Pompeo Says State Department Transfer of Power to Biden Has Begun



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Biden’s transition team has already named its Secretary of State-to-be, filling the key post with Antony Blinken, who was a top-ranking official in the Obama administration and is known as a strong backer of multilateralist policies.

The State Department has begun the process of transferring power to Democrat Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated on Tuesday.

On Monday, head of the General Services Administration Emily Murphy notified Biden in a letter that the transfer of power can formally start, acknowledging the former vice president as the likely winner in the 2020 election.

“Today we began the process to see what the GSA’s decision was, and will do everything that’s required by law. We’ll make this work”, Pompeo said in an interview on Fox News.

Earlier on Tuesday, US media reported that the Trump administration has authorised Biden to receive the president’s daily intelligence reports – something that his team complained he had not had access to, though the Office of the Director of National Intelligences said it won’t contact the Biden team until GSA ascertains Biden as the likely president-elect.

Meanwhile, Biden has already named several people to fill the key posts in the White House, most of whom the former vice president worked alongside during his tenure in the Obama Administration, including Blinken. The latter has held top-level national security and State Department positions and is well known in national security circles, developing a reputation as a pragmatic realist and a strong backer of multilateral institutions.

Biden’s pick for the US Ambassador to the United Nations post, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is also pushing for multilateralism as the main principle of the future US foreign policy. “America is back, multilateralism is back, diplomacy is back”, she said during an event at Biden’s hometown of Wilmington.

According to the ex-vice president, his newly picked team will “keep America safe without engaging in needless military conflicts”.

As of now, Biden has claimed victory in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, and Georgia, according to the states’ certified election results, and is projected by most mainstream media as the president-elect in the 2020 race.

Though President Donald Trump has approved of the GSA proceeding with the transfer process, he has not conceded so far, saying it is not within the body’s competence to determine the next US president. Trump has vowed to continue the legal fight to ensure all ballots cast in the presidential election are legitimate.

According to Trump, this year’s election was “rigged” by Democrats to favour their candidate Biden. The president’s campaign has filed legal challenges in several of these key swing states but the president’s path to challenge the results has narrowed significantly, as most of his lawsuits have been dismissed or withdrawn.





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Islamic State claims Afghanistan attack as Mike Pompeo holds his final peace talks


As mortar shells slammed into a residential area of Afghanistan’s capital, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has held what are likely his last meetings with Taliban and Afghan Government negotiators trying to negotiate peace.

The attack in Kabul, claimed by Islamic State militants, killed eight people and wounded 31 people on Saturday.

The assault came as peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan Government were underway in Qatar, where Mr Pompeo told Afghan Government negotiators that Washington would “sit on the side and help where we can”.

Two Taliban officials told the Associated Press the warring sides have found common ground on which to move the stalled talks forward.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to journalists, did not elaborate.

‘Be vigilant about the spoilers’

Relatives carry the dead body of a boy who was killed during Kabul’s mortar shell attack.(AP: Rahmat Gul)

In Kabul, at least one of the 23 mortar rounds hit inside the Iranian embassy compound.

No-one was wounded, but it damaged the main building, the embassy said.

The local Islamic State affiliate issued a statement claiming the attack that targeted the so-called Green Zone in Kabul, which houses foreign embassies, the presidential palace and Afghan military compounds, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for Reconciliation, condemned the Kabul attack in a tweet, calling it a “cowardly” act.

The council oversees Kabul’s negotiations with the Taliban in Doha.

Pakistan, whose Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Kabul on Tuesday for the first time since he came to office, condemned the attack and warned “it is important to be vigilant against the spoilers who are working to undermine the peace efforts”, but he did not identify the spoilers.

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Taliban refuse ceasefire as US withdraws more troops

A group of men wearing traditional Afghan clothing walk through a brightly lit lobby.
US-mediated talks between the Taliban and Kabul have been marred by a surge in violence in Afghanistan.(AP: Hussein Sayed)

The US, alongside coalition forces, invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in the wake of Al Qaeda’s September 11 attacks, masterminded by Osama bin Laden, then a guest of Afghanistan’s Taliban government.

