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Biden says his transition team has ‘encountered roadblocks’ from Trump appointees Kate Sullivan byline545438 CNN NY Talent Expansion, New York, 9/11/19

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President-elect Joe Biden on Monday said his transition team has “encountered roadblocks” from political leadership at the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget as his advisers work with the Trump administration.

“We just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas,” Biden said, after receiving a virtual briefing from members of his national security and foreign policy agency review teams.
“It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” he said.
The President-elect said his team “needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and our operations to deter our enemies. We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.”
A Defense Department spokesperson told CNN that there are three briefings/interviews scheduled for this week with the Biden transition team. Two of the briefings pertain to coronavirus issues and the other one is on “cybersecurity.”
Tensions between the Pentagon and the Biden transition team have been intensifying in recent weeks over stalled transition briefings.
Last week, Biden said that the Defense Department had refused to brief his team on the massive cyberattack on government agencies and major American technology and accounting companies. The week prior, Biden’s transition team said they had not agreed to a two-week break in the discussions with Pentagon officials, despite the acting defense secretary saying that both sides had agreed to take a “holiday pause.”
A transition official told CNN that the Defense Department continues to “deny and delay” meetings with agency review team members.
“There has been no substantial progress since transition officials spoke to the intransigence of the Department’s political leadership earlier this month,” the official said. “As the President-elect alluded to, no Department is more pivotal to our national security than the Department of Defense, and an unwillingness to work together could have consequences well beyond January 20.”
Biden said there are a number of pressing national security issues his administration is preparing to tackle when he takes office next month, including the coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis and the humanitarian crisis at the US southern border. He reiterated his pledge to sharply depart from President Donald Trump’s isolationist foreign policy and instead rebuild alliances across the globe and work with partners to tackle global issues.
“We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways to work around us or work without us,” Biden said.
The President-elect said part of the discussion in the briefing earlier in the day focused on strategic challenges that China and Russia pose to the United States. He spoke about “modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to overinvest in legacy systems designed to address threats of the past.”
Biden echoed his comments last week calling the recent cyberattack on US federal agencies and companies a grave risk to US national security. Trump, by contrast, downplayed the attack and contradicted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s public remarks linking the hack to Russia.
Biden spoke about building coalitions to compete with China and hold the country’s government accountable “for its trade abuses, technology, human rights and other fronts.”
The President-elect also focused on the humanitarian crisis at the US southern border and processing asylum seekers.
“We will institute humane and orderly responses. That means rebuilding the capacity we need to safely and quickly process asylum seekers, without creating a near-term crisis in the midst of this deadly pandemic,” Biden said.
Trump’s administration has taken steps to make it harder for people to claim asylum in the US throughout his presidency.
Biden spoke about mass distributing authorized Covid-19 vaccines, and said his administration would use the full powers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to combat the virus.
“Many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage,” Biden said. “Many of them have been hollowed out in personnel, capacity and in morale.”
“All of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people, to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting,” the President-elect said.
Biden praised career officials in government departments, and said that his team had received “exemplary cooperation” from some agencies.
A transition official previously told CNN that the briefing Biden received would focus in large part on the findings of the review teams since the delayed beginning of the formal transition process, and that Biden’s remarks would serve as a broad overview of some of those key points.
The briefing was expected to be less about specific headlines in the news, and focus more broadly on the country’s institutional health and wellness on the national security and foreign policy fronts.
Biden also condemned the bombing on Christmas morning in Nashville. The blast injured at least eight people and damaged more than 40 buildings, and the bomber was found dead.
“This bombing was a reminder of the destructive power of an individual or a small group can muster and the need for continuing vigilance across the board,” Biden said, speaking from Wilmington, Delaware. He thanked the police officers who evacuated the area and first responders on the scene.
Trump had not commented publicly on the explosion in Nashville as of Monday afternoon, but the White House said in a news release last week that he had been briefed on the incident.

A different approach coming soon

Biden has vowed to take a markedly different approach to governing than Trump, particularly when it comes to foreign policy.
He has vowed to undo Trump’s “America First” isolationist foreign policy and restore the United States’ reputation on the world stage. Biden has pledged to rebuild international alliances and has said that global challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis, require partnerships and international coordination.
Trump, by contrast, has denigrated and questioned several of the US’s longstanding alliances, including with NATO, and pulled the US out of various international bodies and treaties. Trump has withdrawn the US from the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the World Health Organization and other international pacts.
Biden will inherit a number of pressing challenges when he is sworn in next month as president, chief among them the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 334,000 Americans as of Monday afternoon.
The President-elect has named several top members of his foreign policy and national security teams, including his longtime foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken as his nominee for secretary of state. Biden has selected retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the former commander of US Central Command, to be his secretary of defense.
He also named Avril Haines, a former top CIA official and deputy national security adviser, as his pick for director of national intelligence, and Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to lead DHS. Haines would be the first woman to lead the US intelligence community and Mayorkas would be first Latino to helm the Department of Homeland Security.

