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Live
US ELECTIONS 2020
  • Published 20 Jan, 2021 03:51pm

    Biden to assume U.S. presidency amid deep divisions, raging pandemic

  • Published 18 Jan, 2021 12:26pm

    'It was a non-event': Pro-Trump protests quiet amid massive police presence across U.S.

  • Updated 12 Jan, 2021 04:34pm

    Google, Facebook and Microsoft among other corporate giants to suspend political spending

  • Published 12 Jan, 2021 01:38pm

    Disgruntled staffer changed the State Department's website to state Trump's term ended 9 days early: Sources

  • Published 11 Jan, 2021 04:02pm

    After Capitol siege, majority of Americans believe Trump should be removed from office before term: Poll

Show More
World

Biden to assume U.S. presidency amid deep divisions, raging pandemic

  • Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, assuming the helm of a country beset by deep political divides and battered by a raging coronavirus pandemic.
  • Biden, 78, will become the oldest U.S. president in history at a scaled-back ceremony in Washington that has been largely stripped of its usual pomp and circumstance.
20 Jan 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, assuming the helm of a country beset by deep political divides and battered by a raging coronavirus pandemic.

Biden, 78, will become the oldest U.S. president in history at a scaled-back ceremony in Washington that has been largely stripped of its usual pomp and circumstance, due both to the coronavirus as well as security concerns following the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.

With only a small number of attendees present, the Democrat will take the oath of office before U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts just after noon (1700 GMT), placing his hand on an heirloom Bible that has been in the Biden family for more than a century.

His running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, will become the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she is sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member.

The ceremony will unfold in front of a heavily fortified U.S. Capitol, where a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building two weeks ago, enraged by his false claims that November’s election was stolen with millions of fraudulent votes. The violence prompted the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to impeach Trump last week for an unprecedented second time.

Thousands of National Guard troops were called into the city after the siege, which left five people dead and briefly forced lawmakers into hiding. Instead of a throng of supporters, the National Mall will be covered by nearly 200,000 flags and 56 pillars of light meant to represent people from U.S. states and territories.

Biden, who has vowed to “restore the soul of America,” will call for American unity at a time of crisis in his inaugural address, according to advisers.

He will waste little time trying to turn the page on the Trump era, advisers said, signing a raft of 15 executive actions on his first day in office on issues ranging from the pandemic to the economy to climate change. The orders will include mandating masks on federal property, rejoining the Paris climate accord and ending Trump’s travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries.

In an early sign of his plan to reach across the political aisle, Biden has invited top congressional leaders, including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, to join him at church on Wednesday morning.

In a break with more than a century and a half of political tradition, Trump plans to depart the White House ahead of the inauguration, declining to meet with his successor and affirm the peaceful transfer of power.

Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and both McCarthy and McConnell are all expected to attend Biden’s inauguration ceremony.

Trump, who has grown increasingly isolated in the waning days of his tenure, has still not formally conceded the Nov. 3 election. He will hold a sendoff event at Joint Air Force Base Andrews in the morning, although top Republicans, including Pence, are not expected to attend.

For Biden, who long harbored presidential ambitions, the inauguration is the zenith of a five-decade career in public service that included more than three decades in the U.S. Senate and two terms as vice president under former President Barack Obama.

But he will confront a set of overlapping crises that would challenge even someone of his political experience.

The novel coronavirus reached a pair of grim milestones on Trump’s final full day in office on Tuesday, reaching 400,000 U.S. deaths and 24 million infections - the highest of any country. Millions of Americans are out of work because of pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions.

Biden has vowed to bring the full weight of the federal government to bear on the crisis, including a more robust testing and tracing program and a massive vaccination drive. His top priority is a $1.9 trillion plan that would enhance jobless benefits and provide direct cash payments to households. It will require approval from a deeply divided Congress, where Democrats will hold slim advantages in both the House and Senate.

Wednesday’s executive actions, by contrast, are intended to advance Biden’s priorities without the need for legislation.

The president will establish a new White House office coordinating the coronavirus response, revoke the permit granted to the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline and end Trump’s emergency declaration that helped fund a Mexico border wall, among other orders.

Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, said Biden plans additional executive orders in the coming weeks, including eliminating Trump’s restrictions on transgender troops and reversing a policy blocking U.S. funds for overseas programs linked to abortion.

Although Biden has laid out an ambitious agenda for his first 100 days, including delivering 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations, the Senate could be consumed by Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial, which will move ahead even though he has left office.

The trial could serve as an early test of Biden’s promise to foster a renewed sense of bipartisanship in Washington.

World

'It was a non-event': Pro-Trump protests quiet amid massive police presence across U.S.

  • Law enforcement officers far outnumbered protesters at state capitol grounds on Sunday, as few Trump supporters who believe the president’s false claim that he won the 2020 election turned out.
  • Some militias and extremist groups told followers to stay home, citing the increased security or the risk that the planned events were law-enforcement traps.
18 Jan 2021

HARRISBURG, MICHIGAN (Reuters) - Law enforcement officers far outnumbered protesters at state capitol grounds on Sunday, as few Trump supporters who believe the president’s false claim that he won the 2020 election turned out for what authorities feared could be violent demonstrations.

More than a dozen states activated National Guard troops to help secure their capitol buildings following an FBI warning of armed demonstrations, with right-wing extremists emboldened by the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6.

Security officials had eyed Sunday as the first major flashpoint, as the anti-government “boogaloo” movement made plans weeks ago to hold rallies in all 50 states.

But by Sunday evening, only small gatherings of demonstrators had taken to the streets alongside much larger crowds of law-enforcement officers and media personnel.

“It was a non-event today and we are glad it was,” said Troy Thompson, spokesman for the Department of General Services, the agency that protects the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg.

Tens of thousands of security personnel from the National Guard and law-enforcement agencies descended in recent days upon Washington, D.C., to bolster security ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony, when Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will relieve departing Republican President Donald Trump.

The image of Washington as a fortress has unsettled U.S. pride over the traditionally peaceful transfer of power.

It was unclear how much the FBI warning and robust security presence around the country on Sunday led protesters to cancel plans.

Some militias and extremist groups told followers to stay home, citing the increased security or the risk that the planned events were law-enforcement traps.

Only a few Trump supporters showed up in Harrisburg, including Alex, a 34-year-old drywall finisher from Hershey, Pennsylvania, who said he had been at the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol but did not storm the building. He declined to give his last name.

Wearing a hoodie emblazoned with “Fraud 2020,” he said he believed November’s presidential election was stolen and wanted to show his support for Trump. He noted the lack of protesters at the Pennsylvania capitol on Sunday.

“There’s nothing going on,” Alex said.

Police later opened streets that had been blocked off in anticipation of bigger crowds.

A similarly small group of about a dozen protesters, a few armed with rifles, stood outside Michigan’s capitol in Lansing. One wore fatigue pants, a tactical vest and blue Hawaiian shirt, a trademark of the anti-government boogaloo movement.

“I am not here to be violent and I hope no one shows up to be violent,” said one man standing on the lawn in front of the capitol. The man, who refused to give his name, wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and waving a “Don’t tread on me” flag.

By early evening, the capitol grounds in Lansing were deserted.

The nationwide security uptick followed the attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington by extremists and Trump supporters, some of whom called for the death of Vice President Mike Pence as he presided over the certification of Biden’s election victory.

The FBI and other federal agencies have warned of the potential for future violence leading up to Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, as white supremacists and other extremists seek to exploit frustration among Trump supporters who have bought into his falsehoods about electoral fraud.

Downtown Washington was a ghost town on Sunday. Gun-toting National Guard soldiers in camouflage manned checkpoints across the city center, which was closed off to traffic with large military vehicles deployed to block streets.

The streets around the Virginia statehouse in Richmond were lined with police barricades, largely deserted but for a few police officers and reporters.

Temporary fencing blocked the public entrance to the building ahead of Monday, which is traditionally a “Lobby Day” for the public to share views at the state legislature. A Virginia pro-gun advocacy group and the boogaloo movement have declared plans to hold protests on this year’s Lobby Day.

World

Google, Facebook and Microsoft among other corporate giants to suspend political spending

  • In the aftermath of the violent attack on the Capitol Building last week, Facebook, Microsoft and Google have joined a growing list of corporations that are pausing their political spending.
  • As corporate responses have escalated, some companies have suspended donations to lawmakers who objected to the certification of the election, while many have halted all of their political donations for a few months.
Updated 12 Jan 2021

In the aftermath of the violent attack on the Capitol Building last week, Facebook, Microsoft and Google have joined a growing list of corporations that are pausing their political spending.

As corporate responses have escalated, some companies have suspended donations to lawmakers who objected to the certification of the election, while many have halted all of their political donations for a few months.

A few have gone so far as to support the removal of the president.

In a statement from the National Association of Manufacturers, "The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy", urging Vice President Pence to consider invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows removal of a president, if deemed unfit for service.

Groups focusing on corporate interests in politics have also contributed to this discourse, with Meredith McGhee, Executive Director at Issue One - a nonprofit that works to reduce the influence of money in politics - stating that "You just can't really overemphasize the role that donors play in the current political calculation", adding that "In this moment of crisis, they sent a really important signal that the actions of the objectors were unacceptable ... because what they were doing was voting to overturn the will of the voters".

In a statement to NPR on Monday, Facebook told that it was pausing the spending of its political action committee for at least the first three months of the year, "while we review our policies".

Microsoft issued a statement that "The PAC regularly pauses its donations in the first quarter of a new Congress, but it will take additional steps this year to consider these recent events and consult with employees."

"I think they have to take a look long and hard at what role has their political spending played in sort of the buildup to this crisis," said Bruce Freed, the Head of the Center for Political Accountability.

Last week, Facebook suspended President Trump from both its main platform and Instagram indefinitely, while Twitter has disabled Trump's account permanently.

World

Disgruntled staffer changed the State Department's website to state Trump's term ended 9 days early: Sources

  • A disgruntled employee at the State Department changed the biographies of President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence, to state that their term was ending on Monday - nine days before the inauguration of President-elect Biden.
  • The changes to the State Department's website came only a few days after the President incited an insurrection of Trump supporters in the Capitol building.
12 Jan 2021

A disgruntled employee at the State Department changed the biographies of President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence, to state that their term was ending on Monday - nine days before the inauguration of President-elect Biden.

As reported by BuzzFeed News, the changes to the State Department's website came only a few days after the President incited an insurrection of Trump supporters in the Capitol building; prompting Democrats to appeal the Vice President to invoke Article 25 and remove Trump from office.

On the State Department website, the President's biography was changed to "Donald J. Trump's term ended on 2021-01-11 19:49:00,” while the vice president’s biography was edited to “Michael R. Pence's term ended on 2021-01-11 19:44:22".

The time-stamp on President Trump's biography page was changed multiple times, until it was eventually removed around 3:50 (EST), replaced with an error stating "We’re sorry, this site is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again in a few moments".

A screenshot of President Trump's biography on the State Department's website Monday afternoon. Source: Department of State (state.gov)
A screenshot of President Trump's biography on the State Department's website Monday afternoon. Source: Department of State (state.gov)

A screenshot of Vice President Pence's biography on the State Department's website Monday afternoon. Source: Department of State (state.gov)
A screenshot of Vice President Pence's biography on the State Department's website Monday afternoon. Source: Department of State (state.gov)

It was also reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ordered an internal investigation into the matter, beginning with interns and employees at the State Department, with sources stating that the State Department's website is "a closed system that is nearly impossible to hack".

World

After Capitol siege, majority of Americans believe Trump should be removed from office before term: Poll

  • Over half of surveyed Americans in a new poll have indicated that they believe that President Trump should be removed from office, following the attack on the Capitol by his supporters.
  • 56 percent polled in favour of the removal of President Trump from office, while 67 percent polled that the outgoing President deserves a significant degree of the blame for the rioting that took place in the Capitol.
11 Jan 2021

Over half of surveyed Americans in a new poll have indicated that they believe that President Trump should be removed from office, following the attack on the Capitol by his supporters.

In a joint poll conducted by ABC News and Ipsos on Sunday, it revealed that 56 percent polled in favour of the removal of President Trump from office, while 67 percent polled that the outgoing President deserves a significant degree of the blame for the rioting that took place in the Capitol.

During a Stop the Steal Rally on the National Mall last Wednesday, President Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol, while a joint-session of Congress was being held to certify Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

"We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women," Trump said. "We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."

The subsequent violence was linked to five deaths, including a Capitol police officer, with dozens of individuals being arrested in the following days for their participation in the breach.

Numerous Democratic and Republican lawmakers have stated that Trump's incitement of the crowd is grounds for his removal from office, as House Democrats are expected to introduce an article of impeachment against Trump, citing him as a clear and present danger to the country.

Several senators have said they believe Trump has committed impeachable offenses and would consider such a push from the House.

Almost all Democrats and a majority of Independents, 58 percent, polled that Trump should be removed, while another 61 percent of Republicans indicated that the President "did nothing wrong", adding that removing him is not "worth the effort."

The ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted between the 8th and 9th of January, among a sample of 570 general population adults age 18 or older.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has landed on the cover of the February issue of *Vogue *magazine, but her team says there’s a problem: the shot of the country’s soon-to-be No. 2 leader isn’t what both sides had agreed upon, her team says.

Instead of the powder blue power suit Harris wore for her cover shoot, the first African American woman elected vice president is instead seen in more casual attire and wearing Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, which she sometimes wore on the campaign trail.

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

Harris’ team was unaware that the cover photo had been switched until images leaked late Saturday, according to a person involved in the negotiations over how Harris would be featured on the cover. Harris’ office declined comment and the person spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity.

In a statement, Vogue said it went with the more informal image of Harris for the cover because the photo captured her “authentic, approachable nature, which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden-Harris administration.”

But the magazine said it released both images as digital magazine covers to “respond to the seriousness of this moment in history, and the role she has to play leading our country forward.”

Harris, who is of Jamaican and Indian descent, posed in the light blue suit in front of a gold backdrop for the magazine’s cover. She also posed, more casually dressed in slacks, a blazer and sneakers in front of a pink and green background, for photos that were planned for inside the magazine, the person said. Pink and green are the colors of Harris’ college sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

Vogue has released both images online, but the photo of a sneaker-clad Harris is the one that will grace the cover of the fashion bible’s print edition.

The person with knowledge of the negotiations said Harris’ team has expressed to Vogue its disappointment over the magazine’s decision.

The cover also generated outrage on social media as posters expressed disappointment in how the magazine decided to present the nation’s first female vice president on its cover.

Harris is set to be sworn in as vice president on Jan. 20.

World

China draws comparison between storming of U.S. Capitol, HK protests

  • China drew a comparison on Thursday between the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump and last year’s often-violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
  • Around the world, leaders expressed shock and concern, condemning the attempted subversion of democracy.
07 Jan 2021

BEIJING (Reuters) - China drew a comparison on Thursday between the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump and last year’s often-violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, but noted that no one had died when demonstrators took over the legislature of the China-ruled city.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing said that while events in Hong Kong in 2019, when the city’s legislature was stormed, were more “severe” than those in Washington, “not one demonstrator died”.

Relations between Beijing and Washington are at their worst in decades over a range of disputes, including China’s heavy clampdown on Hong Kong, and Chinese diplomats and state media often draw attention to news of violence or chaos in the United States.

Months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019 included the July 1 storming of the city’s legislature, in a campaign for democratic reforms that Beijing ultimately quashed with new national security legislation. One man died after falling from a parking lot during one protest in the city.

Police in Washington said four people died and 52 were arrested after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.

“We also wish that U.S. people can enjoy peace, stability and security as soon as possible,” Hua said.

Hua also condemned U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments in which he said Washington may sanction those involved in the arrest of over 50 people in Hong Kong and will send the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to visit Taiwan.

A comment with thousands of favourable votes on China’s Twitter-like Weibo said the Washington protests were “over 90%” the same as those in Hong Kong. European leaders were showing “double standards” in condemning one but not the other, it said.

“The response and words used by some in the U.S. to what happened in Hong Kong in 2019 were completely different to what they used for today’s ongoing events in the U.S.,” Hua said.

Around the world, leaders expressed shock and concern, condemning the attempted subversion of democracy.

“What happened today in Washington DC is not American, definitely,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a video message on Twitter.

Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy likened the images to protests in Ukraine that toppled Russian-backed President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich in 2014.

“Some of my friends ask whether someone will distribute crackers to the protesters to echo the Victoria Nuland stunt,” he tweeted, citing a 2013 visit to Ukraine when then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland offered food to protesters.

World

Joe Biden confirmed as 46th President of the United States, after a day of chaos in the Capitol

  • President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory has been certified, confirming that he will be the 46th President of the United States.
  • After countless Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building yesterday in an attempt to subvert the confirmation procedure, Congress confirmed President-elect Biden's victory on early Thursday morning.
Updated 07 Jan 2021

President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory has been certified, confirming that he will be the 46th President of the United States.

After countless Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building yesterday in an attempt to subvert the confirmation procedure, Congress confirmed President-elect Biden's victory on early Thursday morning.

Despite the incumbent President's efforts to overturn the vote, including lengthly legal disputes and the chaotic scenes from the rioting in the Capitol building (spurred on by the President himself), Congress rejected Republican challenges to Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the confirmation process stated after the rioting subsided that "To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win [..] Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people’s house".

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican representative from Kentucky and the majority leader, said that the “failed insurrection” had only clarified Congress' purpose in going through the formal process - adding that "They tried to disrupt our democracy - they failed".

The shocking scenes from Washington were the result of a long campaign by President Trump, in which he continued to pander to his conservative base by peddling a narrative of voter fraud - in an effort to overturn a democratically decided election.

According to Senator Mitt Romney, Republican representative from Utah and former Presidential candidate from 2012, “We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride, and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning [...] What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States".

World

Trump allies to challenge his election loss in showdown in US Congress

  • The Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled House of Representatives were due to meet to formally certify the results of the Nov. 3 election in proceedings that could stretch past midnight.
  • Biden is due to take office on Jan. 20.
06 Jan 2021

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump's extraordinary bid to undo President-elect Joe Biden's election victory goes before a marathon joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday in a showdown led by a band of Republican lawmakers that is almost certain to fail.

The Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled House of Representatives were due to meet to formally certify the results of the Nov. 3 election in proceedings that could stretch past midnight.

Although Biden, a Democrat, won the election by a 306-232 count in the state-by-state Electoral College and by a margin of more than 7 million ballots in the national popular vote, the Republican president has falsely claimed there was widespread fraud and that he was the victor. Trump's allies plan to challenge the results from a handful of states won by Biden.

State and federal reviews have debunked Trump's claims of massive election fraud even as increasingly desperate legal efforts by his campaign and allies on the right to overturn the election have failed in numerous courts all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

Biden is due to take office on Jan. 20.

Despite pressure from Trump to help overturn his election loss, Vice President Mike Pence, set to preside over the proceedings, will stick to his ceremonial duties and not block the congressional certification of Biden's victory, advisers said. Pence, a loyal lieutenant during the four years of Trump's tumultuous presidency, has no plans to intervene and has told Trump he lacks the power to do so, they said.

Trump took to Twitter to again make unfounded claims of election irregularities, writing, "Our Election Process is worse than that of third world countries!"

"BE STRONG!" he added.

Senator Ted Cruz, seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, is expected on Wednesday afternoon to lead at least 11 other Republican senators, alongside a majority of the 211 Republicans in the House of Representatives, in objecting to Electoral College results being formally approved by the two chambers of Congress: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Under the US Constitution, a presidential election is determined not by the national popular vote but in the Electoral College, with states allotted votes partly based on their populations. The states already have certified their results and Biden was affirmed as the Electoral College winner last month.

DRAMA IN CONGRESS

The proceedings scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) for Congress to formally certify the presidential election results, the final step in a monthslong process, normally would be ceremonial and perfunctory. But Trump and his allies have seized upon them in a last-ditch bid to reverse the results of a democratic election deemed by state and federal experts to have been free and fair.

This year, the proceedings could drag into Thursday.

Critics of Trump and his allies have painted the efforts to try to reverse the election in Congress as an attack on democracy and the rule of law and an attempted legislative coup.

Cruz is bucking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has recognized Biden's victory and urged his fellow Republicans not to pursue the challenges, which appear to lack the political support they would need to succeed.

Republican senators, including Josh Hawley and James Lankford, have joined forces with Cruz, while other prominent members of the party, including Senator Mitt Romney and Representative Liz Cheney, oppose it.

Supporters of Trump gathered in Washington for protests as they take up the president's unfounded claim that the election was stolen from him in an elaborate conspiracy. Trump had urged supporters, who include the violent Proud Boys, to take to the streets.

Trump will speak to protesters on a grassy expanse known as the Ellipse near the White House, according to a person briefed on his plans, and on Twitter he has said the demonstrations "will be wild."

November and December protests involving the Proud Boys were marred by some stabbings and brawls. Police have arrested the group's leader on charges of destruction of property related to an earlier protest and possession of a firearms magazine.

Many Republican senators who have refused to challenge the election results have received death threats on their office voice mail, a senior Senate Republican aide said.

STATE BY STATE

The Electoral College results will be presented alphabetically, starting with Alabama. Republicans are expected to challenge results in Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

If the challenges are ultimately defeated as anticipated, Pence, acting in his role as president of the Senate, is expected to proclaim Biden the next president and Senator Kamala Harris as the next vice president.

The US Constitution does not give Pence the power to unilaterally overturn the results of the election but he is under pressure to do so from Trump.

"The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors," Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

If at least one House member and one Senate member object to a state result, each chamber would hold separate debates for each of those states lasting up to two hours. Each chamber would then vote to accept or reject the challenge and then report the result to the joint session of Congress, before moving onto the next challenge.

In the Democratic-led House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will preside, a senior Democratic aide said. While Pence is due to preside over the joint session, he might allow senior Republican Senator Chuck Grassley to preside over the Senate debate.

In registering his objection, Cruz is expected to call for the creation of an emergency election commission to look into voting irregularities claimed by Trump's allies, a source familiar with the upcoming deliberations said.

The Republican maneuvering has created fissures within Trump's party and among outside groups normally supportive of it. Senator James Inhofe said challenging a state's election certification would be "a violation of my oath of office." Senator Rob Portman said that after two months of recounts and legal challenges, there has been no evidence of fraud or irregularities widespread enough to change the election results.

World

Biden to be sworn into office in largely virtual event as COVID-19 rages

  • Both the ceremony and traditional parade that follows will have limited attendance and be reimagined, the committee planning the event said in a statement.
  • The committee is urging members of the public to refrain from traveling to Washington for the inauguration, which in the past has drawn hundreds of thousands.
16 Dec 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn into office on Jan. 20 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, but the inaugural festivities will be largely virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the planning committee said on Tuesday.

Both the ceremony and traditional parade that follows will have limited attendance and be reimagined, the committee planning the event said in a statement. The committee is urging members of the public to refrain from traveling to Washington for the inauguration, which in the past has drawn hundreds of thousands.

Biden spent much of the 2020 presidential election following COVID-19 safety protocols, holding relatively few-in person events and campaigning virtually from his home base in Delaware.

“Our goal is to create an inauguration that keeps people safe, honors the grand traditions of the presidency, and showcases the Biden-Harris administration’s renewed American vision for an inclusive, equitable, and unified citizenry,” Tony Allen, the CEO of the inaugural committee, said in the statement.

In that way, the inaugural is likely to be similar to last summer’s Democratic convention, which featured virtual programs with participants across the nation.

The pandemic, which experts expect to worsen over the winter months in the United States despite the approval of a vaccine, has killed more than 300,000 Americans. Biden made President Donald Trump’s handling of the health crisis a centerpiece of his campaign.

It remains unclear whether Trump, who has refused to acknowledge his loss to Biden despite an Electoral College vote on Monday that affirmed the Democrat’s victory, will attend Biden’s swearing-in ceremony or meet with him at the White House, as is custom.

World

Biden has call with McConnell after top Senate Republican acknowledges win

  • McConnell congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory during remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
  • "While we disagree on a lot of things, there are things we can work together on," Biden told.
Updated 16 Dec 2020

WILMINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday he had spoken with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and that the two agreed to meet soon, after the lawmaker ended his silence on the results of the presidential election held six weeks ago.

McConnell congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory during remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, a day after the Electoral College formalized their Nov. 3 win.

The Senate majority leader was among many congressional Republicans who had refused to acknowledge Biden's defeat of President Donald Trump, who has continued to make unfounded claims of election fraud and refused to concede.

Biden told reporters he spoke with McConnell before heading to Georgia, where he will campaign later in the day for two Democratic US Senate candidates whose Jan. 5 runoff elections could make or break his domestic policy agenda.

"While we disagree on a lot of things, there are things we can work together on," Biden told reporters. "We agreed to get together sooner (rather) than later."

McConnell's acknowledgment all but assured Congress would not overturn the election results, as demanded by Trump, when the electoral votes are sent to lawmakers to be officially counted on Jan. 6.

Also on Tuesday, Biden was congratulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a favorite of Trump's, and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Biden and Harris will be sworn in on the steps of the US Capitol on Jan. 20 with far fewer people present than is customary due to the raging coronavirus that has killed more than 300,000 people in the United States, the inaugural planning committee said on Tuesday.

Festivities will be largely virtual, and the committee urged members of the public to refrain from traveling to Washington.

BIDEN HEADS TO POLITICAL BATTLEGROUND GEORGIA

Biden makes his trip to Atlanta nine days after Trump traveled to Georgia in support of the Republican senators seeking re-election.