These troops have remained in the country ever since, and it has become America’s longest war.

Prior to becoming President, Donald Trump had repeatedly called for the US to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and as Commander-In-Chief, he vowed to “end the era of endless wars”.

He has not managed to achieve complete withdrawal in either country, but he has managed to reduce the scale of US engagement.

Last week, Washington announced it would withdraw another estimated 2,500 troops before the middle of January, leaving about 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.

In Doha, Mr Pompeo met with the co-founder of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who signed the peace agreement with Washington in February ahead of the peace talks.

Incoming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
The tenure of Mr Pompeo will end from the inauguration of president-elect Biden in January, 2021.(Flickr: Gage Skidmore)

Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem tweeted that further prisoner releases were discussed in the meeting, in addition to those that the two sides committed to ahead of peace talks under the US deal.

Mr Naeem said the Taliban also repeated its demand that their leaders be removed from the United Nations sanctions list.

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For most Afghans, the overriding concern has been a sharp rise in violence this year and a surge of attacks by the Taliban against Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces since the start of peace talks in September.

The Taliban have, however, held to their promise not to attack US and NATO troops.

The US’s planned troop withdrawal has lent greater urgency to the negotiations and to the calls for a reduction in violence, which includes a demand for a ceasefire by Kabul.

But the Taliban have refused and said a ceasefire will be part of further negotiations.

ABC/AP



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Pompeo makes visit to West Bank settlement, says products from there can be labelled ‘Made in Israel’


The US State Department has announced that products from Israeli settlements can be labelled ‘Made in Israel’, breaking with longstanding policy.

The move was announced shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited a settlement in the occupied West Bank, a first by a top US diplomat.

President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, which overwhelmingly favoured Israel and was rejected by the Palestinians, would allow Israel to annex up to a third of the West Bank, including all its settlements.

The State Department said the change in the labelling policy is “consistent with our reality-based foreign policy approach”.

The Palestinians and most of the international community view the settlements as a violation of international law and an obstacle to peace.

Palestinians protest against Mr Pompeo’s visit to a Jewish settlement near the West Bank city of Al-Bireh.(AP: Majdi Mohammed)

The European Union requires member states to label products originating in the settlements.

US labels boycott movement anti-Semitic

Mr Pompeo said the US will regard the Palestinian-led boycott movement as “anti-Semitic” and cut off Government support for any organisations taking part in it, a step that could deny funding to Palestinian and international human rights groups.

“We will regard the global, anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic,” Mr Pompeo said, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

A white wall shows a boycott israel stencil with a red mark over the israeli flag
BDS supporters advocate for an Israeli boycott to protest of the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.(ABC Religion & Ethics)

“We will immediately take steps to identify organisations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US Government support for such groups,” he said, adding that all nations should “recognise the BDS movement for the cancer that it is”.

In another first, Mr Pompeo said he would visit the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognised internationally.

BDS organisers cast their movement as a non-violent way of protesting Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians modelled on the campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

The movement has had some limited success over the years but no impact on the Israeli economy.

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Israel moves to build more housing in Palestinian territory

Israel views BDS as an assault on its very existence, and has seized on statements by some supporters to accuse it of anti-Semitism, allegations denied by organisers.

In a statement, the BDS movement reiterated its rejection of “all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish racism”, and accused the US and Israel of trying to silence advocacy for Palestinian rights.

“The BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality, stands with all those struggling for a more dignified, just and beautiful world,” it said.

“With our many partners, we shall resist these McCarthyite attempts to intimidate and bully Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders into accepting Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism as fate.”

Mr Pompeo did not provide additional details about the initiative, and it was unclear what organisations would be at risk of losing funding.

Israelis have accused international groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International of supporting BDS, allegations they deny.

