Biden to start naming cabinet picks Tuesday as Trump resists

by AFP

WASHINGTON – US President-elect Joe Biden (picture) will name his first cabinet picks on Tuesday, his chief of staff said, even as Donald Trump clung to unsubstantiated claims of fraud despite growing dissent from within his own party.

Biden has pushed ahead with preparations to assume the presidency on January 20, regardless of Trump’s bid to undo the results of the November 3 vote. 

“You are going to see the first of the president-elect’s cabinet picks on Tuesday of this week,” Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

He declined to say which posts the president-elect would announce, though Biden said last week he has already decided on his pick for the key position of Treasury Secretary. 

A growing number of Republicans have either recognized Biden’s victory or at least urged the General Services Administration — the usually low-profile agency that manages the federal bureaucracy — to release federal funds for the Biden transition.

With Trump refusing to acknowledge the election outcome, Biden and his top aides have been denied briefings on sensitive domestic and foreign policy issues — most urgently the coronavirus pandemic battering the country.

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who in 2016 advised the Trump transition, said on ABC that the president’s legal team was a “national embarrassment” and that it was time for the GSA to release transition funds. 

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, another prominent Republican, said on CNN that Trump was making the country look like a “banana republic.” He tweeted later that the president should “stop golfing and concede.”

The president has golfed on every weekend day since the election, though he took part virtually this weekend in the conference of the G20 leading economies. Trump skipped a session Saturday on the pandemic.

Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, said that if Trump’s lawyers cannot prove the claims of fraud, the president should be “respecting the sanctity of our electoral process.”

Even Representative Devin Nunes, an ardent Trump loyalist, conceded backhandedly on Fox News that Biden was “the first guy to run a successful campaign from a basement.” 

– ‘Without merit’ –

Trump again tweeted on Sunday about “massive numbers of fraudulent ballots,” an assertion dismissed by a long list of judges in several states.

Appearances by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have drawn mockery, as have claims by another member of his legal team, Sidney Powell.

Powell has alleged baseless conspiracy theories involving the possible hack of the election, earning her heaps of derision but also praise from some of Trump’s most ardent supporters.

On Sunday, Giuliani distanced the team from her, saying in a statement she had been dropped.

“Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own,” he said.

Trump’s latest legal setback came Saturday, when a Pennsylvania judge threw out the president’s fraud claims there in a scathing judgment.

Pennsylvania was a must-win state this year, and went solidly into Biden’s column after backing Trump in 2016.

Judge Matthew Brann wrote that Trump’s team had presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” in their complaints about mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.

His ruling paved the way for Pennsylvania to certify Biden’s victory there, which is scheduled to take place Monday. 

Biden won the state-by-state Electoral College votes that ultimately decide who takes the White House by 306 to 232.

The Electoral College is due to formally vote on December 14, with certifications to take place beforehand.

– ‘Incredibly damaging’ –

States’ certification of results of their popular votes is usually routine following a US presidential election.

But Trump’s refusal to concede has raised concerns that he could cause long-term damage to Americans’ trust in the voting system that underlies US democracy.

The judgment in Pennsylvania came hours after Republicans also requested a delay in certification in Michigan, another battleground, in a letter that repeated allegations of irregularities in the state, which Biden won by 155,000 votes.

They requested a two-week delay to allow a full audit of results in Wayne County. Wayne is the state’s largest county and home to majority-black Detroit, which Biden won overwhelmingly.

Michigan’s board of canvassers, which includes two Democrats and two Republicans, is due to meet Monday to certify the results.

There were reports that a Republican member of the board was considering voting against certification.

Biden has so far moderated his criticism of Trump’s actions, though he has spoken of “incredibly damaging messages being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions,” adding: “It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks.”

Other Democrats have been unsparing in their criticism.

Samantha Power, who was UN ambassador under Barack Obama, told CNN that Trump’s failure to allow a smooth transition was “reckless in the extreme,” depriving Biden of up-to-date briefings on issues as sensitive as troop levels in Afghanistan and any potential threats to US targets overseas. 

© Agence France-Presse