Biden's narrow win in Georgia last month underscored the Southern state's transformation from Republican stronghold to one of the country's most competitive political battlegrounds. This was illustrated again in state election data showing 168,000 people voted on Monday, a rainy day, compared with 136,000 on Oct. 12, the first day of in-person voting for the presidential election.

Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are facing Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively, in twin races that will determine which party will control the US Senate when Biden takes office next month.

If the Republicans win either contest, they would maintain power in the Senate, allowing them to thwart many of Biden's ambitious legislative goals on issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and climate change. A Democratic sweep would give Biden's party control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Democrats already hold a majority in the House of Representatives.

Trump campaign spokesman Jim Murtaugh said in a statement that Warnock and Ossoff "represent the left-most fringe" of the Democratic Party and that Biden campaigning for them showed he was under the influence of that wing of the party.

As in November, many voters are expected to cast ballots by mail because of the pandemic. Thus far, more than 1.2 million residents have requested absentee ballots and more than 260,000 have already sent them in, according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida.

Biden said on Tuesday that he planned to get the coronavirus vaccine "sooner than later" and reconfirmed his commitment to take it publicly.

Biden's win has boosted Democratic hopes of capturing both Senate seats, along with aggressive efforts to register voters and changing demographics that have pushed the electorate away from Republicans.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into the state from both political parties and an array of outside political groups.

Both sides face turnout challenges in the midst of the pandemic and without the polarizing Trump at the top of the ballot to turn out voters from his deeply loyal supporters, as well as from detractors with deep animosity toward him.

World

After the White House, Trump faces uncertain future and legal threats

  • President Donald Trump is leaving the White House but he is not going to fade away quietly.
  • They include another White House run in 2024 or new pursuits in media. But they are clouded by potential legal jeopardy and business challenges.
15 Dec 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump is leaving the White House but he is not going to fade away quietly.

After failing in his legal efforts to overturn his Nov. 3 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, who on Monday won the state-by-state Electoral College vote that formally determines the U.S. presidency, Trump will re-enter private life on Jan. 20 with an array of opportunities.

They include another White House run in 2024 or new pursuits in media. But they are clouded by potential legal jeopardy and business challenges.

Only one thing is certain: Trump’s thirst for the spotlight will ensure he does not follow in the footsteps of past presidents like George W. Bush, who quietly took up painting, or Jimmy Carter and his global activism.

Trump’s future, like his presidency, is likely to be loud, brash and brazen.

It will also not be entirely under his control. He faces a range of civil and criminal legal actions related to his family’s businesses and his activities before he took office, which could accelerate once he loses the legal protections granted to the occupant of the Oval Office.

The real estate developer-turned-reality TV star is considering multiple maneuvers to retain the spotlight.

Trump, who has refused to concede his election defeat and continues to make baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, has told allies he is considering another White House bid.

He has even discussed not attending Biden’s inauguration and announcing his 2024 run that day, a move that would allow him to continue the raucous campaign rallies he thrived on in 2016 and 2020.

That would complicate life for a long list of other Republicans considering a 2024 run - including Vice President Mike Pence, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton - who would have to weigh whether to take on Trump.

But it would be the sort of norm-busting move Trump relishes. The U.S. Constitution allows presidents to be elected to office twice and the terms do not have to be consecutive.

Grover Cleveland is the only American president to serve two nonconsecutive terms. He left the White House in 1889 after being defeated for re-election and returned in 1893.

Trump has already formed a political action committee that will allow him to raise money and exert influence in the party after he leaves office, whether he becomes a candidate or not.

Trump’s desire to retain his political influence also was evident in his recent endorsement of close ally Ronna McDaniel for another term as Republican National Committee chairwoman.

RNC members will vote in late January on whether to keep McDaniel as chair in an early test of how powerful Trump remains and how willing Republicans are to subjugate the party to his wishes.

The former star of reality series “The Apprentice,” Trump has also discussed several possible new media ventures to keep him in the spotlight, advisers said, including a television channel or a social media company to compete with those he felt betrayed him.

A television news channel would take on Fox News, a close Trump ally that has drawn his ire since the election for being insufficiently supportive. Aides described Trump as particularly irate at Fox News for its election-night decision to call the swing state of Arizona for Biden when the result was still uncertain.

Biden eventually won Arizona, but most other networks did not make the call for days afterward.

Trump could collaborate with existing conservative cable networks One America News Network or Newsmax, which have both focused heavily on positive portrayals of Trump.

Trump also has discussed with advisers a plan to start a social media company to compete with Twitter Inc, which has repeatedly posted content warnings on his tweets that make unfounded allegations of widespread election fraud.

But Trump faces significant financial challenges, including a hit to his business brand given his polarizing presidency and to his real estate, travel and leisure industry holdings from the coronavirus pandemic.

Forbes estimated in September that Trump’s net worth had dropped an estimated $600 million in the previous year, to $2.5 billion. The New York Times reported Trump had personally guaranteed $421 million of his companies’ debts.

Once he leaves office, Trump also will have to fight several legal issues, all made more threatening because he will lose the legal protections afforded a sitting president.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been conducting a criminal investigation of Trump and the family company, the Trump Organization. The probe originally focused on hush-money payments made before the 2016 election to two women who said they had sexual encounters with Trump, which the president has denied.

But Vance, a Democrat, suggested in recent court filings the probe had broadened and could now focus on bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records. Trump has called the case politically motivated harassment.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, has an active tax fraud investigation into Trump and the family company that began after his former lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress the president inflated asset values to save money on loans and insurance and deflated them to reduce real estate taxes.

The Trump Organization has argued the case is politically motivated. The inquiry is a civil investigation, which could result in financial penalties but not jail time.

Trump also faces separate defamation lawsuits related to alleged sexual assaults, both of which he denied, brought by two women - E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine writer, and Summer Zervos, a 2005 contestant on “The Apprentice.”

Mary Trump, the president’s niece, also has filed a lawsuit accusing him and two family members of fraud and conspiracy to deprive her of her share of the family’s real-estate empire.

Trump also could face a criminal prosecution brought by the U.S. Justice Department for federal income-tax evasion charges. The New York Times recently reported Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017.

Trump rejected the Times’ findings and it is not clear if he violated the law. Any federal prosecution would be contentious; Biden has been cautious on the issue and questioned the value of such a prosecution, but says he would not interfere with the Justice Department’s judgment.

World

Fresh off Electoral College win, Biden to stump in Georgia for Democratic Senate candidates

  • A day after the Electoral College confirmed his presidential victory, Joe Biden will travel to Georgia on Tuesday to campaign for two Democratic U.S. Senate candidates.
  • Biden’s narrow win in the Southern state in November’s presidential election completed its transformation from Republican stronghold to one of the country’s most competitive political battlegrounds.
Updated 15 Dec 2020

(Reuters) - A day after the Electoral College confirmed his presidential victory, Joe Biden will travel to Georgia on Tuesday to campaign for two Democratic U.S. Senate candidates whose Jan. 5 runoff elections could make or break his domestic policy agenda.

Biden’s narrow win in the Southern state in November’s presidential election completed its transformation from Republican stronghold to one of the country’s most competitive political battlegrounds.

Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are facing Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively, in twin races that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate when Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

If the Republicans win either contest, they would maintain power in the Senate, allowing them to thwart many of Biden’s ambitious legislative goals on issues such as the coronavirus, the economy and climate change. A Democratic sweep would give the party control of the White House and Congress, where it also has a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Biden’s trip to Atlanta comes nine days after President Donald Trump traveled to Georgia in support of Perdue and Loeffler. The president-elect’s visit also coincides with early in-person voting, which began on Monday as hundreds of Georgians braved rainy weather to stand in line.

As in November, many voters are expected to cast ballots by mail amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Thus far, more than 1.2 million residents have requested absentee ballots, and more than 260,000 have already sent them in, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.

Biden’s win has boosted Democratic hopes of capturing both seats, along with aggressive efforts to register voters and changing demographics that have pushed the electorate away from Republicans.

Perdue ran ahead of Trump in the Nov. 3 election, however, finishing ahead of Ossoff but just shy of the 50% required to avoid a runoff under state law. A third-party candidate received about 2% of the vote.

The other race had a large field of candidates in November due to its status as a special election because Loeffler was appointed to her seat to fill a vacancy. Warnock and Loeffler finished in the top two positions, each well short of 50%.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into the state from both political parties as well as an array of outside political groups.

Both sides face turnout challenges in the midst of the pandemic and without the polarizing Trump at the top of the ballot to turn out votes from his deeply loyal supporters and also from detractors with deep animosity toward him.

Some Republicans in the state have expressed concern that Trump’s repeated insistence, without evidence, that the November results were fraudulent may drive down turnout among his most ardent supporters.

Biden secured the presidency on Monday after the Electoral College formalized his win. Under U.S. law, the president is not elected by a majority of the popular vote but by the Electoral College, which awards electoral votes to the winner of each state based on congressional representation.

World

President Trump says "it's not over", ahead of Electoral College meeting

  • The Electoral College will officially vote on Monday, as it is expected to cement Biden’s presidential victory ahead of his inauguration in January.
  • “No, it’s not over,” Trump said. “We keep going and we’re going to continue to go forward.”
Updated 14 Dec 2020

With the Electoral College due to meet today to verify their vote counts in certifying Joe Biden's victory, President Trump stated that his campaign would be pursuing all legal measures to throw a spanner into the works.

In an interview with Fox & Friends, President Trump stated that "We’re going to speed it up as much as we can, but you can only go so fast", citing numerous local cases in Wisconsin that could potentially prove voter fraud - albeit there is a slim chance.

Trump adamantly mentioned that "They give us very little time. But we caught them, as you know, as fraudulent, dropping ballots, doing so many things, nobody can even believe it".

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to reject a legal challenge from Texas and other swing states seeking to challenge the results, was met with a harsh response from the President and his legal team.

The President added that "The Supreme Court, all they did is say we don’t have standing, so they’re saying essentially the president of the United States and Texas and these other states, great states, they don’t have standing".

United States Attorney General William Barr has also become a target of President Trump's verbal tirades, over a report revealing that Barr withheld information pertaining to Hunter Biden (Joe Biden's son) from Congressional Republicans and the public.

President Trump claimed that Barr had an "obligation" to come forward and "set the record straight", about the Hunter Biden controversy, about his foreign business dealings.

President Trump mentioned that "What happened to this country is we were like a third world country", calling President-elect Joe Biden an “illegitimate president” in office, refusing to clarify if he would be attending the inauguration.

“No, it’s not over,” Trump said. “We keep going and we’re going to continue to go forward.”

The Electoral College will officially vote on Monday, as it is expected to cement Biden’s presidential victory ahead of his inauguration in January.

World

Texas GOP chief suggests forming 'union of states' after U.S. Supreme Court tosses election challenge

  • The chairman of the Texas Republican Party suggested the formation of a “Union of states that will abide by the constitution” on Friday.
  • Texas GOP Chairman Allen West said the Supreme Court’s order had established “a precedent that says states can violate the U.S. Constitution and not be held accountable.”
12 Dec 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the Texas Republican Party suggested the formation of a “Union of states that will abide by the constitution” on Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Texas’ bid to throw out voting results in four states that President-elect Joe Biden won in November’s presidential election.

Texas GOP Chairman Allen West said the Supreme Court’s order had established “a precedent that says states can violate the U.S. Constitution and not be held accountable.”

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected a long-shot lawsuit by Texas and backed by President Donald Trump seeking to throw out voting results in four states, dealing him a likely fatal blow in his quest to undo his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden.

The decision allows the U.S. Electoral College to press ahead with a meeting on Monday, where it is expected to formally cast its votes and make Biden’s victory official.

Biden, a Democrat, has amassed 306 votes to Trump’s 232 in the state-by-state Electoral College, which allots votes to all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on population.

The four states in question - Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - contributed a combined 62 votes to Biden’s total. To win the White House, 270 votes are needed.

In a brief order, the justices said Texas did not have legal standing to bring the case, abruptly ending what Trump had touted this week as his best hope for overturning the election.

World

Supreme Court rejects Texas petition to nullify Biden's victory

  • On Friday, the United States Supreme Court rejected a widely-panned bid by Texas to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's electoral win.
  • The Supreme Court, in a brief order on Friday, rejected the petition, stating that Texas lacked the legal right to litigate over how other states conduct their elections.
Updated 12 Dec 2020

On Friday, the United States Supreme Court rejected a widely-panned bid by Texas to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's electoral win; delivering a heavy blow to the Trump campaign's attempts to throw a spanner into the works.

This ruling repudiated the efforts of President Trump, in addition to his campaign legal team and the Republican party, in nullifying the President-elect's wins in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania - key battleground states that contributed to Biden's massive 306 electoral votes.

The Supreme Court, in a brief order on Friday, rejected the petition, stating that Texas lacked the legal right to litigate over how other states conduct their elections. The judgement added that "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections".

Justice Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito wrote a dissenting statement expressing their view that the court is obligated to hear interstate disputes, adding that "In my view, we do not have discretion to deny the filing of a bill of complaint in a case that falls within our original jurisdiction, I would therefore grant the motion to file the bill of complaint but would not grant other relief, and I express no view on any other issue".

This order comes after the Supreme Court rejected a similar appeal by a Republican coalition from Pennsylvania to nullify Biden’s certified victory in the Keystone State — a state Biden won by more than 81,000 ballots.

Pennsylvania's Attorney General, in a fiery response on Thursday, stated that Texas' bid to invalidate election results are a "seditious abuse of the judicial process", urging the justices to “send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated".

The walls are clearly closing in on President Trump's efforts to mount a legal effort against the results of the election, and with a clear repudiation by the Supreme Court and the fast-approaching December 14th Electoral College meeting would render the President's strategy to be ineffective.

World

60 percent do not want Trump to run again in 2024: Poll

  • According to a recent poll, sixty percent of voters do not want President Trump to run for President again in 2024.
  • The survey concluded that only 32 percent of respondents think that the President should run for a second non-consecutive term.
Updated 10 Dec 2020

According to a recent poll, sixty percent of voters do not want President Trump to run for President again in 2024.

The survey, which was conducted by NPR and PBS on Wednesday, concluded that only 32 percent of respondents think that the President should run for a second non-consecutive term.

In contrast, a majority of Republican voters stated that they would support President Trump in running for office in 2024, but that percentage has dropped down to 67 percent, as compared to 90 percent during his tenure.

Furthermore, 65 percent of the respondents stated that the President should concede to President-elect Joe Biden, and 61 percent stated that despite his [Trump's] frequent unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, the official results are accurate.

Another poll by POLITICO indicated that 60 percent of the respondents think Trump is likely to run again, including 76 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 47 percent of Democrats.

Although President Trump has blatantly refused to acknowledge Biden as President-elect and has attempted to overturn the results of the election, he is reportedly planning on announcing a 2024 campaign run once Biden’s victory is certified. At a White House Christmas party last week, Trump stated that “It’s been an amazing four years. We are trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years.”

Trump, who is not expected to attend Biden’s inauguration, is also reportedly considering counter-programming the ceremony with an official campaign launch event for his 2024 bid; in an effort to steer attention away from the inauguration.

World

'The people have spoken': Judges reject two more US election challenges

  • Both lawsuits were filed on Nov. 25 by Sidney Powell, a former lawyer for the Trump campaign, on behalf of groups of Republican voters.
  • "The people have spoken," Parker wrote, referring to the election results.
08 Dec 2020

US judges on Monday rejected bids led by an ally of President Donald Trump to decertify President-elect Joe Biden's victories in Michigan and Georgia because of unsubstantiated election irregularities and to have Trump declared the winner in both states, the latest failed efforts to upend the election results.

Both lawsuits were filed on Nov. 25 by Sidney Powell, a former lawyer for the Trump campaign, on behalf of groups of Republican voters. Trump and his allies have lost numerous cases aimed at overturning election results in states Trump lost in the Nov. 3 election after winning them in 2016, making unfounded claims of fraud.

US District Judge Linda Parker in Detroit and US District Judge Timothy Batten in Atlanta ruled that the plaintiffs lacked the legal standing to bring the lawsuits and that the cases were filed too late.

"The people have spoken," Parker wrote, referring to the election results.

Batten said a hearing on Monday that the plaintiffs were seeking "perhaps the most extraordinary relief ever sought" in connection with an election.

"They want this court to substitute its judgment for that of two-and-a-half million Georgia voters who voted for Joe Biden, and this I am unwilling to do," Batten said.

Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden won Michigan by about 154,000 votes and Georgia by about 12,000 votes, giving him 16 electoral votes from each state. Biden amassed 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232 in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner of a presidential election. The Electoral College meets on Dec. 14 to formally cast the votes.

Trump, who has falsely claimed that he won the election, and his allies have waged an unsuccessful legal battle to try to undo the election results. Judges have also rejected cases in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin.

"This lawsuit seems to be less about achieving the relief plaintiffs seek - as much of that relief is beyond the power of this court - and more about the impact of their allegations on people's faith in the democratic process and their trust in our government," Parker added.

Democrats and others have accused Trump of trying to harm public confidence in the integrity of US elections and undermine American democracy. A majority of Republicans in recent opinion polls have said they believe Trump won the election and that it was stolen through voter fraud. State election officials have said there is no evidence of such fraud.

Tuesday is the so-called safe harbor deadline for states to resolve disputes arising from the election. Under US law, Congress will consider a state's election result to be "conclusive" if it is finalized by the safe harbor date.

World

U.S. prosecutors investigating potential White House 'bribery-for-pardon' scheme

  • The U.S. Justice Department is investigating a potential crime related to funneling money to the White House in exchange for a presidential pardon, according to court documents unsealed in federal court.
03 Dec 2020

(Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department is investigating a potential crime related to funneling money to the White House in exchange for a presidential pardon, according to court documents unsealed in federal court.

The order said prosecutors were also investigating a “secret lobbying scheme” in which two unidentified individuals “acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials, without complying with the registration requirement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act.”

A Justice Department official said no government official is or was a target of the investigation.

The Justice Department had to ask Howell’s permission to view certain emails between a lawyer and clients, who were not identified.

Howell granted the request in August, saying attorney-client privilege did not apply in that instance.

Prosecutors had said they planned to “confront” three unnamed individuals with the communications and finish their investigation.

According to Howell’s order, government investigators said they had seized “over fifty digital media devices, including iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives, and computer and external hard drives.”

Presidents enjoy wide latitude under the U.S. Constitution in pardoning people convicted of federal crimes. President Donald Trump last week pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

That was the first of what is expected to be a string of pardons in Trump’s final weeks in the White House.

According to Howell’s order, the Justice Department had recently told her it wanted to keep the investigation from becoming public because it detailed “individuals and conduct” that had not yet been charged.

World

US judiciary, shaped by Trump, thwarts his election challenges

  • Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy," Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote on behalf of a unanimous US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals panel.
  • Two judges appointed by President George W. Bush, also a Republican, signed onto Bibas' decision.
02 Dec 2020

US President Donald Trump's reshaping of the federal judiciary has done little to help him win lawsuits challenging the election outcome, with Trump appointees rebuffing him and the US Supreme Court showing little interest in getting involved.

An appeals court judge appointed by Trump, a Republican, on Friday ruled against his campaign's effort to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's win in Pennsylvania based on unsupported allegations of voter fraud.

"Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy," Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote on behalf of a unanimous US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals panel. "Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here."

Two judges appointed by President George W. Bush, also a Republican, signed onto Bibas' decision.

Bibas is one of 53 judges Trump has appointed to the federal appeals courts since 2016. By comparison, President Barack Obama appointed 55 in eight years. Trump has appointed roughly a quarter of all trial-level federal judges.

"The Trump administration has been so efficient at confirming judges, but it's a real mistake to think that just because you appointed someone they will rule in your favor in an election case," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Trump's campaign and his allies, including Republican lawmakers and activists, have filed more than 40 lawsuits in state and federal courts in an effort to overturn Democrat Biden's victory in the Nov. 3 election.

The 13 federal cases have had little success so far. Several have been withdrawn. Three, including the case Bibas heard on appeal, have been dismissed. One, concerning poll observer access in Philadelphia, resulted in a settlement after a judge rebuked Trump's lawyers.

Ultimately, Trump's biggest problem is his arguments are so shaky that it is hard to find a sympathetic judge, Levinson said.

"These cases are an easy way for judges to show judicial independence," Levinson said. "These cases are so frivolous."

In one instance, a Trump appointee dismissed a lawsuit brought by conservative lawyer Lin Wood seeking to halt certification of Biden's victory in Georgia.

"To halt the certification at literally the 11th hour would breed confusion and disenfranchisement that I find have no basis in fact and law," US District Judge Steven Grimberg in Atlanta wrote on Nov. 19.

Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis said in a statement that the Trump campaign has been denied the opportunity to fully present its evidence in court.

"Every American who cares about our constitutional system and free and fair elections should demand a full adjudication on the merits and a remedy for the corruption that has occurred, whether in court or state legislatures," Ellis said.

Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court has for weeks sat on a request by Pennsylvania Republicans that it overturn a September decision by the state's highest court allowing election officials to count mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day. The Trump campaign has a pending request to intervene in that case.

Trump appointed three of the Supreme Court's nine members: Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and most recently Amy Coney Barrett.

Barrett joined the court a week before the election, creating a 6-3 conservative majority.

Trump repeatedly said he expected the court to decide the outcome of the election while also raising doubts, without providing evidence, that the large number of mail-in ballots used because of the coronavirus pandemic would lead to fraud.

"I think this (election) will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it's very important that we have nine justices," Trump told reporters at a White House event in September.

Trump struck a markedly different tone on Sunday, saying in a Fox News interview that he had an increasingly narrow path to overturning Biden's victory in court.

"Well, the problem is, it's hard to get into the Supreme Court," Trump said.

Federal judges, in general, are reluctant to appear to be interfering in elections, legal experts said. And, in the case of Trump-appointed judges, their priorities may be elsewhere, like broadening protections for religious freedoms.

"Just because you appoint somebody doesn't mean that you own them," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

WASHINGTON: In the first TV interview since losing his re-election bid, President Donald Trump indicated Sunday that he will never concede to Joe Biden and abandon his conspiracy theory about mass ballot fraud.

"It's not like you're gonna change my mind. My mind will not change in six months," Trump told Fox News interviewer Maria Bartiromo.

"This election was rigged. This election was a total fraud," he claimed, again without backing this up. "We won the election easily."

The 45-minute interview, Trump's first on television since the November 3 election, was mostly a monologue of evidence-free claims concerning election fraud, virtually unchallenged by Bartiromo.

Despite Trump's unprecedented attack on the validity of the US election system, his legal team has yet to provide any evidence that stands up in court.

Case after case has been rejected by judges around the country. The latest rebuff came from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which on Saturday turned down a lawsuit filed by Trump supporters seeking to contest Biden's win in the state.

"We're trying to put the evidence in and the judges won't allow us to do it," Trump said. "We are trying. We have so much evidence."

Ignoring the usual boundaries between his office and the judicial and law enforcement system, Trump complained that the Department of Justice and FBI were not helping him.

They are "missing in action," he said, also questioning the point of the Supreme Court if it doesn't intervene.

"We should be heard by the Supreme Court. Something has to be able to get up there. Otherwise, what is the Supreme Court?" he asked.

The 2020 election was not especially close.

Biden won the electoral college vote -- the state-by-state competition deciding the winner -- by 306 to 232. In the popular national vote, which does not decide the result but still has political and symbolic heft, Biden won by 51 to 47 percent.

Losers of US presidential elections traditionally concede almost immediately.

But whether or not Trump ever acknowledges defeat, the Electoral College is all but certain to go through the formal motions of confirming Biden when it meets on December 14 and the Democrat will be sworn in on Inauguration Day January 20.

Even as the clock runs down on his single term, Trump declined to say on Fox News whether he sees an expiry date for his unsuccessful legal campaign. "I'm not going to say a date," he said. Asked if he saw a path to victory, he said: "I hope so."

WASHINGTON: 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.

World

US appeals court rejects Trump campaign's Pennsylvania election case

  • Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious.
  • Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.
28 Nov 2020

A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a request by US President Donald Trump's campaign to block President-elect Joe Biden from being declared the winner of the battleground state of Pennsylvania, dealing another significant setback to Trump's bid to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election.

"Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so," wrote Stephanos Bibas on behalf of a three-judge panel.

"Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here," he wrote Bibas, who was nominated by Trump. The case could still be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania certified Biden, who won the state's popular vote, as its winner this week. Under Pennsylvania law, the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state gets all of the state's 20 electoral votes.

Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede to his Democratic rival and continues to claim, without evidence, widespread voter fraud.

But as his legal challenges to the results fail, Trump said on Thursday he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for Biden, the closest he has come to conceding the election.

On Monday, Trump's administration cleared the way Biden to transition to the White House, giving him access to briefings and funding even as Trump vowed to continue fighting the election results.

Soon after Friday's ruling, Trump posted a video from Newsmax on Twitter about alleged voter fraud in Nevada.

The Trump campaign filed the Pennsylvania case earlier this month, saying that county election officials had treated mail-in ballots inconsistently and asking US District Judge Matthew Brann to halt certification of the results.

Some counties had allowed voters to fix minor deficiencies with their ballots, such as a missing "secrecy envelope," while others did not.

Brann dismissed the case on Nov. 21, saying the case was based on "strained legal arguments" and "speculative accusations."

He said he did not have the authority to strip the right to vote from "even a single person, let alone millions of citizens."

