Here is a summary of the top 8 political issues making headlines today.
1. Biden picks team of internationalists to lead foreign policy
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has so far announced a foreign policy team that has roots firmly planted in the established ways of diplomacy and in the Obama administration in which he served as vice president. It is also one whose members he knows well.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, former deputy secretary of state Tony Blinken will be Biden’s secretary of state while former State Department policy planning chief Jake Sullivan will become the White House national security adviser. Both men have been longtime advisers to Biden.
Former secretary of state John Kerry, who led negotiations on the Paris climate accord, will serve as special presidential envoy on climate change.
Avril Haines is Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence. She was White House deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration.
Linda Thomas Greenfield, a longtime foreign service officer, is Biden’s choice for U.N. ambassador.
“We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy,” Biden said “I need a team ready on day one to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table, rally the world to meet the biggest challenges we face and advance our security, prosperity and values.”
Politico reports that Biden is leaning toward naming former Obama administration national security adviser Tom Donilon as his CIA director. But the media outlet also says Michael Morell, who has previously led the CIA on an acting basis, remains in the running for the post.
What is Biden telling the world so far?
“It’s a team that will keep our country and our people safe and secure,” he said, and move away from U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” mantra.
Biden said the United States wants to “sit at the head of the table” in international affairs and will “stand up to adversaries” and “not reject our allies.”
Biden also named Janet Yellen, former head of the U.S. Federal Reserve, to be the next treasury secretary.
a. Hawley Labels Biden’s Cabinet Picks ‘Corporatists and War Enthusiasts’ – National Review
2. Reality is slowly sinking in for Donald Trump
While U.S. President Donald Trump has signed off on allowing the necessary funds to be transferred and meetings to be held for Joe Biden and his transition team to be prepared for him to take over as president on January 20, Trump has not publicly conceded that he lost.
He continues to retweet such falsehoods as claims that “fake Biden votes” were uncovered in Arizona.
On Wednesday, Trump phoned into a meeting arranged by Pennsylvania Republicans to continue his unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him, telling participants that they needed to “turn the election over,” The Hill newspaper reported.
Despite the bluster, however, the reality that he won’t be president come January 20 is starting to sink in with Trump, some advisers say.
“The window is shutting,” Stephen Moore, an informal Trump economic adviser, told Politico.
There’s a really good chance he runs in 2024, but if he wants to do that, then he doesn’t want to diminish his stature by playing the sore loser.”
b. Leader: The last days of Trump – New Statesman
3. Biden plans to push immigration reform right away
Among the legislative initiatives U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is promising to undertake at the start of his term is providing a legal pathway to citizenships for more than 11 million undocumented workers.
He told NBC’s Lester Holt that he plans to send a bill to the U.S. Senate granting amnesty to them during his first 100 days in office.
“All of those so-called DREAMers, those DACA kids, they’re going to be immediately certified to be able to stay in this country and put on a path to citizenship,” Biden said of an Obama era program to allow children brought to the United States by their parents to remain in the country if they meet certain criteria.
“Biden is expected to quickly revive the DACA program, end the Trump administration’s so-called Muslim ban and end construction on the U.S.-Mexico border wall. He is reportedly eyeing a freeze on deportations to give his administration time to issue new guidance for immigration agents,” The Hill newspaper, which focuses on the workings of the U.S. Congress, reported.
While control of the U.S. Senate will depend on the outcome of two January runoff races in Georgia, some Republican senators have indicated a willingness to work with Biden on immigration reform.
4. Border warehouse for humans shut down, to be renovated
Related to the battle over illegal immigration in the United States have been the graphic, often disturbing images of chain-link enclosures housing detained migrants along the Texas-Mexico border.
While the cages have not been in use since March due to the coronavirus pandemic and an emergency heath procedure allowing for quick deportations, the images of caged humans caused international outcry.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have now shut down the warehouse facility.