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Biden expands US investment ban on Chinese firms

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US President Joe Biden is set to ban Americans from investing in dozens of Chinese tech and defence firms with alleged military ties.

The new executive order will come into effect on 2 August, hitting 59 firms including communications giant Huawei. The list of firms will be updated on a rolling basis.

The move expands an order previously issued by ex-President Donald Trump.

Even before the official announcement, China suggested it would retaliate.

Under the new order, US investors will be banned from buying or selling publicly-traded securities for other companies including the China General Nuclear Power Corporation, China Mobile Limited and Costar Group.

It expands the previous list from 31 firms to include surveillance companies and is aimed at ensuring “US persons are not financing the military industrial complex of the People’s Republic of China,” one White House official said.

“The prohibitions are intentionally targeted and scoped to maximise the impact on the targets while minimising harm to global markets,” the official added.

Huawei recently said that sanctions imposed on it by the US in 2019 have had a major impact on its mobile phone business.

The US took action amid claims that the company posed a security risk and last July, and the UK said it would exclude the company from building its 5G network.

The new list of companies barred from US investment will update one from the Department of Defense.

“We fully expect that in the months ahead… we’ll be adding additional companies to the new executive order’s restrictions,” the White House said.

It comes as the surveillance of citizens, including Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region in particular, has come under scrutiny.

The Biden administration has also accused China of acting more aggressively abroad and more repressively at home.

The China-US relationship is crucial to both sides and the wider world, with Beijing repeatedly calling on the new administration in Washington to improve relations which deteriorated under predecessor Donald Trump.

In their first meeting under the Biden presidency last month, the two countries’ top trade negotiators held “candid, pragmatic” talks on their trading relationship.

President Biden has insisted, however, that existing tariffs will be kept in place for now as he looks to boost the US economy, which was hit hard early in the pandemic but is now recovering.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin suggested China would retaliate against the latest measures.

“China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and resolutely support Chinese enterprises in safeguarding their rights and interests in accordance with the law,” he said.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57334265\

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Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward rejects calls for audit of party elections

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Kelli Ward on Friday rejected calls for an audit into her recent reelection as the chair of the Arizona Republican Party and other party races, arguing that the state GOP does not have the structure to review them.

“We don’t have the structure to be able to do an audit,” she said on KFYI’s radio show “The Conservative Circus with James T. Harris,” adding, “But we welcome their input to make elections bigger.”
She added that the structure for an audit “doesn’t exist in our process, our procedures, our bylaws, in statute.”
Ward, one of the most fervent proponents of former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, claimed not only that an audit was not possible, but that calls for it were being pushed as a way to attack her.
She argued that the only people demanding an audit are Sergio Arellano — a Tucson small business owner who challenged Ward for the top state party job — and people who were part of his campaign.
Arellano did not respond to CNN’s request for a response to Ward on Friday.
Last week, Ward secured a second stint as chair of the state party, beating Arellano by 3 percentage points. Arellano on Thursday requested an audit of the votes cast in the race for Arizona GOP chair and other party elections.
“I anticipate the State GOP will do a solid job here and provide election officials around the state with an example of how to conduct a timely audit and how important ballot security and paper backups are,” Arellano said in a statement posted to Facebook.
He claimed that a “reversal of the stated results” in another party race prompted a “number of state committeemen” to raise concerns and reach out to him to ask that he request an audit. Sandra Dowling was announced the winner of a bid for Arizona’s 8th congressional district’s member-at-large committee, only to have the win pulled back because of an error.
During the radio interview, Ward went on to attack the media, saying stories about the possible audit were trying to “gin up something that just doesn’t exist” and that “everything was above board” with the election.
Ward’s tenure as chair of the party has been defined by her unwavering support for Trump, having repeatedly backed his maneuvers to overturn the presidential election results, including in Arizona, which Joe Biden won by more than 10,000 votes.
The former vice president became the second Democrat since Harry Truman in 1948 to win Arizona in 2020. In the wake of Biden’s win, Ward lashed out at some Republicans who backed the new President, including Cindy McCain, the late Sen. John McCain’s widow, and former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

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Senate impeachment trial arguments to start February 9

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The second Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is scheduled to begin on February 9 after Senate leaders reached a deal to push it back, giving Trump’s legal team more time to prepare and Senate Democrats a chance to consider Covid-19 legislation and to confirm President Joe Biden’s Cabinet.

