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Trump says he’ll give up power if electoral college backs Biden

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 27: President Donald Trump said Thursday for the first time that he would leave the White House if Joe Biden is officially confirmed the winner of the US election, even as he railed against the "rigged" vote.

Trump has made an unprecedented attempt to defy the results of the election by refusing to concede, spreading wild theories about stolen ballots and launching baseless legal challenges that have been thrown out by courts.

Answering his first questions from reporters since the November 3 vote, the president moved closer to accepting that he would serve only one term in office before Biden is inaugurated on January 20.

When asked if he would leave the White House if the Electoral College confirmed Biden's victory, Trump said, "Certainly I will. And you know that."

But "if they do, they made a mistake," he said, adding, "It's going to be a very hard thing to concede."

"I think that there will be a lot of things happening between now and (January) 20th," he said.

The Electoral College, which determines the White House winner, will meet on December 14 to certify Biden's victory, with Biden receiving 306 votes to Trump's 232.

"This election was a fraud," Trump said, again without providing any evidence during his remarks to reporters at the White House after he spoke to military personnel via video-link on the Thanksgiving holiday.

He described the US voting infrastructure as "like a third-world country."

Earlier in the day he tweeted that "this was a 100% RIGGED ELECTION," while on Wednesday he called on his Republican supporters "to turn the election over."

President-elect Biden has said that Americans "won't stand" for attempts to derail the vote outcome, and urged for Americans to unite to fight the worsening pandemic.

More than 260,000 people have died in the US from Covid-19, with daily death tolls surging to 2,000 on recent days.

Trump's refusal to concede the election to Biden has added to the countless norms he has torn up during his four years in power.

Supporters suggest he is already eyeing a run for president in 2024.

Trump, 74, is alleging -- among other conspiracy theories -- that voting machines deliberately deleted millions of his votes, though the government election security agency declared it "the most secure" election in US history.

Under pressure from some senior Republicans, Trump this week ended his blockade of government assistance to ease Biden's preparation for assuming the presidency.

Trump said Thursday he would soon travel to Georgia to campaign ahead of two key runoff elections that will decide which party controls the Senate.

Biden, 78, this week introduced a slate of veteran diplomats and policy-makers who will make up his national security and foreign policy team, saying: "America is back, ready to lead the world."

He said that in his first 100 days in office, he would tackle the Covid crisis, scrap Trump policies "damaging" the environment and push legislation offering millions of undocumented US residents a route to citizenship.

US announces reward of up to USD 5 million for information about 26/11 mastermind

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 27: Twelve years after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the United States has announced a reward of up to USD 5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba member Sajid Mir for his “role” in the attacks in Mumbai in 2008.

According to an official statement issued by the US Rewards for Justice program, “Sajid Mir, a senior member of the Pakistan-based foreign terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), is wanted for his involvement in the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. The Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to USD 5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of Sajid Mir for his role in these attacks.”

On November 26, 2008, 10 terrorists, trained by the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation LeT, carried out a series of coordinated attacks against multiple targets in Mumbai -- the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Hotel, the Leopold Cafe, the Nariman (Chabad) House, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus -- killing 166 people.

In these gruesome attacks, nine terrorists were killed and the lone survivor, Ajmal Amir Kasab, was caught and sentenced to death. On November 11, 2012, Kasab was hanged at Yerwada Central Jail in Pune.

“Sajid Mir was LeT’s operations manager for the Mumbai attack, playing a leading role in its planning, preparation, and execution. Mir was indicted in the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (Chicago, Illinois) on April 21, 2011, and was charged with conspiracy to injure the property of a foreign government; providing material support to terrorists; aiding and abetting the killing of a citizen outside of the US; and the bombing of places of public use. According to the indictment, during the attacks, Mir advised the attackers to kill hostages, set fires, and throw grenades and also sought the release of a hostage in exchange for the release of a captured attacker. A warrant for Mir’s arrest was issued on April 22, 2011. In 2019, Mir was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List,” the department said.

It added that on August 30, 2012, the Department of the Treasury designated Mir for holding leadership positions within the LeT. “According to the US Department of Treasury, as of 2005, Mir directed training for operatives preparing for overseas recruiting, money laundering, and operational planning. The LeT was designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the US Department of State in December 2001,” the department added.

However, Pakistani authorities continue to deny culpability and are yet to take action on the multiple dossiers shared by India. A trial underway in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court against seven suspects has made little headway in more than a decade, as Pakistani officials serially question the sufficiency and legitimacy of evidence against them.

Pakistan has been placed on the FATF’s grey list of the country with inadequate controls over terror financing in 2018, saying Pakistan “still needs to demonstrate that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of terrorism financing activity.”

Pakistan has long been criticised for cultivating terror proxy groups and the country currently faces renewed pressure to act against terrorists.

Trump rants about polls, pardons Flynn

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 26: US President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a prosecution in the Russia probe that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the justice department stepped in to dismiss his case.

The US president, meanwhile, yet again railed over the election outcome. He stayed home at the White House, rage-tweeted about his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden, saying it was a “rigged election”, then barely mentioned the pandemic or greeted the nation on Thanksgiving, phoned into a packed news conference held by his allies in Pennsylvania, and called for “this election to be turned around”.

On the move to pardon his former NSA, the US president tweeted, “It is my great honour to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a full pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”

The Washington Post slammed the decision to pardon Flynn as a “parting disgrace” from the outgoing president.

President-elect Biden had a more constructive presence through the day. He called for unity and hope in a Thanksgiving eve address to Americans, reminding them that the country was at war with the coronavirus pandemic “and not with each other”.

The contrast in approach between the two leaders, their priorities and their styles played out in full public view over the day on Wednesday. A sombre Biden spoke to Americans from an empty music hall about the need for “solutions, not shouting; reason, not hyper-partisanship; light, not heat”, and urged them not to despair in the face of the pandemic. Speaking of the Covid-19 vaccines in the pipeline, he said, “Hang on, don’t let yourself surrender.”

Biden, who has sought to stay above Trump’s attempts to challenge the election result, addressed the issue head on.

“In America, we have full and fair and free elections, and then we honour the results,” he said without naming anyone. “The people of this nation and the laws of the land won’t stand for anything else.”

Biden said he understood the task of unifying the country is not going to be easy, but he insisted he was determined to bring together Democrats, Republicans and Independents. “Americans dream big. And, as hard as it may seem this Thanksgiving, we are going to dream big again,” he said.

America is back: Joe Biden

WILIMGTON, Nov 25: Declaring “America is back,” President-elect Joe Biden has introduced his key national security and foreign policy officials and said the incoming administration is ready to lead the world and once again sit at the head of the table.

Signaling a sharp shift from outgoing Republican President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy over the last four years, Biden said America is “ready to confront our adversaries, not reject our allies. And ready to stand up for our values.” Speaking from his transition center in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden, a Democrat, introduced his six top officials and highlighted the need to rebuild alliances, as well as tackling the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

World leaders, he said, were “looking forward to the United States reasserting its historic role as a global leader over the Pacific, as well as the Atlantic, all across the world.” Biden’s nominees and appointees, including Antony Blinken for secretary of state and former secretary of state John Kerry to a new position as special presidential envoy for climate, spoke for the first time since being announced on Monday by the transition team, and many of them offered implicit rebukes of President Trump and his isolationist and “America First” worldview.