On appeal, the campaign said it was focusing on the "narrow" question of whether Brann improperly refused to allow it to amend its lawsuit a second time. It had sought to add back allegations that it had earlier dropped, including claims that its due process rights were violated.

World

Inching toward exit, Trump says he'll leave if Biden wins Electoral College vote

  • U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, the closest he has come to conceding the Nov. 3 election.
27 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, the closest he has come to conceding the Nov. 3 election, even as he repeated unfounded claims of massive voter fraud.

Speaking to reporters on the Thanksgiving holiday, Republican Trump said if Democrat Biden - who is due to be sworn in on Jan. 20 - is formally declared the winner by the Electoral College, he will depart the White House.

Asked if he would leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for Biden, Trump said: “Certainly I will. Certainly I will. And you know that.”

But Trump said it would be hard for him to concede because “we know there was massive fraud.”

Biden won the election with 306 Electoral College votes - many more than the 270 required - to Trump’s 232, and the electors are scheduled to meet on Dec. 14 to formalize the outcome. Biden also leads Trump by more than 6 million in the popular vote tally.

Trump has so far refused to fully acknowledge his defeat, though earlier this week - with mounting pressure from his own Republican ranks - he agreed to let Biden’s transition process officially proceed.

Frenzied efforts by Trump and his aides to overturn results in key states, either by lawsuits or by pressuring state legislators, have failed, and he is running out of options.

“President-elect Biden won 306 electoral votes. States continue to certify those results, the Electoral College will soon meet to ratify that outcome,” Michael Gwin, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said when asked about Trump’s comments. “Biden will be sworn in as President on Jan. 20, 2021.”

Showing that he intends to stay in the political fray until the end of his term, Trump said on Thursday he would travel on Dec. 5 to Georgia, a once solidly Republican state he lost narrowly to Biden, to campaign for two Republican U.S. Senate candidates.

The two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 will determine whether the Republicans keep their majority in the Senate.

“I just want to tell my people: don’t be disappointed yet because this race is far from over,” Trump said.

World

President-elect Biden's Foreign Policy team reject the "America First" mantra

  • On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden's incoming foreign policy team made it clear that they plan to reject the Trump Administration's "America First" mantra, and instead advocated for rejuvenated multilateralism.
Updated 27 Nov 2020

On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden's incoming foreign policy team made it clear that they plan to reject the Trump Administration's "America First" mantra, and instead advocated for rejuvenated multilateralism.

Antony Blinken, Biden's choice for Secretary of State, mentioned that "we can't solve all the world's problems alone, we need to be working with other countries - we need their cooperation, we need their partnership".

Blinken added that the Biden Administration would renew the international community's confidence in the United States, stating that "America at its best still has a greater ability than any other country on Earth to bring others together to meet the challenges of our time".

Blinken's remarks were endorsed by the other members of Biden's foreign policy team, with Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden's pick for Ambassador to the United Nations, stating that "multilateralism is back".

Eight weeks remain till President-elect Biden's inauguration, and while on Monday President Trump permitted the Biden team to formally begin the transition process, many have speculated that this deliberate delay may have cost the upcoming administration a significant amount of time in preparation.

The incoming Biden Administration will be faced with challenges that are unlikely to be alleviated in the short term, with a stagnant economy, and the disastrous impact of the pandemic in the country.

World

State Department tells staff: transition to Biden administration has begun

  • Following the November 3 election, representatives of President-elect Biden's Transition Team have arrived at the Department of State to support preparations for the transition.
  • Today we began the process to see what the GSA's decision was, and will do everything that's required by law. We'll make this work.
26 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: The US State Department has informed staff that the transition process has begun and a team had been assigned inside the agency to support a handover to the incoming Biden administration, according to an internal email seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

The guidelines, sent on Wednesday, came after the General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency that must sign off on presidential transitions, notified President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that he could formally begin the handover.

"Following the November 3 election, representatives of President-elect Biden's Transition Team have arrived at the Department of State to support preparations for the transition," the email said.

A "dedicated" team would support Biden's transition team to ensure they receive the necessary information and logistical support, the email said.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, also confirmed the move. "Today we began the process to see what the GSA's decision was, and will do everything that's required by law. We'll make this work."

Pompeo came under fire two weeks ago at a press briefing when he said there would be a smooth transition to a "second Trump administration" despite Biden's election victory. After hours of withering criticism, he softened his tone and promised a "good transition" for whoever was in the White House on Jan. 20, the presidential inauguration day.

Biden, a former vice president, secured well over the 270 votes in the Electoral College needed to win the presidency, but Trump waged a futile legal battle to overturn the results of the election, falsely claiming that it was stolen.

On Tuesday, Biden introduced his foreign policy and national security team and vowed to steer the United States away from the unilateralist nationalism pursued by Trump and work together with US allies.

World

Pompeo criticises incoming Biden Administration for "leading from behind"

  • On Tuesday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised members of President-elect Joe Biden's incoming administration, stating that they have lived in a "fantasy world" and "led from behind".
25 Nov 2020

On Tuesday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised members of President-elect Joe Biden's incoming administration, stating that they have lived in a "fantasy world" and "led from behind".

In an interview with Fox News, Pompeo stated that "I know some of these folks, they took a very different view, they lived in a bit of a fantasy world" adding that "they led from behind, they appeased. I hope they will choose a different course".

President-elect Biden's upcoming administrative picks in the national security and foreign policy teams predominantly comprise individuals who held senior positions in the Obama Administration, including Antony Blinken - one of Biden's longtime advisers who also held senior foreign policy posts during the Obama years, as his Deputy Secretary of State.

Pompeo acknowledged the General Services Administration's declaration confirming Biden as the winner of the Presidential Election, and the formal initiation of the transitioning process, stating that "today we began the process to see what GSA’s decision was and we’ll do everything that’s required by law". The GSA's verification of the results of the election will allow the President-elect to access federal transition funds and to contact federal agencies to implement staffing measures.

Secretary Pompeo criticised the Obama Administration for having "led from behind", specifically pertaining to their relations with the Iranian regime, adding that the United States had been "funnelling tens of billions of dollars into [giving them] the things that help you build out a nuclear weapons program”. “The previous administration had chosen to give them an awful lot of that thing, money. We’ve chosen to deny them,” he said.

The Biden transition team declined to comment on the Secretary of State’s criticism.

World

Biden says US 'ready to lead' again on global stage

  • Introducing his new foreign policy and national security team, the Democratic former vice president signaled.
  • While this team has unmatched experience and accomplishments, they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking and unchanged habits.
25 Nov 2020

WILMINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday the United States will be "ready to lead" again on the global stage after he succeeds President Donald Trump in January, pledging to work together with Washington's allies abroad.

Introducing his new foreign policy and national security team, the Democratic former vice president signaled that he intends to steer the United States away from the unilateralist "America First" agenda pursued by Trump.

The Republican incumbent has unsettled many US allies, especially in Europe, with an antagonistic approach toward the NATO alliance and trade relations, abandonment of international agreements and warm relationships with authoritarian leaders.

"While this team has unmatched experience and accomplishments, they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking and unchanged habits," said Biden, due to take office on Jan. 20.

"It's a team that reflects the fact that America is back - ready to lead the world, not retreat from it," Biden said at the event in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden has tapped Antony Blinken to be US secretary of state, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as US ambassador to the United Nations, Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security and John Kerry as envoy on climate-related issues.

US foreign policy under a Biden administration is likely to focus on more of a multilateral and diplomatic approach aimed at repairing Washington's relationships with key US allies and taking new paths on issues like climate change.

Biden said had been struck in calls with world leaders "by how much they're 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."

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris added, "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."

"I want to say to you," Thomas-Greenfield said, "America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back"

Biden has been moving swiftly to assemble his team and make Cabinet choices after defeating Trump in the Nov. 3 election. Trump has waged a flailing legal battle to try to overturn the results, falsely claiming that the election was stolen from him.

TRANSITION MOVES FORWARD

Trump has said he will never concede the election but after weeks of limbo his administration on Monday finally gave the green light for the formal transfer of power to begin. That process had been held up despite Biden emerging as the clear winner and world leaders recognizing him as the next president.

Monday's announcement meant the Biden team qualifies for $6.3 million in funds and among other things can officially coordinate with the 17 agencies that are part of US intelligence gathering, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.

The Biden team also gets access to federal office space, secure facilities for intelligence briefings and the succession plans for executive agencies. In addition, the State Department typically supports a transition team's discussions with foreign leaders.

One of the first departments that Biden's team reached out to was the Pentagon, underscoring the importance of emphasizing national security during the transition. Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Nov. 9.

In a small but symbolic move hours after the transition announcement on Monday night, Biden opened a ".gov" website available only to government agencies for his transition, launching buildbackbetter.gov.

Critics have said Trump's refusal to accept the results and approve the transition of power to Biden undermined US democracy and undercut the incoming administration's ability to combat the intensifying coronavirus pandemic that has killed about 258,000 Americans and left millions more without jobs.

World

President Trump permits GSA to begin transition process

  • On Monday, the Administrator of the General Services Administration authorized President-elect Joe Biden to begin a formal transition process, a strong indication that the president’s last-ditch efforts to overturn the results of the election were finally coming to an end.
Updated 24 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: On Monday, the Administrator of the General Services Administration authorized President-elect Joe Biden to begin a formal transition process, a strong indication that the president’s last-ditch efforts to overturn the results of the election were finally coming to an end.

While President Trump has yet to concede, vowing to persist with his efforts to overturn the allegedly 'fraudulent' election, he commended Emily W. Murphy, Administrator of the General Services Administration for her "steadfast dedication and loyalty", but agreed to allow a transition process to proceed. In a tweet on Monday, President Trump stated that he has informed officials to begin "initial protocols" pertaining to handing over the government to the President-elect, adding that it was “in the best interest of our country".

While the President attempted to downplay the significance of the formal transition process, continuing to persist with his legal efforts in the key battleground states, his failure to allow the President-elect to begin his integration into the White House, even going so far as depriving him of essential intelligence briefings, was widely criticised as a petulant step.

By Monday evening, President-elect Biden moved forward with his plans to finalise his cabinet, with Ms. Murphy stating that she made her decision because of “recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results”, referring to the certification of votes by election officials in Michigan, and a string of decision that went against the President's favour in key battleground states.

Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of Mr. Biden’s transition, stated that Ms. Murphy’s decision was “a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation", as the President-elect has already been formulating an strategies to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Abraham added that the President-elect would soon begin meeting with officials from the Trump Administration, "to discuss the 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".

World

When key U.S. states have to finalize election tallies

  • The normally little-noticed process by which individual states certify the results of U.S. elections is receiving extra attention this year as outgoing President Donald Trump tries to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
23 Nov 2020

(Reuters) - The normally little-noticed process by which individual states certify the results of U.S. elections is receiving extra attention this year as outgoing President Donald Trump tries to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Below are key dates by which states that were important in Democrat Biden’s victory must certify totals from the Nov. 3 vote and pick electors who will formally vote for Biden next month in the Electoral College:

GEORGIA: Georgia’s Secretary of State certified the election results on Friday. According to the results, Biden beat Trump in the state by 12,670 votes, or about 0.26 percentage points. Trump’s campaign has until Nov. 24 to request a second recount.

PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania’s counties have until Nov. 23 to file returns with state election officials. State law does not set a deadline for completing certification. Unofficial results had Biden ahead of Trump in the state by more than 80,000 votes.

MICHIGAN: Michigan officials are due to meet on Nov. 23 to certify election results and will have as many as 20 days to do so, said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for the Michigan secretary of state’s office. State officials say every county has certified its results, but Republican officials in Wayne County, which includes Democratic stronghold Detroit, say they were pressured to certify the county’s results. The Republican officials said there were small discrepancies in the county vote counts. Unofficial results had Biden ahead of Trump in the state by more than 150,000 votes.

NEVADA: Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, is due to meet with state supreme court justices on Nov. 24 to certify the vote. A judge on Nov. 20 rejected an emergency bid by the conservative Election Integrity Project to halt the certification of results in Clark County, the state’s most populous county, over alleged fraud. Biden won Nevada by more than 33,000 votes, according to the Nevada secretary of state’s office.

ARIZONA: Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, is due to review county vote tallies on Nov. 30 to certify results. Hobbs may postpone the final review on a day-to-day basis until Dec. 3. Unofficial results had Biden ahead of Trump in the state by more than 10,000 votes.

WISCONSIN: The state’s election commission has until Dec. 1 to certify the election results. Trump’s campaign paid the commission $3 million on Nov. 18 for a recount of the vote in two heavily Democratic counties. Across the state, unofficial results had Biden ahead of Trump by more than 20,000 votes.

World

President-elect Biden expected to select Antony J. Blinken as Secretary of State

  • Antony J. Blinken, former Deputy Secretary of State during the Obama Administration, is expected to be nominated for the Secretary of State under President-elect Biden's new administration; with other key appointments including U.N. Ambassador and National Security Adviser.
Updated 23 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: Antony J. Blinken, former Deputy Secretary of State during the Obama Administration, is expected to be nominated for the Secretary of State under President-elect Biden's new administration; with other key appointments including U.N. Ambassador and National Security Adviser.

Mr. Blinken, now 58, began his career at the State Department under the Clinton Administration, and with his extensive experience is expected to soothe the doubts and concerns of global partners; after the Trump Administration's largely reactionary, inconsistent and nationalistic foreign policy approach.

Blinken's responsibilities as Secretary of State will be clear - to re-establish the United States as a trusted ally in the international community, and to integrate it back into global agreements and institutions, from which they were unceremoniously withdrawn under the Trump Administration.

Blinken has also notably served as a top aide on the senate Foreign Relations Committee, and later as Vice President Biden's National Security Adviser, helping to develop the American response to instability and conflict across the Middle East - often achieving mixed results.

At a forum at the Hudson Institute in July, Mr. Blinken stated that "The big problems that we face as a country and as a planet, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s a pandemic, whether it’s the spread of bad weapons, to state the obvious, none of these have unilateral solutions," adding that “Even a country as powerful as the United States can’t handle them alone".

The President-elect is also expected to name Jake Sullivan, who previously served as the Head of Policy Planning at the State Department under Secretary Hillary Clinton, as his National Security Adviser. Biden is also expected to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran of the Foreign Service as his U.N. Ambassador.

The President-elect, despite the repeated upheavals and forced legal efforts by the incumbent President to overturn the election, has continued to prepare for the transitionary process.

Since Biden was declared the winner two weeks ago, Trump has launched a barrage of lawsuits and mounted a pressure campaign to prevent states from certifying their vote totals.

So far, attempts to thwart certification have failed in courts in Georgia, Michigan and Arizona.

On Saturday, Matthew Brann, a Republican federal judge nominated by former President Barack Obama, dismissed a similar effort in Pennsylvania, writing that the case amounted to “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations.”

For Trump to have any hope of remaining in the White House, he needs to eliminate Biden’s 81,000-vote lead in Pennsylvania. The state is due to begin certifying its results on Monday.

Trump’s lawyers vowed a quick appeal, but lawyers who opposed him in court say he is out of time.

“This should put the nail in the coffin on any further attempts by President Trump to use the federal courts to rewrite the outcome of the 2020 election,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Some of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress are now breaking ranks.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey said the ruling closed off any chance for a legal victory in Pennsylvania and called on Trump to concede the election. Liz Cheney, a member of the Republican leadership team in the House of Representatives, earlier called on Trump to respect “the sanctity of our electoral process” if he does not succeed in court.

Trump refuses to concede

Biden got 6 million more votes than Trump in the Nov. 3 election, and also prevailed 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College system that determines who will take the oath of office on Jan. 20.

He has spent the past several weeks preparing to take office, though Trump’s administration has refused to provide funding and security clearances to do so.

Critics say Trump’s refusal to concede have serious implications for national security and the fight against the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 255,000 Americans.

In order to remain in office, Trump would somehow need to overturn election results in at least three large states - an unprecedented feat in U.S. history.

A recount in Georgia only affirmed Biden’s win there, and officials certified the result on Friday. Trump’s campaign said late Saturday it would request another recount.

In Wisconsin, election officials have criticized Trump volunteers for slowing a partial recount that is not expected to overturn Biden’s victory.

With recounts and lawsuits coming up short, Trump is now pressuring Republican-led state legislatures to throw out the vote totals and declare him the winner.

“Hopefully the Courts and/or Legislatures will have ... the COURAGE to do what has to be done to maintain the integrity of our Elections and the United States of America itself,” he wrote on Twitter after the Pennsylvania ruling.

On Friday, he summoned two top Republicans in Michigan’s legislature to the White House. After the meeting, they said they saw no evidence that would lead them to intervene. Biden is leading Trump in Michigan by 154,000 votes.

Election officials across the country say there is no evidence of significant voting fraud, and Trump’s own administration has called the election the “most secure in American history.”

But Trump’s accusations have continued to inflame his hard-core Republican base. Half of Republicans believe the election was stolen from Trump, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling, and supporters have staged rallies across the country to protest the outcome.

World

Chances narrow of Trump overturning Biden's win after Georgia loss

  • The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state's office or courts,
  • The two lawmakers will listen to what the president, who requested the meeting, has to say, the source said.
21 Nov 2020

President Donald Trump's desperate bid to overturn the Nov. 3 election result was dealt another blow on Friday after it was announced he had lost Georgia, while the winner, President-elect Joe Biden, filled more jobs in his incoming US administration.

Biden, a Democrat, is preparing to take office on Jan. 20, but Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede and is searching for a way to invalidate or overturn the results in a number of states, claiming widespread voter fraud.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger poured more cold water on the Trump campaign's effort when he announced that a manual recount and audit of all ballots cast in the southern state had determined that Biden was the winner.

Biden is the first Democrat to carry Georgia since 1992.

"The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state's office or courts, or of either campaigns," Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican and Trump supporter, told reporters.

In a statement hours later, Raffensberger said he would certify the results later on Friday.

With the door slammed shut in Georgia and having been stung by a series of court defeats, the Trump team is resting its hopes on getting Republican-controlled legislatures in other battleground states won by Biden to set aside the results and declare Trump the winner, according to three people familiar with the plan.

It is focusing on Michigan and Pennsylvania for now, but even if both those states flipped to the president he would need to overturn the vote in another state to vault ahead of Biden in the Electoral College.

Such an extraordinary event would be unprecedented in modern US history. Trump not only would need three state legislatures to intervene against vote counts as they stand now, but then also have those actions upheld by Congress and, almost certainly, the US Supreme Court.

Undeterred by the long odds, Trump was meeting with Michigan's state legislative leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House of Representatives Speaker Lee Chatfield, both Republicans, at the White House on Friday.

The two lawmakers will listen to what the president, who requested the meeting, has to say, the source said.

"No matter the party, when you have an opportunity to meet with the President of the United States, of course you take it. I won't apologize for that. In fact, I'm honored to speak with POTUS and proud to meet with him. And I look forward to our conversation," Chatfield wrote on Twitter.

Shirkey told a Michigan news outlet earlier this week that the legislature would not appoint a second slate of electors.

Upon arriving at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport outside Washington, Shirkey and his colleagues were met by a swarm of protesters. Some held signs that read "SHAME" while others chanted "Certify the results" and "respect Michigan voters." One protester asked, "What has Trump promised you?"

US Representative Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, called the meeting "totally inappropriate" in a news conference with other lawmakers from the state and vowed that Democrats would resist any attempt to overturn Biden's victory.

Biden, who turned 78 on Friday, continued to lay the foundation of his administration, naming Louisa Terrell as the incoming director of the White House's office of legislative affairs, the main liaison with Congress, and announcing other appointments.

Terrell worked as a deputy chief of staff for Biden in the Senate and was a special assistant to President Barack Obama. She also has held roles in the private sector with Yahoo! and Facebook.

Biden was also due to meet US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders in Congress. Democrats are pushing for another multi-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief package to blunt the economic pain of an intensifying US pandemic. More than 252,000 people have died in the country from COVID-19.

'HOPELESS LEGAL POSITION'

So far, Trump's attempts to reverse the outcome of this month's election via lawsuits and recounts have met with little success. Despite the setbacks, his campaign has not abandoned its legal efforts and has vowed to file more lawsuits.

The president's lawyers argue the US Constitution gives legislatures, rather than state governors and secretaries of state, the ultimate authority to appoint electors. Republicans control the Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin legislatures.

Those states were the pillars of Trump's victory in the 2016 election, but Biden prevailed in all three by even larger margins than Trump did four years ago. Trump's hopes of remaining president are doomed without them.

Legal experts have sounded the alarm at the notion of a sitting president seeking to undermine the will of the voters, though they have expressed skepticism that a state legislature could lawfully substitute its own electors.

Biden campaign legal adviser Bob Bauer said the Trump campaign was in a "hopeless legal position."

"No state legislature in our country's history ever has done what Donald Trump is apparently agitating for the Michigan state legislature to do, which is to ignore the results of a popular vote," Bauer told reporters. "It cannot be done."

Even though election officials have not reported any major irregularities, most prominent Republicans have remained on side with Trump or quietly acceded. But a few, including Senator Mitt Romney, have spoken out.

Nationally, Biden won nearly 6 million more votes than Trump, a difference of 3.8 percentage points. But the outcome of the election is determined in the Electoral College, where each state's electoral votes, based largely on population, are typically awarded to the winner of a state's popular vote.

Biden leads by 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232 as states work to certify their results at least six days before the Electoral College convenes on Dec. 14.

World

President Trump's legal team ramps up efforts to change the outcome of the election

  • On Thursday, President Trump and his campaign's legal team ramped up their efforts to achieve a drastic shift in the outcome of the Presidential Election, with attorney Rudi Giuliani leading the charge in Michigan.
Updated 20 Nov 2020
Source: Reuters.
Source: Reuters.

On Thursday, President Trump and his campaign's legal team ramped up their efforts to achieve a drastic shift in the outcome of the Presidential Election, with attorney Rudi Giuliani leading the charge in Michigan.

President Trump, despite trailing behind President-elect Biden across most major battleground states, has invited Michigan's Republican representatives in an effort to drum up support to cause a potential upset in the swing state.

Contrastingly, the President also reached out to officials in Wayne County who had sought to block the certification of votes from the constituency, despite calls of racism from Detroit's mayor who stated that the majority of votes from the African-American demographic may have been overturned. Biden leads the President in Michigan by over 140,000 votes.

On Thursday, Giuliani and the President's legal team in a press conference from the Republican National Committee headquarters, alleged that the President was the victim of a scheme by Democratic election officials from major cities including Detroit, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh - which contributed to Biden's narrow victory.

Giuliani stated that "This was not an individual idea of 10 or 12 Democrat bosses. This was a plan. You would have to be a fool not to realize that", despite the fact that the legal team failed to produce any tangible evidence to back their claims.

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump on Tuesday fired the US government’s top election security official, who had rejected the president’s unsubstantiated claims of “massive” fraud in the vote he lost to Joe Biden. Trump announced on Twitter the termination “effective immediately” of Chris Krebs, who led the agency that jointly declared “the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”

The US president, who refuses to acknowledge that he lost his bid for reelection to Democrat Biden, has repeatedly claimed without evidence that the voting and count were replete with fraud.

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud,” he wrote in a tweet.

“Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

Krebs, who reportedly told friends last week he expected to be removed, appeared to confirm it in a tweet on his personal account.—AFP

World

Senator McConnell reiterates that there will be an "orderly" transfer of power

  • On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell being faced with questions pertaining to the government's transition process towards a Biden Administration, stated that a transfer of power will happen on time.
Updated 18 Nov 2020

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell being faced with questions pertaining to the government's transition process towards a Biden Administration, stated that a transfer of power will happen on time.

In a press conference, Senator McConnell stated that "We are going to have an orderly transfer from this administration to the next one. What we all say about it is frankly irrelevant [...] all of it will happen right on time, and we will swear in the next administration on January 20".

The Senator was pressed by reporters as to whether the General Services Administration (GSA) should certify the election result and permit President-elect Biden to initiate his transition process, which would give him and his team access to federal resources and the ability to coordinate with federal officials - to which the McConnell stated that it is up to the courts to settle the election disputes and the states to certify the votes.

Like many other Republican lawmakers, Senator McConnell has yet to acknowledge that President-elect Biden won the election, while President Trump's legal team is locked in a plethora of legal battles in key battleground states where he alleges that the election was "stolen" or "rigged"; to which there is still no conclusive evidence.

McConnell articulated that "of course" there will be a peaceful transfer of power, and that the process would be orderly and done by the stipulated deadline on the 20th of January 2021 - adding that "The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792".

World

Michigan county Board of Canvassers unanimously certify election results

  • On Tuesday, the board of canvassers in Michigan's largest county voted to unanimously certify the election results after initially being deadlocked in a party-line vote.
Updated 18 Nov 2020

On Tuesday, the board of canvassers in Michigan's largest county voted to unanimously certify the election results after initially being deadlocked in a party-line vote.

The office of Michigan's Secretary of State confirmed that the Wayne County Board of Canvassers voted by a 4-0 margin the certify the results of the election, which voted with a heavy Democratic-tilt, requesting the state's top election official to investigate any legitimate claims of voter fraud and discrepancies in the tallies.

This unanimous decision marked a complete 180-degree-turn from the early hours of Tuesday, when the panel's two Republican canvassers voted against certifying the election; sparking intense celebrations from the GOP and drawing the ire of the Democrats, who stated that it was simply "delaying the inevitable".

