President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 7, 2020, after being declared the winner of the US presidential election. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP)

 

Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers officially certified Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory in the state over Donald Trump on Monday, closing off another avenue for the outgoing president to contest his national defeat.

The board voted three in favor to one abstention to certify Biden as the winner after he topped Trump by nearly 156,000 votes out of the 5.5 million cast.

READ ALSO: Biden To Start Naming Cabinet Picks Tuesday As Trump Resists

Trump has claimed since the November 3 election, without evidence, that he was defeated due to fraudulent voting and counting practices in the state.

 

AFP

Biden To Start Naming Cabinet Picks Tuesday As Trump Resists

In this file photo taken on November 16, 2020, US President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press in Wilmington, Delaware. – Biden turned 78 on November 20, 2020, exactly two months before he is to succeed Donald Trump in the White House. The former Vice President is to be sworn in on January 20, becoming the oldest president in US history. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

 

US President-elect Joe Biden will name his first cabinet picks on Tuesday, his chief of staff said, even as Donald Trump clung to unsubstantiated claims of fraud despite growing dissent from within his own party.

Biden has pushed ahead with preparations to assume the presidency on January 20, regardless of Trump’s bid to undo the results of the November vote.

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

Several US news organizations, including Bloomberg and The New York Times, reported that the president-elect will nominate seasoned diplomat and long-time aide Antony Blinken as secretary of state.

Biden also said last week he had already decided his pick for the key position of Treasury Secretary.

US media also widely reported he will name Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who served as assistant secretary of state for Africa under President Barack Obama, as his UN ambassador.

A growing number of Republicans have either recognized Biden’s victory or at least urged the General Services Administration — the usually low-profile agency that manages the federal bureaucracy — to release federal funds for the Biden transition.

READ ALSO: John Kerry, Who Signed Paris Accord For US, Is Biden’s Climate Envoy

With Trump refusing to acknowledge the election outcome, Biden and his top aides have been denied briefings on sensitive domestic and foreign policy issues — most urgently the coronavirus pandemic battering the country.

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who in 2016 advised the Trump transition, said on ABC that the president’s legal team was a “national embarrassment.”

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, another prominent Republican, told CNN that Trump was making the country look like a “banana republic,” later tweeting the president should “stop golfing and concede.”

Trump has golfed on every weekend day since the election, though he took part virtually in the conference of the G20 leading economies this weekend — skipping a Saturday session on the pandemic.

And even Representative Devin Nunes, an ardent Trump loyalist, conceded backhandedly on Fox News that Biden had “run a successful campaign from a basement.”

– ‘Without merit’ –
Trump again tweeted on Sunday about “massive numbers of fraudulent ballots,” a claim dismissed by a long list of judges in several states.

Appearances by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have drawn mockery, as have claims by another former member of his legal team, Sidney Powell.

Powell has alleged baseless conspiracy theories involving a possible hack of the election, earning her widespread derision but also praise from some of Trump’s most ardent supporters.

Giuliani announced Sunday that Powell had been dropped from the team.

Trump’s latest legal setback came Saturday, when Pennsylvania judge Matthew Brann threw out the president’s fraud claims in a scathing judgment.

Pennsylvania was a must-win state, and flipped to Biden after backing Trump in 2016.

Brann’s ruling paved the way for Pennsylvania to certify Biden’s victory in the state.

Biden won the state-by-state Electoral College votes that ultimately decide who takes the White House by 306 to 232.

The Electoral College is due to formally vote on December 14, with state certifications to take place beforehand.

– ‘Incredibly damaging’ –
State certification of popular vote results in presidential elections is usually routine.

But Trump’s refusal to concede has raised concerns that he could cause long-term damage to public trust in the voting system that underlies US democracy.

The judgment in Pennsylvania came hours after Republicans also requested a delay in certification in Michigan, another battleground state won by Biden.

They requested a two-week delay to allow a full audit of results in Wayne County — home to majority-black Detroit, which overwhelmingly voted for Biden.

Michigan’s board of canvassers, which includes two Democrats and two Republicans, is due to meet Monday to certify the results.

There were reports that a Republican member of the board was considering voting against certification.

Biden has so far moderated his criticism of Trump’s actions, though he has spoken of “incredibly damaging messages being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions.”

