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Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he will raise objections next week when Congress meets to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the election, forcing House and Senate votes that are likely to delay — but in no way alter — the final certification of Biden’s win.

President Donald Trump has, without evidence, claimed there was widespread fraud in the election. He has pushed Republican senators to pursue his unfounded charges even though the Electoral College this month cemented Biden’s 306-232 victory and multiple legal efforts to challenge the results have failed.

A group of Republicans in the Democratic-majority House have already said they will object on Trump’s behalf during the Jan. 6 count of electoral votes, and they had needed just a single senator to go along with them to force votes in both chambers.

Without giving specifics or evidence, Hawley said Wednesday he would object because “some states, including notably Pennsylvania,” did not follow their own election laws. Lawsuits challenging Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania have been unsuccessful.

“At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections,” Hawley said in a statement. He also criticized the way Facebook and Twitter handled content related to the election, characterizing it as an effort to help Biden.

Biden transition spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismissed Hawley’s move as “antics” that will have no bearing on Biden being sworn in on Jan. 20.

“The American people spoke resoundingly in this election and 81 million people have voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Psaki said in a call with reporters. She added: “Congress will certify the results of the election as they do every four years.”

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows praised Hawley on Twitter for “unapologetically standing up for election integrity.”

Trump was cutting short his Florida holiday vacation and returning to Washington on Thursday, one day earlier than expected, for reasons the White House didn’t explain.

When Congress convenes to certify the Electoral College results, any lawmaker can object to a state’s votes on any grounds. But the objection is not taken up unless it is in writing and signed by both a member of the House and a member of the Senate.

When there is such a request, then the joint session suspends and the House and Senate go into separate sessions to consider it. For the objection to be sustained, both chambers must agree to it by a simple majority vote. If they disagree, the original electoral votes are counted.

The last time such an objection was considered was 2005, when Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, both Democrats, objected to Ohio’s electoral votes by claiming there were voting irregularities. Both chambers debated the objection and rejected it. It was only the second time such a vote had occurred.

As president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the Jan. 6 session and declare the winner.

Asked about Hawley’s announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “I have no doubt that on next Wednesday, a week from today, that Joe Biden will be confirmed by the acceptance of the vote of the electoral college as the 46th president of the United States.”

(AP)

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Joe Biden

Biden Administration Moves to Rejoin U.N. Human Rights Council

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President Donald J. Trump withdrew the United States from the council in 2018, but the Biden administration plans to “engage with it in a principled fashion” going forward.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is scheduled to announce that the United States will “re-engage” with the United Nations Human Rights Council as an observer

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will move on Monday to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council, nearly three years after President Donald J. Trump withdrew the United States from it, a senior State Department official said on Sunday.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is scheduled to announce that the United States will “re-engage” with the council as an observer, the official said. “We intend to do so knowing that the most effective way to reform and improve the council is to engage with it in a principled fashion.”

Mr. Trump withdrew from the council, the world’s most important human rights body, in 2018 over what he and his allies called unfair targeting of Israel. The departure made the United States the first country to leave voluntarily.

President Biden pledged during the presidential campaign to rejoin the council and help overhaul. But doing so is likely to cause a political backlash: Mr. Trump’s allies have warned that rejoining would effectively allow the body to continue ignoring human rights abuses committed by council members such as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia.

Nikki R. Haley, who was the American ambassador to the United Nations when Mr. Trump withdrew from the council, has called it “a cesspool of political bias” and has warned against rejoining.

“If Biden rejoins the council whose membership includes dictatorial regimes & some of the world’s worst human rights violators,” Ms. Haley wrote on Twitter last month, “it will fly in the face of our fight for human rights.”

The United States will return to the council as a nonvoting observer, and full membership will be assessed later this year. The move, reported earlier by The Associated Press, comes at a time when nations facing widespread criticism for human rights abuses have tried to influence how the council assesses wrongdoing. China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela are all members.