President-elect Joe Biden current holds a lead of nearly 150,000 votes over President Trump in Michigan, with a whopping 40-point lead in Wayne County. The county board's reversal is yet another setback for the Trump Campaign and the Republican Party, as they have aggressively peddled a narrative pertaining to widespread voter fraud and electoral irregularities, despite lacking any tangible evidence to back their claims.

Democrats hailed this reversal, with the Michigan Democratic spokesperson issuing a statement that "We applaud this decision and are thrilled that the voices of over 800,000 Wayne County voters have been heard and their votes have been properly counted. We were reminded tonight about the importance of speaking up and speaking out. We are deeply thankful to all of you that took the time to share your story tonight. You made a difference".

World

US import prices unexpectedly fall in October

  • The Labor Department said on Tuesday import prices dipped 0.1% last month.
  • In the 12 months through October, import prices fell 1.0% after declining 1.4% in September.
17 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: US import prices unexpectedly fell in October as the cost of petroleum products and a range of other goods declined, suggesting inflation could remain muted for a while.

The Labor Department said on Tuesday import prices dipped 0.1% last month. Data for September was revised down to show import prices gaining 0.2% instead of rising 0.3% as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices, which exclude tariffs, advancing 0.2% in October.

In the 12 months through October, import prices fell 1.0% after declining 1.4% in September.

Petroleum prices fell 1.0% last mo

  1. List item

nth. Excluding petroleum, import prices were unchanged following a 0.6% advance in September. The weakness in import prices came on the heels of data last week showing a steady increase in producer prices in October and slowing consumer inflation.

Imported food prices edged up 0.1% last month. The cost of goods imported from China were unchanged for the second consecutive month. Last month, prices for imported capital goods were unchanged. The cost of imported motor vehicles fell 0.1%. Prices for consumer goods excluding autos dropped 0.2%.

The report also showed export prices increased 0.2% in October, lifted by higher agricultural export prices. Prices for nonagricultural exports were unchanged. Export prices rose 0.6% in September. They dropped 1.6% on a year-on-year basis in October after decreasing 1.8% in September.

World

Former President Bush's recount team from 2000 Election concede that Trump has no path to win

  • The group of experts who led former President George W. Bush's legal efforts in the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential Election, state that President Trump has "no chance" of success in his own attempts to challenge the results of the election.
Updated 17 Nov 2020
Source: Reuters
Source: Reuters
Source: Reuters
Source: Reuters

The group of experts who led former President George W. Bush's legal efforts in the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential Election, state that President Trump has "no chance" of success in his own attempts to challenge the results of the election.

In multiple interviews with Bloomberg, several individuals who were involved with the Bush campaign's efforts to halt a recount in Florida during the 2000 Presidential Election - a move that allowed Bush to take a slim lead over his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Al Gore - stated that President Trump had to path towards replicating a similar result in this election.

Benjamin Ginsburg, the 2000 Bush Campaign's national counsel, stated that “You can’t just say, ‘This election’s tainted, throw it out', - you have to have some specificity, and so far, they’re sorely lacking in specificity". Barry Richards, who led the Bush Campaign's legal efforts during the Florida recount, added that "If the court were to overturn this election on that basis, they’d be disenfranchising many thousands of voters just because somebody said there was some irregularity in a particular place".

Allies of the Bush Campaign, all of whom who worked during the 2000 Presidential Election recount efforts held similar opinion on President Trump's chances to extract a favourable result through this strategy, with Ted Olson - a Bush Campaign legal representative - stating that "I do believe the election is over, we do have a new president".

The Trump Campaign has been mounting aggressive legal efforts in Pennsylvania, in an effort to delay the certification and verification of the state's election results, attempts that have yet to see any success.

World

Biden could name top staff as Trump tries to block transition

  • Biden's senior campaign staff have been discussing their roles in the transition and the new administration.
  • The Republican Trump has remained angry and defiant on social media even as some prominent Republicans have asserted that Biden should be considered the president-elect.
17 Nov 2020

WILMINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden will focus on shaping his core White House team on Tuesday while outgoing President Donald Trump presses on with his increasingly tenuous legal fight to reverse his loss in the US election.

Biden's senior campaign staff have been discussing their roles in the transition and the new administration that takes over Jan. 20. Several roles could be announced as soon as Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter.

US Representative Cedric Richmond, who was a national co-chair of Biden's campaign and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is expected to join the administration in a senior capacity, as is Steve Ricchetti, who has long been a close adviser to Biden, the person said. Richmond's move would leave his Louisiana congressional seat open.

Jen O'Malley Dillon, who was brought in early this year as Biden's campaign manager and is the first woman to lead a winning Democratic presidential bid, is expected to be named a deputy chief of staff.

Other roles could also be disclosed this week though Biden could still be weeks away from finalizing his slate of cabinet appointees.

None of the potential appointees could be reached for comment. A spokesman for Biden's transition team declined to comment.

Biden, a Democrat, is also set to receive a briefing on national security threats from his own advisers. Trump, a Republican who has not conceded the Nov. 3 election, has blocked him from receiving classified intelligence briefings usually provided to the successor in a transition.

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy has not recognized Biden as the "apparent winner." A spokeswoman for Murphy said the administrator was following precedent and would "make an ascertainment when the winner is clear." Critics say Murphy is holding off under pressure from the White House, a claim rejected by administration officials.

The Republican Trump has remained angry and defiant on social media even as some prominent Republicans have asserted that Biden should be considered the president-elect.

Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, said on Monday he would ensure a professional transition in the likely event that Biden is deemed the winner.

"If the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner, and obviously things look like that now, we'll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council," O'Brien told the Global Security Forum.

At a news conference on Monday, Biden again called upon Trump to cooperate with the transfer of power, saying that the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic meant lives were in the balance.

"More people may die if we don't coordinate," he said.

CLEAR BIDEN VICTORY

Though a definitive winner from the election did not emerge until four days later, Biden's victory has become clearer as more votes have been counted.

Biden won the legally meaningless but symbolically important national popular vote by at least 5.6 million votes, or 3.6 percentage points, with some ballots still being counted.

In the all-important state-by-state Electoral College, Biden surpassed the 270 votes needed to win with 306 to Trump's 232.

As states work to certify those results before a Dec. 8 deadline, Trump and his supporters have claimed he was cheated by fraud, but so far those baseless allegations have failed to gain traction in court.

One of Trump's legal challenges will get a hearing on Tuesday in a Pennsylvania federal court, where another legal setback would likely doom his already long-shot prospects.

US District Judge Matthew Brann will hear arguments in a Trump campaign lawsuit that seeks to halt the state's top election official from certifying Biden as the winner.

In order to remain in office, Trump would need to overturn results in at least three of the closely contested states in unprecedented fashion, and has no apparent legal means to do so.

Trump supporters are also clinging to hope that recounts could reverse state results, even though experts have said Biden's margins appear insurmountable.

Georgia is undertaking a manual recount on its own, but in Wisconsin the Trump campaign would have to pay for a recount in advance. The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday estimated such a recount would cost $7.9 million.

Georgia's top elections official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, told the Washington Post he has come under pressure from fellow Republicans who have launched false fraud allegations or questioned the legality of valid votes.

He also said he and his wife have received death threats.

"Other than getting you angry, it's also very disillusioning, particularly when it comes from people on my side of the aisle," Raffensperger told the Post. "Everyone that is working on this needs to elevate their speech. We need to be thoughtful and careful about what we say."

World

Georgia Secretary of State claims that Republicans have pressured him to toss legal ballots

  • On Monday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stated that Republican leaders such as Senator Lindsey Graham have been pressurising him to exclude legal ballots in order for President Trump to be declared the winner from the state, and nab 16 electoral votes in the process.
Updated 17 Nov 2020

On Monday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stated that Republican leaders such as Senator Lindsey Graham have been pressurising him to exclude legal ballots in order for President Trump to be declared the winner from the state, and nab 16 electoral votes in the process.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Raffensperger mentioned that Senator Graham asked him if he had the authority to "toss-out ballots" in counties with high rates on non-matching signatures, additionally questioning if poll workers had accepted ballots with non-matching signatures due to political bias.

Senator Graham denied allegations that he pressured Raffensperger, stating that he was figuring out how votes were verified in Georgia, adding that he thought that the state "has some protections that maybe other states don't have". Talking to reporters on Monday, Graham stated that "What I'm trying to find out was how do you verify signatures for mail-in ballots in these states [...] I thought it was a good conversation. I'm surprised to hear him characterise it that way".

Raffensperger stated that Republican efforts to cast aside legal ballots frustrated him, adding that he and his wife have received death threats recently, including one that read, “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it".

He mentioned that "Other than getting you angry, it’s also very disillusioning, particularly when it comes from people on my side of the aisle", urging both major political parties and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to exercise restraint.

Raffensperger stated that any legitimate claims of voter fraud would be investigated under the full extent of the law, adding that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that widespread fraud had occurred.

World

Biden turns focus to US economy as Trump vows more legal challenges to election

  • Biden to address economy in Wilmington at 1:45 pm EST/1845 GMT.
  • Advisers to meet vaccine makers this week as transition advances.
  • Trump promises "big cases" showing election was unconstitutional.
  • Trump campaign drops major part of Pennsylvania vote lawsuit.
16 Nov 2020

WILMINGTON, Del./WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden on Monday will focus on reviving a pandemic-battered US economy as he prepares to take office, while outgoing President Donald Trump has promised more lawsuits of the type that so far have failed to alter his election defeat.

With coronavirus cases surging, Biden will receive a briefing and give a speech in his home state of Delaware on rebuilding an economy that has suffered millions of job losses as the pandemic has killed more than 245,000 Americans.

Biden's scientific advisers will meet this week with pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines to prevent COVID-19, a top aide to the president-elect said, in preparation for the logistical challenges of widespread vaccination after the Democrat takes office on Jan. 20.

Trump, a Republican, briefly appeared to acknowledge defeat on Sunday only to backtrack, saying on Twitter that he concedes "nothing" and repeating his unfounded accusations of voter fraud.

He later promised on Twitter to file "big cases showing the unconstitutionality of the 2020 Election," even though he has made no headway with his legal challenges in multiple states so far.

Election officials from both parties have said there is no evidence of major irregularities. Federal election security officials have decried "unfounded claims" and expressed "utmost confidence" in the integrity of the elections, according to a statement last week by the lead US cybersecurity agency.

LEGAL SETBACK

In another blow to Trump's legal strategy, his campaign on Sunday dropped a major part of a lawsuit it had brought seeking to prevent Pennsylvania from certifying its results, narrowing the case to an issue affecting a small number of ballots. Biden won the state by more than 68,000 votes.

Biden beat Trump in the Nov. 3 election by the same 306-232 margin in the state-by-state Electoral College that Trump proclaimed a "landslide" when he won in 2016. The former vice president also won the national popular vote by at least 5.5 million votes, or 3.6 percentage points, with ballots still being counted.

Former President Barack Obama, a Democrat who campaigned against Trump, said it was past time for Trump to concede, and criticized Republicans who also refuse to accept the victory of his former vice president.

"When your time is up, then it is your job to put the country first and think beyond your own ego," Obama told the CBS News show "60 Minutes" in an interview that aired on Sunday.

"I'm more troubled by the fact that other Republican officials who clearly know better are going along with this."

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's most loyal supporters, will hold a hearing on Tuesday titled: "Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression and the 2020 Election."

STILL NO CONCESSION

The Trump administration has still not recognized Biden as president-elect, preventing his team from gaining access to the government office space and funding normally provided to an incoming administration.

Biden's top advisers said Trump's refusal to begin a transition could jeopardize the battle against the virus and inhibit vaccine distribution planning.

The number of US coronavirus cases passed 11 million on Sunday, up a million in a week and the fastest increase since the pandemic began.

Biden has promised to make the health crisis a top priority as president. Ron Klain, who will be White House chief of staff when Biden takes office, said Biden's scientific advisers would meet with Pfizer Inc and other drugmakers this week.

Pfizer said last week its vaccine candidate had proved more than 90% effective in initial trials, giving hope that widespread vaccination in the coming months could help get the pandemic under control. Other companies also are in advanced stages of developing promising vaccines.

Biden will also resume work on building his governing team. Although Klain, his first appointment, is a white man, the president-elect has vowed that his administration will "look like America" and be represented by women and minorities.

Some 46% of his transition staff are people of color and 52% are women, CNN reported, citing data provided by the transition team.

World

Trump supporters flock to Washington, as violence erupts

  • Thousands of Trump supporters held a rally in Washington on Saturday, protesting the results of the Presidential Election; the aftermath of which was aggravated by false claims of voter fraud.
16 Nov 2020

In a perceivable display of rejuvenated populist support, thousands of Trump supporters held a rally in Washington on Saturday, protesting the results of the Presidential Election; the aftermath of which was aggravated by false claims of voter fraud.

While the protests began in an orderly manner, even earning a brief drive-by from the President himself, they quickly descended into violence as the night progressed, with counter-protestors and Trump supporters openly clashing in the streets. Later on in the day, more than 40 men allegedly identified themselves as the members of the Proud Boys, an extremist right-wing organization.

The police arrested 20 people, including four individuals on gun-related charges.

These protests fanned out as the last two states of the election were finally called - with President-elect Biden winning Georgia to secure a total of 306 electoral votes, while incumbent President Trump won from North Carolina to settle his tally at 232 electoral votes.

On Twitter, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered an exaggerated assessment of the event, calling the protests the "Million MAGA March", in an attempt to heighten the President's popularity amidst a bitter legal battle to recount the votes.

World

President-elect Biden's transition delay could be damaging for U.S. national security, according to John Kelly

  • In the midst of a heated Presidential Election, President Trump's interference and consistent disregard for the political process could be potentially damaging for U.S. national security, according to Trump's former Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Updated 14 Nov 2020

In the midst of a heated Presidential Election, President Trump's interference and consistent disregard for the political process could be potentially damaging for U.S. national security, according to Trump's former Chief of Staff John Kelly.

In an exclusive interview to POLITICO, Kelly stated that "You lose a lot if the transition is delayed because the new people are not allowed to get their head in the game", adding that "The president, with all due respect, does not have to concede. But it’s about the nation. It hurts our national security".

Kelly is a retired four-star Marine Corps general, and served as President Trump's Chief of Staff - a partnership that proved to be unsatisfactory for the President, and led to Kelly's eventual dismissal in January 2019. When asked about the importance of the transitional process, Kelly stated that "the transition, in the national security realm in particular and the homeland security realm, is just so important that every day that the transition is delayed, really kind of handicaps the new team".

During his time with the Trump Administration, Gen. Kelly repeatedly locked horns with the President, especially on more procedural issues, and stated that "I think it’s crazy not to [start the transition], I know Mr. Trump better than most people do. I know that he’ll never accept defeat and, in fact, he doesn’t have to accept defeat here. He just has to do what’s best for the country and in the country’s interest".

World

Trump supporters head to the streets as he pushes false election claims

  • Trump has made little headway in the courts with his lawsuits and for the first time on Friday he began to sound doubtful about his prospects.
  • The pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington and other cities are scheduled to feature a mix of the president's backers,
14 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump's supporters will take to the streets on Saturday to back his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud as he pushes ahead with a flurry of longshot legal challenges to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

Trump has made little headway in the courts with his lawsuits and for the first time on Friday he began to sound doubtful about his prospects, telling reporters "time will tell" who occupies the White House from Jan. 20.

There have been other pro-Trump protests around the country since Biden was projected the winner on Nov. 7, but they have been small and unfolded with few incidents.

The pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington and other cities are scheduled to feature a mix of the president's backers, far-right personalities and members of the Oath Keepers militia and Proud Boys in a public display of support for his effort to stay in power.

Organizers have given the rallies various names, including the Million MAGA March, the March for Trump and Stop the Steal. MAGA is an acronym for the Trump campaign slogan "Make America Great Again." Trump has tweeted his support.

Some left-wing groups are planning counter-demonstrations in Washington and other cities.

Biden further solidified his victory on Friday as results from Edison Research showed him winning Georgia, giving him a final tally of 306 Electoral College votes, far more than the 270 needed to be elected president and above Trump's 232.

The 306 votes was equal to what Trump won in his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, which he then called a "landslide."

Trump briefly appeared close to acknowledging the likelihood he will be leaving the White House in January during remarks at a White House event.

"This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully the, uh, whatever happens in the future - who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell," Trump said in his first public remarks since Biden was projected as the election's winner a week ago.

With the election outcome becoming clearer, Trump has discussed with advisers possible media ventures and appearances that would keep him in the spotlight ahead of a possible 2024 White House bid, aides said.

He is considering starting a television channel or social media company to compete with those he felt betrayed him and stifled his ability to communicate directly with Americans, according to several advisers.

In the near term, Trump is expected to campaign for Republican candidates in Georgia ahead of two Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine which party controls the US Senate.

FAILING IN COURT

Trump has refused to concede to Biden and claims without evidence that he was cheated by widespread election fraud. State election officials report no serious irregularities, and several of his legal challenges have failed in court.

A Michigan state court on Friday rejected a request by Trump's supporters to block the certification of votes in Detroit, which went heavily in favor of Biden. And lawyers for Trump's campaign dropped a lawsuit in Arizona after the final vote count there rendered it moot.

Federal election security officials have found no evidence that any voting system deleted, lost or changed votes, "or was in any way compromised," two security groups said in a statement released on Thursday by the lead US cybersecurity agency.

To win a second term, Trump would need to overturn Biden's lead in at least three states, but he has so far failed to produce evidence that he could do so in any of them.

States face a Dec. 8 deadline to certify their elections and choose electors for the Electoral College, which will officially select the new president on Dec. 14.

Trump's refusal to accept defeat has stalled the official transition. The federal agency that releases funding to an incoming president-elect, the General Services Administration, has yet to recognize Biden's victory, denying him access to federal office space and resources.

But Biden, who will meet with advisers about the transition on Saturday in his home state of Delaware, has pressed ahead with the process, identifying legislative priorities, reviewing federal agency policies and preparing to fill thousands of jobs in the new administration.

"We're charging ahead with the transition," Jen Psaki, a senior adviser to Biden's transition team, said while stressing Biden still needs "real-time information" from the Trump administration to deal with the resurgent coronavirus pandemic and national security threats.

Although the national popular vote does not determine the election outcome, Biden was ahead by more than 5.3 million votes, or 3.4 percentage points. His share of the popular vote, at 50.8%, was slightly higher than Ronald Reagan's in 1980 when he defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter.

World

President-elect Biden considers Angus King for leading intelligence role

  • President-elect Joe Biden, while being repeatedly held back from initiating a formal government transition, has been making efforts to fill essential cabinet positions - reportedly considering Angus King to serve as Director of National Intelligence in his new administration.
Updated 14 Nov 2020

President-elect Joe Biden, while being repeatedly held back from initiating a formal government transition, has been making efforts to fill essential cabinet positions - reportedly considering Angus King to serve as Director of National Intelligence in his new administration.

A senator from Maine, King is an independent was frequently aligns with Democrats, who served as a prominent member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees; as his selection would provide a reputable voice, known in both the government and the intelligence community. However, this appointment could potentially vacate a Democratic Senate seat, in a state in which there is overwhelming Republican support, as would require a carefully fielded candidate.

During the Trump Administration, Senator King was an outspoken critic of what he termed as Trump's politicization of the intelligence community, especially through the appointment of loyal allies with limited intelligence experience.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Senator King stated that "You want intelligence to be truthful and unvarnished and as straightforward as possible - not what you want to hear, not what supports your policy positions [...] because if you don’t get that kind of information, you’re liable to make catastrophic mistakes".

Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, a Republican from Maine who previously served under President Bill Clinton, described Senator King as "a diligent and thoughtful member of the Senate Intelligence Committee for eight years, and in that role has provided effective oversight of the intelligence community", stating that he would be an ideal candidate for the role.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was launched in 2005, and specifically tasked to oversee the nation's rapidly expanding intelligence infrastructure, and to coordinate among the numerous agencies.

President Trump was a hardened sceptic of the intelligence community, especially considering the ongoing investigation of his campaign's ties to Russia, and attempted to actively scale back on the role of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as a whole. Dan Coats and Joseph Maguire, President Trump's first two intelligence chiefs were forced out for not complying with the party-narrative, as the President often used intelligence to draw inaccurate conclusions that served his own interests.

In contrast, President-elect Biden aims to place individuals who are familiar to the intelligence community into these roles, with Cohen stating that "[Biden] knows this world well and will appoint serious and credible professionals to restore the morale in the intelligence community which has been badly harmed by the recent appointment of unqualified political appointees to senior positions".

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden solidified his election victory on Friday by winning the state of Georgia, and President Donald Trump said “time will tell” if another administration takes over soon, the closest he has come to acknowledging Biden could succeed him.

Edison Research, which made the Georgia call, also projected that North Carolina, the only other battleground state with an outstanding vote count, would go to Trump, finalizing the electoral vote tally at 306 for Biden to 232 for Trump.

The numbers gave Biden, a Democrat, a resounding defeat of Trump in the Electoral College, equal to the 306 votes that Trump, a Republican, won to defeat Hillary Clinton in a 2016 victory Trump called a “landslide.”

At a White House event where he predicted a coronavirus vaccine would be available for the whole population by April, Trump edged closer to acknowledging he might leave the White House in January but stopped short.

“This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully the, uh, whatever happens in the future - who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell,” Trump said in his first public remarks since Biden was projected as the election’s winner on Nov. 7.

Trump did not take questions after the event.

Trump, a Republican, has claimed without evidence that he was cheated by widespread election fraud and has refused to concede. State election officials report no serious irregularities, and several of his legal challenges have failed in court.

While Trump had yet to concede, Biden officials reiterated they were moving ahead with transition efforts regardless.

Although the national popular vote does not determine the election outcome, Biden was ahead by more than 5.3 million votes, or 3.4 percentage points. His share of the popular vote, at 50.8%, was slightly higher than Ronald Reagan’s share of the vote in 1980 when he defeated Jimmy Carter. To win a second term, Trump would need to overturn Biden’s lead in at least three states, but he has so far failed to produce evidence that he could do so in any of them. States face a Dec. 8 “safe harbor” deadline to certify their elections and choose electors for the Electoral College, which will officially select the new president on Dec. 14.

Biden’s legal team in Georgia said on Friday they do not expect a hand recount of votes in the state to change the results there. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Fox News the campaign has “great confidence” it can prevail in the Georgia recount.

A Michigan state court rejected on Friday a request by Trump’s supporters to block the certification of votes in Detroit, which went heavily in favor of Biden. And lawyers for Trump’s campaign dropped a lawsuit in Arizona after the final vote count rendered it moot.

Federal election security officials have found no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, “or was in any way compromised,” two security groups said in a statement released on Thursday by the lead U.S. cybersecurity agency.

Transition talk

Biden officials said on Friday they would press forward with the transition, identifying legislative priorities, reviewing federal agency policies and preparing to fill thousands of jobs in the new administration.

“We’re charging ahead with the transition,” Jen Psaki, a senior adviser to Biden’s transition team, said on a conference call while stressing that Biden still needs “real-time information” from the Trump administration to deal with the resurgent pandemic and national security threats.

Psaki urged Trump’s White House to allow Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to receive daily intelligence briefings on potential threats around the world. “With every day that passes on, it becomes more concerning that our national security team and the president-elect and the vice president-elect don’t have access to those threat assessments, intelligence briefings, real-time information about our engagements around the world,” Psaki said. “Because, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Biden will be briefed by his own group of national-security experts next week, she said. He met with transition advisers again on Friday at his Delaware beach house where he is mapping out his approach to the pandemic and prepares to name his top appointees, including Cabinet members.

Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has stalled the official transition. The federal agency that releases funding to an incoming president-elect, the General Services Administration, has yet to recognize Biden’s victory, denying him access to federal office space and resources.

Trump has discussed with advisers media ventures and appearances to keep him in the spotlight ahead of a possible 2024 White House bid. In the near term, he is expected to campaign for Republican U.S. Senate candidates in Georgia ahead of Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine which party controls the chamber, aides said.

He also is considering starting a new television channel or social media company to compete with those he felt betrayed him and stifled his ability to communicate directly with Americans, according to several advisers.

Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera, a Trump confidant, said he had spoken to the president by phone on Friday and Trump gave him the impression he would follow the U.S. Constitution and surrender his office after every vote was counted.

“He told me he’s a realist. He told me he would do the right thing,” Rivera said in an interview with Fox. “I got no impression that he was plotting the overthrow of the elected government. He just wants a fair fight.”

BEIJING: China congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden on Friday nearly a week after he was declared winner of the American election, saying it respects "the choice of the American people".

US-China ties have grown increasingly strained in recent years under the administration of incumbent Donald Trump, and relations are as icy as at any time since formal ties were established four decades ago.

"We respect the choice of the American people. We express our congratulations to Mr Biden and Ms Harris," said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a regular press briefing, referring to incoming vice president Kamala Harris.

China was previously among a handful of major countries including Russia and Mexico that had not congratulated the president-elect, with Beijing commenting earlier this week simply that it had "noticed Mr Biden declared he is the winner". Since US media called the presidential race, Trump has not conceded to Biden as is traditional practice once a winner is projected.

Biden, who leads by more than five million in the popular vote, cemented his victory late Thursday by winning Arizona, US networks said. President Trump has repeatedly claimed that the election has been hindered by fraud, and Thursday retweeted a baseless claim that an election equipment maker "deleted" 2.7 million votes for him nationwide.

US election officials said there is no evidence of compromised ballots or corrupt voting systems in the US election.