“The team meets this moment, this team behind me,” Biden said.

“They embody my core belief that America is strongest when it works with its allies,” he said. “That’s how we truly keep America safe without engaging in needless military conflicts, and our adversaries in check and terrorists at bay,” he said.

“And it’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it. Once again, sit at the head of the table,” the 78-year-old, who is scheduled to be inaugurated on January 20 as the 46th US President despite incumbent Trump not conceding, said.

Biden said, “America leads not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” He said the officials he has picked “will not only repair, they will reimagine American foreign policy and national security for the next generation. And they will tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know.” Apart from Blinken and Kerry, Biden also introduced his nominee Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security, Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the US ambassador to the United Nations and Jake Sullivan as the national security adviser.

In his remarks, Biden also referred the formal letter of ascertainment by the head of the General Services Administration released on Monday, enabling his transition team to access funds and critical information related to public health and national security.

“I’m pleased to have received the ascertainment from GSA to carry out a smooth and peaceful transition of power, so our teams can prepare to meet the challenges at hand, to control the pandemic, to build back better and to protect the safety and security of the American people,” he said.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will also be a member of Biden’s Cabinet, also spoke at the event.

“Our challenge here is a necessary foundation for restoring and advancing our leadership around the world and we are ready for that work. “We will need to reassemble and renew America’s alliances, rebuild and strengthen the national security and foreign policy institutions that keep us safe and advance our nation’s interests, and confront and combat the existential threat of climate change that endangers us all,” Harris said.

Meanwhile, Preident Trump has still not admitted defeat, tweeting that: “Our case STRONGLY continues” in reference to his campaign’s attempts to overturn the election results, falsely claiming widespread voter fraud.

Biden becomes first US presidential candidate to win over 80 million votes

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 25: Joe Biden has become the US first presidential candidate to win over 80 million votes, with his record-breaking number of popular votes still likely to increase as ballots continue to be counted across the nation, according to a media report on Wednesday.

President-elect Biden won more than 80,011,000 votes as of Tuesday, while President Donald Trump had more than 73,800,000 votes. Trump’s votes make him the candidate to win the second-highest number of popular votes in American history, CNN reported.

Biden, a Democrat, has secured 306 electoral votes, while Trump, a Republican has 232. The winner in the race to the White House should get at least 270 electoral votes from the 538-member Electoral College. Americans voted by mail in record numbers this year to protect themselves from exposure to coronavirus in the middle of a global pandemic, and experts had warned for months that there would be a lengthy vote count that could extend for days following Election Day on November 3.

The new record set by Biden reinforces his decisive win over Trump, who has yet to concede the election even as his administration has started the formal presidential transition process after the General Services Administration acknowledged the win on Monday.

President Trump finally agreed to allow the formal transition process to begin on Monday, nearly three weeks after the presidential election.

Yet he still refuses to admit defeat, repeating unsubstantiated claims that the vote was “rigged”.

Trump’s efforts to challenge the results in key states in courts have so far failed. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania and Nevada officially certified Biden’s victory, a day after the same outcome was announced in Michigan.

Xi Jinping finally congratulates Joe Biden

BEIJING, Nov 25: President Xi Jinping on Wednesday congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden on winning the presidential election, expressing hope that the two countries will uphold the spirit of non-confrontation and advance the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties, official media reported.

President Xi sent a message to Biden to congratulate him on his election as US president, becoming one of the last major leaders to congratulate the Democratic presidential candidate.

Promoting healthy and stable development of China-US relations not only serves the fundamental interests of the people in both countries, but also meets the common expectation of the international community, Xi said in his message, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

Xi said he hopes that the two sides will uphold the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, focus on cooperation, manage differences, advance the healthy and stable development of China-US ties, and join hands with other countries and the international community to promote the noble cause of world peace and development.

On the same day, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan sent a message to Kamala Harris to congratulate her on election as US vice president-elect.

The Chinese president’s message came as US President Donald Trump’s government authorised President-elect Biden to begin a formal transition process. However, Trump has not yet conceded, and vowed to persist with efforts to change the vote, which have so far proved fruitless.

China initially hesitated to congratulate Biden after Republican incumbent President Trump refused to concede.

However, China on November 13 shed its hesitation and congratulated Biden and his running mate Harris for their victory, saying that it respects the choice of the American people. “We have been following reactions on the US elections from both within the US and the international community,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here on November 13.

“We respect the American people’s choice and we extend congratulations to Biden and Harris and we understand that the result of the US presidential elections will be determined following the US laws and procedures,” Wang said.

Trump’s four years in power were the worst phase in China-US relations as the ruling Communist Party of China headed by President Xi struggled to deal with what Chinese officials say is the most elusive and unpredictable American leader ever since former US President Richard Nixon in 1972 established ties with the Communist nation.

During his tenure, Trump pushed aggressively on all aspects of US-China ties, including with his relentless trade war, challenging China’s military hold on the disputed South China Sea, its constant threats to Taiwan and branding coronavirus as “China virus” after it emerged from Wuhan in December last year.

Chinese strategic experts said Biden entering the White House may provide an opportunity for breakthroughs in resuming high-level communication and rebuilding mutual strategic trust between the two major countries.

Biden gets transition funds, but Trump still does not concede

Pennsylvania, Michigan certify Biden as winner of presidential vote

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 24: US President Donald Trump finally relented on Monday, 16 days after he was projected to lose to President-elect Joe Biden, and instructed his officials to cooperate with the incoming administration, but he did not concede defeat and vowed to keep up the “good fight”, referring to his efforts to stay in office.

Trump’s refusal to concede is growing less consequential every passing day because of his failing legal challenges and political manoeuvres. Michigan certified Biden the victor in the state earlier in the day, becoming the third of the battleground states to do so after Georgia and Wisconsin.

Pennsylvania followed later in the day, all but killing Trump’s hopes of reversing the poll outcome and somehow win a second term.

Trump’s decision to allow the transition process to go ahead was seen by political commentators and experts as the most he will do to acknowledge his defeat.

But the president insisted he was not giving up. “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” he wrote in a tweet, adding, “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily [Murphy, head of the administration that flags off the transition process] and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

Murphy, the chief of General Services Administration, had already issued a letter by then, allowing the transition process to start finally, getting out of the way. “I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,” she wrote.

The Biden transition team promptly declared the GSA statement as an “ascertainment”, a technical recognition of President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris as “apparent winners” pending finalisation by electors next month, and said in a statement, “This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies.”

The transition team said that in the days ahead it will start discussing with the Trump administration its “pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies”.

In the absence of the ascertainment, President-elect Biden had been denied national security intelligence briefings, which he should have been getting as part of the transition process, and his team was denied access to the Trump administration’s preparedness to tackle the epidemic and distribution of vaccines that are expected to start rolling out around the middle of December, initially for first responders and those at high-risk.