House Democrats will formally walk over the single article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate on Monday evening, but the agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will push back the substance of the trial until February. Without an agreement, the trial would have started the afternoon after the article was transmitted to the Senate.
“We have made good progress in our efforts to determine the timing and structure of the impeachment trial of Donald J Trump,” Schumer said Friday evening announcing the trial schedule, saying it would begin the week of February 8.
Under the agreement, the ceremonial functions of the trial will occur next week, with the articles being presented on Monday and senators being sworn in as jurors on Tuesday. Then the trial will pause, while the House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team exchange pre-trial briefs for two weeks. The final briefs would be due on February 9, allowing the trial itself to begin.
A delay to the impeachment trial also makes sense for Democrats because the trial had threatened to stall the confirmation of Biden’s Cabinet, as well as put a stop to any consideration of another Covid stimulus package, as Senate Republicans said Friday they would not allow the Senate to confirm nominees at the same time the trial is going on. The trial’s timing had been one of several logistical hurdles the Senate is tackling amid broader negotiations between Schumer and McConnell over how the 50-50 Senate will be governed.
McConnell had proposed delaying the trial until early February, arguing that Trump’s legal team should be given ample time to prepare after the House’s swift impeachment of Trump for “incitement of insurrection” earlier this month. The timeline Schumer announced Friday evening is one week earlier that what McConnell had proposed, but the Kentucky Republican’s team praised the agreement Friday.” This is a win for due process and fairness,” said McConnell spokesman
The length of the trial is still an open question and will depend both on whether the House impeachment managers seek to call witnesses and the length of senators’ questions for the legal teams. But sources say most believe the trial will be shorter than the three-week 2020 impeachment trial for Trump.
The timing for the trial had remained unsettled on Friday morning as the negotiations continued between Senate leaders. On Friday morning, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would transmit the impeachment article to the Senate on Monday, in effect setting a deadline for the Senate to cut a deal on the trial timing.
“We are respectful of the Senate’s constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process, noting that the former president will have had the same amount of time to prepare for trial as our Managers,” Pelosi said Friday. “Our Managers are ready to begin to make their case to 100 Senate jurors through the trial process.”
Republicans made clear Friday that Biden’s agenda would have been frozen until the Senate finished the trial, had it taken place next week.
“We won’t be doing any confirmations, we won’t be doing any Covid-19 relief, we won’t be doing anything else other than impeaching a person who’s not even president,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of Senate GOP leadership.
Cornyn said Republicans haven’t given consent to bifurcate the trial days to take up nominations during the trial. “No, it’s not gonna happen,” he said.
In order to convict Trump, Democrats need a two-thirds majority, meaning at least 17 Republicans would have to vote to convict Trump, assuming that all 50 Democrats do. Ten House Republicans joined with Democrats to impeach.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, considered a swing GOP vote, said Friday that the process “has to be fair.”
“My thought process is to see what happens as this unfolds,” she said. “You know, we learned this morning that Speaker Pelosi is going to transmit the article on Monday. As I understand, right now, there hasn’t been an agreed-to schedule on the pre-trial. I think what McConnell laid down was eminently reasonable, in terms of making sure that we got process. Got to have process and the process has to be fair. So yeah, so we’ve got to get started, I guess.”
The Biden administration has publicly taken a hands-off approach to the impeachment process has publicly taken a hands-off approach to the impeachment process. Biden has never had a strong appetite for impeaching Trump, advisers say, but he also has little desire for allowing the Senate trial to drag out any longer than necessary.
“We need to move past this,” a Biden official told CNN. “The only way for that to happen is for the trial to begin.”
But Biden said at a White House announcement Friday that he saw the upside to waiting on the trial. “The more time we have to get up and running and meet these crises, the better,” he said.

‘It will be a full trial’

A faction of Senate Republicans has argued that the impeachment trial would be unconstitutional because Trump has already left office. It’s an argument that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, has suggested Trump’s legal team should adopt.
“I think it’s obvious that the post-presidential impeachment has never occurred in the history of the country for a reason, that it’s unconstitutional, that it sets a bad precedent for the presidency and it continues to divide the nation,” Graham said Friday.
But Schumer pushed back on that argument, noting that both liberal and conservative legal scholars have said there is precedent for an impeachment trial of a former official.
“The Senate will conduct a trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump,” Schumer said. “It will be a full trial. It will be a fair trial. But make no mistake, there will be a trial, and when that trial ends, senators will have to decide if they believe Donald John Trump incited the insurrection against the United States.”
McConnell said Friday that the Senate should give Trump a “full and fair process” to mount his impeachment defense.
“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House. The sequel cannot be an insufficient Senate process that denies former President Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself,” McConnell said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense and the Senate can properly consider the factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake.”

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