Joe Biden is set to appoint Anthony Blinken as secretary of state and John Kerry as climate envoy, while Janet Yellen is tipped to be the first female US treasury secretary.
The list of selections came ahead of a formal announcement on November 24. Most of the appointments will require Senate confirmation.
President Trump tweeted as the GSA, which is tasked with formally beginning presidential changeovers, informed the Biden camp that it would start the transition process.
GSA administrator Emily Murphy said she was making $6.3 million in funds available to the president-elect.
President Trump said: “In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
However, Donald Trump did not concede and went on to repeat unsubstantiated claims of corruption, pledging to keep up the “good fight”. It is worth noting that Donald Trump does not have to concede for Joe Biden to be sworn in as the 46th US president.
The Trump administration’s budget proposal for the new fiscal year includes a plan that would spin out the Center for Tobacco Products as a separate agency from the Food and Drug Administration, according to The Hill. Presently, the FDA regulates all tobacco products in the United States along with foods, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. In the years since, however, the nature of the tobacco industry was transformed by the advent of vaping products and e liquid. While the total number of tobacco products on the market once numbered in the dozens – and most of those were grandfathered by the Tobacco Control Act – there are now hundreds of vaping products on U.S. shelves being sold without approval, and the FDA needs to receive and begin processing pre-market applications for those products by May.
The FDA has repeatedly stated that it lacks the resources to
promptly process pre-market applications for vaping products while handling all
of its other duties.
Why Has the Trump Administration Proposed a New Tobacco Control Agency?
According to the administration’s budget proposal, the
reasons for spinning out the Center for Tobacco Products into a separate agency
The creators of the Tobacco Control Act didn’t
envision how the tobacco industry would change in the future. Vaping is an
extremely complex issue, and a separate agency would have its own budget and
resources for handling that.
The core mission of the FDA is to regulate and
ensure the safety of foods and medications. When one really thinks about it, the
addition of tobacco product regulation to the FDA’s existing duties isn’t
entirely logical; tobacco products don’t promote health. In the words of White
House Domestic Policy Council head Joe Grogan, tobacco products have “no
redeeming qualities,” and tasking the FDA with regulating those products is a
“huge waste of time” for an agency created for the promotion of public health.
How Has Vaping Increased the Complexity of Tobacco Regulation?
When the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act
of 2009 was signed into law by President Obama, the tobacco industry was very
different from today. No one could have anticipated how the industry would
change in the coming decade. The reasons for the complexity surrounding tobacco
regulation in 2020 are as follows:
The Tobacco Control Act established a
grandfather date of 2007 for existing tobacco products, allowing those products
to remain on the market with a handful of changes:
Descriptive terms like “Light” and “Ultra-Light”
were no longer allowed because those terms implied that those products were
Flavored cigarettes – apart from menthol – were
no longer allowed.
Companies couldn’t bring new tobacco products to
the market without first submitting applications to the FDA proving that those
products were beneficial to public health and wouldn’t encourage new nicotine
uptake. Effectively, the law made it illegal to release a new combustible
cigarette brand in the United States; no combustible cigarette benefits public
Vaping didn’t achieve mainstream popularity
until after the signing of the Tobacco Control Act.
In 2016, the FDA announced that it deemed vaping
products to be tobacco products and would regulate them as such under the
provisions of the Tobacco Control Act.
No vaping product currently sold in the United
States was available in 2007. Therefore, every vaping product on the market is an
unapproved “new tobacco product” requiring a pre-market application.
When the Tobacco Control Act was signed into law, lawmakers
expected that the FDA would receive new tobacco product applications only
rarely. Instead, the agency may have to process hundreds of new product
applications in 2020. It’s an enormous burden that the FDA isn’t equipped to
Expert Opinions on Trump’s Tobacco Control Proposal
Some experts believe that the FDA is already doing a well
enough job of regulating tobacco and vaping products and have applauded the
agency’s efforts to ramp up its capabilities in advance of the May 2020
pre-market application deadline for vaping products. Recently departed FDA head
Scott Gottlieb – a vocal proponent of vaping’s potential as an agent for
tobacco harm reduction – stated that he found tobacco regulation an extremely
productive use of his time when he was the agency’s commissioner.
Some also believe that keeping the authority to regulate
tobacco products within the FDA is the right decision because the agency is
theoretically insulated from outside political pressure. Creating a separate
agency for tobacco regulation, those people say, gives tobacco companies a
potential opportunity to meddle.
At the time of writing, no one from the vaping industry has
commented about the budget proposal. The reason for the silence from the
industry may be the fact that the organizational realignment wouldn’t
fundamentally change anything about the way in which the government regulates the
vaping industry. Pre-market applications for all vaping products will still be
due by May 2020, and those applications will still be too expensive for most of
the industry’s small businesses to put together. The realignment wouldn’t solve
the core problem with vaping product regulations in the United States: Applying
the same rules to both vaping products and tobacco products simply doesn’t make
Will the Trump Administration’s Budget Proposal Pass?
