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Kamala HArris

Vice President-elect Harris to resign her Senate seat Monday

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Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will resign her Senate seat on Monday, two days before she and President-elect Joe Biden are inaugurated.

Aides to the California Democrat confirmed the timing and said Gov. Gavin Newsom was aware of her decision, clearing the way for him to appoint fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, now California’s secretary of state, to serve the final two years of Harris’ term.

Padilla will be the first Latino senator from California, where about 40% of residents are Hispanic. Newsom announced his choice in December, following intense lobbying for the rare Senate vacancy from the nation’s most populous state.

Harris will give no farewell Senate floor speech. The Senate is not scheduled to reconvene until Tuesday, the eve of Inauguration Day.

Padilla’s arrival, along with Harris becoming the Senate’s presiding officer when she’s sworn-in as vice president, is part of Democrats’ upcoming Senate majority. But the party still needs Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia to be certified as victors in their Jan. 5 elections and then be sworn in.

Harris will be the first Black woman and first woman of South Asian descent to serve as vice president, but her Senate departure leaves the chamber’s roster without a Black woman. Harris was just the second Black woman senator, winning her California election 17 years after Democrat Carol Moseley Braun finished a single term representing Illinois.

Among many potential successors to Harris, Newsom passed over at least two prominent Black women, U.S. Reps. Karen Bass and Barbara Lee. Bass also was among Biden’s finalists for running mate.

Democrats were in the minority during Harris’ four years on Capitol Hill. Perhaps her biggest mark came as a fierce questioner of judicial nominees and other witnesses as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Harris was viewed as a future presidential candidate almost immediately upon joining the Senate in 2017. She announced her White House bid in January 2019 but dropped out the subsequent December after a lackluster campaign and before the ballots were cast in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Biden, himself a former senator, invited her to join the national ticket in August.

The wins by Ossoff and Warnock in Georgia ensured a 50-50 Senate, positioning Harris as the tie-breaking vote for Democratic control. But Ossoff and Warnock cannot join the chamber until Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certifies the final vote tally. Raffensperger, a Republican, has said he could act as soon as Tuesday, conceivably allowing Padilla, Ossoff and Warnock to join the Senate together as early as that afternoon’s session.

But Republicans will maintain a narrow majority until all three take office and Harris sits in the presiding officer’s chair.

Harris’ early departure from the Senate has multiple precedents.

Biden was the last sitting senator to be elected vice president. He resigned his Delaware post on Jan. 15, 2009, five days before he and Barack Obama were inaugurated. Obama, a senator at the time of his election, had resigned his Illinois seat two months before Biden.
(AP/THEGRIO)

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Kamala HArris

Mike Pence Calls Kamala Harris, congratulates her

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Vice President Mike Pence has called his soon-to-be successor Kamala Harris to offer his congratulations, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

It’s the first known contact between the elected members of the outgoing and incoming administrations. President Donald Trump has not reached out to President-elect Joe Biden and has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of Biden’s win.

But Pence has become an unexpected defender of Biden. The vice president resisted pressure from Trump to object to the Democrat’s election win while presiding over Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote count last week.

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Pence also will attend Biden’s January 20 inauguration, which Trump is refusing to attend.

One of the people familiar with the Thursday afternoon conversation described it as a “good call,” with Pence congratulating his successor and offering assistance. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private conversation.

The call came less than a week before Biden and Harris take office, and just more than a week after the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters.

(AP)

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Donald Trump

Biden warns of Trump officials’ ‘roadblocks’ to transition

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President-elect Joe Biden is warning of massive damage done to the national security apparatus by the Trump administration and “roadblocks” in communication between agency officials and his transition team that could undermine Americans’ security.

During remarks Monday in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said his team has faced “obstruction” from the “political leadership” at the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget as they’ve sought to gather necessary information to continue the transition of power.

“Right now we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” Biden said.

He warned that his team needs “full visibility” into the budget process at the Defense Department “in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.” He also said they need “a clear picture of our force posture around the world and of our operations to deter our enemies.”

Biden’s remarks came after he was briefed by members of his national security and defense teams and advisers, including his nominees for secretary of State, Defense and Homeland Security, as well as his incoming national security adviser. The president-elect said his team found that agencies “critical to our security have incurred enormous damage” during President Donald Trump’s time in office.

“Many of them have been hollowed out in personnel, capacity and in morale,” he said. “All of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people, to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting.”

Trump has still refused to concede an election he lost by more than 7 million votes, and his administration did not authorize official cooperation with the Biden transition team until Nov. 23, weeks after the election. Biden and his aides warned at the time that the delay was hampering their ability to craft their own vaccine rollout plan, but have since said cooperation on that and other issues related to COVID-19 has improved.

Last week, however, Biden himself said that the Defense Department “won’t even brief us on many things” and suggested because of this, he didn’t have a complete understanding of the full scope of the recent cyberhack that breached numerous government systems.

On Dec. 28, Biden said his team still gathering information about the extent of the cyberhack, but described the need to “modernize” America’s defense to deter future such attacks, “rather than continuing to over-invest in legacy systems designed to address the threats of the past.”

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Pentagon officials pushed back on Biden’s characterization of the disconnect between the Defense Department and the Biden team. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in a statement that the department has conducted 164 interviews with over 400 officials, and provided over 5,000 pages of documents, which is “far more than initially requested by Biden’s transition team.”

Miller also said that his team is continuing to schedule meetings for the remaining weeks of the transition and “answer any and all requests for information in our purview.”

Biden also spoke in length about the need to rebuild global alliances, which he said were necessary to combat climate change, address the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future epidemics, and confront the growing threat posed by China.

“Right now, there’s an enormous vacuum. We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways to work around us or without us,” he said.

Trump has implemented an “America First” foreign policy that saw the U.S. retreat from longstanding global alliances and treaties. The Trump Administration cut funding from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, withdrew from the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords.

The shift away from international diplomacy also precipitated an exodus of staff from key agencies, like the State Department. Trump himself has had a contentious relationship with the intelligence community, criticizing its findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost his candidacy. And still other national security agencies have faced staff cuts and unstable leadership throughout Trump’s time in office as the president frequently fired his department heads with little notice, often leaving departments with acting secretaries or vacant positions in their top ranks.

The situation has left what experts say is a major morale crisis throughout the federal government, and Biden said on Dec. 28 that “rebuilding the full set of our instruments of foreign policy and national security is the key challenge” he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris face when they take office on January 20.

(Daily news)

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