US-CHINA TENSIONS

Trump's four years in the White House have been marked by soaring tensions as Trump portrayed China as the greatest threat to the United States and global democracy and the two sides sparred over topics from blame for the Covid-19 pandemic to technology, and China's human rights record.

The two clashed in a bruising trade war over US demands, including greater access to China's markets, broad reform of a business playing field that heavily favours Chinese firms, and a loosening of heavy state control by Beijing.

In January a deal was signed between the two -- bringing a partial truce that obliged Beijing to import an additional $200 billion in American products over two years, ranging from cars to machinery and oil to farm products. Trump has also turned its gun on Chinese tech firms it says poses security threats, including video-sharing app TikTok -- owned by Chinese parent company Bytedance -- and mobile giant Huawei.

But it is far from certain that relations will improve under a Biden administration, with the Democrat outspoken during his campaign on China's dismal human rights record.

During a Democratic Party primary debate in February, Biden called Chinese President Xi Jinping a "thug".

His presidential campaign has also referred to the crackdown on the Muslim Uighur minority in China's Xinjiang as a "genocide" -- a campaign Beijing defends as vocational training to counter the threat of terrorism.

WASHINGTON: There is no evidence of compromised ballots or corrupt voting systems in the US election, officials said Thursday, as a top Democrat accused Republicans who refuse to accept President-elect Joe Biden's win of "poisoning" democracy. Their messages came hours after President Donald Trump once again cried foul, retweeting a baseless claim that an election equipment maker "deleted" 2.7 million votes for him nationwide.

Biden, who leads by more than five million in the popular vote, cemented his victory late Thursday by winning Arizona, US networks said, flipping the state Democratic for the first time since 1996. Arizona gives Biden a 290-217 lead over Trump in the Electoral College, with 270 needed to win the White House.

With most Republican lawmakers having yet to acknowledge Biden's win, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the chamber's top Democrat, accused them Thursday of "denying reality" and "auditioning for profiles in cowardice."

"Instead of working to pull the country back together so that we can fight our common enemy Covid-19, Republicans in Congress are spreading conspiracy theories, denying reality and poisoning the well of our democracy," he said.

Senior US federal and state election officials meanwhile in a statement rejected Trump's claims of fraud, saying that "the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history."

The statement was issued by the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, a public-private umbrella group under the primary federal election security body, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

"There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised," they said.

"While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too," the statement said.

It was signed by the heads of the National Association of State Election Directors and the National Association of Secretaries of State -- the officials who manage elections at the state level -- and by the chairman of the US Election Assistance Commission.

'Absurd circus'

The statement came just hours after Trump's retweet, which in addition to claiming 2.7 million "deleted" votes also said hundreds of thousand had been switched from him to Biden in Pennsylvania and other states. It was the latest in a series of bogus assertions Trump and Republicans have put forth in order to reject Biden's victory.

Republican lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have stood firm with Trump by supporting his refusal to concede and backing his legal challenges. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in Thursday to demand Republicans stop what she called an "absurd circus" and turn to combatting the pandemic.

"Now that the people have expressed their views, Joe Biden has won (and) Kamala Harris will be the first woman vice president of the United States," Pelosi said.

Political experts believe Republicans may be invoking such a strategy as a way to rile up Trump's base before two US Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the chamber.

A total of 161 former national security officials, including some who worked with Trump, additionally warned the current administration's continued delay in recognizing Biden's victory is posing "a serious risk to national security."

In a letter, the group including ex-Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel and Trump's former National Security Council senior counterterrorism director Javed Ali urged General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy to recognize Biden as the apparent president-elect. Without a GSA signoff, transition funds and other resources including access to intelligence briefings cannot flow to Biden and his team, but Murphy has refused to budge.

World

Electoral Misinformation has pushed American Democracy to its brink - again

  • In the aftermath of a divisive Presidential Election, an unprecedented torrent of misinformation has flooded the internet, specifically based on unfounded allegations of electoral fraud - pushing the American democratic system to the brink.
13 Nov 2020
Source: Reuters.
Source: Reuters.

In the aftermath of a divisive Presidential Election, an unprecedented torrent of misinformation has flooded the internet, specifically based on unfounded allegations of electoral fraud - pushing the American democratic system to the brink.

President-elect Biden may have claimed the popular vote and the electoral college, but incumbent President Trump has not only outrightly refused to accept the results of the election - a move many have termed as dictatorial in nature - but his loyalists in the public sphere have blocked access to essential intelligence, or even inhibited the transitional process for the upcoming administration.

However, President Trump's stance in the dying embers of his administration has been emboldened by politically-driven misinformation, which has led to an uncomfortable deadlock - not just between the incumbent and intended presidential administrations, but also for the United States' allies around the world; many of which have resorted to reaching out to the Biden campaign through alternative diplomatic channels.

According to a poll conducted by YouGov and The Economist, conducted amongst registered voters, a whopping 82 percent of Republicans responded that they did not believe that Joe Biden had legitimately won the Presidential Election. Another YouGov poll found that 79 percent of Republican voters believed (albeit falsely) that widespread voter fraud had occurred and that it impacted the outcome of the election; as it can be seen that due to a combination of an unhinged presidency, a deepening partisan divide and rhetoric-driven Conservative media behemoths (such as Fox News) have rendered Republican voters as some of the most misinformed in the country.

Unfortunately, after the 2016 Presidential Election, which many have claimed was impacted by the unprecedented rise of online misinformation, this election was not going to be much different. Experts have advised journalists and media outlets that "prepare for uncertainty of results on election day, [...] know the conspiracies around shifts in vote shares, look to statements from election officials, and avoid sharing premature results from candidates or armchair data scientists"; as major media organisations carefully tip-toed around any premature estimates or results, especially in the early hours of Election Day.

However, the sort of disinformation perpetuating on online spaces was expected - as an array of factors have not only primed the American public to be more receptive to falsified information about the election, in which partisan bias certainly has a role to play, but also has allowed such information to be disseminated to a massive audience. Even before he was President, Donald Trump was alleging widespread voter fraud during the 2016 Election, claiming that it was "rigged" in favour of Clinton, and adding that millions of "undocumented" immigrants also voted, all of which set the stage for this strategy to be employed once again.

The onset of the Trump Administration prompted numerous media outlets to routinely employ fact-checking, especially when dealing with President Trump's barrage of misinformed extempore speeches - the impact of which was dulled by the relative inability of major social media platforms (such as Facebook and Twitter) to curb misinformation on a massive scale.

While the Trump Administration has signalled its plan to involve the Supreme Court in order to push for a potential recount in key battleground states - the likelihood for a late turn in the election remains slim, and the efficacy of this strategy remains doubtful.

Perhaps President Trump's term is finally coming to an end, but he will have left an indelible mark on American politics, the consequences of which could continue to reverberate for decades.

World

Biden cements victory by winning Arizona, but Trump still refuses to concede

  • Biden was projected to win Arizona after more than a week of vote counting from the Nov. 3 election, Edison Research said.
  • Biden had already cleared the 270 vote threshold to win the election, setting him on course to be sworn in on Jan. 20.
13 Nov 2020

President-elect Joe Biden cemented his US electoral victory by capturing the battleground state of Arizona late on Thursday, but the official transition to his administration remains stalled as President Donald Trump refuses to accept defeat.

Biden was projected to win Arizona after more than a week of vote counting from the Nov. 3 election, Edison Research said. He becomes only the second Democratic presidential candidate in seven decades to win the traditionally Republican state.

Biden's win in Arizona gives him 290 electoral votes in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner.

Biden had already cleared the 270 vote threshold to win the election, setting him on course to be sworn in on Jan. 20. Arizona's 11 additional electoral votes put any longshot challenge by Trump even further out of reach.

Biden also holds a lead of more than 14,000 votes in the uncalled state of Georgia, nearly certain to survive a manual recount. Nationally, Biden is winning the popular vote by more than 5.3 million votes, or 3.4 percentage points.

Trump, a Republican, has claimed without evidence that he was cheated by widespread election fraud, but his legal challenges have failed in court and state election officials report no serious irregularities.

In order to stay in office for a second term, Trump would need to overturn Biden's lead in at least three states, having failed to find evidence that could do so in any of them. States face a Dec. 8 "safe harbor" deadline to certify their elections and choose electors for the Electoral College, which will officially select the new president on Dec. 14.

Trump's refusal to accept defeat has stalled the process of transitioning to a new administration. The federal agency that releases funding to an incoming president-elect, the General Services Administration, has not yet recognized Biden's victory.

Biden's pick for White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, told MSNBC on Thursday that starting the transition is particularly crucial now, as the Biden administration will inherit a coronavirus vaccination campaign as soon as he takes office.

"The sooner we can get our transition experts into meetings with the folks who are planning a vaccination campaign, the more seamless the transition to a Biden presidency from a Trump presidency can be," Klain said.

Regardless of the impediments, Biden will sign a "stack" of executive orders and send high-priority legislation to Congress his first day in office, Klain said.

"He is going to have a very, very busy Day One," Klain said, citing a return the to Paris accord on climate change, immigration reform, strengthening the "Obamacare" healthcare law and environmental protection as issues Biden would address on Jan. 20.

REPUBLICANS DIVIDED

Biden was set to meet with transition advisers again on Friday as he maps out his approach to the pandemic and prepares to name his top appointees, including cabinet members.

Most Republicans have publicly endorsed Trump's right to pursue court challenges and declined to recognize Biden as the winner. But more signs of dissension began emerging on Thursday.

Party figures such as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Karl Rove, a top adviser to former President George W. Bush, said Biden should be treated as the president-elect.

Meanwhile, a number of Republican senators said the Trump administration should allow Biden to receive classified intelligence briefings, though they stopped short of explicitly calling him the winner.

The incoming commander-in-chief is typically given the briefings to ensure national security is not compromised during the transition.

"I don't see it as a high-risk proposition. I just think it's part of the transition. And, if in fact he does win in the end, I think they need to be able to hit the ground running," Senator John Cornyn told reporters.

The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, opposed the idea, suggesting Trump could still prevail.

"He's not president right now," McCarthy said of Biden. "I don't know if he'll be president January 20th."

Democrats have assailed Trump, and the Republicans giving him cover, for undermining the country's institutions. In an interview that will air on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, former President Barack Obama said Republicans were walking a "dangerous path" by endorsing Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud.

Biden has taken a measured approach, saying this week he viewed Trump's claims as "embarrassing" but insisting he was not worried about the impact on his transition to the White House. His legal advisers have dismissed the Trump lawsuits as political theater.

World

President Trump could damage the fabric of democracy in the U.S., according to experts

  • According to experts, President Trump's unrepentant efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 Election could potentially damage the fabric of the nation's democracy and set a dangerous political precedent, even if the strategy is unlikely to succeed.
Updated 13 Nov 2020

According to experts, President Trump's unrepentant efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 Election could potentially damage the fabric of the nation's democracy and set a dangerous political precedent, even if the strategy is unlikely to succeed.

According to Professor Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University who controversially predicted President Trump's ascension to the White House in 2016, "what we have witnessed since the election is the worst moment in presidential history", adding that "no losing president - indeed no losing candidate - has so falsely and dangerously undermined the integrity of our democracy and our elections".

President Trump has maintained a steady stance in the aftermath of the Presidential Elections, blaming voter fraud through a strategically positioned campaign against mail-in votes for his unceremonious electoral loss. While any substantive evidence to support the President's claims have yet to emerge, misinformation has played a disturbingly large part in the dissemination of alleged claims of voter fraud, which in turn inflamed President Trump's largely conservative voter demographic.

According to the New York Times, which contacted election officials in every single state, "none reported any major voting issues", and the fact that most Republicans have not vigorously backed the President's dangerous stance, gives a clear indication of where this political crisis is going.

President Trump has yet to concede, as his rabid political supporters in the White House, State Department and Pentagon have refused to allow President-elect Biden to begin the transitional process; which could lead to a long-lasting stalemate that may not end in victory for President Trump, but could likely set a dangerous precedent for the elections to come.

World

Major Pentagon shuffling continues, as Trump Administration refuses to budge

  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, amidst sweeping changes in the national security sphere by the Trump Administration, stated at an event on Wednesday that his allegiance does not lie with a President or a tyrant, but solely with the constitution.
Updated 13 Nov 2020

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, amidst sweeping changes in the national security sphere by the Trump Administration, stated at an event on Wednesday that his allegiance does not lie with a President or a tyrant, but solely with the constitution.

While standing besides the newly appointed acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller at the opening of the U.S. Army Museum, Gen. Milley stated that "We are unique among militaries. We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or religion. We take an oath to the Constitution".

Gen. Milley has repeatedly referenced the military's oath to uphold the Constitution, especially when President Trump contemplated the deployment of the National Guard and the Armed Forces during the Black Lives Matter protests across the country, and he chose to reinforce this message in the aftermath of an exhausting Presidential election.

Following a dramatic reshuffling of the senior civilian leadership in the Pentagon, in the aftermath of the Esper's dismissal by the President, the Trump Administration has funnelled a series of political lobbyists and conspiracy-theorists into the country's intelligence and national security spheres; with many speculating that Gen. Milley could potentially be on the chopping-block as well.

These controversial appointments include Douglas MacGregor, who once advocated using lethal force to dissuade illegal immigrants from crossing the border, and Anthony Tata who once called President Barack Obama a "terrorist leader".

While the military as an institution prides itself as being a non-partisan and non-ideological entity, the institution is embroiled in a precarious situation between the Trump Administration and the incoming Biden Administration; as the country is coming no closer to any transitional phase.

World

State Department Blocking Access to Correspondence from Foreign Leaders for the President-elect

  • The U.S. State Department has been preventing President-elect Joe Biden from accessing messages from foreign leaders, highlighting the Trump Administration's blatant unwillingness to facilitate the transition process.
Updated 13 Nov 2020
Source: Reuters.
Source: Reuters.

The U.S. State Department has been preventing President-elect Joe Biden from accessing messages from foreign leaders, highlighting the Trump Administration's blatant unwillingness to facilitate the transition process.

As reported by CNN, Biden has been unable to receive dozens of official messages from world leaders through the State Department, which supports all formal communication for the Office of the President-elect; which is a blatant violation of established norms, as President Trump refuses to concede.

President-elect Biden has communicated with several world leaders since his historic electoral victory, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; albeit without the logistical and diplomatic support from the State Department, which has been consistently impeding the transition process.

It has also been reported that in an effort to bypass this roadblock, foreign leaders have reached out to former Obama-era diplomats to get in touch with President-elect Biden's team; once it was inferred that the State Department was not facilitating the new Administration.

President Trump has repeatedly refused to acknowledge Biden's victory, pursuing legal action in key swing states, and peddling a narrative that perpetuates issues pertaining to voter fraud and deliberate miscounting. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when inquired about the transitional process, stated that "there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration", adding more fuel to the fire as to whether the Administration will be cooperative in the process.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has refused to share Presidential intelligence briefings with Biden, while the Administrator of the General Services Administration has refused to issue the President-elect a letter of "ascertainment" which would allow the transfer of power to begin - thereby posing multiple roadblocks for the incoming Biden Administration.

WASHINGTON: Pope Francis spoke with Joe Biden by telephone Thursday to offer “blessings and congratulations” to the US president-elect on his victory, the Democrat’s transition team said in a statement.

“The president-elect thanked His Holiness for extending blessings and congratulations and noted his appreciation for His Holiness’ leadership in promoting peace, reconciliation, and the common bonds of humanity around the world,” according to a readout of the call provided by Biden’s office.

Biden, 77, is only the second Catholic elected to the US presidency, after John F Kennedy in 1960.—AFP

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden pressed ahead with his transition Wednesday despite Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge defeat, naming a seasoned Democratic operative as chief of staff in his first public White House personnel choice. Biden’s inauguration is on January 20.

Biden tapped longtime aide Ron Klain, who previously served as his first chief of staff while vice president, acknowledging the two had a long road ahead in fighting the coronavirus pandemic as well as healing a deeply divided nation.

“His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again,” Biden said.

He made the announcement after visiting the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia earlier in the day for a solemn wreath-laying ceremony to mark Veterans Day in the US.

President Trump attended a separate, simultaneous ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, in what should have been a moment of national unity but instead highlighted the Republican’s refusal to acknowledge election defeat.

The president made no public remarks during the somber wreath-laying ceremony, his first official appearance since the November 3 vote. Since media called the race four days ago Trump has not addressed the nation other than via Twitter and a written statement released to mark Veterans Day, and has not conceded to Biden, as is traditional once a winner is projected in a US vote. Early Wednesday he was tweeting fresh evidence-free claims of election wins and ballot tampering, despite the consensus from international observers, world leaders, local election officials and US media that the vote was free and fair.—AFP

Markets

As Trump refuses to concede, some bettors hold out too

  • Trump still has a 10% chance of remaining in the White House for a second term, according to Betfair.
  • All major U.S news organizations have called the Nov. 3 election for Biden based on preliminary voting tallies.
12 Nov 2020

LONDON/NEW YORK: President Donald Trump's challenge of the US election result in the courts has emboldened some to bet he can still win, even as most bookies have settled bets by accepting that President-elect Joe Biden will succeed him.

Trump still has a 10% chance of remaining in the White House for a second term, according to Betfair, an online betting exchange that matches opposing wagers by punters. That is up from 3% late last week.

Democrat Biden is currently projected to win 279 electoral college votes, more than the 270 he needs to become president. He is ahead of his Republican rival Trump in the voting count in states that would bring his electoral vote total to 306, according to Edison Research.

All major U.S news organizations have called the Nov. 3 election for Biden based on preliminary voting tallies.

Major bookmakers, such as Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and William Hill, have paid out bets on the basis that Biden won, but many online exchanges such as Betfair have not settled bets and remain open for election wagers.

The discrepancy shows how some punters are backing Trump's long-shot bid to overturn the election outcome in the courts, based on unproven claims of extensive voting fraud and irregularities.

"I'm a loyal Trump supporter and I put my money where my mouth is," said Chris French, a 53-year-old mortgage broker from West Sussex in Britain. After losing a 50 pounds ($66) bet on Trump with a bookie that settled bids once TV networks called the presidency for Biden, French placed a new 10 pounds bet on Trump this week with an online exchange that still accepted wagers.

"Trump was so far ahead on the election day. I believe things will turn once fraud is uncovered," French added.

Despite a flurry of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign in the last few days, legal experts say the litigation has scant chance of changing the outcome.

A Trump campaign spokesman said: "With every action we take, we are moving closer to the goal of re-electing President Trump. More than 70.5 million Americans voted for the President and he owes it to them - and everyone who voted for Joe Biden as well - to ensure that the election was fair and secure."

The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Nearly 80% of Americans, including more than half of Republicans, recognize Biden as the winner of the presidential election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll published this week.

Prominent Republican lawmakers and other Trump allies have defended Trump's refusal to concede, arguing he has the legal right to contest the results.

Betting exchanges such as Betfair and Predictit that are still taking bets on the election said they needed more certainty to call the outcome, and declined to specify when they would follow the lead of the bookies. A Predictit spokeswoman said the company was "seeking clarity in light of ongoing vote counts, potential recounts and any legal challenges."

Not all betting exchanges remain open to election bets. Smarkets settled bets on Saturday after US TV networks called the election for Biden. "It appeared clear that Biden's leads in the key swing states was unassailable," a spokesman for the firm said.

Those who are still bullish on Trump's odds remain defiant. "I think the betting odds show that there are some smart people that are realizing this is not over," said Nathan Lands, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Trump supporter.

World

President Trump eyes digital media empire to challenge Fox News

  • President Trump has reportedly revealed privately that he wants to start a digital media company to "clobber" Fox News, and undermine the country's largest conservative oriented media network.
Updated 12 Nov 2020

President Trump has reportedly revealed privately that he wants to start a digital media company to "clobber" Fox News, and undermine the country's largest conservative oriented media network.

What is the strategy at play? As reported by Axios, some Trump advisers believe that Fox News made a mistake with an early call of President-elect Biden's electoral win in Arizona, which allegedly enraged President Trump and gave him a tangible reason to attack a network that has effectively served as a mouthpiece for the Trump Administration since the past four years.

"He plans to wreck Fox. No doubt about it", said a source with detailed knowledge of President Trump's intentions on this matter, adding that rather than a costly and conventional cable-based network, Trump is considering harnessing digital media to stream online; which would be notably cheaper, and could potentially reach a wider audience.

Furthermore, President Trump's digital platform would aim to specifically target his throngs of conservative supporters, many of which have been subscribed to Fox News, with the source adding that the network would spend "a lot of time slamming Fox".

Despite Fox News' consistent support of the Trump Administration, with many political commentators arguing that there was a constant "feedback loop" between the numerous pundits on the network and the President himself, Trump has vocally criticised the network, stating that "Fox has changed a lot - somebody said: What's the biggest difference between this and four years ago? And I say Fox."

World

President-elect Biden appoints longtime adviser as Chief of Staff

  • President-elect Joe Biden named his longtime adviser Ron Klain as the White House Chief of Staff, as his first major appointment in building his administration; regardless of whether President Trump formally concedes.
Updated 12 Nov 2020

On Wednesday, President-elect Joe Biden named his longtime adviser Ron Klain as the White House Chief of Staff, as his first major appointment in building his administration; regardless of whether President Trump formally concedes.

Biden has worked with Klain for decades, hiring him as an adviser during his earlier Presidential campaigns, and eventually appointing him as his Chief of Staff under the Obama Administration.

Seen as a trusted and competent political aide, Klain has also worked with Vice President Al Gore under the Bill Clinton Administration, and was appointed as President Obama's Ebola national response coordinator.

As Biden's Chief of Staff under the Obama Administration, Klain also helped to oversee the implementation of a $787 billion Recovery Act to boost the American economy after the global financial crisis in 2007/08.

In a statement, President-elect Biden mentioned that “Ron has been invaluable to me over the many years that we have worked together, including as we rescued the American economy from one of the worst downturns in our history in 2009 and later overcame a daunting public health emergency in 2014".

Biden added that "His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again". Klain described his appointment as the “honor of a lifetime”.

As President-elect Biden moves forward with the transition, President Trump has outrightly refused to concede, as his campaign has continued its legal efforts to overturn the results in key states.

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden attended separate Veterans Day events Wednesday in a stark illustration of the chasm between the incoming and outgoing administrations.

Trump attended a wreath-laying ceremony in rainy weather at Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington.

He made no public remarks. In a written statement released earlier in the day he said: “We enjoy the privileges of peace, prosperity, and freedom because of our veterans, and we are forever indebted to them beyond measure.”

Biden attended an event at a Korean War memorial in Philadelphia.

He also released a statement in which he also noted the debt owed to the armed forces, and said the nation’s “one truly sacred obligation” was “to prepare and equip our troops we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families when they return home.”

Trump has refused to concede defeat in the November 3 election won by Biden, and is also refusing to cooperate in the transition to a new administration in January.—AFP

Nearly 80% of Americans, including more than half of Republicans, recognize President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the Nov. 3 election after most media organizations called the race for the Democrat based on his leads in critical battleground states, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Biden - who needed 270 Electoral College votes to win - had 279 of those votes to 214 for Trump with results in three states not yet complete, according to Edison Research. In the popular vote, Biden got 76.3 million, or 50.7% of the total, to 71.6 million, or 47.6%, for Trump.

The Reuters/Ipsos national opinion survey, which ran from Saturday afternoon to Tuesday, found that 79% of U.S. adults believe Biden won the White House. Another 13% said the election has not yet been decided, 3% said Trump won and 5% said they do not know.

The results were somewhat split along party lines: about six in 10 Republicans and almost every Democrat said Biden won.

Edison Research, which conducts exit polling for Reuters and major media outlets, called the race for Biden on Saturday after he expanded his lead over Trump in Pennsylvania and appeared well on his way to amassing 270 electoral votes.

Trump has yet to recognize the result of the race. He prematurely declared victory well before the votes had been counted and has repeatedly complained without evidence that he is the victim of widespread voter fraud.

His claims have been echoed by members of Trump’s cabinet. U.S. Attorney General William Barr has authorized federal investigations of “substantial” allegations of voting irregularities, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said he foresees “a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was part of a broader survey that was conducted Friday to Tuesday and included responses before the presidential race was called.

It showed that 70% of Americans, including 83% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans, trust their local election officials to “do their job honestly.”

The poll also found that 72% think the loser of the election must concede defeat, and 60% think there will be a peaceful transition of power when Trump’s term ends in January.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,363 U.S. adults in all, including 469 respondents who took the poll between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 5 percentage points.

World

Historic U.S. Presidential race boost preparations for the U.N Summit on Climate Change

  • With President-elect Joe Biden slated to formally take up office in the White House in the year ahead, the upcoming U.N. Summit on Climate Change may have been given a boost by this change of administration, as the United States could be expected to find themselves back in the fold of the Paris Agreement.
11 Nov 2020

With President-elect Joe Biden slated to formally take up office in the White House in the year ahead, the upcoming U.N. Summit on Climate Change may have been given a boost by this change of administration, as the United States could be expected to find themselves back in the fold of the Paris Agreement.

The U.S. Presidential Election precedes an unprecedented period of collective international climate action, in which China, the European Union, Japan and many others have agreed to commit to long-term targets on controlling greenhouse gas emissions to meet their targets for the Paris Climate Agreement.

The United States' reintegration into the fold of the Paris Agreement, along with Biden's proposals for a "green economy" in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, could mark a historic period in which the world's largest contributors of greenhouse gases would be committed to a collective goal of reducing emissions drastically.