AFP

UK Vaccine News Gives Hope As US Plans Mass Rollout

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 11, 2020 A laboratory technician supervises capped vials during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222, conducted on a high-performance aseptic vial filling line on September 11, 2020. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

The developers of coronavirus vaccine in Britain on Monday claimed success after mass testing, as the United States announced plans to give jabs to 20 million people before the end of the year to combat surging infections.

AstraZeneca and Oxford University said their drug had proved on average 70 percent effective at stopping the virus after trying it on 23,000 people, days after tests of two other drugs suggested they had more than 90 percent effectiveness.

The bright news on vaccines comes as Europe and the Americas battle rising caseloads that are pushing health systems to the brink, forcing governments to issue stay at home orders and close businesses even as the crucial Christmas period approaches.

Canada’s biggest city Toronto will become the latest area to shut down later on Monday, as officials ban private indoor gatherings and limit the size of weddings and funerals — similar to measures already in place in France and other European countries.

“We can’t risk overwhelming our hospitals,” said Doug Ford, premier of Ontario province, earlier this week.

At the other end of the confinement cycle, Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne continued to emerge from a gruelling four-month lockdown with authorities lifting a ban on travel across state borders.

READ ALSO: World’s Top Surgical Glove Maker Shuts Factories Due To COVID-19

“When I went across the border I beeped the horn, ‘Yahoo!’,” said Melbourne resident Margaret Forster after being allowed to drive from Victoria into New South Wales for the first time since June.

The virus has killed almost 1.4 million people worldwide since emerging in China late last year.

– ‘Immediate impact’ –

The latest vaccine results are particularly important as the Oxford drug can be transported easily at normal refrigerator temperatures — unlike some of the other candidates, which need extremely cold storage.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said despite the vaccine’s lower effectiveness compared with the other candidate drugs, it would still be highly effective and would have an “immediate impact”.

The firm said it planned to develop up to three billion doses of the vaccine in 2021 if it passes the remaining regulatory hurdles.

Two other leading candidates — one by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech and another by US firm Moderna — reported 95 percent effectiveness in trials.

The European Union said it could approve vaccines for use by the end of the year, following a statement from US officials that a vaccination programme could be started as soon as next month.

“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours of approval,” said Moncef Slaoui, head of the vaccine effort in the US, still the world’s worst-hit nation with more than 12 million infections and 255,000 deaths.

The government’s vaccine advisers will meet on December 10 to discuss approval.

Slaoui estimated that 20 million people across the US could be vaccinated in December, with 30 million per month after that.

But other experts stressed that Americans must continue to take precautions as many headed to airports to travel for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday.

– ‘Preparing for the worst’ –

Chinese officials were also facing a renewed threat, with a small outbreak at Shanghai’s largest international airport.

All employees at the airport will now have to undergo testing after the cluster was linked to cargo handlers.

China has largely succeeded at tamping down its outbreak thanks to harsh lockdowns and rigorous test and trace programmes.

The country has also rolled out an experimental vaccine but its effectiveness is unclear.

Britain is still attempting to frame a clear policy after failing to develop a tracing app and even a top government adviser could not heed confinement orders.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s latest plan is to roll out mass testing to the hardest-hit areas, hoping to make enough inroads to be able to relax social restrictions in time for Christmas.

Britain and the rest of Europe are facing up to the fact that the vaccines, even if they are approved, will not come online fast enough to deal with the current upsurge in cases.

Andreas Plemmenos, boss of a hospital near the Greek capital Athens, told AFP the latest wave of cases had arrived faster than expected.

“At the beginning, we only had three or four cases in this ward, but now it is full,” he said of his dedicated 24-bed Covid-19 ward, which now has 10 new beds.

“We are preparing for the worst.”

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

Saudi Arabia Confident Of Friendly Ties With Biden – Official

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on November 21, 2020, shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud chairing the G20 summit, held virtually due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in the capital Riyadh. (Photo by Bandar AL-JALOUD / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP)

 

Saudi Arabia expects no major change in its relationship with the US under Joe Biden, a senior official told CNN, despite the president-elect pledging to turn the kingdom into a “pariah”.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, a close ally of President Donald Trump, has appeared wary of Biden after he promised a stern stance against the kingdom for its human rights failings.

But Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, dismissed the notion.

“We deal with the president of the United States as a friend, whether he’s Republican or Democrat,” Jubeir told CNN, in an interview released over the weekend.