The Biden transition team will also be entitled to federal funding for its operations and most importantly, start the routine process of background screening of the president-elect’s cabinet nominations, the first bunch of to be announced Tuesday, and the 4,000 federal positions to be filled with political appointees.

Wall Street traded in record territory as Biden Transition begins; Oil surges

NEW YORK, Nov 24: US stocks rallied toward records, oil surged past $45 and the dollar fell as the formal start of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition spurred investors into risk assets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed to 30,000 for the first time, led by a 5% rally in Boeing Co. The S&P 500 jumped more than 1%. Back-to-normal stocks led the gains. Carnival Corp. surged 9%, MGM Resorts International added 7% and Planet Fitness Inc. jumped 8%. The Russell 2000 rose almost 2% and is on track for its best month ever.

Energy companies in the S&P 500 surged 4% after oil topped $45 a barrel in New York for the first time since March 6. Bitcoin rallied past $19,000. The dollar weakened versus major peers and Treasuries slipped. Gold fell toward $1,800 an ounce.

“The market has room to run but on the premise that investors are trying to rotate into these undervalued areas of the market and more into the value play rather than the technology,” Shawn Snyder, head of investment strategy at Citi Personal Wealth Management, said by phone.

Stock markets globally trended higher after the General Services Administration acknowledged Biden as the apparent winner of the presidential election. The move reduces political uncertainty in the US, giving Biden and his team access to current agency officials, briefing books, some $6 million in funding and other resources. Markets also cheered his plan to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to lead the Treasury Department.

“Markets love certainty and the move by Trump overnight partially removes ambiguity over the presidential succession,” Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst with Oanda Asia Pacific Pte, wrote in a note. “A Biden administration is expected to be much less isolationist, with hopes that the U.S. will reengage on global trade and improve relations with China.”

Wall Street is also viewing a possible Yellen appointment as reason to count on more economic stimulus. She recently said the recovery will be uneven and lackluster if Congress doesn’t spend more to fight unemployment and keep small businesses afloat. That’s fueling the rotation out of defensive technology stocks and into assets that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, such as airlines and energy producers.

In other markets, gold dropped to a four-month low and the dollar weakened against its major peers.

In New Zealand, the government proposed adding home prices to the central bank’s remit to rein in an overheating property market. The move has prompted investors to reduce bets on lower interest rates, pushing the kiwi to the highest level since June 2018.

In Germany, the operator of the DAX index announced the biggest overhaul since the index’s inception in 1988. The number of members will increase to 40 from 30 and new quality criteria will be imposed on both existing and prospective members.

Biden set to formally introduce his national security team

WILIMINGTON, Nov 24: President-elect Joe Biden is set to formally introduce his national security team to the nation, building out a team of Obama administration alumni that signals his shift away from the Trump administration’s “America First” policies and a return to U.S. engagement on the global stage.

The picks for national security and foreign policy posts include former Secretary of State John Kerry, who will take the lead on combating climate change. They’re slated to join Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at an in-person event in Wilmington, Delaware, Tuesday afternoon, where they’ll each deliver their first remarks as Biden’s nominees.

Outside the realm of national security and foreign policy, Biden is expected to choose Janet Yellen as the first woman to become treasury secretary. She was nominated by President Barack Obama to lead the Federal Reserve, the first woman in that position, and served from 2014 to 2018.

Biden’s emerging Cabinet marks a return to a more traditional approach to governing, relying on veteran policymakers with deep expertise and strong relationships in Washington and global capitals. And with a roster that includes multiple women and people of color — some of whom are breaking historic barriers in their posts — Biden is fulfilling his campaign promise to lead a team that reflects the diversity of America.

The incoming president will nominate longtime adviser Antony Blinken to be secretary of state; lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary; Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser. Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, will be nominated as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold that post.

Thomas-Greenfield is Black, and Mayorkas is Cuban American.

Mayorkas might pose the most difficult confirmation challenge from Biden’s early round of nominees.

The Senate previously confirmed him in December 2013 by a party-line vote to be the deputy secretary of Homeland Security. The Senate was controlled by Democrats then, and all Senate Republicans voted against Mayorkas’ confirmation mainly because he was then under active investigation by the Obama-appointed DHS inspector general. At the time, according to the Senate Historian, it was unprecedented for the Senate to vote on a nominee who was under investigation.

DHS Inspector General John Roth issued a report in March 2015 that found Mayorkas, as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, appeared to give special treatment to certain individuals as part of the visa program which gives residency preference to immigrants who agree to invest in the US economy and create jobs.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, on Tuesday broadly slammed Biden’s picks as unworthy.

“Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline,” Rubio tweeted.

Those being introduced on Tuesday “are experienced, crisis-tested leaders who are ready to hit the ground running on day one,” the transition said in a statement. “These officials will start working immediately to rebuild our institutions, renew and reimagine American leadership to keep Americans safe at home and abroad, and address the defining challenges of our time — from infectious disease, to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, and climate change.”

In the weeks ahead, Biden could also name Michèle Flournoy as the first woman to lead the Defense Department. Pete Buttigieg, the former Indiana mayor and onetime presidential candidate, has also been mentioned as a contender for a Cabinet agency.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that Kash Patel, the chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense, is heading the department’s transition work. A transition task force has been assembled, led by Tom Muir, the head of the Pentagon office that provides administrative and management services to all Defense Department facilities in the Washington area. A Pentagon spokeswoman, Susan Gough, said the Pentagon is “in discussions on the next steps” with the Biden agency review team led by Kathleen Hicks.

In making the choices public on Monday, Biden moved forward with plans to fill out his administration even as President Donald Trump refused to concede defeat in the Nov. 3 election, has pursued baseless legal challenges in several key states and worked to stymie the transition process.

Trump said later Monday that he was directing his team to cooperate on the transition but vowed to keep up the fight. His comment came after the General Services Administration ascertained that Biden was the apparent winner of the election, clearing the way for the start of the transition from Trump’s administration and allowing Biden to coordinate with federal agencies on plans for taking over on Jan. 20.

Beyond Rubio’s broadside, Biden’s nominations were generally met with silence on Capitol Hill, where the Senate’s balance of power hinges on two runoff races that will be decided in January.

The best known of the bunch is Kerry, who made climate change one of his top priorities while serving as Obama’s secretary of state, during which he also negotiated the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord. Trump withdrew from both agreements, which he said represented a failure of American diplomacy in a direct shot at Kerry, whom he called the worst secretary of state in U.S. history.

Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and weighed in publicly just last week on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.

Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was Biden’s national security adviser when Biden was vice president, then moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Kerry.

Biden Picks Antony Blinken as Secretary Of State

WASHINGTON, Nov 24: Washington: US President-elect Joe Biden announced on Monday key figures for his cabinet, picking longtime foreign policy advisor Antony Blinken to be his secretary of state and former US chief diplomat John Kerry as his special climate envoy.

Biden also nominated the first Latino ever, Cuba-born lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas, to lead the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration.