President-elect Biden has vowed to return the United States to the Paris Agreement, from which President Donald Trump unceremoniously withdrew in June 2017; setting a goal of reaching "net zero emissions" by 2050.

Furthermore, it can also be observed that President Biden, upon his formal return to the White House, could seek to reverse many of President Trump's unprecedented policy decisions, especially pertaining to the United States' withdrawal from the World Health Organization and the Iran Nuclear Deal (or the JCPOA).

World

President Trump could potentially land a $100 million book deal

  • According to sources familiar with President Trump, he is being "bombarded with book and TV deals" that could be worth a staggering $100 million, after his tumultuous term in office.
11 Nov 2020

According to sources familiar with President Trump, he is being "bombarded with book and TV deals" that could be worth a staggering $100 million, after his tumultuous term in office.

The President has also been courted by numerous conservative and far-right outlets, all of whom aim to translate over 70 million votes into potential viewers, adding that "all the anti-Trump books have made big bucks, so this from Donald is a surefire hit".

According to Dana Canedy, the publisher for Simon and Schuster - a publishing house with which the President previously published his book "Crippled America" - "Everyone who leaves the White House has one or more books in them and that becomes part of public history. I think that would be not only appropriate but important.”

Interestingly, Simon and Schuster are Hillary Clinton's long-time publishers, and also published Bob Woodward's previous two books on the outgoing President, not to mention scathing memoirs by John Bolton and Mary L. Trump.

It is not uncommon for Presidents to land lucrative publishing deals after their tenures in the White House, and President Trump could very likely remain a part of popular culture and political rhetoric for years to come.

World

Biden says nothing will stop transition as Trump vows new legal action

  • President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday that nothing would stop the transfer of power in the U.S. government, while President Donald Trump pursued lawsuits in several states in a long-shot bid to hold on to power.
11 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday that nothing would stop the transfer of power in the U.S. government, while President Donald Trump pursued lawsuits in several states in a long-shot bid to hold on to power.

Trump’s campaign said it would file a lawsuit to stop Michigan from officially certifying Biden as the winner there until the state could verify that votes were cast lawfully, the latest in a flurry of lawsuits in battleground states to try to back up Trump’s unsupported claims of widespread fraud.

Legal experts have said Trump’s litigation has little chance of changing the outcome, and state officials have said there were no significant irregularities in the Nov. 3 election.

Meanwhile, Trump supporters faced a possible setback in Pennsylvania. A witness who had raised accusations of ballot tampering recanted his allegations, according to Democrats in Congress who were briefed on the investigation.

Trump’s accusations of fraud did not appear to be gaining traction with the public. Nearly 80% of Americans, including more than half of Republicans, recognize Biden as the winner, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Top Republicans in Congress, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, said Trump had a right to challenge Biden’s victory, and others echoed the president’s unfounded accusations of widespread fraud. Privately, some aides said Trump would need to produce credible evidence soon to retain their support.

Biden secured more than the 270 votes in the Electoral College needed to take the presidency by winning Pennsylvania on Saturday after four tense days of counting, which was delayed by a surge in mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden said in a speech in Delaware that his team was pushing ahead with forming a new administration to take over on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021, no matter what.

“We’re going to be going, moving along, in a consistent manner, putting together our administration, the White House, and reviewing who we’re going to pick for the Cabinet positions, and nothing’s going to stop that,” he said on Tuesday. Biden said it was an “embarrassment” that Trump has not conceded the election.

Taking questions from the media for the first time since his victory, Biden was asked what he would say if Trump were watching. He said: “Mr. President, I look forward to speaking with you.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo predicted a “second Trump administration,” in comments at odds with congratulatory phone calls from the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Ireland to Biden.

Trump installed loyalists in top positions at the Pentagon, one day after firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper, which could potentially make it easier to use U.S. troops to respond to domestic protests.

The Biden transition team has been unable to move into federal government office space or tap funds to hire staff because a Trump appointee who heads the federal office charged with recognizing election results has not yet done so.

Markets

Trump defies election loss, Biden ignores him

  • Trump's attempt to hold on to power has become all consuming for the man who often makes a point of publicly mocking rivals as "losers."
11 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: A week after losing the US election, President Donald Trump remained shut up in the White House on Tuesday, pushing an alternate reality that he is about to win, while Democrat Joe Biden ignored him and acted like a leader in waiting by taking a string of calls from foreign capitals.

Biden is increasingly moving toward the moment in 71 days when he will take the oath of office.

In his latest exchanges with international leaders, he talked Tuesday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ireland's prime minister, Micheal Martin, and was due to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron later.

But the formal process of Biden's transition is being blocked by Trump while he attempts to overturn the election results in court on the basis of so far flimsy fraud allegations.

"WE WILL WIN!" the Republican president tweeted early Tuesday. "WATCH FOR MASSIVE BALLOT COUNTING ABUSE."

Trump's attempt to hold on to power has become all consuming for the man who often makes a point of publicly mocking rivals as "losers."

Emphasizing the atmosphere of intransigence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a testy news conference that he was preparing for "a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."

Since Election Day on November 3, Trump has made few public appearances and seems to have all but shelved normal presidential duties.

His only known activities outside the White House have been to play golf twice over the weekend, after the results came in.

Normally routine secret presidential intelligence briefings have been off the daily schedule. He has made no mention of the dramatic rebound in the Covid-19 pandemic across the country.

And his once near daily press conferences, interviews with Fox News or impromptu question-and-answer sessions with White House journalists have dried up.

In place of that, Trump has spent much of his time tweeting, mostly about what he claims is the stolen election.

Trump's only significant presidential action has been the abrupt firing of defense secretary Mark Esper on Monday, which he announced on Twitter.

Transition blocked

Exactly four years ago Tuesday, Trump had just scored his surprise victory against Hillary Clinton and toured the White House for the first time as a guest of Barack Obama.

That courtesy to a presidents-elect is an old tradition, highlighting the nation's near sacred respect for the peaceful transfer of power.

Trump has not only failed to invite Biden for a chat in the Oval Office, he is blocking the Democrat from access to facilities, funding and expertise that usually come in a ready made package to help the incoming leader.

Release of this transition aid is controlled by the General Services Administration head Emily Murphy, who was appointed by Trump.

Biden, who won with a record number of votes but acknowledges that nearly half the electorate nevertheless backed Trump, is apparently choosing to ignore the chaos.

Rarely even mentioning Trump, Biden has set up a coronavirus task force and on Tuesday was delivering his latest policy speech -- this time on the fate of the Obamacare health care plan which Trump wants the Supreme Court to dismantle.

The latest major foreign leader to reach out with congratulations, ignoring Trump's claim that he won last Tuesday, was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who referred to Biden's "election success."

Republicans back Trump

Washington is buzzing with speculation over who, if anyone, in Trump's inner circle will finally persuade him to go.

Former President George W. Bush, the only living Republican ex-president, congratulated Biden on his victory, but he is an outlier in a party dominated by the still hugely popular Trump.

On Monday, the Republican leader in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell, said Trump was "100 percent within his rights" to challenge the election in court.

None of the lawsuits appears to have the potential to change the result of votes and even a planned recount of Biden's paper-thin victory in Georgia, or anywhere else, would be unlikely to change the fundamental math.

But Trump added a potential new weapon to his crusade against the results on Monday when his attorney general, Bill Barr, agreed to authorize probes into "specific allegations" of fraud.

Barr added a caveat that "specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries."

However, Barr's unusual intervention in the dispute prompted worries that Trump will go even further in his efforts. The Justice Department's top election crimes prosecutor, Richard Pilger, resigned in protest.

World

As Trump challenges Biden victory, attorney general OKs fraud probes

  • Pennsylvania Republican state lawmakers plan to call for an audit of the results in the state that gave Biden enough electoral votes to win.
  • The dispute is slowing Biden's work in preparing for the work of governing, as a Trump appointee who heads the office charged with recognizing election results has not yet done so.
10 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON: President Donald Trump will push ahead on Tuesday with longshot legal challenges to his loss to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden in last week's election, as Republican officials at the state and federal level lined up behind him.

Pennsylvania Republican state lawmakers plan to call for an audit of the results in the state that gave Biden enough electoral votes to win, the day after US Attorney General William Barr told federal prosecutors to look into "substantial" allegations of irregularities.

Trump for months before the election made repeated claims without providing evidence that results would be marred by fraud and has kept up those unfounded allegations over the past week. Judges have tossed out lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia, and experts say Trump's legal efforts have little chance of changing the election result.

But Congress's top Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on Monday lined up behind Trump, saying that he was "100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities," without citing any evidence.

The dispute is slowing Biden's work in preparing for the work of governing, as a Trump appointee who heads the office charged with recognizing election results has not yet done so.

Biden on Saturday secured the more than the 270 votes in the Electoral College needed to win the presidency. He also led Trump in the popular vote by 4.6 million votes on Tuesday morning as states continued to count the remaining ballots.

BARR MOVE PROMPTS RESIGNATION

Barr's directive to prosecutors prompted the top lawyer overseeing voter fraud investigations to resign in protest.

Barr told prosecutors on Monday that "fanciful or far-fetched claims" should not be a basis for investigation and his letter did not indicate the Justice Department had uncovered voting irregularities affecting the outcome of the election.

But he did say he was authorizing prosecutors to "pursue substantial allegations" of irregularities of voting and the counting of ballots.

Richard Pilger, who for years has served as director of the Election Crimes Branch, said in an internal email he was resigning from his post after he read "the new policy and its ramifications".

The previous Justice Department policy, designed to avoid interjecting the federal government into election campaigns, had discouraged overt investigations "until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded."

Biden's campaign said Barr was fueling Trump's far-fetched allegations of fraud.

"Those are the very kind of claims that the president and his lawyers are making unsuccessfully every day, as their lawsuits are laughed out of one court after another," said Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden.

One of Barr's predecessors as attorney general, Republican Alberto Gonzales, told CNN on Tuesday the timing of Barr's memo was "very, very unfortunate" because it contributes to the perception that the Justice Department was being used for political purposes.

"If you're asking me do I think there have I seen evidence of widespread fraud, to a level that would overturn the results of this election? No, I have not," said Gonzales, who served under former President George W. Bush.

REPUBLICANS REMAIN LOYAL

Although a few Republicans have urged Trump to concede, the president still held the support of prominent party leaders who had yet to congratulate Biden.

Trump's campaign on Monday filed a lawsuit to block Pennsylvania officials from certifying Biden's victory in the battleground state, where Biden led by more than 45,000 votes.

It alleged the state's mail-in voting system violated the US Constitution by creating "an illegal two-tiered voting system" where voting in person was subject to more oversight than voting by mail.

It was filed against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and the boards of elections in Democratic-leaning counties that include Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Boockvar's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The Trump campaign's latest filing is another attempt to throw out legal votes," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said on Twitter.

Pennsylvania state Representative Dawn Keefer on Tuesday planned to call for a legislative audit of the state's election results.

Biden, who has begun work on his transition to the White House, will give a speech on Tuesday defending the Affordable Care Act, the landmark healthcare law popularly known as Obamacare, as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on a lawsuit backed by the Trump administration to invalidate it.

Trump and Republicans have repeatedly tried to do away with the 2010 law passed under President Barack Obama, with Biden as his vice president.

The Supreme Court fended off previous challenges in 2012 and 2015. The court now has a 6-3 conservative majority after Trump's third appointee, Amy Coney Barrett, was confirmed last month.

As Biden begins work on his transition, his team is considering legal action over a federal agency's delay in recognizing his victory over Trump.

The General Services Administration normally recognizes a presidential candidate when it becomes clear who has won so a transition of power can begin.

But that has not yet happened and the law does not spell out when the GSA must act. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, appointed by Trump in 2017, has not yet determined that "a winner is clear," a spokeswoman said.

World

Biden may face pressure to reshape Powell's Fed in first year

  • Among the considerations the incoming Democratic president will have to weigh are likely calls from progressives for more extensive change at the Fed.
  • Opposition to Powell may also arise from those who want tougher financial regulation. Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren
10 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: US monetary policy won't be a top-of-mind concern for President-elect Joe Biden as he prepares to take office in January, with the Federal Reserve's economic arsenal already deployed against an ongoing recession and decisions about federal spending more pressing for the next administration.

But over his first year in office Biden will have to decide how deep an imprint he wants to put on the US central bank, and particularly whether Fed Chair Jerome Powell's push this year to refocus it on job growth has earned enough credibility among Democrats to be reappointed.

Among the considerations the incoming Democratic president will have to weigh are likely calls from progressives for more extensive change at the Fed, given that the party's platform included reforms to make the Fed more attentive to issues like racial wealth inequality, and whether Powell is the right figure to pursue that.

Opposition to Powell may also arise from those who want tougher financial regulation. Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren, now a key voice on financial regulatory issues, opposed his nomination in 2018.

As he balances the varying demands of those who brought him to office, Biden may want to put his own stamp on the central bank when Powell's term as Fed chief ends in Feb. 2022, said Vincent Reinhart, a former Fed official who is now Mellon's chief economist, noting the Democrats' extensive cadre of economic policy experts.

Among them, current Fed Governor Lael Brainard has been mentioned as a possibility to replace Powell or become the next US Treasury secretary; Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, the first Black to run one of the Fed's regional branches, has become an influential voice within the Fed system on issues of economic fairness, and during Biden's years as vice president was an assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

NOMINEE OF LEAST RESISTANCE

Still, Powell won't be without strengths when the issue of his future comes up. He has been a steadying hand at the central bank who not only managed a forceful Fed response to the coronavirus pandemic, but survived a tumultuous relationship with Republican President Donald Trump in part by building support among both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

If Republicans keep control of the Senate, and thus over confirmation of Biden's appointees, those alliances could be an asset for Powell, a 67-year-old Republican cut from the same moderate, bipartisan cloth as the president-elect, and a well-known figure in institutional Washington. Two run-off elections in Georgia in January will determine which party controls the Senate.

Powell "would be the nominee of least resistance," if Republicans do maintain control of the Senate, Cornerstone Macro analyst Roberto Perli wrote recently.

Even beyond those dynamics, Powell has delivered what is arguably one of the most significant reforms to US monetary policy since former Fed chief Paul Volcker redirected the central bank in the late 1970s and early 1980s to fight inflation. In Powell's case, it involved recasting the Fed as a job promoter first and an inflation fighter second.

The rollout of the Fed's new framework drew praise from progressive economists, union officials and others over the summer, including top Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein, who called the new approach "music to my ears."

VICE CHAIR APPOINTMENTS

Terms for the Fed's two vice chairs, Richard Clarida and Randal Quarles, will also expire during Biden's first year. Clarida is a respected economist who managed the shift in Fed policy during a nearly two-year review. Quarles, as the Fed's vice chair for supervision, may be the least likely of the three to be asked to stay on if the Biden administration pursues the tougher oversight sought by Warren and others.

Trump has two appointments to the Fed's seven-member board of governors pending before the Senate, but it is not clear whether they will be confirmed in the lame-duck session that will end in early January when a new Congress convenes. If not, then Biden would have those openings to fill as well.

Beyond personnel, Biden will face choices over whether and how to have the Fed build criteria such as racial wealth and employment outcomes into its analysis, something Powell and other policymakers like Bostic have moved towards on their own.

In an email supporting the Fed's new framework, Bernstein said he still felt changes to the Federal Reserve Act were warranted "for when someone with Powell's sensibility isn't leading the show."

Changes to the Fed's governing statute would be less likely with a Republican-controlled Senate, a constraint that may bind many of Biden's ambitions.

EMERGENCY PROGRAMS

And there may be one short-term hitch with the Fed for Biden to address.

Many of the emergency lending facilities the central bank established this year to fight the current crisis are due to expire on Dec. 31, and any reauthorization would require the approval of the outgoing Trump administration.

Fed officials feel those programs have helped markets operate normally through a historic downturn, and if Trump refuses to approve their extension it could be a source of trouble at least for the weeks until Biden takes office.

At a press conference last week held before Biden's victory in the Nov. 3 election became clear, Powell said the Fed was "just turning to this issue now and we have not made any decisions" about whether the economy is ready to do without the emergency measures credited with stopping a full-blown financial crisis last spring.

World

'One election' won't reverse EU-US shift: EU chief

  • Von der Leyen said she looked forward to Biden making good on his promise to have the US rejoin the Paris climate accord, which Trump abandoned.
10 Nov 2020

BRUSSELS: "One election" in the United States will not reverse the shift in EU-US ties that began under President Donald Trump, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday.

"It is time for a new trans-Atlantic agenda," she told EU ambassadors in a videolink conference.

Von der Leyen emphasised that the Western alliance built on US-European cooperation still endured, "based on shared values and history".

And she offered warm congratulations to US president-elect Jose Biden and his vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris.

But, alluding to the impact Europe felt under Trump -- which included tariffs and threats of a trade war, the US withdrawal from international accords and organisations, and questions over the US defence umbrella -- von der Leyen said things could not go back to the way they were before.

"Some shifts in priorities and perceptions run much deeper than one politician or administration. And they will not disappear because of one election," she said.

"We cannot turn the clock back," she said. "And we cannot go back to the exact same agenda we had five years ago."

The new agenda, she said, "should cover everything from security to sustainability, from tech regulation to trade, from levelling the global economic playing field to strengthening global institutions."

Von der Leyen said she looked forward to Biden making good on his promise to have the US rejoin the Paris climate accord, which Trump abandoned.

"Our focus should be on providing joint leadership to address the global challenges of today, without being nostalgic for the world of yesterday," she said.

In a possible point of transatlantic friction, she reiterated Europe's intention to rein in internet behemoths -- most of them American, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook -- to ensure fair competition in the EU, and make them pay "appropriate taxes".

"It cannot be that commercial giants benefit enormously from our single market but fail to pay taxes where they should," she said.

She added that the EU would give talks at the level of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development until a previously set deadline of mid-2021 to work out a tax regime, otherwise the European Commission "will come forward with our own proposal".

World

Biden camp considers legal action over agency's delay in recognizing transition

  • The law does not clearly spell out when the GSA must act, but Biden transition officials say their victory is clear and a delay is not justified, even as Trump refuses to concede defeat
10 Nov 2020

(Wilmington) President-elect Joe Biden's transition team is considering legal action over a federal agency's delay in recognizing the Democrat's victory over President Donald Trump in last week's election, a Biden official said.

The General Services Administration (GSA) normally recognizes a presidential candidate when it becomes clear who has won an election so that a transition of power can begin.

That has not yet happened despite U.S. television and news networks declaring Biden the winner on Saturday after he secured enough electoral votes to secure the presidency.

The law does not clearly spell out when the GSA must act, but Biden transition officials say their victory is clear and a delay is not justified, even as Trump refuses to concede defeat.

Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that there was widespread voting fraud and has filed a raft of lawsuits to challenge the results.

Election officials across the country say there has been no evidence of significant fraud, and legal experts say Trump's efforts are unlikely to succeed.

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, appointed by Trump in 2017, has not yet determined that “a winner is clear,” a spokeswoman said.

World

President Trump fires Secretary of Defense Mark Esper

  • President Donald Trump, in the aftermath of his defeat to Joe Biden, has "fired" Defense Secretary Mark Esper, further fuelling the controversy around his refusal to concede defeat in the election.
10 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump, in the aftermath of his defeat to Joe Biden, has "fired" Defense Secretary Mark Esper, further fuelling the controversy around his refusal to concede defeat in the election.

The move came with a meagre 10 weeks left in President Trump's tumultuous tenure in the White House, highlighting his unstable relationship with the intelligence and security community, especially if they did not effectively serve his own political ambitions.

President Trump and Esper collided repeatedly over pressure from the White House to deploy federal troops to quash civil unrest, especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the President's plan to abruptly withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan; putting the national security establishment's plans under jeopardy.

Democrats lambasted the President's decision to relieve the Defense Secretary of his duties, with Nancy Pelosi adding that Esper's firing was "disturbing evidence that President Trump is intent on using his final days in office to sow chaos in our American Democracy and around the world", stating that "again and again, Trump's recklessness endangers our national security".

Trump has named Christopher Miller, head of the National Counterterrorism Center as acting Secretary of Defense, who not only served as a White House counterterrorism advisor, but also as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for "special operations".

BEIJING: China, which has held off on congratulating US presidential election winner Joe Biden even as leaders of other countries have done so, said on Monday it would follow custom in responding to the result.

Democrat Biden clinched enough states to win the presidency but incumbent President Donald Trump has not conceded and is making legal challenges to the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

"We noticed that Mr. Biden has declared election victory," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily media briefing. "We understand that the U.S. presidential election result will be determined following US law and procedures."

In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent congratulations to Trump on Nov. 9, a day after the election.

Relations between China and the United States are at their worst in decades over disputes ranging from technology and trade to Hong Kong and the coronavirus, and the Trump administration has unleashed a barrage of sanctions against Beijing.

While Biden is expected to maintain a tough stance on China -- he has called President Xi Jinping a "thug" and vowed to lead a campaign to "pressure, isolate and punish China" -- he is likely to take a more measured and multilateral approach.

"We always believe that China and the United States should enhance communication and dialogue, manage differences on the basis of mutual respect, expand cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit and promote sound and stable development of bilateral relations," Wang told the briefing.

Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, a tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily, said in a tweet: "China hasn't congratulated Biden on his victory as quickly as Western countries did."

"I think it's because China needs to keep larger distance from the US presidential election to avoid getting entangled in its controversy. This actually shows that China respects the US as a whole," he added.

Earlier on Monday, Chinese state media struck an optimistic tone in editorials, saying relations could be restored to a state of greater predictability, starting with trade.

While acknowledging that Washington was unlikely to ease pressure on China over issues such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong, the Global Times said Beijing should work to communicate with Biden's team.

"It's in the common interests of people from both countries and of the international community that China-U.S. relations become eased and controllable," it said.

The China Daily said it was "obvious" improving ties with China could start from trade, and reviving trade talks was critical to restoring some understanding and trust.

Wang Huiyao, head of the Center for China and Globalization and an advisor to the government in Beijing, said he expects more dialogue under a Biden administration.

"Biden's election means an opportunity to re-establish relations with the U.S. as he is more likely to uphold multilateralism. That means China and the U.S. can start discussing issues including climate change, pandemic control and trade," Wang told Reuters.

On China's Twitter-like Weibo, top trending items included the hashtags "#BidenSpeaksToTheWholeCountry#", viewed 1.21 billion times, and "#Trump will lose special Twitter protections in January#".

World

UN chief congratulates Biden, American people

  • Biden was projected as the winner of the bitterly contested November 3 election on Saturday by US media, though President Donald Trump has yet to concede.
09 Nov 2020

UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday congratulated Joe Biden on winning the US presidency -- and the American people for a "vibrant exercise of democracy."

Biden was projected as the winner of the bitterly contested November 3 election on Saturday by US media, though President Donald Trump has yet to concede.

"The Secretary-General congratulates the American people for a vibrant exercise of democracy in their country's elections last week," spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

"He congratulates the President-elect and Vice President-elect and reaffirms that the partnership between the United States and the United Nations is an essential pillar of the international cooperation needed to address the dramatic challenges facing the world today."

Dujarric did not explain why Guterres waited two days to offer his congratulations to Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris.

From Saturday, dozens of world leaders and heads of international organizations offered their well wishes to the Democratic duo.

Diplomats who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said Guterres, whose term ends at the end of 2021, was not planning to ask for a second term if Trump were reelected.

World

Trump ally Poland conflicted over Biden win

  • Four years ago, Duda had rushed to send his "warmest congratulations" to Trump very soon after the candidate's victory was confirmed.
09 Nov 2020

WARSAW: A faithful ally of Donald Trump, Poland's populist government is struggling to digest his defeat and is worried the president-elect will be far more critical of its domestic policies, experts said Monday.

While much of the world hailed Joe Biden's win on Saturday, Polish President Andrzej Duda issued a curiously-worded tweet congratulating him for his "successful presidential campaign".

Duda also failed to mention Biden in a speech for the ratification of a US-Poland defence co-operation pact, referring instead to "a very heated time indeed" in US political life.

Four years ago, Duda had rushed to send his "warmest congratulations" to Trump very soon after the candidate's victory was confirmed.

Poland's state broadcaster TVP has also been reticent over Biden's victory, describing him as a politician "referred to by some US media as the winner of the presidential election".

Over the weekend, TVP quoted Trump and Russian media talking about possible election fraud.

"TVP is more engaged than Fox News," political scientist Marcin Zaborowski told AFP.

Zaborowski said the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party "are very unhappy about losing such a powerful ally on the international scene".

"Isolated within the European Union, the PiS had the comfort of being supported on the other side of the Atlantic thanks to Trump," he said.

Ties between Trump and Poland's ruling party, which has been in power since 2015, have been particularly close.

In June, just days from a presidential election in Poland, Duda visited Trump during his campaign and received a strong endorsement from the US leader.

Duda was the first foreign leader to visit the White House since it first eased coronavirus restrictions.

'Poland will lose its status'

The new president-elect, who is highly knowledgeable about the Central Europe region, will doubtlessly be a more difficult partner.

During a town hall meeting last month, candidate Biden made some critical remarks on the region.

"You see what's happened in everything from Belarus to Poland to Hungary, and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world," he said.

He has also criticised homophobic comments made by leaders in Poland, where several regions have declared themselves "free" from "LGBT ideology".

"LGBTQ+ rights are human rights - and 'LGBT-free zones' have no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world," he said on Twitter.

