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Dianne Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary panel

Politico -

Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans to step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the next Congress, after facing blowback from progressives for her handling of Amy Coney Barrett's contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Three people familiar with the matter told POLITICO, which Feinstein soon confirmed.

“After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to serve as a senior Democrat on the Judiciary, Intelligence, Appropriations and Rules committees as we work with the Biden administration.”

Feinstein added that she planned to focus her attention on combating climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of her own party had expressed concern before Barrett's hearing that the 87-year-old wouldn't be aggressive enough. Her approach to the battle over filling the seat left by the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg soon confirmed many Democrats' fears, particularly after she praised Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for his handling of the process and gave him a hug at the conclusion.

Shortly after the hearings, several liberal groups called on her to resign from her position. One of those groups, Demand Justice, applauded her decision to step down.

"This was a necessary step if Democrats are ever going to meaningfully confront the damage Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have done to the federal judiciary," said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice. "Going forward, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee must be led by someone who will not wishfully cling to a bygone era of civility and decorum that Republicans abandoned long ago."

After the hearings, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he had a "long and serious" talk with Feinstein. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is next in line for the job, followed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Durbin announced his interest in the post later Monday evening.

"I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress," he said. "We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights."

Some of Feinstein's colleagues praised her tenure following her announcement. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Feinstein "has been a steadfast and strong voice for the rule of law against an administration that continually jeopardized it" and said he looked forward to continuing to work with her.

Schumer said he was "deeply grateful" for Feinstein’s leadership on the committee, adding, "I know Senator Feinstein will continue her work as one of the nation’s leading advocates for women’s and voting rights, gun safety reform, civil liberties, health care, and the rights of immigrants who are yearning to become citizens of this great country."

Should Democrats win the Senate in two Georgia runoffs, the Judiciary Committee chairmanship would be an exceedingly important job for the party. But even if the Democrats don't prevail there, the ranking member job will require pressuring Republicans to move President-elect Joe Biden's nominations.

Biden turns to familiar faces to grapple with a changed world

Politico -

If President-elect Joe Biden’s emerging national security team looks awfully familiar, that’s because it is — with most of the names announced so far those of people who held senior jobs in the Barack Obama administration.

But the world they’ll inherit has changed significantly, often for the worse, since they were last in power. President Donald Trump and his aides are making last-minute moves designed to reduced their successors’ room to maneuver. And the incoming Biden team’s hands may be tied further if Republicans keep control of the Senate, assuming they can even get confirmed.

So although much of the foreign policy establishment is expressing relief that Biden has picked a group of pros with deep experience, many also wonder how much and what exactly the new crew can really get done once it’s back in charge.

“You have people who are competent, but from competence to policy there’s always a leap,” said Gérard Araud, a former French ambassador to the United States. “Are they going to simply manage the status quo? Are they going to go back — to rewind? Or are they going to be creative — to have an America that’s more cooperative, less imperial?”

On Monday, the Biden transition team unveiled the names of several key members of the president-elect’s national security roster, with few surprises.

For secretary of State, Biden has selected Antony Blinken, a longtime aide who held senior foreign policy posts during the Barack Obama years. Another Obama-era pick close to Biden, Jake Sullivan, will be national security adviser, a job that does not require Senate confirmation. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a veteran diplomat who was an assistant secretary of State in the Obama years, will be nominated as ambassador to the United Nations.

Other former Obama vets named on Monday: Avril Haines as director of national intelligence; Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security secretary; and John Kerry as a special envoy focused on climate change.

Trump has yet to concede the Nov. 3 election, but he and his aides already are taking steps to entrench their policy decisions in ways that could be tough if not impossible for the new team to reverse.

Trump is reducing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, even as the Taliban and the Afghan government are still engaged in peace talks. He is imposing new sanctions on Iran, which could make it more complicated for Biden to fulfill his promise to the rejoin the nuclear deal Obama struck with Tehran.

Trump aides also are planning new sanctions and other measures to constrain China, a rival Biden must both deal with and counter. They are further considering designating Houthi rebels in Yemen as terrorists, a move that could make it harder for the United States to help end the conflict in that country.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel, where he announced that the United States will consider the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to be anti-Semitic and that it will allow products from certain Israeli settlements to be labeled as “Made in Israel.” The decisions were just the latest of numerous blows Trump has dealt to the Palestinians, imperiling the goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Biden supports. And Pompeo suggested more pro-Israel moves were coming.