The idea of creating a new government agency for tobacco product
regulation is just one section of the Trump administration’s proposed $4.8
trillion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and the budget requires approval
from the House of Representatives and the Senate before it can be enacted. Since
the Democratic party controls the House of Representatives, it is extremely
unlikely that the proposed budget will be passed in its current form. In
particular, the idea of creating a new tobacco control agency seems to have
little support among lawmakers.
The Tobacco Control Act presents an additional challenge in
the implementation of the Trump administration’s budget proposal. Since the law
tasks the FDA with the job of regulating tobacco products, an amendment to the
law would likely be necessary before that responsibility
could legally be transferred to another government agency.
US intelligence officials have reportedly said such an operation would have
needed the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
However, Saudi officials insist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by a
“rogue” team of Saudi agents not acting on the prince’s orders.
An administration statement said President Trump “maintains his
discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when
However, Democratic senators told the New
York Times President Trump was in breach of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which
requires a response within 120 days to requests from Senate committee leaders.
That deadline passed on February 8.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has written to Senate leaders describing actions
taken against individuals.
However, the documents do not indicate who was responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s
death, as demanded by the senators.
The US has imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials, including Saud
al-Qahtani, a former adviser to the crown prince who, it alleged, was
“part of the planning and execution of the operation” that led to Jamal
However, President Trump has faced criticism from senators for failing to condemn the Saudi crown prince directly.
President Donald Trump has fired his National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster replacing him with Bush-era defense hawk and former UN ambassador John Bolton.
The president tweeted to thank General H.R. McMaster, saying he had done an “outstanding job & will always remain my friend”.
John Bolton, who has backed attacking North Korea and Iran, told Fox News his job would be to ensure the president has “the full range of options”.
The former UN ambassador becomes President Trump’s third national security chief in 14 months.
H.R. McMaster is the latest high-profile departure from the White House.
Last week, President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by a tweet, replacing him with former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
John Bolton’s appointment does not require US Senate confirmation. He will take the job on April 9.
The National Security Adviser is the key counselor to the president on national security and foreign policy issues, and acts as a conduit for policy proposals coming from various government departments, including defense and state.
John Bolton, 69, said he was looking forward to working with President Trump and his team “to make our country safer at home and stronger abroad”.
He has been a foreign policy hawk in Republican circles for decades, having served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
President George W. Bush appointed John Bolton as US envoy to the UN, during which time diplomats privately criticized his style as abrasive.
A strident neo-conservative, John Bolton helped build the case that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be wrong.
Known for his walrus moustache, John Bolton does not appear to have greatly moderated his views since his last spell in government.
John Bolton stands by the invasion of Iraq and has advocated in newspaper op-eds using military force against North Korea and Iran.
In a brief statement on March 22, General H.R. McMaster, 55, thanked President Trump for appointing him and said he was applying to retire from the US Army later this year.
The three-star general is leaving after just over a year as national security adviser.
The White House said President Trump and H.R. McMaster had “mutually agreed” that he would leave. He had been rumored for weeks to be on his way out.
His departure came a day after someone at the White House leaked to media that President Trump was advised this week in briefing documents not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his recent re-election, but did it anyway.
General H.R. McMaster replaced Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was fired after less than a month in the job for misleading the White House about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
President Donald Trump’s speechwriter David Sorensen has become the second White House aide this week to resign amid allegations of domestic abuse.
However, David Sorensen denies his ex-wife’s allegations he was violent and emotionally abusive.
David Sorensen’s departure comes just days after another Trump top aide, Rob Porter, quit over allegations of abuse from two ex-wives, something he denies.
Questions have been raised over how long it took the White House to act on the accusations facing Rob Porter.
Jessica Corbett, David Sorensen’s ex-wife, told the Washington Post that he was physically abusive to her while they were married.
She said that on separate occasions David Sorensen ran a car over her foot, threw her against a wall and extinguished a cigarette on her hand.
In response, her former husband released a statement in which he said he had “never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life” and that instead it was he who had been physically abused.
David Sorensen said he was considering legal action, but said he quit because he “didn’t want the White House to have to deal with this distraction”.
White House officials said they learned of the accusations by David Sorensen’s wife on February 8.
Deputy press secretary Raj Shah said: “We immediately confronted the staffer, he denied the allegations and he resigned today.”
Allegations of domestic abuse against Rob Porter involving two ex-wives surfaced on February 6.
It is alleged that the former White House staff secretary gave one ex-wife a black eye while another filed a restraining order. He denies the allegations.
On February 9, President Trump paid tribute to Rob Porter, who quit his White House position on February 7.
Speaking in the Oval Office President Trump said: “We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it’s a tough time for him.”
However, the president did not refer to Rob Porter’s accusers.
Donald Trump’s comments sparked criticism from Democrats, with former VP Joe Biden saying the president had downplayed the allegations against Rob Porter.
