Trump loyalists given top Pentagon roles after several officials resign following Esper’s ouster

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Dartunorro Clark

1h ago / 12:53 AM UTC

Several loyalists to President Donald Trump were promoted to top roles in the Pentagon on Tuesday after officials tendered resignations following the unceremonious ouster of Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The Pentagon confirmed the resignations of the department’s top officials for policy and intelligence in a press release. The resignations include: Acting undersecretary for policy James Anderson; undersecretary for intelligence Joseph Kernan; and Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart. The release noted that Kernan’s resignation was “planned for several months.”

Anthony Tata, a retired Army general and frequent Fox News guest, will replace Anderson. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who currently works in Defense and is a former aide to disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, will replace Kernan. Kash Patel, a former National Security Council official and former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who worked on the controversial House probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, will replace Stewart.

The shakeup comes after the president announced Monday that he fired Esper as his defense secretary and said Christopher Miller, who headed the counterterrorism center, would serve as the acting secretary of the Department of Defense. Esper’s ouster was Trump’s first personnel move since losing the election and has prompted Democrats to raise national security concerns as President-elect Joe Biden begins his transition.

Click here for the full story. 

Ali Vitali and Geoff Bennett

2h ago / 12:28 AM UTC

First lady hasn’t connected with Jill Biden about transition

As we continue tracking the stop-start nature of this transition, first lady Melania Trump’s office hasn’t connected with the Biden side on transition either.

“As far as I know, President Trump hasn’t conceded yet so that doesn’t surprise me,” said a spokesperson for Jill Biden. 

Michelle Obama told Gayle King in an interview that Trump never once reached out to her as first lady. 

Deepa Shivaram and Marianna Sotomayor

3h ago / 10:54 PM UTC

Biden says he’ll do ‘anything we can’ for Georgia Senate candidates

President-elect Joe Biden vowed Tuesday to help the two Senate Democratic candidates who appear headed for runoffs in Georgia

“We’re going to do anything we can, that they think we can do to help them,” Biden told reporters in Delaware of Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Warnock is facing Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a runoff of Jan. 5. NBC News has not yet made a projection in the Ossoff race, though Republican Sen. David Perdue is currently below the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff. He and Ossoff have both started raising money for a runoff.

Republicans currently have a 49-48 seat edge over the Democrats in the Senate, where 51 seats are needed for a majority. NBC News has not made a projection on a remaining seat up for grabs in Alaska, but incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan currently has a commanding lead there with 61 percent of the vote in. 

If the Democrats win both Georgia seats, they’d effectively have a majority because Kamala Harris, as vice president, could act as tiebreaker.

“Obviously it would be much better if we had a tie in the Senate,” Biden said, adding that it would make Harris’ role “incredibly important beyond what she already is.”

Deepa Shivaram, Marianna Sotomayor, Stacey Khizder and Ryan Beals

3h ago / 10:49 PM UTC

Biden hopes to announce some Cabinet picks in next two weeks

President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday that he hoped to unveil some of his Cabinet picks in the next two weeks and predicted they would be confirmable by the Senate.

“I hope we’re able to be in a position to let people know, at least a couple that we want before Thanksgiving, and we’ll just work this out,” Biden said. “Look, I am not a pessimist, as you know.”

Answering questions from reporters in Wilmington after delivering a speech on strengthening the Affordable Care Act, Biden acknowledged that control of the Senate is still up in the air and he might need Republican support for some of his picks, which would mean working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“I understand he said he will make it clear who he is prepared to support and not to support, and that’s a negotiation that I’m sure we’ll have,” Biden said. “Look, one of the things that I would do as president-elect and when I become president is lay out to Republicans, as well as Democrats, who we intend to name for each Cabinet position.” 

Dareh Gregorian

4h ago / 10:19 PM UTC

Biden calls Trump’s failure to concede ‘an embarrassment’

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday called President Donald Trump’s failure to concede the election “an embarrassment,” but said neither that nor the Trump administration’s stonewalling will stop him from getting to work.

Asked for his thoughts on the anxiety some Americans feel over the president’s refusal to publicly admit defeat, Biden said, “I just think it’s an embarrassment, quite frankly.”

“It will not help the president’s legacy,” Biden said, before adding that he didn’t think Trump’s resistance would wind up mattering.

“I think at the end of the day, it will all come to fruition on Jan. 20,” Biden said, referring to Inauguration Day. Biden answered questions from reporters after delivering a speech on the importance of improving the Affordable Care Act in Wilmington.

Trump has so far refused to concede despite network projections that he’s lost, and hard numbers that show Biden leads him by more than 10,000 votes in at least three swing states Trump would have to flip — a margin that has not been overcome in any sort of statewide recount previously. Some Republicans have said the president, who has maintained that he won the election, should wait to concede until the votes are certified.

Read more here.