"Poland will lose its status of privileged partner and both the PiS and President Duda are worried," said Ryszard Schnepf, Poland's former ambassador to the US.

"They do not know how they are going to be treated by the new administration," he said.

But Zaborowski said that, while he was critical of Poland, Biden has no intention of undermining strategic relations between the two countries.

"These relations can remain strong -- and even become stronger," he said, referring in particular to a shared scepticism of Russia.

"In areas such as politics in the post-Soviet space, Warsaw has more in common with a Biden White House than with Trump," he said.

World

Mexico says US vote response not due to fraud suspicions

  • Trump has launched a slew of legal challenges, complained of vote fraud without offering evidence, and refused to concede after the major US television networks announced Biden's win.
09 Nov 2020

MEXICO CITY: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that his decision to wait for an official US election result before congratulating Joe Biden does not mean he believes there was fraud.

"Waiting doesn't mean that we're going to endorse (claims) that there was fraud. We don't know that," Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference.

"We want to act prudently. Let's wait for the authorities to resolve it. Then we will speak out," he said.

Lopez Obrador said Saturday that he would wait for "all legal issues" in the US presidential election to be settled before offering any congratulations, even as such messages poured in from many other world leaders.

Trump has launched a slew of legal challenges, complained of vote fraud without offering evidence, and refused to concede after the major US television networks announced Biden's win.

Before coming to power in 2018, Lopez Obrador himself twice alleged he was the victim of vote fraud after losing the 2006 and 2012 presidential races.

Trump sparked anger during his 2016, election campaign when he branded Mexican migrants "rapists" and drug dealers, and vowed to build a wall along the southern US border.

But Lopez Obrador managed to maintain cordial relations with the Republican leader -- and even visited him in July on his first foreign trip since taking office.

The left-wing populist said that whatever the official election result, he would seek solid ties with Washington.

"In no case, with Joe Biden or with Donald Trump, will there be a bad relationship between Mexico and the United States," Lopez Obrador said.

World

China, Russia hold off on congratulating Biden; US allies rally round

  • Some of the United States' biggest and closest allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia quickly congratulated Biden over the weekend despite Trump's refusal to concede.
  • "We noticed that Mr. Biden has declared election victory," China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.
09 Nov 2020

BEIJING/MOSCOW: China and Russia held off congratulating US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday, with Bejing saying it would follow usual custom in its response and the Kremlin noting incumbent Donald Trump's vow to pursue legal challenges.

Democrat Biden clinched enough states to win the presidency on Saturday and has begun making plans for when he takes office on Jan. 20. Trump has not conceded defeat and plans rallies to build support for legal challenges.

Some of the United States' biggest and closest allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia quickly congratulated Biden over the weekend despite Trump's refusal to concede, as did some Trump allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called for the European Union and United States to work "side by side", holding up Biden as an experienced leader who knows Germany and Europe well and stressing the NATO allies' shared values and interests.

Beijing and Moscow were cautious.

"We noticed that Mr. Biden has declared election victory," China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily media briefing. "We understand that the US presidential election result will be determined following US law and procedures."

In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent congratulations to Trump on Nov. 9, a day after the election.

Relations between China and the United States are at their worst in decades over disputes ranging from technology and trade to Hong Kong and the coronavirus, and the Trump administration has unleashed a barrage of sanctions against Beijing.

While Biden is expected to maintain a tough stance on China -- he has called Xi a "thug" and vowed to lead a campaign to "pressure, isolate and punish China" -- he is likely to take a more measured and multilateral approach.

Chinese state media struck an optimistic tone in editorials, saying relations could be restored to a state of greater predictability, starting with trade.

KREMLIN NOTES TRUMP'S LAW SUITS

The Kremlin said it would wait for the official results of the election before commenting, and that it had noted Trump's announcement of legal challenges.

President Vladimir Putin has remained silent since Biden's victory. In the run-up to the vote, Putin had appeared to hedge his bets, frowning on Biden's anti-Russian rhetoric but welcoming his comments on nuclear arms control. Putin had also defended Biden's son, Hunter, against criticism from Trump.

"We think it appropriate to wait for the official vote count," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

Biden cleared the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House on Saturday, four days after the Nov. 3 election. He beat Trump by more than 4 million votes nationwide, making Trump the first president since 1992 to lose re-election.

Asked why, in 2016, Putin had congratulated Trump soon after he had won the Electoral College and beaten Democrat Hillary Clinton, Peskov said there was an obvious difference.

"You can see that there are certain legal procedures that have been announced by the current president. That is why the situations are different and we therefore think it appropriate to wait for an official announcement," he said.

Peskov noted that Putin had repeatedly said he was ready to work with any US leader and that Russia hoped it could establish dialogue with a new US administration and find a way to normalise troubled bilateral relations.

Moscow's ties with Washington sank to post-Cold War lows in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Biden was serving as vice president under President Barack Obama at the time.

Relations soured further over US allegations that Moscow had meddled in the 2016 US presidential election to try to tilt the vote in Trump's favour, something the Kremlin denied.

World

EU says waiting for Biden to take office before commenting on cooperation

  • "I think we should take things one step at a time," spokesman Eric Mamer told a news briefing.
  • "We have had now a process in the United States ... ongoing for a while and has now led to us welcoming the victory in the election of Joe Biden."
09 Nov 2020

BRUSSELS: The European Union will wait for US president-elect Joe Biden to take office before commenting on future cooperation with Washington, the 27-nation bloc's executive Commission said on Monday.

"I think we should take things one step at a time," spokesman Eric Mamer told a news briefing. "We have had now a process in the United States ... ongoing for a while and has now led to us welcoming the victory in the election of Joe Biden."

"It is still very, very early days and therefore at the moment ... the EU is waiting for the new president-elect to take office before starting to comment on what this will imply when it comes to our relationship."

World

Biden moves forward with COVID-19 task force as Trump tries to cling to power

  • Biden is due to meet with an advisory board co-chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
  • "Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts," Biden said.
09 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden will convene a coronavirus task force on Monday to examine the No. 1 problem confronting him when he takes office in January, while President Donald Trump pursues several long-shot gambits to hold on to his job.

Biden is due to meet with an advisory board co-chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and Yale University Associate Professor Marcella Nunez-Smith to examine how best to tame a pandemic that has killed more than 237,000 Americans.

The Democratic former vice president will then give remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, about his plans for tackling COVID-19 and rebuilding the economy.

"Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts," Biden said in a statement on Monday.

Even as Trump declines to concede and some of his closest allies encourage him to exhaust every recourse for hanging onto power, the Biden-appointed scientists and experts will liaise with local and state officials on the pandemic response. They will consider how to safely reopen schools and businesses and tackle racial disparities.

The Biden panel includes Rick Bright, a whistleblower who says he was removed from his Trump administration post for raising concerns about coronavirus preparedness, and Luciana Borio, who specializes in complex public health emergencies.

Trump has frequently clashed with top health officials over the pandemic. Vice President Mike Pence is due to meet with the White House coronavirus task force on Monday for the first time since Oct. 20.

Biden cleared the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House on Saturday, four days after the Nov. 3 election. He beat Trump by more than 4 million votes nationwide, making Trump the first president since 1992 to lose re-election.

But Trump has not acknowledged defeat and has launched an array of lawsuits to press claims of election fraud for which he has produced no evidence. State officials say they are not aware of any significant irregularities.

"The Biden selection by the Crooked Media is based on unlawful votes in PA, Mich, GA, Wisc, Nevada et al. We will prove it all," Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer and a former New York City mayor, said on Twitter early Monday.

Trump has no public events scheduled for Monday, and has not spoken in public since Thursday. He plans to hold rallies to build support for his challenge to the election results, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.

TRANSITION IMPEDED

Biden's advisers are moving ahead and considering candidates for top Cabinet posts. But the transition cannot shift into high gear until the US General Services Administration, which oversees federal property, certifies the winner.

Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee who runs the agency, has not yet done so and a GSA spokeswoman gave no timetable for the decision.

Until then, the GSA can continue providing Biden's team with offices, computers and background checks for security clearances, but they cannot yet enter federal agencies or access federal funds set aside for the transition.

The Biden campaign on Sunday pressed the agency to move ahead.

"America's national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signaling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power," the campaign said in a statement.

Trump, however, has shown no signs he will engage in a transition.

Murtaugh said Trump will hold a series of rallies to build support for the legal fights challenging the outcome, though Murtaugh did not say when and where they would take place.

Trump will seek to back up his as yet unsubstantiated accusations of voting fraud by highlighting obituaries of dead people the campaign said voted in the election, Murtaugh said.

Trump also announced teams to pursue recounts in several states. Experts said that effort, like his lawsuits, are unlikely to meet with success.

"The chances of a recount flipping tens of thousands of votes across multiple states in his favor are outside anything we have seen in American history," William Antholis, director of the University of Virginia's Miller Center think tank, wrote in an essay on Sunday.

Leaders from across the globe have congratulated Biden, including some Trump allies, but many of Trump's fellow Republicans have yet to recognize the Democrat's victory.

Republican attorneys general from Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma said they will take legal action on Monday to help the Trump campaign challenge how Pennsylvania has handled mail ballots, a popular option this year for voters seeking to avoid coronavirus exposure at crowded polling locations. It was not clear how they would help Trump's legal team, which is headed by David Bossie, a seasoned political activist but not a lawyer.

World

US presidential election: Putin will wait for official vote count before congratulating anyone

  • Peskov says Kremlin will wait for official results of the US presidential election to be announced before commenting on its outcome
Updated 09 Nov 2020

(Karachi) Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not congratulate the newly-elected US President Joe Biden on his victory until all legal challenges are resolved, Spectator Index reported.

President Donald Trump had said his campaign would begin challenging US election results in court after media outlets declared Joe Biden victorious in the US presidential election. Trump said that the election is far from over.

Addressing media persons on Monday, Peskov stated that Kremlin will wait for official results of the US presidential election to be announced before commenting on its outcome.

Putin has kept mum over the matter since Biden claimed the presidency on November 7, by securing 290 of the least 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. The Kremlin spokesman added that Moscow will wait for the official vote count to be announced.

In an interview back in 2019, President Vladimir Putin said that ties between Russia and the United States were getting worse and worse as the US administration had imposed dozens of sanctions on Russia.

“They (our relations) are going downhill, they are getting worse and worse,” Putin had stated.

Moscow’s ties with Washington sank to post-Cold War lows in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Biden was serving as vice president under President Barack Obama at the time. Relations soured further over US allegations that Moscow had meddled in the 2016 US presidential election to try to tilt the vote in Trump’s favour, something the Kremlin denied.

WASHINGTON: Georgia Democratic activist Stacey Abrams said on Sunday that her party would pour unprecedented resources into two runoff Senate races in the traditionally Republican-leaning state that will determine control of the top U.S. legislative chamber.

Abrams, who narrowly lost a race for governor in 2018, has been credited with boosting Democratic hopes in the state, where President-elect Joe Biden is currently leading by around 10,000 votes with the race there yet to be called.

Democratic candidates businessman Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock face uphill battles in their Jan. 5 runoffs against incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in runoff elections.

The election will likely decide whether Democrats can win seats they need to gain control of the Senate. Republicans are currently on course to win 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber while Democrats have 48. If the chamber has a 50-50 tie, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have the deciding vote.

"I want to push back against this anachronistic notion that we can't win in Georgia," Abrams said on CNN's "State of the Union." "We will have the investment and resources that have never followed a runoff in Georgia for Democrats."

Georgia law requires runoffs in races unless a candidate wins a majority of the vote. Perdue leads Ossoff 49.8%-47.9%, and secured more votes than either President Donald Trump or Biden did.

Warnock topped Loeffler with 32.9% of the vote to 25.9%, though the incumbent's results were hurt by a challenge by fellow Republican Representative Doug Collins, who won 20% of the vote in a 21-candidate field.

She said Ossoff and Warnock are working together "to make certain voters come back" for an election in which lower turnout would be expected as presidential contenders will no longer be on the ballot.

After losing the governor's race, Abrams focused on leading to effort to register more people to vote in a state with rapidly changing demographics, including an increase in the nonwhite population.

That control of the Senate rests on the outcome should also drive Democrats to the polls, Abrams said.

"This is going to be the determining factor of whether we have access to healthcare and access to justice in the United States. Those are two issues that will make certain that people turn out," she said.

Republicans are equally confident that their voters will be motivated too even without Trump on the ballot, largely because wins in just one of the races would ensure they can block many Biden legislative goals.

"I cannot overstate how important to the country both those seats are," Republican Senator Ted Cruz said on Fox News.

He said that with Democrats in control of the Senate, they would seek to add seats to the Supreme Court to wipe out its conservative majority, raise taxes and pass sweeping climate change legislation

"If you want a check on Joe Biden, if you don't want to go over the edge to the socialist abyss, Georgia is the big enchilada," he added.

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden took the first steps on Sunday towards taking over the White House 73 days from now but Donald Trump showed no signs of being ready to admit defeat and continued to sow doubt about the election results.

As congratulations poured in from world leaders and supporters nursed hangovers after a day of raucous celebrations, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris launched a transition website, BuildBackBetter.com, and a Twitter feed, @Transition46.

While Trump is refusing to concede Tuesday's election and most Republican lawmakers are adopting a studied silence, former president George W. Bush said the "outcome is clear."

Bush, 74, the only living Republican ex-president, said he had called "President-elect" Biden and Harris to extend his "warm congratulations."

While Trump has the right to request recounts and pursue legal challenges, Bush said "the American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear."

"Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country," Bush said in a statement. "We must come together for the sake of our families and neighbors, and for our nation and its future."

The transition website lists four priorities for an administration led by Barack Obama's former vice president: Covid-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change.

"The team being assembled will meet these challenges on Day One," it said in a reference to January 20, 2021, when Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

Biden, who turns 78 on November 20, is the oldest person ever elected to the White House. Harris, 56, the junior senator from California, is the first woman and first Black person to be elected vice president.

Biden plans to name a task force on Monday to tackle the coronavirus pandemic which has left more than 237,000 people dead in the United States and is surging across the country.

He has also announced plans to rejoin the Paris climate accord and will reportedly issue an executive order on his first day reversing Trump's the travel ban on mostly Muslim countries.

Biden has vowed to name a cabinet that reflects the diversity of the country although he may have some trouble gaining Senate approval for more progressive appointees if Republicans retain control of the Senate -- an outcome that will depend on two runoff races in Georgia in January.

Biden, after John F. Kennedy just the second Catholic to be elected US president, attended church Sunday morning in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and visited the graves of his son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015, and his first wife and daughter, who died in a 1972 car accident.

Trump, 74, was playing golf on Sunday at his course near Washington, the same place where he was on Saturday when the US television networks delivered the news that Biden had secured enough Electoral College votes for victory.

"Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be?" Trump complained in a tweet on Sunday.

First Lady Melania Trump also chipped in, tweeting: "The American people deserve fair elections. Every legal -- not illegal -- vote should be counted."

The Trump campaign has mounted legal challenges to the results in several states but no evidence has emerged so far of any widespread irregularities that would impact the results.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, Symone Sanders, a senior advisor to Biden, dismissed the court challenges as "baseless legal strategies."

Biden received nearly 74.6 million votes to Trump's 70.4 million nationwide and has a 279-214 lead in the Electoral College that determines the presidency.

Biden also leads in Arizona, which has 11 electoral votes, and Georgia, which has 16, and if he wins both he would finish with 306 electoral votes -- the same total won by Trump in 2016 when he upset Hillary Clinton.

Only two Republicans senators, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, have congratulated Biden and Democratic Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina said the Republican Party has a "responsibility" to help convince Trump it is time to give up.

Romney, who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial, said the president will eventually "accept the inevitable."

The Utah senator added that he "would prefer to see the world watching a more graceful departure, but that's just not in the nature of the man."

But Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the president should keep fighting.

"We will work with Biden if he wins, but Trump has not lost," Graham said on the Fox News show "Sunday Morning Futures." "Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard."

Another Trump ally, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, told the same show it was too early to call the election.

"What we need in the presidential race is to make sure every legal vote is counted, every recount is completed, and every legal challenge should be heard," McCarthy said.

In a victory speech on Saturday, Biden promised to unify the bitterly divided nation and reached out to Trump supporters, saying "they're not our enemies, they're Americans."

"Let's give each other a chance," he said. "Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end, here and now."

While only a handful of Republican lawmakers have congratulated Biden, the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other European countries have done so along with Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan and South Korea.

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. In a tweet on Sunday, the president said we are looking forward to an improving US role towards world peace especially in Afghanistan, as well as the entire region.

The president said Pakistan looks forward to our continued long-term friendship and a dignified relationship. Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated Pakistan's commitment to continue to work with the United States for peace in Afghanistan and in the region.

In a tweet, the prime minister felicitated Joe Biden for winning the US presidential election. Imran Khan said he looks forward to President-elect Joe Biden's Global Summit on Democracy and working with him to end illegal tax havens and stealth of nation's wealth by corrupt leaders.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden in a statement that indicated he will drop his three-year political boycott of the White House. Abbas had ended all political dealings with President Donald Trump's administration after the US leader's 2017 decisions to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the US Embassy there.

"I congratulate President-elect Joe Biden on his victory as President of the United States of America for the coming period," Abbas said in a statement issued from his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"I look forward to working with the President-elect and his administration to strengthen the Palestinian-American relations and to achieve freedom, independence, justice and dignity for our people," the statement continued.

Trump's moves, which broke with decades of US policy, had delighted Israel but infuriated the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as a future capital and considered Trump's backing for Israel as undermining their own goal of statehood. Abbas's boycott was popular among Palestinians, who celebrated Trump's defeat on Sunday on the streets.

But, even as security contacts with Washington continued behind the scenes, the Palestinian leadership felt increasingly isolated, especially after Israel signed agreements with Gulf Arab states to normalise ties.

In the days before the election Abbas's inner circle met to discuss whether they should resume political contacts with the White House if Biden won, a Palestinian official told Reuters.

Bassam Al-Salhe, a senior member of the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization, said on Sunday the boycott was primarily linked to what he called "the hostile policy" of Trump's administration.

"When Biden announces that this is going to change - and he announced that during his election campaign - there will be no reason for the boycott," he said.

BIDEN HOPES

Biden has said he would restore funding to the West Bank and Gaza that Trump had cut, including assistance delivered through the US Agency for International Development and U.N. agencies.

He has also in the past opposed Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, and voiced support for a two-state solution to the conflict, a formula that would see a future state of Palestine co-existing alongside Israel.

But he is not likely to reverse the Jerusalem and embassy decisions and Biden has welcomed Israel's rapprochements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, even as Palestinians condemned those moves.

Among the Palestinians hit hardest by Trump were refugees, following his 2018 decision to cut off all US funding - more than $300 million annually - to UNRWA, the United Nations agency.

"Trump's losing is a gain for us, for the Palestinian people, because he had sold out the Palestinian cause," said Anwar Abu Amira, 38, a refugee in Gaza's Beach Camp.

"Since he took office until he lost, he has been trying to wipe out the Palestinian identity," Abu Amira said.

Gaza political analyst Hani Habib said the Biden win would encourage Abbas to re-engage in negotiations with Israel, a move the international community has long called for.

He said this might complicate Abbas's efforts to reconcile with his principal domestic rivals, the Islamist movement Hamas, although Habib said Biden would not address the issue soon.

"When it comes to foreign policy, Biden has far more important and immediate issues than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such as Iran, NATO and the alliance with Europe."

US Elections

Israel's Netanyahu congratulates Biden on US election win, thanks Trump

  • Biden likely to depart from Trump policy on Iran.
  • Netanyahu and Trump had particularly close ties.
08 Nov 2020

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday, hailing a strong alliance that could be burdened by differences over policy on Iran and the Palestinians.

"Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. Joe, we've had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel," Netanyahu said on his Twitter account, which still carries a photograph of him and incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump at its head.

Having been in lockstep with Trump for four years, Netanyahu will likely be challenged by any departure by Biden from Trump's tough policy on Iran and toward the Palestinians. Biden has pledged to restore U.S. involvement in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal - which Trump had pulled out of - and a likely opposition by the White House to Israeli settlement of occupied land where Palestinians seek statehood.

Netanyahu thanked Trump in a subsequent tweet:

"Thank you @realDonaldTrump for the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally, for recognizing Jerusalem and the Golan, for standing up to Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the American-Israeli alliance to unprecedented heights."

Netanyahu's message came hours after many world leaders had already congratulated Democrat Biden, even as Trump refused to concede and pressed ahead with legal fights against the outcome.

A spokesman for Netanyahu did not respond to a request for comment on the relative delay. Dani Dayan, Israel's former consul to New York said Netanyahu's slowed response was a precautionary move.

"There is a president in the White House who has not yet acknowledged his defeat and whose whims definitely play a major role in his decision making process and he will be sitting in the White House for another two and a half months," Dayan told Army Radio.

The right-wing Netanyahu's particularly close ties with Trump followed an acrimonious relationship with his predecessor Barack Obama, which some critics have said had alienated Democrats and compromised U.S. bipartisan support for Israel.

Michael Oren, Netanyahu's ambassador to Washington when Obama was president, predicted warm ties with Biden. "They will have disagreements over the peace process. They will have disagreements certainly over the Iran nuclear deal but I think their friendship is solid."

Israel's stock market responded positively to Biden's win. Both the blue-chip Tel Aviv 35 index and the broader TA-125 were up about 0.3% in morning trade.

Still, among Israelis, Trump has won overwhelming popularity and many may be sad to see him go.

"I think the problem is that Biden will not be as tough or as strong as Donald Trump," said Aaron Morali, a student from Tel Aviv. "He made it hard for the Iranian people to have a nuclear plan but I think with Biden they have someone very easy and I am very, very scared of what will happen."

US Elections

World's media welcome Trump defeat, warn of Biden challenges

  • "A new dawn for America", read the headline of The Independent in Britain.
08 Nov 2020

PARIS: Media outlets worldwide hailed Joe Biden's defeat of Donald Trump in the US presidential election, but attention quickly turned to the consequences for US policy.

The international press also focused on the feat of Kamala Harris, Biden's running mate who will become the United States' first female, and first Black, vice president.

"A new dawn for America", read the headline of The Independent in Britain, showing a photo of Biden standing next to Harris and noting her historic achievement.

The Sunday Times went with a picture of a Black woman draped in the US flag and the headline: "Sleepy Joe wakes up America", taunting Trump with his own derogatory nickname for Biden.

And the left-leaning Observer went simply with "It's Joe" over an image of the smiling Democrat.

Germany's mass-market Bild newspaper carried a photo of Trump with the headline: "Exit without decency".

"What a liberation, what a relief", said the left-leaning Sueddeutsche Zeitung broadsheet.

But it noted that Biden "inherits a heavy burden" like nothing faced by his predecessors, and warned that Trump accepting defeat was "unthinkable".

In Australia, the Daily Telegraph tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's media empire also focused on Trump's expected defiance against "a foe he perceived to be feeble and barely worth turning up to fight".

Iran's ultraconservative papers celebrated the downfall of Trump, a leader who has applied "maximum pressure" and punishing sanctions since his 2018 withdrawal from a landmark nuclear agreement.

Still, they reserved little warmth for Biden. "The maskless enemy left, the masked enemy arrived," warned conservative publication Resalat.

Another theme was the false claim of voter fraud with the ultraconservative Vatan-e Emrooz, seemingly before the Biden win was announced, headlined on "The graveyard of democracy", and focused on false allegations.

Similarly, Egypt's government daily al-Akhbar used a long editorial to zero in on the -- unfounded -- "violations" of fraudulent voting, and said that "it is time for the United States to stop giving us lessons in democracy".

In Saudi Arabia, the only Gulf country yet to comment on the result, pro-government online newspaper Okaz wondered if Biden would persist with Trump's close ties to the kingdom.

The kingdom's pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat paper urged Biden to continue a "period of economic prosperity and stability in security" for the Middle East.

Turkey's mainstream dailies were muted. Major paper Hurriyet ran a small frontpage news story on the result, along with a piece titled: "Trump went golfing".

One pro-government newspaper, Sabah, did not even report on Biden's victory until page 10, with an opposition daily also running one small front-page election story.

Brazil's leading media outlets reported Trump's defeat in the context of its own populist leader, Jair Bolsonaro, who has similarly sought to diminish democratic institutions and reject science-based facts.

"Trump's defeat punishes the attacks against civilisation, it is a lesson for Bolsonaro," wrote Folha de Sao Paulo, one of Brazil's major daily newspapers.

"May Brazil's leaders seize the spirit of the times -- or die, like Trump."

Spain's centre-right El Mundo newspaper said Biden's win was a goodbye to Trump's populism, and described Harris as a "symbol of renewal".

Sweden's biggest daily, Dagens Nyheter, headlined its opinion-editorial piece: "Bittersweet victory -- Biden will struggle to heal the US".

It described Biden's vow of a return to normalcy as "mission impossible" in a "deeply divided country".

Conservative Svenska Dagbladet daily warned of the dangers posed by the millions of Americans who will continue to believe Trump's rhetoric of a stolen election.

"Election is over -- but conflict continues," read its headline.

On a lighter note, the Ayrshire Daily News, whose patch covers the Trump Turnberry golf course in Scotland, took a more local look at the result.

"South Ayrshire golf club owner loses 2020 presidential election," read its headline.

US Elections

Europe's Kashmir Council chief urges Biden to play role in resolving IIOJK dispute

  • Raza urges the newly-elected president not to ignore security issues in South Asia, especially the Kashmir dispute as it is related to peace in the region
08 Nov 2020

(Karachi) Chairman of Kashmir Council Europe Ali Raza Syed has said that the newly elected US President Joe Bidden should play his role in the settlement of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) dispute, Radio Pakistan reported.