He picked Avril Haines, the former deputy CIA director, as his director of national intelligence, the first woman to ever hold that position.

Biden also said that long-time diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be nominated to serve as his ambassador to the United Nations, with status as a cabinet member.

And Jake Sullivan, who was a security aide to Biden when he was vice president, was appointed white House national security advisor.

All are veterans of the former 2009-2017 Obama-Biden administration, and deeply experienced in their fields.

Kerry, who was secretary of state from 2013 to 2017 and signed the Paris climate accord in 2015 on behalf of the United States -- only to see President Donald Trump withdraw from it -- will be made a member of the national security council, the first time the council has had a specialist on climate change, Biden's office said.

Mayorkas, a former federal prosecutor, was director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services and then DHS deputy secretary under president Barack Obama.

Sullivan was director of the Policy Planning Staff at the State department and deputy chief of staff to secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and was a lead negotiator in the early talks for the Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from.

"We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy," Biden said in a statement.

"These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative," he said.

US formally withdraws from Open Skies Treaty

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 22: The United States formally withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty on Sunday, six months after President Donald Trump announced the decision.

The State Department has declared that the United States is no longer a party to the Treaty on Open Skies, a decades-old treaty that permits member countries to conduct short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over other countries to collect data on military forces and activities.

The treaty was first pitched way back in 1955 by the then US president Dwight Eisenhower, proposing that the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union would allow reconnaissance flights over each other’s territory. Moscow rejected the proposal, saying the initiative would be used for extensive spying. George H.W. Bush revived the idea in 1989 and negotiations between the NATO and the Warsaw Pact started in February 1990.

The treaty was finally signed in 1992 but came into force on January 1, 2002. Currently, 34 states are party to the treaty while Kyrgyzstan has signed but not ratified it. On May 21, 2020, the State Department said that the Trump administration may reconsider the withdrawal if Russia returns to “full compliance with the Treaty.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had accused Russia of “flagrantly and continuously” violating the Treaty in various ways for years. The top American diplomat had said in a statement that Russia has been a serial violator of many of its arms control obligations and commitments and the violations are not limited to the Treaty on Open Skies.

Pompeo had claimed that instead of using the treaty as a mechanism for improving trust and confidence through military transparency, Russia weaponised the treaty by making it into “a tool of intimidation and threat.” He accused Kremlin of targeting critical infrastructure in the United States and Europe with “precision-guided conventional munitions” by using using the Open Skies imagery.

“After careful consideration, including input from Allies and key partners, it has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in America’s interest to remain a party to the Treaty on Open Skies,” he added.

Judge throws out Trump bid to stop Pennsylvania vote certification

HARRISBURG, Nov 21: Pennsylvania officials can certify election results that currently show Democrat Joe Biden winning the state by more than 80,000 votes, a federal judge ruled Saturday, dealing President Donald Trump’s campaign another blow in its effort to invalidate the election.

US Middle District Judge Matthew Brann in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, turned down the request for an injunction by President Donald Trump’s campaign, spoiling the incumbent’s hopes of somehow overturning the results of the presidential contest.

Trump had argued that the US Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law was violated when Pennsylvania counties took different approaches to notifying voters before the election about technical problems with their submitted mail-in ballots.

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and the seven Biden-majority counties that the campaign sued had argued Trump had previously raised similar claims and lost.

They told Brann the remedy the Trump campaign sought, to throw out millions of votes over alleged isolated issues, was far too extreme, particularly after most of them have been tallied.

“There is no justification on any level for the radical disenfranchisement they seek,” Boockvar’s lawyers wrote in a brief filed Thursday.

The state’s 20 electoral votes would not have been enough on their own to hand Trump a second term. Counties must certify their results to Boockvar by Monday, after which she will make her own certification.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will notify the winning candidate’s electors they should appear to vote in the Capitol on Dec. 14.

Trump administration has done ‘everything required’ in event of transition: White House

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 21: The Trump administration has done “everything statutorily required” to do in the event of a transition, the White House has said, asserting that a constitutional process is being played out to determine the winner of the November 3 presidential election.

Incumbent US President Donald Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede the election to 78-year-old Joe Biden, a Democrat, and has filed multiple lawsuits challenging the poll results in several states. Trump, 74, has made allegations of widespread electoral fraud, without providing any evidence.

Former US vice president Biden was declared the winner of the closely-fought US presidential election on November 7. Biden now has 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 votes. To win the race to the White House, the successful candidate should have at least 270 electoral votes out of the 538-member Electoral College. His lead in the public vote overall stands at more than 5.9 million.

Backing President’s Trump’s stance, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany refused to acknowledge President-elect Biden’s victory in a press briefing on Friday— her first press briefing since October 1 and since President Trump lost the election.

“The president’s been very clear, he wants every legal vote to be counted,” McEnany said. She did not say when Trump would concede, but said there were “very real claims” of voter fraud without identifying any evidence. “There is a Presidential Transition Act that determines exactly what an administration needs to do in advance of an election. And we have done everything statutorily required, and we will continue to do that,” McEnany asserted. Biden is set to take office on January 20 as the 46th US president.

Meanwhile, after a string of court defeats in his efforts to challenge the election results, Trump’s team is hoping to convince legislatures controlled by his fellow Republicans in key states to ignore the outcome and declare him the victor, according to multiple US media outlets.

In the absence of certification of the election and conceding by President Trump, the General Services Administration (GSA) has refrained from taking the steps necessary to ensure smooth transition of power to the incoming Biden administration, including the release of over USD 9 million for the Congressional-mandated transition team.

Emily Murphy, the Administrator of the GSA, a Trump appointee, is yet to formally recognise Biden’s victory, thus denying him access to contacts with federal agencies and access to classified intelligence briefings. The delayed transition has sparked concerns about national security and the impacts it could have on the incoming Biden administration’s Covid-19 response, especially the distribution of a vaccine.

“The GSA will make the determination of ascertainment at the right moment. Right now, there is a constitutional process that is being played out. There are questions being asked in court. But the GSA will determine when ascertainment is reached,” McEnany said in response to a question.

There is ongoing litigation, she emphasised.

“What we know, 74 million Americans voted for this President, that is more votes any President has got in history. It is really extraordinary. There are very real claims out there that the campaign is pursuing -- 234 pages of affidavits publicly available in one county alone; that is Wayne County. And two individuals in the canvassing board there that have declined to certify,” she said, referring to the most populous county in the US state of Michigan.

Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his office by trying to pressure the legislators to subvert the will of voters and seat their own electors to the Electoral College, which gathers on December 14. Amid the row with Trump, President-elect Biden has sought to plough on with the transition, this week announcing appointments and meeting national security experts.

On Friday Biden met two top Democratic legislators, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, to discuss how to help “struggling working families and small businesses” during the worsening coronavirus outbreak.

Tibetan govt-in-exile President Lobsong Sangay creates history for CTA by visiting White House

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 21: Dr Lobsang Sangay, President of Tibetan government-in-exile on Friday formally entered the United States White House, a historic feat for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).