Human Rights Watch, whose researcher was deported from Israel last year for past statements allegedly in support of BDS, does not call for boycotting Israel but urges companies to avoid doing business in West Bank settlements, saying it makes them complicit in human rights abuses.

A Palestinian woman walks in Khirbet Humsah in Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Human rights activists are critical of Israel’s increasing annexation of the West Bank.(Reuters: Raneen Sawafta)

“The Trump administration is undermining the common fight against the scourge of antisemitism by equating it with peaceful advocacy of boycotts,” Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Israel passed a 2017 law that bars entry to foreigners who have called for economic boycotts of Israel or its settlements.

The US House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing the boycott movement last year, and several US states have enacted anti-BDS laws.

Virtually all Palestinian organisations support the boycott movement, but under Mr Trump has already cut off nearly all forms of aid to the Palestinians.

US-Israel ties at ‘unprecedented heights’ under Trump administration

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to restore the aid as part of efforts to revive the peace process.

Mr Pompeo spoke at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the Israel-US alliance had reached “unprecedented heights” under the Trump administration.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk together
Mr Pompeo’s visit to Israel has been marked by a series of firsts.(AP: Maya Alleruzzo)

Mr Netanyahu thanked the administration for moving its embassy to contested Jerusalem, abandoning the US position that Israeli settlements are contrary to international law, recognising Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and taking a hard line against Iran.

Israel captured east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 war.

The Palestinians want both territories to be part of their future state and view the settlements as a violation of international law and an obstacle to peace — a position endorsed by most of the international community.

“For a long time, the State Department took the wrong view of settlements,” Mr Pompeo said, but it now recognises that “settlements can be done in a way that (is) lawful, appropriate and proper”.

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Israel signs agreements with UAE, Bahrain at White House

Neither Mr Netanyahu nor Mr Pompeo said anything about the US election.

Mr Pompeo, like Mr Trump, has yet to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Mr Netanyahu congratulated Mr Biden and referred to him as the president-elect in an official statement earlier this week.

AP



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Pompeo, in Israel, vows new action against boycott movement


JERUSALEM (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the U.S. will regard the Palestinian-led boycott movement as “anti-Semitic” and cut off government support for any organizations taking part in it, a step that could deny funding to Palestinian and international human rights groups.

Pompeo announced the initiative during a visit to Israel in which he is expected to make the first-ever appearance by a secretary of state in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. In another first, Pompeo said he would visit the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognized internationally.

“We will regard the global, anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic,” Pompeo said, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

“We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw U.S. government support for such groups,” he said, adding that all nations should “recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is.”

BDS organizers cast their movement as a non-violent way of protesting Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians modeled on the campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa. The movement has had some limited success over the years but no impact on the Israeli economy.

Israel views BDS as an assault on its very existence, and has seized on statements by some supporters to accuse it of anti-Semitism, allegations denied by organizers.

In a statement, the BDS movement reiterated its rejection of “all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish racism,” and accused the U.S. and Israel of trying to silence advocacy for Palestinian rights.

“The BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality, stands with all those struggling for a more dignified, just and beautiful world,” it said. “With our many partners, we shall resist these McCarthyite attempts to intimidate and bully Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders into accepting Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism as fate.”

Pompeo did not provide additional details about the initiative, and it was unclear what organizations would be at risk of losing funding. Israelis have accused international groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International of supporting BDS, allegations they deny.

Human Rights Watch, whose researcher was deported from Israel last year for past statements allegedly in support of BDS, does not call for boycotting Israel but urges companies to avoid doing business in West Bank settlements, saying it makes them complicit in human rights abuses. Amnesty does not take a position on the boycott movement.

“The Trump administration is undermining the common fight against the scourge of antisemitism by equating it with peaceful advocacy of boycotts,” Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Israel passed a 2017 law that bars entry to foreigners who have called for economic boycotts of Israel or its settlements. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing the boycott movement last year, and several U.S. states have enacted anti-BDS laws.