“There’s every reason to expect that the direction of travel for U.S. policy with respect to Israel will continue,” the outgoing diplomat — who has yet to acknowledge there will be no second Trump term — told The Jerusalem Post.

Biden allies say many of the Trump administration’s attempts to salt the earth are easily reversible. But they concede that there could be political costs to trying to undo some of the moves.

For instance: The Trump administration has labeled Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. That decision is one of many by the Trump team aimed at permanently killing the Iran nuclear deal. But for Biden to declare he’s reversing that designation could also lead to an outcry in Congress, including among hawkish members of his own Democratic Party.

Some Washington figures argue that Biden should build on Trump’s efforts instead of wholesale rejecting them, and he likely will to some extent.

Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank deeply opposed to the Islamist regime in Tehran, said Biden should use the fact that Trump has imposed so many sanctions on Iran as leverage to force that government to agree to a tougher nuclear deal.

“I worry that the political constraints of the Democratic Party and the theological nature of the adherence to the [Iran deal] may prevent them from doing what they otherwise would do as pragmatic and highly competent national security professionals,” Dubowitz said of Biden’s team. The selections have received praise from many in the Washington and beyond.

Some progressives, whose movement has pushed Biden to decrease defense spending, reduce American troop deployments and work more with Congress on foreign policy, gave cautious approvals on Blinken in particular. They noted that he was willing to listen to them during the campaign.

“Tony has at least gone out of his way and established a relationship and rapport with progressives,” said Yasmine Taeb, a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy, a progressive think tank. “Even if we don’t necessarily see eye to eye or necessarily agree, the respect he’s afforded … goes a long way.”

Michael Singh, a former George W. Bush administration official with expertise in the Middle East, wrote of Blinken, Sullivan and Flournoy: “All are highly qualified, work well across the aisle, and are just plain good people.” (Singh is an adviser to WestExec, the consulting firm co-founded by Blinken and Flournoy.)

Foreign officials say that, when it comes to the changes the world has experienced in the years since Obama, perhaps the most consequential is the growing feud between United States and China.

Many, in private conversations, say Biden should not reflexively reject the Trump administration’s efforts, through sanctions, tariffs and other means, to hold China accountable on everything from religious oppression to trade malpractice.

Biden and his aides, including Blinken, have indicated they are well aware that the U.S.-Chinese relationship is in a new phase. They insist, however, that they saw it coming even under Obama. They also have said that while they will be tough on China, they will be more strategic than Trump.

For one thing, they say they will coordinate with allies and work through multilateral institutions when feasible to counter Beijing. Trump has expressed disdain for many of America’s allies, including by imposing tariffs on them, and has taken steps to leave or otherwise weaken a number of multilateral bodies.

Biden’s pick for U.S. Trade Representative could send a message about how he plans to repair economic ties with allies chastened by Trump’s trade wars, while staying tough on China.

One figure some lawmakers say could fulfill that role is Katherine Tai, the head trade lawyer for the House Ways and Means Committee. Backers hope Tai, a former China enforcement head at USTR who is fluent in Mandarin, can help challenge Beijing on issues like forced labor and intellectual property rights while preserving a functioning trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies.

“She is uniquely prepared to tackle issues on China and knows how to partner with our allies to advance U.S. interests,” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown told POLITICO.

Foreign officials expect that, at least early on, Biden will focus more on domestic challenges, including a U.S. economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic. But they hope and expect that Biden will use international levers to address those issues when he can, even if it’s something as relatively simple as resuming U.S. membership in the World Health Organization, which Trump quit.

Their expectations of how much Biden can accomplish on foreign policy are tempered, however, by the deep partisan divisions that persist in U.S. society.

Foreign diplomats are well aware that if Republicans keep the Senate, they can cause headaches for Biden on everything from the Iran deal to refusing to confirm his picks for his national security team to investigations of his son’s business dealings.

