WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump appeared on Sunday to acknowledge losing the U.S. election but then backtracked and said he concedes “nothing” while a top aide to President-elect Joe Biden called a seamless transition vital for national security and combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden, due to take office on Jan. 20, defeated Trump in the Nov. 3 election by winning a series of battleground states that the Republican incumbent had won in 2016. The Democratic former vice president also won the national popular vote by at least 5.5 million votes, or 3.6 percentage points, with some ballots still being counted.
Trump, who is pursuing long-shot litigation contesting election results in several states, made conflicting statements in a series of Twitter posts in which he initially appeared to admit for the first time publicly that Biden won, then reversed course. Trump also repeated unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.
“He won because the Election was Rigged,” Trump wrote, not referring to Biden by name. “NO VOTE WATCHERS OR OBSERVERS allowed, vote tabulated by a Radical Left privately owned company, Dominion, with a bad reputation & bum equipment that couldn’t even qualify for Texas (which I won by a lot!), the Fake & Silent Media, & more!”
About 90 minutes later, Trump wrote, “He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”
“WE WILL WIN!” he added.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, Biden’s pick for White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, said, “Donald Trump’s Twitter feed doesn’t make Joe Biden president or not president. The American people did that.”
The decision by the General Services Administration, headed by a Trump appointee, not to recognize Biden as president-elect has prevented Biden and his team from gaining access to government office space and funding normally afforded to an incoming administration to ensure a smooth transition.
Klain called on the agency to formally recognize Biden, saying it is critical to ensure that the president-elect receives intelligence briefings describing national security threats before taking office and to facilitate coordination with the White House coronavirus task force.
“Joe Biden is going to become president of the U.S. in the midst of an ongoing crisis. That has to be a seamless transition,” Klain said.
Klain also urged Congress to pass bipartisan coronavirus relief legislation. Talks on such legislation stalled before the election. Democratic congressional leaders last week called upon Republican lawmakers to join them in passing a relief measure before the end of the year.
“This could be a first example of bipartisan action post-election,” Klain said. Klain added that Biden’s team plans to meet with Pfizer Inc and other drugmakers starting this week regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Klain previously said a smooth transition is necessary to ensure the government is prepared to roll out a vaccine early next year.
Tackling the pandemic will be a paramount priority for Biden, with the United States tallying record numbers of COVID-19 cases in recent days. More than 245,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, also urged speedy transition efforts to help confront the pandemic.
Trump’s campaign has filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the results in multiple states, though without success. Legal experts have said the litigation stands little chance of altering the election’s outcome.
Election officials of both parties have said there is no evidence of major irregularities. Democrats and other critics have accused Trump of trying to delegitimize Biden’s victory and undermine public confidence in the U.S. electoral process. Before the election, Trump had refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
Senator Bernie Sanders, one of Biden’s main challengers for the Democratic presidential nomination, criticized Trump’s post-election conduct.
“Trump will have the distinction of doing more than any person in the history of this country in undermining American democracy. The idea that he continues to tell his supporters that the only reason he may have lost this election was because of fraud is an absolutely disgraceful, un-American thing to do,” Sanders said on “State of the Union.”
John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser turned critic, on Sunday called on Republicans to acknowledge Biden’s victory. Bolton last week accused his fellow Republicans of “coddling” and “kowtowing” to Trump as the incumbent despite his defeat.
“I think it’s very important for leaders of the Republican Party to explain to our voters, who are not as stupid as the Democrats think, that in fact Trump has lost the election and his claims of election fraud are baseless,” Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week” program.
Biden has won 306 votes in the state-by-state Electoral College system that determines the presidential winner, according to Edison Research, far more than the 270 needed to secure a majority. States are in the process of certifying their election results. The Electoral College meets to formally vote for the new president on Dec. 14.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Susan Heavey and Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Daniel Wallis
Biden set to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11
President Joe Biden plans to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, 20 years to the day after the al Qaeda attacks that triggered America’s longest war, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden plans to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, 20 years to the day after the al Qaeda attacks that triggered America’s longest war, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
The disclosure of the plan came on the same day that the U.S. intelligence community released a gloomy outlook for Afghanistan, forecasting “low” chances of a peace deal this year and warning that its government would struggle to hold the Taliban insurgency at bay if the U.S.-led coalition withdraws support.