At the same time, critics of the council have long accused it of dysfunction and of turning a blind eye to abuse by some members while punishing others. Last week, 40 House Republicans signed a letter urging Mr. Biden to rethink rejoining, saying the council was “disproportionately targeting” Israel over other members.

“Israel is the only country to be a permanent item on the council’s agenda,” the letter read. “This past year, the 43rd Human Rights Council Session adopted five resolutions condemning Israel, and only one each targeting Iran, Syria and North Korea.”

There are signs that the council is taking steps to change on its own. In January, Fiji, a nation with a record of supporting human rights causes, won election as president, a position that allows significant influence over setting the group’s priorities.

In recent years, Fiji has backed investigations into reported abuses in Venezuela, Belarus, Syria and Yemen, while encountering opposition from other members, including China.

The Biden administration is framing its decision as a way to accelerate those changes, and to rejoin a global community that Mr. Trump largely shunned during his time in office. In his first few weeks, Mr. Biden has rejoined the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, two frequent targets of the former president.

“We know that the council has the potential to be an important forum for those fighting tyranny and injustice around the world,” the State Department official said in a statement. “By being present at the table, we seek to reform it and ensure it can live up to that potential.”

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Joe Biden

WATCH: Biden already working to rejoin Iran Nuclear Deal: report

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Senior Strategic Analyst General Jack Keane argues the U.S. has ‘got to be tougher’ when negotiating a new nuclear deal with Iran.

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Joe Biden

Pence Urges Biden to ‘Stand Up to Chinese Aggression’ in Indo-Pacific

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Vice President Mike Pence urged President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.

“As a new American administration prepares to take office, we do well to remember as Americans that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” Pence said at the Naval Air Station Lemoore in Jan. 17. “And a free and open Indo-Pacific is essential to our prosperity, our security and the vitality of freedom in the world.”

The vice president said that the CCP “is determined to expand Beijing’s influence across the region through military provocations and dead diplomacy.”

“I urge the incoming administration to stay the course. Do what we’ve done. Stand up to Chinese aggression and trade abuses. Stand strong for a free and open Indo-Pacific and put America and our freedom-loving allies first,” Pence said.

Pence made the remarks during the last week of his service as the vice president and just days after the U.S. Department of State declassified a document outlining the administration’s overarching strategy in the Indo-Pacific. The strategy, in place since 2017, emphasized working with regional allies to counter the CCP’s ambitions in the region and highlighted Taiwan’s role in combating the Chinese regime’s military aggression.

“Beijing is increasingly pressuring Indo-Pacific nations to subordinate their freedom and sovereignty to a ‘common destiny’ envisioned by the Chinese Communist Party,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a memo dated Jan. 5 that accompanied the declassified document. “The U.S. approach is different. We seek to ensure that our allies and partners … can preserve and protect their sovereignty.”

The document, titled U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, describes how the Chinese regime poses a threat to the United States and like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific.

“China aims to dissolve U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region. China will exploit vacuums and opportunities created by these diminished bonds,” the strategy document states. “Chinese economic, diplomatic, and military influence will continue to increase in the near-term and challenge the U.S. ability to achieve its national interests in the Indo-Pacific region.”

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In terms of confronting the Chinese military, the U.S. strategy committed to “devise and implement a defense strategy capable of” three objectives: deny China sustained air and sea dominance inside the “first island chain” in a conflict; defend the first island chain nations, including Taiwan; and dominate all domains outside the first island chain.

The first island chain is an arbitrary demarcation from the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, Taiwan, the Philippines, to Indonesia. For decades, China’s military strategists have seen the first island chain as a barrier to the regime projecting its air and naval power to the second island chain and beyond. The second chain stretches from Japan to Guam and Papua New Guinea.

The U.S. strategy would “enable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms,” the document adds.

Experts noted that the document’s language on Taiwan is a deviation from the U.S. government’s longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity”—meaning not clearly stating whether the U.S. government would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack by China.

Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan despite its de facto nation-state status, with its own democratically elected government, military, and currency. The Chinese regime has repeatedly threatened to use military force to bring the island under its control.

(NTD)

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