There’s also the possibility that a Republican, maybe even Trump if he runs again, could win the White House back in 2024. Given the Trump-infused populism into the GOP, that could lead to another wild swing in U.S. foreign policy, some analysts added.

“Let’s not look that far,” one foreign diplomat pleaded when asked about 2024.

The diplomat argued that, given Trump’s predilection for abruptly changing his mind, and being out of sync with the rest of his administration, it will be refreshing if Biden’s team offers “stability over the course of one administration.”

“They’ll work through institutions — that’s the main point,” the diplomat said. “At least we’re going to go back to the way things were done.”

Gavin Bade contributed.

CDC urges overwhelmed contact tracers to prioritize efforts as cases soar

Politico -

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising overwhelmed local health officials to triage their coronavirus contact tracing efforts, writing that the latest infection surge is making it difficult to reach every close contact of Covid-positive patients in time to help contain the disease’s spread.

“As the burden of COVID-19 worsens in an area, and the capacity to investigate new cases in a timely manner becomes more difficult or is not feasible, health departments should prioritize which cases to investigate and which contacts to trace,” reads new guidance from the CDC.

The CDC said state and local public health departments should prioritize contacting people who tested positive for Covid-19 within the last six days, members of their immediate household, the elderly and people with health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus, and people who live or work in congregate settings like nursing homes and prisons, where the virus has spread rapidly.

Given increased demand on contact tracers, CDC advised against contacting infected people who are more than two weeks out from their positive test, except in rare circumstances, since it is likely too late to prevent them from spreading the virus to others.

How we got here: The new guidance comes as cases, hospitalizations and deaths soar nationwide, straining a public health workforce that was already stretched thin. Some states and cities have already urged residents to do their own contact tracing because there aren’t enough people available to call every positive case.

Labs say the infection surge is also slowing down their ability to process Covid tests, which could delay local health departments' efforts to begin the contact tracing process.

The U.S. is adding more than 1 million new cases per week and nearing 260,000 deaths. Officials fear that travel and family gatherings over Thanksgiving — against the CDC’s advice — will fuel further spread, diminishing the country’s ability to track and contain the virus.

Biden to tap former Fed chief Yellen as first woman to head Treasury

Politico -

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to be his Treasury secretary, according to people familiar with the decision, in a historic move intended to satisfy competing factions within the Democratic Party.

Yellen, a widely respected labor economist, would blaze a new trail as the first woman to head the Treasury Department seven years after becoming the first to helm the Fed. If confirmed, she would wield immense clout in shaping policy on taxes, financial regulation and the economy, and have a preeminent role in the international arena.

Yellen would also lead the administration’s response to an extraordinary economic collapse sparked by a pandemic that forced businesses across the nation to shutter and left tens of millions of Americans unemployed and seeking relief. The coronavirus has resurged in recent weeks, touching every corner of the country and threatening to cut off an economic recovery just as it was barely getting under way.

Democrats and Republicans have been locked in a stalemate for months in negotiations over a new economic relief package, and Yellen will likely play a big part in those negotiations on behalf of the Biden administration, pushing for a massive stimulus program that Republicans have been resisting.

Yellen, 74, who would become only the second person to head both the Fed and the Treasury, has spent decades focusing on reducing unemployment. She has also given considerable attention to economic inequality, an issue that has leaped to the forefront during the pandemic, which has hammered lower-income and minority Americans the hardest.

During her first year as Fed chair in 2014, she took the unusual step of giving a speech devoted to the topic and mentioned it regularly throughout her tenure.

Though viewed as more of a policy wonk than a political operator, she edged out other top contenders for the Biden Treasury job, including Fed Board Gov. Lael Brainard and TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson, himself a former vice chair at the central bank and one of the nation’s most prominent Black economists.

Prior to selecting her, Biden said his Treasury pick would win wide praise among Democrats, without naming Yellen. “You’ll find it is someone who I think is — will be accepted by all elements of the Democratic Party, from the progressive to the moderate coalitions,” the president-elect said.

Some progressives might be wary of Yellen’s past warnings that the U.S. would eventually need to get on a sustainable federal spending path. “If I had a magic wand, I would raise taxes and cut retirement spending,” she said in 2018.

