US president-elect announces foreign policy, national security team

US president-elect announces foreign policy, national security team

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AFP) — US President-elect Joe Biden yesterday named experienced Antony Blinken for secretary of state, also nominating the first female head of intelligence and a czar for climate issues, with the promise of a return to expertise after the turbulent years of Donald Trump.

As Trump continued to make flailing attempts at overturning the results of the election three weeks ago, Biden's roll-out of cabinet names was his biggest step yet to signalling he is ready to take over on January 20.

The list put out by Biden's team ahead of a formal announcement today demonstrated a push to lower the temperature in Washington and restore traditional US leadership abroad.

“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.”

Blinken, a former number two of the State Department and a long-time advisor, will spearhead a fast-paced dismantling of Trump's disruptive “America first” policies, including rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization and resurrecting the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden named the first woman, Avril Haines, as director of national intelligence, and the first Latino, Alejandro Mayorkas, to head the Department of Homeland Security, whose policing of tough immigration restrictions under Trump was a frequent source of controversy.

Signalling the Democratic president-elect's campaign promise to raise the profile of global warming threats, he named former secretary of state John Kerry as a new special envoy on climate issues.

And in a further message of US re-engagement with the international community, Biden named career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador. Jake Sullivan, who advised Biden when he was vice-president under Barack Obama, was named national security advisor.

The picks underline an emphasis on professionals whom Biden already knows well, in contrast to the Trump White House where officials were often picked without having traditional background for the job or proved incompatible and departed in acrimony.

The announcements come against an unprecedented backdrop of Trump refusing to concede defeat and blocking Biden's access to the normal process for preparing an incoming government.

So far only a slowly growing minority of Republican leaders has denounced Trump's conspiracy theory that mass fraud robbed him of victory, despite there being no evidence for this.

Many of Biden's cabinet picks will require confirmation in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority, although this would change if Democrats score an upset victory in two Georgia Senate run-off elections.

Trump remains defiant in spite of repeated failures by his legal team to prove their allegations in court.

The president, meanwhile, has largely halted at least his public work duties, while heading out to a golf course he owns in Virginia half a dozen times since the election.

Yesterday, the White House once more announced that Trump had no public events scheduled.

He has also not taken questions from reporters since the election — a previously unimaginable silence from a president who for most of his time in office sparred near daily with the press.

His options, however, are dwindling rapidly.

With Biden having won a comfortable victory, Trump is seeking to disrupt the normally routine process of state-by-state certification of results, followed by the formal December 14 vote by the Electoral College.

His campaign's latest focus is on seeking a two-week delay to certification of results in Michigan, which Biden won by 155,000 votes on November 3.

A Michigan state board was set to meet on the issue yesterday.

Pennsylvania, another crucial state in Biden's win, was expected to issue its certification after a federal judge threw out the latest baseless Trump challenge on Saturday.

More cracks appeared in the façade of Republican unity over the weekend with Trump confidant and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie calling the president's legal team a “national embarrassment”.

Senator Patrick Toomey from Pennsylvania said after the court ruling there that Trump had “exhausted all plausible legal options”.

And on Monday, Senator Rob Portman, another Republican, said it was “time to expeditiously resolve any outstanding questions and move forward”.

“There is no more sacred constitutional process in our great democracy than the orderly transfer of power after a presidential election,” he wrote in The Enquirer newspaper.

There was also a push from Trump's highest profile Wall Street backer, Stephen Schwarzman, who heads the Blackstone private equity group, who told Axios “the country should move on”.

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