According to a release from the office of Tibet in Washington, Dr Sangay became the first Sikyong (President of CTA) to be formally invited into the US State Department to meet Assistant Secretary and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Robert Destro.

For the last six decades, the head of CTA was denied entry to the US State Department and White House, as the US government does not recognise the Tibetan government-in-exile. The Friday’s visit amounts to an acknowledgment of both the democratic system of CTA and its political head.

Sangay was invited to the US State Department for the first time in 60 years last month.

The CTA informed that Dr Sangay met with White House officials, and prior to this meeting, he had met them in undisclosed meetings and locations over a dozen times in the past 10 years since he became the CTA’s Sikyong in 2011.

“Though he nears the end of his term as the Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration, Dr. Sangay has tirelessly advocated for the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019,” said the release.

Earlier this week, Dr Sangay held several virtual meetings, through which he discussed Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA) and other matters with the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China Chairman Jim McGovern and senior Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers, both on the Republican and Democrat side.

Representative Ngodup Tsering and Kelsang Dolma had also accompanied Dr Sangay on these meetings.

In October, after Sangay was invited by the State Department, the Chinese government has asked the US to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs or undermining the development and stability of the country’s Tibet region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing in Beijing on Tuesday that Destro “violated the commitment and the policy stance of the US side on not supporting Tibet’s independence and not acknowledging this government in exile”.

US, Taiwan sign pact to hold annual economic talks for 5 years

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 21: The US and Taiwan signed a pact to establish annual economic talks for five years despite objections by China to Washington’s support for Taipei.

The memorandum of understanding was signed after an inaugural round of economic talks in Washington on Friday. Future discussions will alternate between the US and Taipei, Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, said in a briefing in Taipei on Saturday.

Both sides agreed that strategic cooperation on the semiconductor industry is a mutual priority, and will push for further collaboration in supply chains, science and technology, 5G and telecommunications security and global health. The talks were led by US State Department Undersecretary of State Keith Krach and Taiwanese minister John Deng.

The agreement can be extended another five years once the current pact is over, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said, adding he was confident the MOU would be supported by the next US administration.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo launched the Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue with Taiwan in an effort to bolster cooperation. The talks follow repeated calls from Washington and Taipei for negotiations over a formal trade deal with Taiwan.

Last month, 50 senators signed a letter urging US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin talks with Taipei. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen echoed the call earlier this week, saying a trade deal would further strengthen the complementary nature of the two economies.

Pressure on Lighthizer to begin trade talks has increased since Tsai lifted Taiwan’s restrictions on the import of US pork and beef in August, a long-standing impediment to a free-trade agreement with the US Since then, the Taiwanese government, industry groups and US political figures had urged the Office of the US Trade Representative to start talks with Taiwan. The USTR has so far given no indication it intends to do so.

China has repeatedly signaled its displeasure over improving ties between Washington and Taipei. When Krach visited Taiwan in September, China called the trip a political provocation and sent military aircraft over the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

China’s ruling Communist Party in Beijing claims the democratically ruled island as part of its territory despite never having controlled it.

Indian-American Mala Adiga appointed as Jill Biden’s policy director

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 21: US President-elect Joe Biden on Friday appointed an Indian-American, Mala Adiga, the policy director of his wife Jill Biden, who will be the first lady.

Adiga has served as a senior advisor to Jill and a senior policy advisor on the Biden-Kamala Harris campaign. Previously, Adiga was director for Higher Education and Military Families at the Biden Foundation.

During former president Barack Obama’s administration, Adiga served as the deputy assistant secretary of state for Academic Programs at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues as chief of staff and senior advisor to the Ambassador-at-Large, besides as director for human rights on the National Security Staff.

A native of Illinois, Adiga is a graduate of Grinnell College, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and the University of Chicago Law School.

A lawyer by training, Adiga had been a clerk for a federal and had worked for a Chicago law firm before joining the campaign of former president Obama in 2008.

She started in the Obama administration as a counsel to the associate attorney general.

Biden made the announcement of her appointment as he announced the names of four new members of his White House senior staff.

Cathy Russell, Vice-Chair of the Biden-Harris campaign, has been named as the director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

Louisa Terrell, who currently oversees legislative affairs for the Biden-Harris transition team, will serve as the director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs in Biden administration.

Carlos Elizondo, a Special Assistant to the President and Social Secretary to Vice-President and Dr Jill Biden for all eight years of the Obama-Biden administration, was appointed as the White House Social Secretary.

In a statement, Joe Biden lauded the “dedication” of additional members of his team and said the new addition will serve the American people and help build back better, creating a more just, equitable, and united nation.

“I’m proud to name additional members of our team who will help deliver the change America needs in these difficult times. Their dedication to overcoming the challenges facing our country today are rooted in their diverse backgrounds and experiences. They will serve the American people and help build back better, creating a more just, equitable, and united nation,” said President-elect Biden.

Georgia affirms Joe Biden’s victory as Trump attempts to undermine election

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 20: After a painstaking recount, Georgia officials confirmed on Thursday that President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump in the battleground state on Nov. 3, further narrowing the president’s dubious effort to overturn the election results.

The result of the six-day hand recount of the state’s 5 million ballots had been widely expected, despite baseless allegations from Trump and his allies that Georgia’s vote tallies were suspect because of widespread fraud.

Amid a series of losses in court, Trump’s re-election campaign has shifted to a new strategy that relies on persuading Republican state legislators in crucial states to ignore the election results and intervene on Trump’s behalf, according to three people familiar with the plan.

The campaign has filed multiple lawsuits to try to challenge the results in battleground states that Biden won, as election officials across the country have affirmed that there is no evidence of major irregularities. Judges in three states delivered new legal setbacks to the campaign on Thursday, rejecting claims of improper vote counting.

Biden, a Democrat, has captured 306 electoral votes to the Republican Trump’s 232 in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner of the election, well above the 270 needed for victory.

Georgia’s audit, launched after unofficial results showed Biden leading Trump by about 14,000 votes cast, ended with Biden winning by 12,284, according to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office. The state is expected to certify Biden’s victory on Friday.

Trump and his allies, including Georgia’s Republican U.S. senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who both face runoff elections in January, have accused fellow Republican Raffensperger without evidence of overseeing a flawed election, an allegation Raffensperger has angrily disputed.

In remarks on Thursday after a call with 10 state governors, Biden called Trump’s attempt to reverse the results “totally irresponsible.”

“It sends a horrible message about who we are as a country,” said the president-elect, although he expressed no concern that the gambit would succeed in preventing him from taking office on Jan. 20.

While legal experts see Trump’s last-gasp effort as unlikely to succeed, they say the strategy represents an unprecedented assault on the country’s democratic institutions by a sitting president.

The Trump campaign has already asked a judge in Pennsylvania, where Biden won by 82,000 votes, to declare Trump the winner, allowing the Republican-controlled legislature to choose the state’s 20 Electoral College voters.

Several prominent law firms have pulled out of the campaign’s legal challenges, leaving Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to spearhead the efforts.