As Treasury chief, she would work closely with Fed Chair Jerome Powell on providing support for the U.S. economy and could choose to reopen billions of dollars in emergency lending programs that Secretary Steven Mnuchin has demanded be shut down by the end of the year.

One of her most immediate tasks would be rebuilding the ranks of career staff at Treasury, which dwindled under Mnuchin, particularly given his penchant for relying mostly on a close group of advisers.

Currently a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution, the Brooklyn-born Yellen has spent most of her career in academia, including a longtime association with the University of California at Berkeley, and at the Fed. She also served as President Bill Clinton’s chief economist during the boom years of 1997 to 1999.

In that role, she led a 1998 report with a section on economic racial disparities, a timely topic that has been given particular emphasis by the Biden team. “The median incomes of non-Hispanic white families and of Asian families are nearly double those of black and Hispanic families,” that report said. “The median wealth of non-Hispanic white households is 10 times that of blacks and Hispanics.” Little has changed since then.

An expert in macroeconomic theory rather than the granular workings of financial markets, Yellen nonetheless has years of experience dealing with the ups and downs of the U.S. economy, including serving as head of the San Francisco Fed during the 2008 financial crisis.

During her time as Fed chief, Yellen faced extensive criticism from Republicans in Congress for not acting more quickly to raise interest rates in the wake of the Great Recession, something they feared would lead to runaway inflation even as it helped the jobless rate steadily drop. She did not begin to move away from 0 percent interest rates until December 2015, when unemployment stood at 5 percent.

Her patience was ultimately validated, though she was also faulted by progressives for starting to raise borrowing rates too early. By February 2020, the unemployment rate had dropped to as low as 3.5 percent, with no sign that inflation was in danger of taking off, and Fed officials, including Brainard, have since said the central bank should have waited longer.

Still, the Fed Up coalition, a collection of community groups, unions and policy experts critical of the central bank’s rate hikes, advocated for Yellen to be reappointed in 2018.

Donald Trump criticized Yellen during his initial bid for the presidency, arguing that she was artificially propping up the economy on behalf of President Barack Obama. But after being elected, Trump almost opted to reappoint her because of her easy money policies. (He also told reporters of his fellow New Yorker, “I like her, and I respect her.”)

He chose instead to elevate fellow Fed board member Powell, a Republican who had voted with Yellen on keeping interest rates low but was more sympathetic to efforts to ease restrictions on banks. Trump ultimately savaged Powell for more than a year on Twitter and in interviews for not doing enough to turbocharge the economy.

As head of the Fed, Yellen oversaw the imposition of new rules on banks after the 2008 financial crisis designed to reduce their reliance on debt and increase their cash on hand, part of implementing the landmark 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.

After Trump was elected, she continued to argue strongly for keeping those regulations intact, although she agreed to go along with the administration’s push to release insurance giant AIG — a central player in the 2008 crisis — from more restrictive oversight in 2017. She argued at the time that its moves after the Great Recession to shrink its footprint made it “less of a threat to financial stability.”

But she also warned repeatedly against forgetting the lessons of the financial blowup.

One of her final acts in the job was to impose a growth cap on Wells Fargo for extensive customer abuses, a punishment that the central bank has not yet lifted as the megabank continues to work to address the Fed’s criticisms.

Although Treasury does not have direct responsibility for financial regulations, the secretary chairs the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which convenes the heads of financial agencies like the Fed and the SEC and can exert political influence over the direction of regulatory policy.

Megan Cassella contributed to this report.

Democrats reject GSA offer to delay briefing on transition

Politico -

House Democrats have rejected an offer from the General Services Administration to wait until next week to brief them on Administrator Emily Murphy’s refusal to ascertain Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election and allow the formal transfer of power to begin.

Biden's transition cannot start until Murphy ascertains his victory, according to federal law, a determination that has prevented the incoming administration from communicating with key national security and health officials despite the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the House Oversight Committee and House Appropriations Committee demanded a briefing with Murphy by Monday. Earlier in the day, GSA made a counteroffer: a briefing next week, and not with Murphy but with GSA's deputy administrator.

The move comes as President Donald Trump has refused to concede the election and praised Murphy as she came under withering pressure for declining to aid Biden's transition to power.

On Monday afternoon, lawmakers on the two committees rejected the administration’s proposal.