Virtually all Palestinian organizations support the boycott movement, but under President Donald Trump the U.S. has already cut off nearly all forms of aid to the Palestinians. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to restore the aid as part of efforts to revive the peace process.

Pompeo spoke at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the Israel-U.S. alliance had reached “unprecedented heights” under the Trump administration.

Netanyahu thanked the administration for moving its embassy to contested Jerusalem, abandoning the U.S. position that Israeli settlements are contrary to international law, recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and taking a hard line against Iran.

Israel captured east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want both territories to be part of their future state and view the settlements as a violation of international law and an obstacle to peace — a position endorsed by most of the international community.

Trump’s Mideast plan, which overwhelmingly favored Israel and was rejected by the Palestinians, would allow Israel to annex up to a third of the West Bank, including all of its settlements there, which are home to nearly 500,000 Israelis.

“For a long time, the State Department took the wrong view of settlements,” Pompeo said, but it now recognizes that “settlements can be done in a way that (is) lawful, appropriate and proper.”

Neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo said anything about the U.S. election. Pompeo, like Trump, has yet to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Netanyahu congratulated Biden and referred to him as the president-elect in an official statement earlier this week.



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US election 2020: Mike Pompeo says there will be a ‘second Trump administration’


World leaders have already congratulated President-elect Joe Biden – but according to a top White House official, Donald Trump isn’t going anywhere.

Speaking to reporters early on Wednesday morning Australian time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked whether the State Department was ready to co-operate with the Biden team as they prepared to take over, despite Mr Trump’s allegations of voter fraud.

It was a straightforward question – but Mr Pompeo’s answer astonished those present.

“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Mr Pompeo replied with a slight chuckle.

“We’re ready. The world is watching what’s taking place. We’re gonna count all the votes. When the process is complete, there’ll be electors selected. There’s a process. The Constitution lays it out pretty clearly.

“The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is functional today … and successful with a president who’s in office on January 20, a minute after noon, will also be successful.”

Mr Pompeo’s laugh after his “second Trump administration” caused many to speculate whether the comment was intended as a joke – but regardless, it has sparked widespread anger among Americans who are growing increasingly frustrated by the Republican Party’s actions since the November 3 vote.

Many compared Mr Trump’s actions and Mr Pompeo’s comments to “treason” and “fascism”.

According to Bloomberg, State Department officials have failed to respond to a request to clarify Mr Pompeo’s sensational comments.

But he slapped down a suggestion from a reporter that the US election saga discouraged other governments across the world to accept free and fair elections, branding it “ridiculous”.

“We often encounter situations where it’s not clear about a particular election. We work to uncover fact. We work to do discover, to learn whether in fact the outcome, the decision that was made reflected the will of the people,” he said.

RELATED: What’s been Trump’s greatest accomplishment? Have your say in our online poll

media_cameraWorld leaders have already congratulated President-elect Joe Biden. Picture: Angela Weiss/AFP

“We want every one of those votes to be counted in the same way that we have every expectation that every vote here in the United States will be counted to, it is totally appropriate.”

Earlier this morning Mr Trump was back on Twitter, again declaring he would ultimately end up winning the race.

DONALD’S DUMMY SPIT

When Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, he picked up 306 electoral college votes compared with her 232, but lost the popular vote by almost three million ballots.

At the time, he declared his win a “landslide” – but this time around, he is refusing to accept the results, despite losing the popular vote to Joe Biden by more than 4.5 million votes so far.

More importantly, Mr Trump has received just 214 electoral college votes compared with Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden’s 290.

RELATED: The first thing Biden will do as President

In 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost three million ballots. Picture: Fox News
media_cameraIn 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost three million ballots. Picture: Fox News

To win a US election, a candidate must secure a crucial 270 electoral college votes to claim victory, and while three states – Alaska, Georgia and North Carolina – are still counting, they would not make a difference to the final result.

Mr Trump has repeatedly, and with no evidence, insisted his Democratic Party rivals were trying to “steal” the election and made baseless allegations of voter fraud.