Felicitating the Joe Bidden and his team on winning the US elections, Ali Raza said urged the US President not to ignore security issues in South Asia, especially the Kashmir dispute because it is related to peace in the region.

He maintained that people of Kashmir have a lot of expectations from Biden who has already emphasized on restoration of their rights. He said the new US President should use his good offices and influence for a peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated the United States President-elect Joe Biden and his vice president Kamala Harris on winning the elections.

In a tweet, the PM said He said he looked forward to President-elect Biden’s Global Summit on Democracy.

Jo Biden secured 290 electoral votes more than he needed. To secure the win, Biden faced unprecedented challenges. These included Republican-led efforts to limit mail-in voting at a time when a record number of people were due to vote by mail because of the pandemic, which has killed more than 235,000 people in the United States.

US Elections

PM congratulates Joe Biden, Kamala Harris on winning US elections

  • Imran says he is looking forward to Biden's Global Summit on Democracy & working with him to end illegal tax havens & stealth of nation's wealth by corrupt leaders
08 Nov 2020

(Karachi) Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated the United States President-elect Joe Biden and his vice president Kamala Harris on winning the elections, Radio Pakistan has reported.

In a tweet soon after confirmed reports announced both Democrats have won, the PM said He said he looked forward to President-elect Biden’s Global Summit on Democracy.

He stated, "Look forward to President Elect Biden's Global Summit on Democracy & working with him to end illegal tax havens & stealth of nation's wealth by corrupt leaders." He added, "We will also continue to work with US for peace in Afghanistan & in the region."

Democrat Joe Biden captured the US presidency on Saturday, as voters narrowly rebuffed Republican incumbent Donald Trump’s tumultuous leadership and embraced Biden’s promise to fight the coronavirus pandemic and fix the economy in a divided nation.

Trump immediately accused Biden of “rushing to falsely pose as the winner.” “This election is far from over,” he said in a statement.

Biden’s projected victory came after four days of nail-biting suspense over the outcome of Tuesday’s election, with the counting of votes in a handful of battleground states still going on thanks to a flood of mail-in ballots.

WASHINGTON: Democrat Joe Biden captured the US presidency on Saturday as voters narrowly rebuffed Republican incumbent Donald Trump's tumultuous leadership and embraced Biden's promise to fight the coronavirus pandemic and fix the economy in a divided nation.

Winning the battleground state of Pennsylvania's 20 Electoral College votes gave the former vice president more than the 270 he needed to triumph, prompting all major TV networks to declare him victor came after four days of nail-biting suspense following Tuesday's election.

"With the campaign over, it's time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It's time for America to unite. And to heal," Biden said on Twitter. Congratulations poured in from leaders around the world, including conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, making it hard for Trump to push his repeated claims, without evidence, that the election was rigged against him.

Trump, who was golfing when the networks made their calls for his rival, immediately accused Biden of "rushing to falsely pose as the winner." "This election is far from over," he said in a statement. State elections officials across the country say there has been no evidence of significant fraud. As the news broke, loud cheers erupted in the halls of the hotel where Biden aides were staying and around the country. "Worth every minute," of the wait, a Biden aide said, as campaign staff exchanged elbow bumps and air hugs in the lobby. Biden's running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris, tweeted a video of her congratulating Biden: "We did it Joe!" Harris will be the first woman, the first Black American and the first American of Asian descent to serve as vice president, the country's No. 2 office. Cheers and applause was heard in neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. In one community, people emerged onto balconies, yelling, waving and banging pots. The wave of noise built as more people learned of the news. Some were in tears. Music began to play, "We are the Champions" blared.

In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, people clapped, honked car horns and erupted in screams of joy as the news spread of Biden's victory. Some residents danced on a building's fire escape, cheering while others screamed "yes!" as they passed by.

In a reminder of the divided state of the country, however, pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" demonstrators gathered at state capitol buildings in Lansing, Michigan, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The networks' declaration that Biden had won came amid internal concerns within Trump's team about the strategy going forward and pressure on him to pick a more professional legal team to outline where they believe voter fraud took place and show evidence pointing toward it.

One Trump loyalist said Trump simply was not ready to admit defeat even though there would not be enough ballots thrown out in a recount to change the outcome. "There's a mathematical certainty that he's going to lose," the loyalist said.

Biden was expected to address the nation after 8 p.m. on Saturday (1 a.m. Sunday GMT) from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, according to a campaign aide.

DIFFICULT TASK AHEAD

When Biden enters the White House on Jan. 20, the oldest person to assume the office at age 78, he likely will face a difficult task governing in a deeply polarized Washington, underscored by a record nationwide voter turnout.

The former vice president had a 273 to 214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, having won Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes to put him over the 270 he needed to secure the presidency, according to Edison Research.

To secure the win, Biden faced unprecedented challenges. These included Republican-led efforts to limit mail-in voting at a time when a record number of people were due to vote by mail because of the pandemic, which has killed more than 235,000 people in the United States.

Both sides characterized the 2020 election as one of the most crucial in US history, as important as votes during the 1860s Civil War and the 1930s Great Depression.

For months, officials on both sides raised the spectre of the United States not being able to pull off a fair vote. In the end, however, voting at the polls proceeded with limited disruption. Thousands of election monitors from both parties worked for four days to ensure the votes were being counted.

Biden's victory was driven by strong support from groups including women, African Americans, white voters with college degrees and city-dwellers. He was more than four million votes ahead of Trump in the nationwide popular vote count.

Biden, who has spent half a century in public life as a US senator and then vice president under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, will inherit a nation in turmoil over the coronavirus pandemic and the related economic slowdown as well as disruptive protests against racism and police brutality.

Biden has said his first priority will be developing a plan to contain and recover from the pandemic, promising to improve access to testing and, unlike Trump, to heed the advice of leading public health officials and scientists.

He also has pledged to restore a sense of normalcy to the White House after a presidency in which Trump praised authoritarian foreign leaders, disdained longstanding global alliances, refused to disavow white supremacists and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the US election system.

Despite his victory, Biden will have failed to deliver the sweeping repudiation to Trump that Democrats had hoped for, reflecting the deep support the president enjoys despite his tumultuous four years in office.

This could complicate Biden's campaign promises to reverse key parts of Trump's legacy. These include deep Trump tax cuts that especially benefited corporations and the wealthy, hardline immigration policies, efforts to dismantle the 2010 Obamacare healthcare law and Trump's abandonment of such international agreements as the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal.

Should Republicans keep control of the US Senate, they would likely block large parts of his legislative agenda, including expanding healthcare and fighting climate change. That prospect could depend on the outcome of four undecided Senate races, including two in Georgia.

Investors said on Saturday the market's focus was likely to turn on the Senate, which would determine how much a Biden administration is able to do in terms of policy.

"Trump is going to fight for a few weeks. That's going to be a little unsettling for markets," said Jim Awad, senior managing director at Clearstead Advisors in New York. "But most commentators believe Biden will prevail, that the election is over, and the Senate is going to have to compromise."

'TRYING TO STEAL AN ELECTION'

For Trump, 74, it was an unsettling end after an astonishing political rise. The real estate developer who established a nationwide brand as a reality TV personality upset Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the presidency in 2016 in his first run for elected office. Four years later, he becomes the first US president to lose a re-election bid since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Despite his draconian immigration curbs, Trump made surprising inroads with Latino voters. He also won battleground states such as Florida, where his pledge to prioritize the economy even if it increased the threat of the coronavirus appeared to have resonated.

In the end, though, Trump failed to significantly widen his appeal beyond a committed core of rural and working-class white voters who embraced his right-wing populism and "America First" nationalism.

Prior to the election, Trump had refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost to Biden - and he stuck to that approach. He falsely declared victory long before counting was complete.

Before Biden's victory projection and with Trump's re-election chances fading as more votes were counted, the president launched an extraordinary assault on the country's democratic process from the White House on Thursday, falsely claiming the election was being stolen from him.

Offering no evidence, Trump assailed election workers and alleged fraud in the states where results from a dwindling set of uncounted votes pushed Biden nearer to victory.

"This is a case where they're trying to steal an election," Trump said on Thursday.

Urging patience as votes were counted, Biden responded on Twitter: "No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever."- Reuters

WASHINGTON: Before Saturday, Biden had at least 253 electoral votes, meaning the win in the Keystone State put him at 273. He later claimed victory in Nevada, boosting his total to 279. Some US media outlets have also declared him the winner in Arizona, which would put him at 290. Biden has captured 24 states including his home state Delaware and big prizes California and New York, as well as the US capital. The former vice president has flipped four states won by Trump in 2016 -- Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and, according to two news organizations, Arizona. US media outlets have projected wins for the Republican incumbent in 23 states including big prizes Florida and Texas, as well as Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio -- all states he won in 2016. As it stands, there are three states still left uncalled -- Alaska, Georgia and North Carolina. But Biden's lead is now insurmountable.

In the case of Arizona, Fox News and the Associated Press have already called the race in Biden's favor. But other networks including CNN and NBC News have held back thus far, as the race remains tight. Nebraska split its electoral votes between the two candidates -- four for Trump and one for Biden. Maine was won by Biden, but he seized only three of the four electoral votes on offer, with the last allocated to Trump.

World

Trump says 'this election is far from over'

  • Trump has repeatedly made unfounded claims of fraud in the election.
07 Nov 2020

(Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Saturday his campaign would begin challenging U.S. election results in court next week after media outlets called the race for Democrat Joe Biden, saying “this election is far from over.”

“We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: they don’t want the truth to be exposed,” he said in a statement. “The simple fact is this election is far from over.”

Trump has repeatedly made unfounded claims of fraud in the election.

By winning Pennsylvania, Democrat Joe Biden has won the vote to become the next president, pending any legal challenges.

He was poised for victory in the U.S. presidential election as vote counts in key states leaned his way, while President Donald Trump showed no sign of conceding despite his increasingly bleak chances.

With Americans were increasingly anxious for a result four days after Tuesday’s election, Biden has the math largely on his side with a 273-to-214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, according to Edison Research.

On Friday he took the lead in Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes would put him over the 270 threshold needed for victory.

Pennsylvania was enough to get Biden over that halfway line. With leads in Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, he may well end up winning far more than needed - taking those three states would give him a total of 306.

“The counts are ongoing, but there isn’t any good news for the president’s campaign anywhere in the pockets of votes that remain,” the Democrat told CNN on Saturday.

Trump, 74, has been defiant as his chances fade for securing a second four-year term. He has made repeated and unfounded claims of electoral fraud, while his campaign pursues lawsuits that legal experts say are unlikely to alter the election outcome.

The Republican president continued his unsubstantiated allegations on Saturday morning, alleging on Twitter that tens of thousands of votes were illegally received at 8 p.m. on Election Day, “totally and easily changing the results in Pennsylvania and certain other razor thin states.”

World

Biden says 'We're going to win this race' as his lead over Trump grows

  • Americans have been waiting longer than in any presidential election since 2000 to learn the winner, with counting slowed by a record number of mail-in ballots.
  • "The numbers tell us ... it's a clear and convincing story: We're going to win this race," Biden said.
07 Nov 2020

WILMINGTON: Democrat Joe Biden predicted victory in the US presidential election as vote counts leaned his way in key states, while President Donald Trump showed no sign of being ready to concede in a contest that has dragged on for days.

Biden maintained his advantage going into Saturday, but television networks held off from declaring a winner because the margins are still close in the four states that will determine the election winner and votes are still being counted.

Americans have been waiting longer than in any presidential election since 2000 to learn the winner, with counting slowed by a record number of mail-in ballots. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many to avoid voting in person on Tuesday's Election Day.

"The numbers tell us ... it's a clear and convincing story: We're going to win this race," Biden said late on Friday from his home state of Delaware, adding that he and his running mate Kamala Harris were already meeting with experts as they prepared to start their administration on Jan. 20.

Trump, 74, has been defiant as his chances fade for securing a second four-year term. He has made repeated and unfounded claims of electoral fraud, including from the White House briefing room on Thursday night, while his campaign pursues lawsuits that legal experts say are unlikely to alter the election outcome.

Former Vice President Biden, 77, has a 253-to-214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, according to Edison Research. He edged closer to victory when he took the lead on Friday in Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes would put him over the 270 needed for victory.

In the early hours of Saturday, Biden's slim lead widened in Georgia, a typically Republican-leaning state, to put him ahead by 7,248 votes with the count 99% complete.

In Pennsylvania, he led by 27,130 votes with 96% of the vote complete, while in Nevada he led by 22,657 votes with 93% of the count complete.

In Arizona, Biden's lead narrowed to 29,861 votes with 97% of the tally completed. Trump's campaign has been optimistic that Arizona will end up in the president's column.

With thousands of votes still to count, it was not clear when the contest would conclude, though further updates were expected on Saturday.

Biden backers danced in Philadelphia's streets, while armed Trump supporters in Phoenix and Detroit said the election was being stolen, despite there being no evidence of widespread irregularities. Under the banner of "Stop the Steal," Trump supporters planned dozens of rallies for Saturday.

NO VICTORY SPEECH YET

Biden's speech was originally planned as a victory celebration, but he changed his approach in the absence of a call on the result from television networks and other election forecasters.

Trump kept out of view in the White House on Friday and had nothing on his public schedule for Saturday. He said in a statement issued by his campaign that "all legal ballots must be counted and all illegal ballots should not be counted," while accusing Democrats of resisting that call.

Election officials say there has been no evidence of fraud.

Although the popular vote does not determine the outcome, Biden leads Trump by 4.18 million votes nationwide out of a record 147 million cast. He said on Friday Americans had given him a mandate to tackle the pandemic, the struggling economy, climate change and systemic racism.

"They made it clear they want the country to come together, not continue to pull apart," said Biden, making his third bid for the White House in a political career spanning five decades.

Biden, who said he hoped to address Americans again on Saturday, said Trump's demands to stop the count would not work.

"Your vote will be counted. I don't care how hard people try to stop it. I will not let it happen," Biden said.

Trump gave no indication he was ready to give up.

"Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!" he wrote on Twitter.

A Trump adviser described the campaign's litigation strategy as chaotic and disorganized. Another Republican official said it was doubtful the lawsuits would yield a Trump victory.

"This race is over, and the only person who doesn't see it is Donald Trump," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Republicans aimed to raise at least $60 million for legal costs, although the fine print on solicitations indicates that more than half the money raised would go to paying down the campaign's debts.

In one potential bright spot for Trump, US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ordered county election boards in Pennsylvania to follow a state directive to separate mail-in ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day from other ballots. However, Pennsylvania's chief elections official, Kathy Boockvar, has said late-arriving ballots are a tiny proportion of the overall vote in the state.

In a blow to the president, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Meadows, who frequently appears at public events without a mask, is the latest person within Trump's circle to contract the virus, which has killed more than 236,000 people in the United States and is still sweeping the country. He has been a key adviser to Trump on policy as well as the election.

World

'We're going to win this race': Biden predicts victory as his lead over Trump grows

  • Securing Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes would put Biden over the 270 he needs to win the presidency after a political career stretching back nearly five decades.
07 Nov 2020

(Reuters) - Democrat Joe Biden said Friday that he was going to win the U.S. presidency as his lead grew over President Donald Trump in battleground states, although television networks held off from declaring him the victor as officials continued to count votes.

“The numbers tell us ... it’s a clear and convincing story: We’re going to win this race,” Biden said, adding that he and his running mate Kamala Harris were already meeting with experts as they prepare for the White House.

Biden’s speech was originally planned as a victory celebration, but he changed his approach in the absence of an official call from television networks and other election forecasters.

Still, it amounted to a blunt challenge to Trump. The Republican incumbent kept out of view in the White House on Friday as Biden’s lead grew in the four states that will decide the outcome: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.

Leading Trump by 4.1 million votes nationwide out of a record 147 million cast, Biden said Americans had given him the mandate to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the struggling economy, climate change, and systemic racism.

“They made it clear they want the country to come together, not continue to pull apart,” Biden said.

He said he hoped to address Americans again on Saturday.

Trump has remained defiant, vowing to press unfounded claims of fraud as his Republicans sought to raise $60 million to fund lawsuits challenging the results. But some in his camp described the legal effort as disorganized, and so far they have not found success in the courts.

On the fourth day of vote counting, former Vice President Biden had a 253-to-214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, according to Edison Research. Democrats grew increasingly frustrated that networks had not yet called a winner.

Securing Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes would put Biden over the 270 he needs to win the presidency after a political career stretching back nearly five decades.

Biden would also win if he prevails in two of the three other key states. Like Pennsylvania, all three were still processing ballots on Friday.

As officials count a deluge of mail-in ballots, Biden has held on to narrow leads in Nevada and Arizona and earlier on Friday overtook Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia.

“In Arizona, Biden led by 29,861 votes with 97% of the tally completed. In Nevada, he led by 22,657 votes with 93% of the count complete.”

“In Georgia, he led by a mere 4,289 votes with the count 99% complete, while in Pennsylvania he led by 27,130 votes with 96% of the vote complete.”

Biden said Trump’s demands to stop the count would not work.

“Your vote will be counted. I don’t care how hard people try to stop it. I will not let it happen,” Biden said.

Trump showed no sign he was ready to concede, as his campaign pursued a series of lawsuits that legal experts said were unlikely to alter the election outcome.

“Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!” he wrote on Twitter.

A Trump adviser described the campaign’s litigation strategy thus far as chaotic and disorganized. Another Republican official said it was doubtful the lawsuits would yield a Trump victory. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a source familiar with the situation.

“This race is over, and the only person who doesn’t see it is Donald Trump,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

World

US election results show Biden closing in on victory

  • In addition to Pennsylvania, Biden has pulled ahead in the southeastern state of Georgia, which has 16 electoral votes, but it remains too close to call.
Updated 07 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: The outcome of the US presidential election remained in the balance Friday as a handful of battleground states complete their vote counts, but Joe Biden was edging toward victory -- barring a surprise.

The Democrat has racked up at least 253 of the 270 electoral votes that he needs, according to US network projections, and has taken the lead in Pennsylvania, which would put him over the top.

Donald Trump has amassed 214 electoral votes so far, and while the Republican incumbent was still in contention in several states that could afford him a path to reelection, that path was narrowing.

In addition to Pennsylvania, Biden has pulled ahead in the southeastern state of Georgia, which has 16 electoral votes, but it remains too close to call.

There is some uncertainty surrounding Arizona, which has 11 electoral votes.

Fox News and The Associated Press have called Arizona in Biden's favor, but other media have been more cautious.

With Arizona, Biden would currently have 264 electoral votes.

Much of the delay in key states has resulted from a flood of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic -- and those votes have tended to favor Democrats.

Here is a look at the situation in the key states that are still up for grabs:

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is the biggest prize remaining, with 20 electoral votes. Trump had been ahead, but Biden overtook him on Friday morning and, as of 2000 GMT, leads by nearly 14,000 votes -- out of more than 6.6 million cast.

The majority of votes left to be counted are in Democratic-leaning areas such as greater Philadelphia.

With some 95 percent of the ballots counted, Biden had 49.53 percent of the total compared to Trump's 49.33, according to state election data.

Georgia

In Georgia, Trump's initial lead over Biden steadily slipped away as vote counting continued in heavily Democratic areas, and the former vice president is now slightly ahead.

Biden's lead is 1,585 votes as of 2000 GMT. More than 98 percent of the ballots have been counted.

Georgia has not chosen a Democrat for president since Bill Clinton in 1992. Its 16 electoral votes would put Biden just under 270 -- or over the top if he holds Arizona.

Nevada

Biden had been favored to win Nevada, and its six electoral votes could put him precisely at the number needed to win if he keeps Arizona.

With about 92 percent of the vote counted, Biden was leading by more than 20,000 votes in the Western state -- an increase from earlier in the day.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, which has 15 electoral votes, Trump had a lead of around 76,700 votes with 95 percent of the ballots tabulated. He had around 50 percent of the total compared to Biden's 48.6 percent.

Trump is favored to win the southeastern state, but mail-in ballots sent on or before election day in North Carolina can be counted until November 12.

Arizona

Biden had a lead of about 41,000 votes with about 93 percent of the ballots counted -- a slight drop in his lead from earlier in the day. He holds about 50 percent of the total compared to Trump's 48.6.

If Biden wins Pennsylvania, he does not need to hold on to Arizona.

World

Biden moves ahead in Georgia and Pennsylvania, moving closer to White House

  • Biden has a 253 to 214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner.
  • In Pennsylvania, Biden moved ahead of Trump by 5,500 votes on Friday morning, while in Georgia, he had opened up a 1,097-vote lead.
06 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden took a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in the battleground states of Georgia and Pennsylvania on Friday, edging closer to winning the White House in a nail-biting contest as a handful of undecided states continue to count votes.

Biden has a 253 to 214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, according to most major television networks. Winning Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes would put the former vice president over the 270 he needs to secure the presidency, while taking just Georgia's 16 electoral votes would put him on the cusp of victory.

In Pennsylvania, Biden moved ahead of Trump by 5,500 votes on Friday morning, while in Georgia, he had opened up a 1,097-vote lead.

Biden, 77, would become the next president by winning Pennsylvania, or by winning two out of the trio of Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. Trump's likeliest path appears narrower - he needs to hang onto both Pennsylvania and Georgia and also to overtake Biden in either Nevada or Arizona.

Biden moved ahead of Trump by 1,097 votes in Georgia, where counting continued early on Friday.

The shift in Georgia came hours after Trump appeared at the White House to falsely claim the election was being "stolen" from him. His campaign is pursuing a series of lawsuits across battleground states that legal experts described as unlikely to succeed in altering the election outcome.

Trump's lead had steadily diminished in Georgia, a Southern state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since Bill Clinton took the White House in 1992, as officials worked through tens of thousands of uncounted votes, many from Democratic strongholds such as Atlanta.

The Georgia secretary of state reported late on Thursday there were about 14,000 ballots still to count in the state.

The state also will have to sift through votes from military personnel and overseas residents as well as provisional ballots cast on Election Day by voters who had problems with their registration or identification.

Biden has been steadily chipping away at the Republican incumbent's lead in Pennsylvania as well. His deficit there had been as high as 678,000 votes early on Wednesday.

Biden also maintained slim advantages in Arizona and Nevada. In Arizona, his lead narrowed to about 47,000 votes, and in Nevada he was ahead by about 11,500.

As the country held its breath for a result in the White House race, Georgia and Pennsylvania officials expressed optimism they would finish counting on Friday, while Arizona and Nevada were still expected to take days to complete their vote totals.

TRUMP'S DIMINISHING LEADS

Trump, 74, has sought to portray as fraudulent the slow counting of mail-in ballots, which surged in popularity due to fears of exposure to the coronavirus through in-person voting. As counts from those ballots have been tallied, they have eroded the initial strong leads the president had in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania.

States have historically taken time after Election Day to tally all votes.

The close election has underscored the nation's deep political divides, and if he wins Biden will likely face a difficult task governing in a deeply polarized Washington.

Republicans could keep control of the US Senate pending the outcome of four undecided Senate races, including two in Georgia, and they would likely block large parts of his legislative agenda, including expanding healthcare and fighting climate change.

The winner will have to tackle a pandemic that has killed more than 234,000 people in the United States and left millions more out of work, even as the country still grapples with the aftermath of months of unrest over race relations and police brutality.

Trump fired off several tweets in the early morning hours on Friday, and repeated some of the complaints he aired earlier at the White House. "I easily WIN the Presidency of the United States with LEGAL VOTES CAST," he said on Twitter, without offering any evidence that any illegal votes have been cast.

Twitter flagged the post as possibly misleading, something it has done to numerous posts by Trump since Election Day.

In an extraordinary assault on the democratic process, Trump appeared in the White House briefing room on Thursday evening and baselessly alleged the election was being "stolen" from him.

Offering no evidence, Trump lambasted election workers and sharply criticized polling before the election that he said was designed to suppress the vote because it favored Biden.

Trump's campaign, meanwhile, has filed lawsuits in several states, though judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly rejected challenges there. Biden campaign senior legal adviser Bob Bauer called them part of a "broader misinformation campaign."

'RIG AN ELECTION'

"They're trying to rig an election, and we can't let that happen," said Trump, who spoke in the White House briefing room but took no questions. Several TV networks cut away during his remarks, with anchors saying they needed to correct his statements.

Biden, who earlier in the day urged patience as votes were counted, responded on Twitter: "No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever."

Trump supporters, some carrying guns, ramped up their demonstrations against the process on Thursday night. In Arizona, Trump and Biden supporters briefly scuffled outside the Maricopa County Elections Department in Phoenix.

In Philadelphia, police said they arrested one man and seized a weapon as part of an investigation into a purported plot to attack the city's Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes were being counted.

World

Democrats blame gerrymandering, campaign strategy for failure to flip state legislatures

  • There needs to be a reckoning for Democrats, because we are losing these down-ballot races.
  • Biden lost to Trump in Texas, and the legislature stayed firmly in Republican hands despite years of demographic change benefitting Democrats.
06 Nov 2020

SACRAMENTO: Democrats spent $50 million trying to win control of state legislatures in 2020, but the effort mostly failed, cementing regional power in their more conservative Republican opponents over such issues as abortion, education and criminal justice.

The losses also mean that in most of the 29 states with Republican-controlled legislatures, Democrats will not have a say in how Congressional districts are drawn when the once-a-decade proc