“Every additional day that is wasted is a day that the safety, health, and well-being of the American people is imperiled as the incoming Biden-Harris Administration is blocked from fully preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, our nation’s dire economic crisis, and our national security,” said House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey and Reps. Gerry Connolly and Mike Quigley.

The lawmakers have instead indicated they want a briefing from Murphy on Tuesday and offered her a range of times throughout the day based on her convenience. They also offered to set up a telephone conference call if she is unable to utilize video conference services.

GOP Rattled by Warnock's Faith-Based Campaign

Real Clear Politics -

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons writes that Rev. Raphael Warnock's use of faith in his campaign for one of Georgia's US Senate seats is evidence that Democrats have a claim to religious and moral arguments, and they shouldn't be afraid to use them.

Margaret Bourke-White's True-to-Life Gift

Real Clear Politics -

Eighty-four years ago today, a shiny and sophisticated pictorial publication hit the newsstands. The brainchild of Henry Luce and Briton Hadden, two prep school friends who ran the college newspaper at Yale, this glossy magazine would change the way Americans looked at their world. It was called, fittingly, Life.

How Biden Can Stop 'Truth Decay' & Restore Faith in Facts

Real Clear Politics -

President-elect Joe Biden has been clear about his agenda: control the pandemic, recover economic stability, advance racial equality and confront climate change. To accomplish any of these, however, another pressing issue will have to be tackled. The Biden administration must begin rebuilding Americans' trust in their government and public institutions.

Portman and Capito are latest Republicans to call for transition to begin

Politico -

As President Donald Trump continues to contest the results of the 2020 election, a small but influential number of Senate Republicans are starting to suggest it’s time to move on.

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Monday both joined calls for the transition process to begin. While neither are saying Joe Biden is the president-elect just yet, both senators suggested it was time that he receive briefings on national security and the coronavirus pandemic.

In an op-ed published in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Portman, who is up for re-election in 2022, wrote that any disputes over the election results should end by Dec. 8, the final deadline for states to certify their electoral votes. He added that “in the meantime, the General Services Administration (GSA) should go ahead and release the funds and provide the infrastructure for an official transition.”

Capito, who just won re-election in West Virginia, said that while Trump has the right to pursue legal challenges, “at some point, the 2020 election must end.” She added that “the window for legal challenges and recounts is rapidly closing” and that the Biden team should receive the necessary briefings “to facilitate a smooth transfer of power in the likely event that they are to take office on January 20.”

Emily Murphy, the GSA administrator, has refused to certify Biden as the winner of the election, preventing the president-elect’s transition team from coordinating with federal agencies, receiving briefings or having access to certain funds.

The GOP recognition of Biden's success will be critical to getting his Cabinet confirmed. Much of that work begins now, and committee hearings often start before the president-elect is sworn in so his Cabinet can be confirmed quickly. Biden announced Monday he would nominate Antony Blinken for secretary of state, Alejandro Mayorkas for secretary of homeland security and Avril Haines as director of national intelligence.

Should Republicans keep the Senate in January, Portman will oversee Mayorkas’ nomination as chair of the Homeland Security Committee. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will hold Blinken’s confirmation hearing and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will handle Haines' hearing. Like Portman, Risch and Rubio have also acknowledged the need for a transition. Capito is likely to chair the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Portman and Capito are not officially in GOP leadership, but both attend weekly Monday night meetings held by McConnell.

While members of his own party are suggesting the transfer of power should begin, Trump is pressuring state officials to reject certification of states Biden won, including Michigan. Last week, the president invited Michigan GOP lawmakers to the White House, though the state-level lawmakers who met with Trump said after the meeting that they received no evidence that would change the outcome of the election. The electoral college vote is scheduled for December 14.

Even though Trump’s legal challenges are getting thrown out in court, the universe of Republicans calling for the transition of power to begin may remain small. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has yet to recognize Biden as the president-elect and most Senate Republicans are following suit. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming is the only member of GOP leadership in the House or Senate who has called on Trump to either demonstrate evidence of fraud or move on and “respect the sanctity of our electoral process.”

The majority of Republicans who have said the transition should begin have also recognized Biden as president-elect.