“The chain-link partitions will be removed, and the warehouse will be redesigned to provide detained migrants with more humane conditions,” The Washington Post reported officials saying on November 25.
New facilities are indeed needed as the paper said the number of migrants taken into custody along the Mexico border jumped to 69,237, up 21 percent from September to October. It was the highest one-month total since February 2019, The Post said.
5. No rest for two Senate races in Georgia
While Congress took a Thanksgiving recess that did not stop the campaigning for the two U.S. Senate seats to be decided in a January 5 run-off.
The Democrats would have to win both seats to gain a 50-5o tie in number of senators, with incoming Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris casting the determining vote on any tied outcome on legislation after she is sworn in on January 20.
The Los Angeles Times notes that the two Democratic candidates in the races, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff “have essentially become running mates, their fates tied together as they try to persuade voters to send them — not the two Republican incumbent Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — to Washington.”
Perdue and Loeffler have teamed up as well.
And big money has come pouring in, too.
According to data compiled by AdImpact. Loeffler’s campaign is on pace to spend $40.8 million, Warnock’s $34.2 million, $41.6 million for Ossoff’s and $30.1 million by Perdue’s for the runoffs.
“Both sides see that the best thing they can do is try to help each candidate pull each candidate across the finish line,” Jason M. Shepherd, chairman of the Republican Party in suburban Cobb County, 20 miles northwest of Atlanta, said.
As for the polls, both races are fairly even with a lean toward the Republicans, so you can expect the holiday season to also be one of saturating political ads across Georgia.
b. Why Democrats face an uphill battle in Georgia’s Senate runoffs – Washington Post
6. With another book out, Obama gets another award
No one can dispute that Barack Obama has a gift for words, both spoken and written.
Now Obama the author is about to get an award.
PEN America is giving Obama its second annual Voice of Influence Award in recognition of how his writings “have traversed political, social and ideological bounds and framed a self-reflective humanism that has marked his influence on public life.”
“As an organization of writers, we have always seen President Obama not just as a leader, but as one of us: an author. His probing and evocative narratives helped introduce the world to his unique background, and the power of his life experience as a prompt toward a more pluralistic and encompassing society,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.
b. Which Presidents Could Actually Write? – Washingtonian
7. China’s leader finally congratulates Biden on his victory
It was a long time in coming, but on November 25, Chinese President Xi Jinping finally sent a congratulatory message to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, more than three weeks after the U.S. election.
“Promoting the healthy and stable development of China-US relations is not only in the fundamental interests of both peoples, but also meets the common expectation of the international community,” state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying in the message.
“I hope to see both sides uphold the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, and focus on cooperation while managing and controlling disputes,” Xi added, according to Xinhua.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t congratulated Biden yet, although other major world leaders have.
Tensions have been high at times between the United States and China under the Trump administration with an escalated trade war and the U.S. president blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic as the virus reportedly originated in China’s Wuhan province.
CNN reported that Biden and Xi have ties that go back almost a decade, when as U.S. vice president. Biden took a six-day trip to China in 2011 to meet with Xi and travel to parts of the country with him.
In February 2012, visited Washington. Biden brought him to the Oval Office to meet President Barack Obama and then traveled with Xi to Los Angeles to announce an agreement to film more US movies in China.
a. Biden Vs. Biden On China – NPR
8. Trump pardons former national security adviser Flynn
U.S. President Donald Trump announced by tweet on Wednesday that he had pardoned Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with a Russian official.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving,” Trump said.
Trump had fired Flynn just 24 days into his serving as national security adviser for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about a conversation in which he told Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that Moscow should not respond to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as part of a deal but in January he sought to withdraw his guilty plea.
Speculation is now rampant in Washington concerning who else Trump might pardon before his term in office ends on January 20.
High on the guessing list is his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was given a seven-year sentence that he is now serving in home confinement stemming from the special counsel’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
a. Judge not ready to throw out Michael Flynn case – NBC News
b. So far, Trump has granted clemency less frequently than any president in modern history – Pew Research Center