Biden’s decision would miss a May 1 deadline for withdrawal agreed to with the Taliban by his predecessor Donald Trump. The insurgents had threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops if that deadline was missed. But Biden would still be setting a near-term withdrawal date, potentially allaying Taliban concerns.
The Democratic president will publicly announce his decision on Wednesday, the White House said. A senior Biden administration official said the pullout would begin before May 1 and could be complete well before the Sept. 11 deadline. Significantly, it will not would be subject to further conditions, including security or human rights.
“The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe in staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in a briefing with reporters.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to discuss the decision with NATO allies in Brussels on Wednesday, sources said.
Biden’s decision suggests he has concluded that the U.S. military presence will no longer be decisive in achieving a lasting peace in Afghanistan, a core Pentagon assumption that has long underpinned American troop deployments there.
“There is no military solution to the problems plaguing Afghanistan, and we will focus our efforts on supporting the ongoing peace process,” the senior administration official said.
The U.S. intelligence report, which was sent to Congress, stated: “Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory.”
It remains unclear how Biden’s move would impact a planned 10-day summit starting April 24 about Afghanistan in Istanbul that is due to include the United Nations and Qatar.
The Taliban said they would not take part in any summits that would make decisions about Afghanistan until all foreign forces had left the country.
The May 1 deadline had already started to appear less and less likely in recent weeks, given the lack of preparations on the ground to ensure it could be done safely and responsibly. U.S. officials have also blamed the Taliban for failing to live up to commitments to reduce violence and some have warned about persistent Taliban links to al Qaeda.
It was those ties that triggered U.S. military intervention in 2001 following al Qaeda’s Sept. 11 attacks, when hijackers slammed airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, killing almost 3,000 people. The Biden administration has said al Qaeda does not pose a threat to the U.S. homeland now.
‘ABANDON THE FIGHT’
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell accused Biden of planning to “turn tail and abandon the fight in Afghanistan.” It was Trump, a Republican, who had agreed to the May 1 withdrawal.
“Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake,” McConnell said, adding that effective counter-terrorism operations require presence and partners on the ground.
There currently are about 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of more than 100,000 in 2011. About 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in the course of the Afghan conflict and many thousands more wounded.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about jobs and the economy at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Officials in Afghanistan are bracing for the withdrawal.
“We will have to survive the impact of it and it should not be considered as Taliban’s victory or takeover,” said a senior Afghan government source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Although successive U.S. presidents sought to extricate themselves from Afghanistan, those hopes were confounded by concerns about Afghan security forces, endemic corruption in Afghanistan and the resiliency of a Taliban insurgency that enjoyed safe haven across the border in Pakistan.
Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the United States could cut off financial assistance to Afghanistan “if there is backsliding on civil society, the rights that women have achieved.” Under previous Taliban rule, the rights of women and girls were curtailed.
Democratic Senator Jack Reed, chairman of Senate Armed Services, called it a very difficult decision for Biden.
“There is no easy answer,” Reed said.
Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Steve Holland, Trevor Hunnicutt, Patricia Zengerle and Jonathan Landay in Washington, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar and Hamid Shalizi in Kabul, Editing by Will Dunham
Myanmar security forces with rifle grenades kill over 80 protesters – monitoring group
Myanmar security forces fired rifle grenades at protesters in a town near Yangon on Friday, killing more than 80 people, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group and a domestic news outlet said.
(Reuters) – Myanmar security forces fired rifle grenades at protesters in a town near Yangon on Friday, killing more than 80 people, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group and a domestic news outlet said.
Details of the death toll in the town of Bago, 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Yangon, were not initially available because security forces piled up bodies in the Zeyar Muni pagoda compound and cordoned off the area, according to witnesses and domestic media outlets.