In a statement Sunday evening, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said Trump had the opportunity to pursue his legal challenges, but noted that they have so far fallen short.

“A pressure campaign on state legislators to influence the electoral outcome is not only unprecedented but inconsistent with our democratic process,” Murkowski said. “It is time to begin the full and formal transition process.”

Over the weekend, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania formally congratulated Biden on winning the election, after a federal District judge in Pennsylvania dismissed Trump’s lawsuit to throw out millions of votes. Toomey was among the first Republicans who, earlier this month, called for the transition process to start and said it was “quite likely” Biden would be the 46th president.

In his statement Saturday, Toomey, who will retire in 2022, praised Trump for policies enacted during his administration and encouraged the president to “accept the outcome” of the election “to ensure that he is remembered for these outstanding accomplishments, and to help unify our country.”

GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, along with Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska have also recognized Biden as the next president and slammed Trump’s pressure campaign to reverse the election results. Romney, who voted to convict Trump earlier this year during the impeachment trial, said last week that “it is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting president.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring this year, has also called on the transition process to begin.

Yet the reluctance of most Republican senators to push Trump to concede highlights the firm grip the president holds, and will continue to hold, on his party. Republicans also need Trump’s assistance to help win the two runoff races in Georgia on Jan. 5, which will determine control of the Senate. While the GOP is favored to hang on, Republicans are still counting on the president to turn out his base of voters and potentially campaign in the state.

Biden announces national security team filled with veterans of Obama administration

Politico -

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday formally announced Cabinet nominations for his national security team.

Biden’s selections include Alejandro Mayorkas, who would become the first Latino secretary of Homeland Security; Avril Haines, who would be his director of national intelligence; and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who would serve as a special presidential envoy for climate.

Mayorkas, who was born in Cuba and moved to the United States when he was a year old, was the former deputy DHS secretary in the Obama administration. He is currently a partner at the law firm WilmerHale.

If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first Latino secretary of Homeland Security. Under the Trump administration, the department pivoted away from its broader homeland security mission to focus heavily on immigration enforcement. Immigration activists are certain to pressure the Biden administration to roll back the scores of DHS rules and regulations that restricted immigration.

Haines’ confirmation would also be historic; she would become the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. intelligence community and the first female director of national intelligence. Haines is another veteran of the Obama administration, having served as former deputy national security adviser and deputy CIA director.

Kerry, a longtime senator from Massachusetts and the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, served from 2013-2017 as Obama’s second secretary of State after Hillary Clinton’s departure from Foggy Bottom.

Kerry was an early backer of Biden in the 2020 Democratic primaries, and served along with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as one of the two co-chairs of a climate change unity task force that brought together members of the Democratic party's progressive and establishment wings.

One notable omission from the list of names issued Monday by the Biden transition team was the president-elect’s pick for Defense secretary. Michèle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of Defense for policy, is widely viewed as the frontrunner to lead the Pentagon in the incoming administration.

The personnel moves come after Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff, said Sunday that the president-elect would name his first Cabinet officials on Tuesday.

Later Sunday, several media outlets reported that Biden had tapped foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken as secretary of State, domestic policy adviser Jake Sullivan as national security adviser and veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Those names were also confirmed in the announcement Monday by the Biden transition team.

Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.

Trump nearing last stand as efforts to challenge election slip

Politico -

President Donald Trump’s push to subvert the 2020 election results may be hours away from collapse, as election officials push toward certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s wins in key states.

In Michigan, the state Board of Canvassers is meeting in Lansing Monday afternoon, with certification of election results showing Biden beating Trump by more than 155,000 votes on the agenda. It’s typically a routine exercise for the four-member, bipartisan board, but the board’s two Republicans have come under rising pressure from Trump and his allies to reject certification and seek a delay in order to investigate “irregularities” in Detroit’s vote counting — allegations that are not supported by any evidence of wrongdoing.

One of the board’s two members, Norm Shinkle, has indicated in recent interviews that he’s inclined to vote against certification and instead seek a delay. That would leave the deciding vote to Aaron Van Langevelde, a lawyer for the state legislature’s House GOP caucus. Notably, Michigan’s top state legislative leaders indicated — after an Oval Office meeting with Trump — that they don’t see any evidence that would result in reversing Biden’s win in the state.