“President-elect Biden has been in the (US) Senate for 35 years, he has tremendous experience… I don’t expect that there’s going to be major change in terms of America’s foreign policy.”

The comment comes as Saudi Arabia hosts the G20 leaders’ summit this weekend, a first for an Arab nation, while global campaigners seek to draw attention to the kingdom’s human rights record.

Saudi Arabia has largely escaped US censure under Trump, who along with his son-in-law Jared Kushner, has enjoyed a personal rapport with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

Trump’s defeat leaves Prince Mohammed vulnerable to renewed scrutiny from the kingdom’s closest Western ally.

That could leave the crown prince isolated amid economic challenges that imperil his reform agenda, a grinding war in neighbouring Yemen and pockets of domestic opposition to his rule.

During his election campaign, Biden threatened to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah that they are”.

Saudi observers dismiss the Democrat leader’s campaign speeches about the kingdom as bluster, pointing out that Trump also struck a hostile note in his 2016 campaign before quickly warming up to its rulers.

“We deal with the presidents once they’re in office, and we have huge interests with the United States,” Jubeir said.

“We are working together on global economic security, on energy security, on financial issues, and we are key in terms of the Muslim world. These interests are huge for us and for the United States.”

AFP

US Extends Iraq Sanctions Waiver Until Before Biden Inauguration

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

 

Washington has granted Iraq a shortened 45-day sanctions waiver to import Iranian gas that will expire days before US President Donald Trump’s term ends, an Iraqi official said Saturday.

Baghdad buys gas and electricity from its neighbour Tehran to supply about a third of its power sector, worn down by years of conflict and poor maintenance.

The US blacklisted Iran’s energy industry in late 2018 but granted Baghdad a series of temporary waivers, hoping Iraq would wean itself off Iranian energy by partnering with US firms.

The lengths of the exemptions have become a key tool in US policy towards Iraq, demonstrating the level of satisfaction or frustration with Baghdad.

In May, Washington granted Iraq a four-month extension as a gesture of goodwill towards Mustafa al-Kadhemi, who had just formed a cabinet seen as US-friendly.

But when it renewed the waiver in late September, the Trump administration gave Iraq just 60 days.

This time, it went even shorter: 45 days, a top Iraqi official told AFP, expiring around a week before Trump is set to hand over the White House to President-elect Joe Biden.

“They (the Trump administration) wanted the last opportunity to have a say,” the official said.

The shorter waiver comes amid concern by Iraqi and Western officials that Trump could use his final days in office to strike at Iran and its allies in Iraq.

The State Department is drawing up plans for a possible closure of the American embassy in Baghdad, which has been targeted by dozens of rocket attacks in the last year.

And two Iraqi officials have said they expect a “bucket list of sanctions” against Iranian interests in Iraq ahead of the White House handover.

Eight Injured In US Mall Shooting, Gunman Still At Large

BREAKING: 'Multiple Casualties' As Gunman Opens Fire At US Synagogue
File photo

 

Eight people were injured in a shooting at a US mall in Wisconsin on Friday according to police, who said they were still hunting for the shooter.

The FBI and the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office tweeted that their officers were on the scene at the Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, supporting the “active” response by local police.

“When emergency personnel arrived, the shooter was no longer at the scene,” the Wauwatosa Police Department said in a statement.

It said the wounded included seven adults and one teenager who had been rushed to hospital. The seriousness of their injuries was not immediately known, but Wauwatosa mayor Dennis McBride told ABC news their injuries were not life threatening.

The shooter was identified by police as a “white male in his 20s or 30s.”

Numerous workers at the mall took shelter inside the building as the shooter rampaged, according to videos circulating on social media.

Shopper Jill Wooley told a local news station she was inside with her 79-year-old mother when the gunfire erupted.

“I knew right away it was a gunshot and they just kept coming one right after the other,” Wooley told CBS affiliate WDJT. “We just dropped to the floor.”

“I think we’re all born with it,” she said. “We’ve all been exposed to public shootings like this. I think all of us have thought of what we would do in a situation like this.”

“We are disheartened and angered that our guests and tenants were subject to this violent incident today,” the company that operates the mall said in a statement.

“We are thankful for our partners at the Wauwatosa Police Department and we are cooperating with them as their investigation develops,” it added.