The AAPP and Myanmar Now news outlet said on Saturday that 82 people were killed during the protest against the Feb. 1 military coup in the country. Firing started before dawn on Friday and continued into the afternoon, Myanmar Now said.
“It is like genocide,” the news outlet quoted a protest organiser called Ye Htut as saying. “They are shooting at every shadow.”
Many residents of the town have fled, according to accounts on social media.
A spokesman for Myanmar’s military junta could not be reached on Saturday.
AAPP, which has maintained a daily tally of protesters killed and arrested by security forces, has previously said 618 people have died since the coup.
That figure is disputed by the military, which says it staged the coup because a November election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was rigged. The election commission has dismissed the assertion.
Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told a news conference on Friday in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the military had recorded 248 civilian deaths and 16 police deaths, and said no automatic weapons had been used by security forces.
An alliance of ethnic armies in Myanmar that has opposed the junta’s crackdown attacked a police station in the east on Saturday and at least 10 policemen were killed, domestic media said.
The police station at Naungmon in Shan state was attacked early in the morning by fighters from an alliance that includes the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the media reported.
Shan News said at least 10 policemen were killed, while the Shwe Phee Myay news outlet put the death toll at 14.
Myanmar’s military rulers said on Friday that protests against its rule were dwindling because people wanted peace, and that it would hold elections within two years.
Ousted Myanmar lawmakers urged the United Nations Security Council on Friday to take action against the military.
“Our people are ready to pay any cost to get back their rights and freedom,” said Zin Mar Aung, who has been appointed acting foreign minister for a group of ousted lawmakers. She urged Council members to apply both direct and indirect pressure on the junta.
“Myanmar stands at the brink of state failure, of state collapse,” Richard Horsey, a senior adviser on Myanmar with the International Crisis Group, told the informal U.N. meeting, the first public discussion of Myanmar by council members.
Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Pravin Char
Factbox: Russian central bank considers digital rouble in 2023
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(Refiles to remove superfluous word in headline; no change in text.)
FILE PHOTO: A Russian flag flies over Russian Central Bank headquarters in Moscow, Russia December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo
(Reuters) – The Russian central bank is considering limiting future transactions with a digital rouble to smooth the impact of its implementation, planned for 2023, Deputy Governor Alexei Zabotkin said on Thursday.
Russia is working on introducing the digital rouble on top of existing cash and non-cash roubles, to facilitate payments for individuals and businesses and make the use of its currency more global in the face of Western sanctions.
“The emission of the cryptorouble will be akin to cash emission,” Zabotkin said.
“It will be feasible to introduce limits on the transactions from non-cash form into the digital rouble,” Zabotkin said, adding that the central bank will stand ready to compensate for possible liquidity shortages when introducing the digital rouble.
Russia is joining other central banks across the world that are stepping up efforts to develop digital currencies to modernise financial systems, speed up payments and counter a potential threat from other cryptocurrencies.
Below are the key aspects that are known about Russia’s digital rouble project:
* The central bank first floated the idea of the digital rouble in October, citing the need to make payments more convenient;
* The digital rouble will be issued by the central bank and will not substitute for cash in circulation or accounts in banks;
* The first test-drive stage is planned for 2022 and will include transactions with banks. Other operations, such as tax payments and budget settlements, will be tested later;
* Russia is leaning towards a two-tier system for its digital rouble, with banks opening digital wallets with the central bank and serving as intermediaries for customers and companies;
* Russian banks expressed concern about the digital rouble, pointing at cyber risks, possible liquidity shortages and damage to their profits;
* Russia gave cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, legal status in 2020. But it banned them from being used as a means of payment, stressing that only currencies issued by central banks can be used for that;
* Russia eyes the digital rouble introduction at times when major central banks including the U.S. Federal Reserve have teamed up with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to explore central bank digital currencies.
Reporting by Anna Rzhevkina and Elena Fabrichnaya; editing by Andrey Ostroukh, Larry King
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