At a news conference on Thursday, Giuliani said he planned to file more lawsuits and that Democrats had engaged in a “national conspiracy” to manipulate vote totals, although he admitted he did not have any evidence.

Other members of the legal team floated a theory involving Venezuela and George Soros, a bogeyman of conservatives, although they said they would probably not pursue it in court.

Giuliani said accounts of suspicious activity would ultimately overturn the election, which Biden won nationwide by 5.9 million votes. Some of those accounts have already been thrown out of court.

“We cannot allow these crooks - because that’s what they are - to steal this election. They elected Donald Trump. They didn’t elect Joe Biden,” Giuliani said.

Giuliani’s agitated performance, featuring rivulets of hair dye running down his face, was widely mocked by Democrats. Others expressed alarm.

“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history,” tweeted Christopher Krebs, who headed up the U.S. government’s efforts to combat election disinformation until he was fired by Trump earlier this week.

Critics say Trump’s refusal to concede has serious implications for national security and the fight against the coronavirus, which has killed more than 250,000 Americans.

Biden is not receiving the classified intelligence due a president-elect, and his transition team has not received the funding, office space and briefings from current government officials normally afforded to an incoming administration.

He warned the delay could cause additional deaths as the pandemic surges to record levels across the country.

“There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan, because on Day One it’s going to take us time, if we don’t have access to all this data,” he said in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. “It’s going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more, and that’s lives.”

The former vice president has focused on preparing his incoming administration, naming senior staff members and getting briefed by his advisers. He said on Thursday he had selected a Treasury secretary and could announce his pick as soon as next week.

Democratic leaders in Congress sent a letter on Thursday to the administrator in charge of releasing transition funds, Emily Murphy, demanding that she explain why she has yet to recognize Biden as president-elect.

Part of the new Trump campaign effort involves trying to delay certification, the normally routine process by which election results are finalized, a senior campaign official said.

In Detroit on Tuesday, Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused at first to certify the results, then reversed themselves, then signed affidavits that they wanted to rescind their certification.

One of the members said that Trump called her after she agreed to certify the results.

Trump’s campaign dropped a federal lawsuit on Thursday challenging the election results in Michigan, citing the Wayne County officials’ affidavits. Officials said the affidavits were too late to stop certification.

Republican legislative leaders from Michigan are scheduled to visit the White House on Friday at Trump’s request, a source in Michigan said, adding the lawmakers planned to hear what the president had to say.

Joe Biden approaches 80 million votes in historic victory

WASHINGTON DC, Nov 19: President-elect Joe Biden’s winning tally is approaching a record 80 million votes as Democratic bastions continue to count ballots and the 2020 election cracks turnout records.

Biden has already set a record for the highest number of votes for a winning presidential candidate, and President Donald Trump has also notched a high-water mark of the most votes for a losing candidate. With more than 155 million votes counted and California and New York still counting, turnout stands at 65% of all eligible voters, the highest since 1908, according to data from The Associated Press and the U.S. Elections Project.

The rising Biden tally and his popular vote lead — nearly 6 million votes — come as Trump has escalated his false insistence that he actually won the election, and his campaign and supporters intensify their uphill legal fight to stop or delay results from being certified, potentially nullify the votes of Americans.

“It’s just a lot of noise going on, because Donald Trump is a bull who carries his own china shop with him,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “Once the noise recedes, it’s going to be clear that Biden won a very convincing victory.”

Biden currently has an Electoral College lead of 290-232. But that does not include electors from Georgia, where Biden leads Trump by 0.3 percentage points as officials conduct a hand tally. The AP has not called the race, but if Biden’s lead holds he will win the Electoral College on 306-232 vote — the identical margin Trump won in 2016. Back then Trump described it as a “landslide.”

Trump sealed that victory with 77,000 votes across three battleground states, while Biden’s margin would be slightly narrower — about 45,000 votes across Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin.

That slimmer win, however, is still decisive by election law standards, notes Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of Irvine and an expert on voting.

While Biden’s margins in states like Arizona and Wisconsin seem small — between 12,000 and 20,000 votes — those races aren’t nearly narrow enough to be considered likely to flip through a recount or lawsuits. Recounts typically shift total votes by only a few hundred votes. In 2000, the Florida recount and legal battle for the White House was prompted by a 537-vote margin.

“If you’re talking about it being close enough to be within what those of us in the field call the margin of litigation, this is not within the margin of litigation,” Hasen said.

Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University, has compared Biden’s still-growing popular vote and Electoral College margins to those of every winner of a presidential election since 1960. His finding: Biden’s win was right in the middle — tighter than landslides like Barack Obama’s 2008 win or Ronald Reagan’s 1984 wipeout reelection, but broader than Trump’s 2016 victory or either of George W. Bush’s two wins.

The closest analogy was Obama’s reelection, which he won by virtually the same margin as Biden has now.

“Did anyone think 2012 was a narrow victory? No,” Naftali said.

Despite that, Trump and his allies are continuing to try to stop certification of the election, in a longshot attempt to deny states the ability to seat electors supporting Biden. These efforts are very unlikely to succeed, but they reached a new pitch this week when two Republican members of the board of canvassers in Michigan’s largest county Tuesday night managed to block certification of the votes there. They allowed certification to proceed after an outcry, but it was a sign of how deeply Trump’s baseless claims of mass fraud have permeated.

In fact, argued Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks vote counts for the U.S. Elections Project, the relatively narrow Biden wins in battleground states tell a different story than the one the president is pushing.

Democrats have worried that the gap between the popular vote and the Electoral College tallies is growing as Democratic voters cluster on the coasts and outside of battleground states. That dynamic could make it difficult for Democrats to win congressional races, creating a lasting disadvantage when it comes to advancing policies.

“If there’s anything in the data here, it reveals how the system is stacked against the Democrats, not stacked against Trump,” McDonald said.

Blow to Trump as Michigan’s largest county unanimously certifies Joe Biden’s win

DETROIT, Nov 18: In an abrupt about-face, Michigan’s largest county on Tuesday night unanimously certified election results showing Democrat Joe Biden defeating President Donald Trump, hours after Republicans first blocked formal approval of voters’ intentions.

The initial move was quickly condemned by Democrats, election experts and spectators at the Wayne County Board of Canvassers online meeting as a dangerous attempt to block the results of a free and fair election.

“We depend on democratic norms, including that the losers graciously accept defeat. That seems to be breaking down,” said Joshua Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky.

The state vote certification process is usually a routine task, and the ultimate resolution in Wayne County propels Biden toward formal victory in Michigan. Still, Tuesday’s chaotic developments are likely to sow more doubt among Trump’s supporters in the election results and could galvanize Republicans in other states to try to look for ways to slow down the final steps in making his loss official.

Republicans are also trying to stop formal certification of the election results in other swing states, including Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

Biden crushed Trump in Wayne County, a Democratic stronghold, by more than a 2-1 margin and won Michigan by 146,000 votes, according to unofficial results. His victory reversed Trump’s surprise 2016 gains in the industrial Midwest and put Biden on the path to clearing the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

Still, Trump and his allies have launched an array of baseless attacks on the integrity of the election and numerous lawsuits aimed at slowing down the formal vote certification process. Each state certifies its election results and the Electoral College meets Dec. 14 to codify the results.