David K. Li, Dareh Gregorian and Allan Smith

4h ago / 10:08 PM UTC

Democrat Cal Cunningham concedes to Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina race

Democrat Cal Cunningham conceded to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis in the North Carolina race Tuesday, increasing the stakes in the outcomes of Georgia’s Senate races, which appear likely to determine control of the chamber.

NBC News had projected the race as too close to call, but declared Tillis the winner shortly after Cunningham conceded the race. The win gives Republicans 49 seats in the Senate, while Democrats have 48, with two races in Georgia and one in Alaska still outstanding.

“I just called Senator Tillis to congratulate him on winning re-election to a second term in the U.S. Senate and wished him and his family the best in their continued service in the months and years ahead,” Cunningham said in a statement. “The voters have spoken and I respect their decision.”

“While the results of this election suggest there remain deep political divisions in our state and nation,” he added, “the more complete story of our country lies in what unites us: our faith and sense of confidence in our democracy, our civic values and common humanity, our shared aspiration to care for one another, and our belief that we live in a country that does exceptional things.”

Democrats would need to win two of the three remaining Senate contests to gain control of the chamber — with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.

Read more here.

NBC News

6h ago / 8:23 PM UTC

Nicole Via y Rada

6h ago / 8:09 PM UTC

Republicans who have broken with Trump to congratulate Biden on his win

A small but growing group of prominent Republicans have broken with President Donald Trump and the rest of their party in congratulating President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris for their election victory.

Trump has refused to concede the race, and the vast majority of Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have yet to acknowledge the Democrats’ win.

Here are the Republicans who have publicly congratulated the president-elect and vice president-elect.

Allan Smith and Abigail Williams

5h ago / 8:56 PM UTC

Smirking Pompeo says there will be a transition to a ‘second Trump administration’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laughed off a question about the transition of power during a press briefing Tuesday, instead saying there “will be a smooth transition to our second Trump administration.”

The comments come as Trump has refused to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden, who leads by more than 10,000 votes in at least three swing states Trump would have to flip — a margin that has not been overcome in any sort of statewide recount previously. Meanwhile, the president’s legal actions so far have not shown allegations of widespread voter fraud and appear unlikely to change the results of any election in court.

Even without Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina called —  Biden is leading in two of the three — the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee is projected to have won more than the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Yet, with Trump refusing to concede, the administration is slow-walking the transition process.

“There will be a smooth transition to our second Trump administration,” Pompeo said, offering up a laugh after the comment. “Right. We’re ready. The world is watching what’s taking place, we’re going to count all the votes. When the process is completed, there’ll be electors selected. There’s that 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, successful today and successful with a president who’s in office on Jan. 20 a minute after noon will also be successful,” he continued, adding, “I’m very confident that we will do all the things that are necessary to make sure that the government, the United States government, continues to perform its national security function as we go forward.”

World leaders from the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Israel and Turkey, among others, have already congratulated Biden on his victory, some of whom have spoken with him over the phone.

Read the story.

Dareh Gregorian and Andy Eckardt

8h ago / 6:21 PM UTC

Biden gets congratulatory calls from European leaders Johnson, Macron and Merkel

President-elect Joe Biden got congratulatory calls from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has a close relationship with President Donald Trump — publicly congratulated Biden on the election win that Trump has yet to recognize. 

Johnson, who Biden reportedly called Trump’s “physical and emotional clone” last year, tweeted that he had just spoken to Biden “to congratulate him on his election.” “I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities — from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic,”  Johnson said, a play on Biden’s campaign slogan of “Build Back Better.”

Macron, whose more complicated relationship with Trump included epic tug-of-war-style handshakes, also spoke to Biden on Tuesday “to congratulate him and Kamala Harris on their election,” the Elysee press office said. 

Merkel, who Trump once accused of “ruining Germany,” also called Biden to congratulate him and Harris. “The Chancellor expressed the wish for a close and trustful future cooperation,“ the German government statement said.

Erdogan, who Trump said last year he was a “big fan” of,  also congratulated Biden in a statement. He said that the “strong cooperation and alliance” between the Turkey and the U.S. would continue to contribute to world peace, according to a translation of his remarks by Reuters.

Rebecca Shabad and Allan Smith

3h ago / 10:55 PM UTC

House chairs direct Trump administration to preserve records related to investigations

Democratic House committee chairs sent letters Tuesday to the White House and federal agencies directing them to preserve documents related to congressional subpoenas and investigations. 

“Over the last four years, the administration obstructed numerous congressional investigations by refusing to provide responsive information,” the House chairs wrote in letters to agencies and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. 

“You are obligated to ensure that any information previously requested by Congress — and any other information that is required by law to be preserved — is saved and appropriately archived in a manner that is easily retrievable,” they said. 

The request covers documents and electronic messages and metadata “involving official business that were sent using both official and personal accounts or devices, including communications through text messaging, phone-based message applications, or encryption software,” a press release about the letters said. 

Read the story.

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