Van Langevelde did not respond to requests for comment.

If either Shinkle or Van Langevelde vote to certify the election — despite personal appeals for delay from the Trump campaign and top national GOP officials, including Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel — it could be the fatal blow to Trump’s legally dubious efforts to block Biden from from attaining the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. The president’s court cases and the political pressure he’s putting on fellow Republicans to fight the election results are falling flat.

In addition to the brushback from the Michigan GOP lawmakers, Trump’s efforts to challenge the vote count or delay certification have so far fallen short in other states Biden carried, including Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia.

Trump’s bid to persuade a federal judge to toss millions of votes for Biden in Pennsylvania met with a sharply worded rejection on Saturday. And a small but growing number of House and Senate Republicans in Washington say it’s time for Trump to accept defeat and help smooth the transition to a Biden administration.

“A pressure campaign on state legislators to influence the electoral outcome is not only unprecedented but inconsistent with our democratic process,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in a Sunday statement. “It is time to begin the full and formal transition process.”

In Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has also downplayed the likelihood that the state board wouldn’t certify the results.

"The voters of Michigan have spoken, they’ve made a choice,” she said in an interview on MSNBC on Sunday. “There’s no legal or factual basis to question that choice. And there are several protocols in place to protect that choice through the certification that we have every reason to expect will happen [on Monday].”

The drama in Michigan comes a week after two Republican members of a local canvassing board — in Detroit’s Wayne County — briefly held up certification there, citing mismatches between the tabulated total and the various precincts’ poll books. Minor miscalculations are relatively routine, and officials indicated they only affected a tiny fraction of votes, not remotely close to the margin Trump would need to reverse Biden’s large lead in the state.

The two Wayne County Republicans ultimately relented, however, sending the decision to the state board.

Republican officials in other states have cast aside Trump’s calls to otherwise delay the inevitable. The most notable example is Georgia, which certified its election results on Friday despite an intense public campaign targeting GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as well as the Republican governor, Brian Kemp., The president and his allies — including both of Georgia’s Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — attacked Raffensperger by alleging widespread impropriety in the election without actually providing any evidence of it.

Kemp, another steadfast ally of the president, certified Georgia’s Electoral College electors for Biden on Friday as well, casting his decision as one he was legally obligated to do that would open up a path for a recount for the president’s team.

Monday is also the deadline for counties to certify their results in Pennsylvania, after which final state certification rests with Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, an appointee of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Trump’s lawsuit in the state, which was ripped apart by a federal judge, sought to block certification. The campaign is currently trying to appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Allies of the president — including GOP Rep. Mike Kelly and Sean Parnell, a congressional candidate who lost to Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb — are also trying to block certification in Pennsylvania state court. Their longshot case argues that the state’s mail voting law, which was passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and was used for elections before November, was unconstitutional.

And in Arizona, another state that Biden narrowly flipped, the Republican-controlled county board of supervisors in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county that was critical to Biden’s victory, voted unanimously on Friday to certify its results.

“No matter how you voted, this election was administered with integrity, transparency, and most importantly in accordance with Arizona state laws," Republican chairman Clint Hickman said, rejecting claims of fraud leveled in the state by the president and his team.

Just one county in Arizona has not yet certified its results: Mohave County, which stretches along the state’s Northwest border and heavily backed the president. Its deadline to certify is by the end of Monday, with the statewide canvass planned for Nov. 30.

Trump’s national effort to upend the election has been beset by internal strife and dissension. On Sunday, Trump’s campaign removed conservative lawyer Sidney Powell from its team. Powell had begun to train attacks on Republican officials in Georgia for certifying Biden’s victory there, and she had also concocted a conspiracy theory alleging massive fraud by an electronic voting machine company — contending that Trump actually won the election “in a landslide,” a claim that the national Republican Party amplified.

Powell contended that both Trump and Rep. Doug Collins, her preferred candidate in Georgia’s Senate special election, had been cheated. Powell’s allegations that Georgia Republicans conspired against Collins in his race against Loeffler, the appointed incumbent, rankled other Trump allies who are desperate to defend two Senate races in the state on the ballot in a Jan. 5 runoff.


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