In Michigan, Trump allies and Republican poll challengers have spent days launching unsuccessful litigation. They claimed fraud during absentee ballot counting at a Detroit convention center, but two judges found no evidence and refused to stop the canvassing process.

It’s against that backdrop that the Wayne County Board of Canvassers met Tuesday. In a rare and extraordinary move, they did not bless the will of Detroit-area voters. Instead, the panel split in a 2-2 vote, with Republicans voting against certification of the results.

Monica Palmer, one of the two Republicans, said poll books in certain precincts in Detroit — a majority-Black city — were out of balance. Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat on the panel, said the discrepancies were the result of “human error” and called it “reckless and irresponsible” to not certify the results.

There has been no evidence of widespread voting fraud in Michigan, or in any other state. Federal and state officials from both parties have declared the 2020 election safe and secure.

Still, Trump has spent the two weeks since Election Day raising false claims of voter fraud and refusing to concede to Biden. He relished the initial developments in Michigan, tweeting, “Having courage is a beautiful thing.”

But the broader condemnation was swift, including from the meeting’s online spectators, who blasted Palmer and fellow Republican William Hartmann during a public comment period over Zoom.

The Rev. Wendell Anthony, a well-known pastor and head of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, called their actions a “disgrace.”

“You have extracted a Black city out of a county and said the only ones that are at fault is the city of Detroit, where 80% of the people who reside here are African Americans. Shame on you!” Anthony said, his voice rising.

Ned Staebler, a vice president at Wayne State University in Detroit, said, “The stain of racism that you, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, have just covered yourself in is going to follow you throughout history.”

Law student Joseph Zimmerman, a veteran, told the canvassers “it breaks my heart” to see them undermine the “sacred right” to vote.

After the meeting, Hartmann said the intense criticism didn’t cause him to change his vote. Rather, he said he acted because the board had agreed to ask the secretary of state to investigate Detroit’s election results.

Certification of the Nov. 3 election results in each of Michigan’s 83 counties is a step toward statewide certification by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers and the eventual awarding of 16 electoral votes.

“Glad to see common sense prevailed in the end,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said after the Wayne County reversal. “Thank you to all those citizens who spoke up so passionately. You made the difference!”

Michigan Democratic Party chair Lavora Barnes called the initial 2-2 vote “blatant racism.”

At least six election-related lawsuits have been filed in Michigan, the latest one landing Sunday in federal court. The issues that Trump’s allies have raised are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Republican Party asked a judge to bar Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, from certifying until the court issues a decision about the party’s lawsuit seeking a new hand-count of a sampling of ballots. In a more rural county, Mohave, election certification was delayed until Nov. 23 in a sign of solidarity with the remaining election challenges in the state.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, stepped into a courtroom for the first time in decades Tuesday to argue in Pennsylvania that the certification there should be delayed over concerns of voter fraud, though there was no widespread fraud reported.

Raffensperger, Graham and Georgia: The new controversy over US elections

ATLANTA, Nov 18: Brad Raffensperger, secretary of the US state of Georgia, said on Tuesday he was on a phone call when South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham asked him whether he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots. Raffensperger interpreted this question as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes and told the Washington Post that “it sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road.”

Democrats and political observers were quick to condemn Graham, the Republican senator and a close ally of President Donald Trump, who has denied making such a suggestion calling it “ridiculous”. Graham told ABC News that he called Raffensperger “because the future of the country hangs in the balance.”

Why is Georgia important?

Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in Georgia by just under 15,000 votes, the first time the state had gone for a Democrat since 1996. A hand recount was ordered and is expected to be completed by November 20. But it is unlikely to change the result. If it did, the state’s 16 votes would not change the overall result in the electoral college, which Biden won 306-232. The threshold for victory is 270.

But Trump has vehemently refused to concede defeat and continues to peddle debunked conspiracy theories regarding voter fraud and electoral irregularities which election officials from both parties have dismissed as baseless. Georgia, as a state, is an important part of Trump’s voter fraud narrative.

What could happen to Graham?

The US justice department could open an inquiry into the matter as there is “sufficient predication to open a federal investigation”, according to former US attorney and current University of Alabama law professor Joyce White Vance (Where did she this?). Graham’s action could also amount to a felony.

Why is Raffensperger facing criticism?

Raffensperger, a Republican, has faced criticism from his own party. He told the Post he had received threatening messages from “people on [his] side of the aisle”, demanding that he “better not botch” the recount. Georgia’s two senators, David Perdue and Kelley Loeffler, have called for his resignation.

Biden looks forward to working closely with Modi on shared global challenges

WILMINGTON, Nov 17: US President-elect Joe Biden has said that he looks forward to working closely with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on shared global challenges, including containing COVID-19, launching the global economic recovery and maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, according to his transition.

This was the first interaction between the two leaders after Democrat Biden defeated incumbent Republican president Donald Trump in the November 3 US presidential election.

According to the Biden-Harris Transition, the president-elect noted that he looks forward to working closely with the prime minister on shared global challenges, including containing COVID-19 and defending against future health crises, tackling the threat of climate change, launching the global economic recovery, strengthening democracy at home and abroad, and maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

Biden thanked Modi for his congratulations and expressed his desire to strengthen and expand the US-India strategic partnership alongside the first vice president of South Asian descent, said a readout of the call.

Earlier on Tuesday, Modi said in a tweet that he "spoke to US President-elect Joe Biden on phone to congratulate him. We reiterated our firm commitment to the Indo-US strategic partnership and discussed our shared priorities and concerns -- COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region".

The prime minister also conveyed his congratulations to US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

"Her success is a matter of great pride and inspiration for members of the vibrant Indian-American community, who are a tremendous source of strength for Indo-US relations," Modi said.

Harris, the daughter of an Indian immigrant from Chennai, has created history by becoming the first Black American woman to be elected as the country's Vice President.

While Indian-origin politicians have been elected as heads of the state in various parts of the world in the last several decades, from Mauritius to Fiji, Harris, 56, as the vice president of the United States would be the most powerful politician ever.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO), in a statement on Tuesday, said that Modi congratulated Biden on his election, describing it as a testament to the strength and resilience of democratic traditions in the United States.

The prime minister warmly recalled his earlier interactions with Biden, including during his official visits to the US in 2014 and 2016, it said.

Biden is known to be a strong proponent of closer India-US ties since his days as a senator in the 1970s and played a key role in getting the approval of the Senate for the bilateral civil nuclear deal in 2008.

In the midst of hectic negotiations between the two countries to conclude the civil nuclear deal, Biden was a critical ally of India in the Senate.

The deal had laid a strong foundation for the deepening of ties between the two leading democracies of the world.

The strategic and defence ties between India and the US witnessed major expansion during Barack Obama's presidency and Biden, as the vice president, had played a key role in it.

In his campaign documents, Biden spoke about his vision for the US-India partnership as well as on standing with India in facing threats in the region.