Originally published as Trump official’s stunning election claim





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Pompeo to meet Armenian, Azeri ministers over Nagorno-Karabakh fighting



FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives at Downing Street in London, Britain, July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

October 23, 2020

By Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan

BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces clashed in several areas of Nagorno-Karabakh on Friday, hours before talks were due to start in Washington to try to end the deadliest fighting in the mountain enclave for over a quarter of a century.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to meet the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in a new attempt to end nearly a month of bloodshed in which Russian President Vladimir Putin said 5,000 people may have been killed.

The collapse of two Russia-brokered ceasefires has also dimmed hopes of a quick end to fighting that broke out on Sept. 27 over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway territory which is within Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians.

World powers want to prevent the fighting sparking a wider war that draws in Turkey and Russia, and are concerned about the security of pipelines in Azerbaijan that carry Azeri gas and oil through the South Caucasus to world markets.

In the latest clashes, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry reported fighting in several areas, including territories close to the line of contact that divides the sides.

Armenia’s defence ministry also reported fighting in several areas and said the town of Martuni in Nagorno-Karabakh was shelled again during the night.

Pompeo is expected to hold separate talks with Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. It is not clear whether the two former Soviet republics’ ministers will meet directly.

“I very much hope that our American partners will act in unison with us and will help the settlement,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, adding that he speaks to leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan several times a day by phone.

Putin said Moscow believed more than 2,000 people had been killed on each side during the recent flare-up. The decades-old conflict led to a 1991-94 war in which about 30,000 people were killed and Azerbaijan’s troops were pushed out.

“RIGHT PATH FORWARD”

Pompeo said this week he hoped a diplomatic solution and the “right path forward” could be found as the United States, France and Russia press on with mediation efforts they have led for decades.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said he can see no diplomatic resolution of the long-running conflict at this stage.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev says the prospects of reaching a peace settlement are “very remote”, and demanded promises that Azerbaijan will be handed back control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenians regard Nagorno-Karabakh as part of their historic homeland and accuse Azerbaijan of making a land grab in the recent fighting.

Azeri forces, bolstered by weapons bought from Turkey, say they have made territorial gains, including full control over the border with Iran, though Nagorno-Karabakh says its forces have repeatedly repulsed attacks.

Turkey has said it would send soldiers and provide military support for Azerbaijan if such a request were made by its ally.

Putin said Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia, disagreed with Turkey on Nagorno-Karabakh, but both countries needed to find a compromise.

(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze, writing by Timothy Heritage, editing by Philippa Fletcher)





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Secy. of State Pompeo outlines efforts to contain threat from communist China


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 8:22 AM PT – Thursday, October 22, 2020

The United States has continued to stand-up to the People’s Republic of China with officials working to eradicate communist propaganda.

In a press briefing held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed reporters on the growing threat of Chinese aggression. He announced his latest efforts to form a long-term dialogue between the U.S. and the EU in order to protect global stability against communist ideology.

“This Friday, the EU High Representative Josep Borrell and I will launch the U.S.-EU dialogue on China,” said the secretary. “I’m confident that the discussion will deepen our long-term engagement with EU friends on this important issue.”

Pompeo also announced the State Department will designate six Chinese media companies located in the U.S. as foreign missions in a bid to battle the spread of communist propaganda on the home-front more effectively.

“We’re pushing back on the Chinese communist propaganda efforts here at home, too,” he stated. “Today I’m announcing the State Department is designating the U.S. operations of six China-based media companies as foreign missions…they are all substantially owned or effectively controlled by a foreign government.”

Pompeo went on to the slam the Chinese Communist Party by accusing the regime of failing to abide by international rules and backing down on its commitments to other nations as well as global organizations.

The official stressed with the U.S. working with other “free nations” around the globe, more progress can be made to thwart threats raised by Communist China.

RELATED: Secy. Pompeo addresses first U.S.-UAE strategic dialogue





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