Biden also had separate congratulatory calls with leaders in Chile, Israel and South Africa.

Indo-US ties will pick up under Joe Biden: Jaishankar

NEW DELHI, Nov 17: The Indian government will face no problems in taking forward ties with the US under the Joe Biden administration because of the strong element of bipartisan support for the bilateral relationship, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.

“I am very confident that we will pick up where we left off (with the Donald Trump administration), we have done that over the last four administrations,” Jaishankar said while participating in an online discussion organised by the think tanks Centre for International Governance Innovation and Gateway House.

“I think that will be the case as well here and I say that because within the American politics, it’s not just that we deal with the administration of the day, we also tend to deal with the Congress. American politics by its nature has very strong elements of bipartisanship,” he said.

President-elect Biden is “not a stranger to India or to the relationship” and India has dealt with him in his former roles as vice president in the Barack Obama administration and as ranking Democratic member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jaishankar said.

“He (Biden) is very much part of this period when Indo-American relations underwent a radical transformation, which I reasonably date back to former President Bill Clinton’s visit to India in 2000,” he said.

“You had four presidents and you really cannot find more dissimilar people – Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. But one issue and one relationship to which all of them were committed was the Indian relationship,” he added.

There is a “very strong element of structural predictability and a certain ballast” in the India-US relationship, Jaishankar said, adding that both countries are natural partners.

Biden fears more people may die from Covid-19 as Trump delays smooth transition

WASHINGTON D.C., Nov 17: US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday said more Americans “may die” because of President Donald Trump’s failure to allow his administration to cooperate and coordinate its response to the Covid-19 pandemic with members of the incoming team - part of his broader refusal to accept the outcome of the election.

Biden had run on the promise of according top priority to the battle against Covid-19 if elected, and in his first significant step since the election, he set up an advisory team to start planning his administration’s approach after his inauguration on January 20. It has received no cooperation from Trump’s team yet.

“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden told reporters when asked about the consequences of Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the new administration. “The vaccine is important. But it’s of no use until you’re vaccinated.”

He said it would take a massive effort to get all Americans vaccinated - “a huge, huge, huge undertaking” - and pressed for the need to read into the Trump administration’s plan for development, procurement and distribution of vaccine under Operation Warp Speed, saying, “If we have to wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind.”

The deadly coronavirus has killed more than 247,000 Americans and infected over 11.2 million. Cases have been surging in recent days with 166,045 new infections reported in the last 24 hours and 995 fatalities, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

“We’re going into a very dark winter. Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier,” Biden said. “That requires sparing no effort to fight Covid, so that we can open our businesses safely, resume our lives and put this pandemic behind us. It’s going to be difficult, but it can be done.”

On Trump’s refusal to allow the transition process, Biden said, “I find this more embarrassing for the country than debilitating for my ability to get started.”

Trump has refused to publicly acknowledge that Biden beat him in the election, and has launched a flurry of lawsuits challenging the outcome. Also, he has barred his administration from getting started with the routine transition process, denying the president-elect intelligence briefings, among other things, that he should be getting.

Trump has lately appeared to have tuned out of the pandemic. He last attended a meeting of his coronavirus team five months ago and has barely acknowledged the crisis in his tweets, which are mostly about allegations of election fraud and claims that he won the election.

Trump drops key claim in Pennsylvania lawsuit over US election result

WASHINGTON, Nov 16: US President Donald Trump’s campaign has dropped a significant portion of its lawsuit in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state that gave the White House 2020 race to Joe Biden, once again reflecting the weak legal case he has made to overturn the outcome of the election.

The campaign had in an earlier lawsuit sought to block the state from certifying its election result and asked for setting aside 682,479 ballots that it alleged had been counted “illegally, in secret” as its poll watchers were not allowed to observe the counting.

An amended lawsuit filed on Sunday in a federal court still aimed at blocking the certification, but dropped the demand for setting aside those nearly 700,000 ballots.

President Trump and the campaign pushed back aggressively in tweets and statements on Monday. “We are still arguing that 682,479 ballots were counted illegally, in secret,” said Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director. “Our poll watchers were denied meaningful access to watch the vote counting and we still incorporate that claim in our complaint.”

Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to the president who is not the point person for the legal challenges, said, “It’s routine for attorneys to file amended complaints to tighten the claims. We simplified the suit, so it is more focused and narrowed. This is part of the process.”

The case is up for hearing on Tuesday.

The Trump campaign and the president’s allies in the Republican Party have filed multiple lawsuits - 18, according to one count - seeking to challenge the outcome in key states that were won by Biden: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada.

But they mostly haven’t had real impact. And, in fact, judges dealing with them have responded with mounting frustration. “At what point does this get ridiculous?” Andrew Gordon, a judge in Nevada, had asked Republican lawyers who challenged the counting saying their observers were not able to hear everything ballot counters were saying.

Trump’s legal challenges faced a severe setback last week when a law firm representing him in a lawsuit in Pennsylvania withdrew saying it did not represent the campaign any longer.

Trump’s allegations of fraud have been debunked by election security officials of his own administration who said last week that the November 3 voting and the counting of votes has been the “most secure in American history”.

Trump has continued to press his case undeterred. Though he acknowledged on Sunday that Biden has “won” the election, he has still not conceded it.

On Monday, Trump tweeted, saying, “I won the election.” The post was summarily flagged by Twitter and a warning was placed under it.

President-elect Biden has sought to move on seemingly undistracted by Trump’s efforts to challenge the election outcome.

Trump aide promises ‘very professional transition’ to Biden

DUBAI, Nov 16: President Donald Trump’s national security adviser promised a “very professional transition” to the administration of President-elect Joe Biden in an interview broadcast Monday, even as Trump continues to falsely claim he won the November election.

Speaking to the Global Security Forum hosted in part by Qatar, Robert O’Brien several times mentioned the transition and referred to recent peace deals that Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates struck with Israel as “a great legacy for the president to have as he leaves office.”

While caveating that Trump did have outstanding court challenges, O’Brien’s comments signaled some of the firmest statements yet from a senior administration official acknowledging Biden’s win in the Nov 3 vote.

“If the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — obviously things look that way now — we’ll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council. There’s no question about it,” O’Brien said.
“They’re going to have very professional folks coming in to take these positions.” He added: “We’ve passed the baton and had peaceful, successful transitions even in the most contentious periods.”

Since losing, Trump has made unsubstantiated claims about the election on Twitter. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the vote. Officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties have said the poll went well, as have international observers. The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency also says: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”

O’Brien, Trump’s fourth national security adviser, previously served as his special envoy on hostage affairs. Asked about American journalist Austin Tice, who disappeared covering Syria’s civil war in 2012 and is believed to be held by Damascus, O’Brien said the U.S. was using “every lever” to get him back home.

“We are using every tool, whether it’s through allies, whether it’s through adversaries,” O’Brien said. “We would like to get him back and I’d like to see him him back and I know the president would like to see him back before he leaves office.”

Syria has not acknowledged holding Tice. A top Lebanese security official said Saturday that he visited Syria for two days to speak with officials there about Tice.

 

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