Joe Biden said: “That’s like saying: <<That axe murderer out there, he’s a great painter>>.”
The case has put pressure on President Trump’s Chief-of-Staff John Kelly, who has denied reports he offered to resign over his handling of the accusations.
After initially praising Rob Porter as a man of “integrity”, John Kelly later released a statement saying he was shocked by the claims and stressed domestic violence was unacceptable.
According to media reports, John Kelly and other White House officials were aware for several months of the domestic abuse accusations because they were holding up Rob Porter’s security clearance application.
Raj Shah said that President Trump was not aware of any security issues before February 6 and was “disheartened” and “saddened” by the accusations.
White House communications director Hope Hicks’ handling of the controversy has also reportedly displeased President Trump.
Hope Hicks, 29, has recently been in a relationship with Rob Porter, a Harvard graduate and former Oxford Rhodes Scholar.
President Trump was reportedly not consulted when Hope Hicks helped draft an initial statement defending Rob Porter.
According to CBS News, Rob Porter approached White House Counsel Don McGahn in January 2017 to inform him his ex-wives might say unflattering things about him to background check investigators.
In June 2017, Rob Porter’s preliminary file was sent from the FBI to the White House security office, containing the abuse allegations.
In November, Don McGahn received a call from an ex-girlfriend of Rob Porter alleging physical violence by the aide.
Don McGahn told the White House chief of staff there was an issue with Rob Porter’s security clearance, although he was vague, reports CBS.
Rob Porter told John Kelly his ex-wives were saying false things about him.
A White House spokesman said on February 8 that John Kelly did not realize the extent of the claims until a photo of one of Rob Porter’s former wives, Colbie Holderness, suffering a black eye, emerged on February 7.
Small businesses in the U.S. make a significant contribution to the country’s economy. The Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that there are now an estimated 28 million small sized businesses in America which account for more than half or 54 percent of all sales in the U.S. They have also been providing 55 percent of all jobs and 66 percent of all new jobs in the country since the 1970s. Since 1982, their number has grown by 49 percent while in 1990, these small businesses provided 8 million new jobs.
With Donald Trump now as the new U.S. president, many business owners are optimistic of their future. Being a businessman himself, Trump is seen as a business-friendly president who can help improve their enterprises and the country’s economy in general.
While optimism is increasing at the moment, major players in the small business industry want Trump to focus on two most important issues which pertain to healthcare and access to capital. Some are also expecting new legislations to be passed in the future to clarify the employee-contractor distinction.
Image source Flickr
One area in the U.S. now experiencing positive growth among small businesses is Detroit. Business owner Joe Spencer revealed his restaurant achieved $1.2 million in sales last year prompting him to open a second branch. He expressed optimism over this development and remains hopeful that more investors will put their money in the country to generate more employment.
Another positive outcome of Trump’s presidency is the creation of new or startup companies. The Detroit metro area, in particular, saw 73 percent new entrepreneurs start companies in 2016 because of the opportunity available in the marketplace.
Business confidence is high in this area as well as in other parts of the U.S. and entrepreneurs are hopeful that the Trump administration will implement more reforms, invest in infrastructure and eventually make the country’s economy stronger.
A former head of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and senior fellow at the Harvard Business School, Karen Mills, also said the Federal government should create tax requirements to be able to source more from small supply chain companies based in the U.S. She added that Trump should use incentives to encourage companies to pay these suppliers faster than usual and invest in them as well by providing technology and skills training. The bigger companies, for their part, must treat their small business suppliers as partners.
When it comes to taxes, Trump should pursue his plan of reducing the business tax rate from the current 35 percent to 15 percent. This should be done along with the elimination of the corporate alternative minimum tax as what he earlier proposed during the campaign period. Right now, the U.S. has one of the world’s highest corporate tax rates but with the proposed cut, the American economy is sure to grow and people will enjoy higher personal income.
The Trump administration is currently discussing two major comprehensive tax reform plans. One is the President’s own plan and the other is the so-called “Blueprint” created by the House Ways and Means Committee. Both are similar in many ways but differ in certain provisions.
These two tax reforms call for three tax brackets – 12, 25 and 33 percent but they differ on when each will apply. Also, they seek to scrap the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) which means that small business owners could eventually save up to 10.4 percent in their maximum tax rate.
President Donald Trump has earlier expressed his interest in making banking regulations lighter across the industries. The Wall St. Journal noted that he was even critical of the signing into law by President Obama of the Dodd-Frank regulatory amendments in 2010 saying that smaller banks were adversely affected by it.
If bank regulations are reduced, on the other hand, there’s a greater chance that banks including the smaller ones can approve business loans freely. This will then benefit entrepreneurs as they can easily obtain laws to expand and grow their businesses.
President Donald Trump’s controversial nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has been confirmed by the Senate by slenderest possible margin.
Vice-President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to secure her cabinet role, splitting the chamber 50-50.
It was the first time ever that a vice-president has interceded in such a way for a cabinet secretary.
Betsy DeVos, a billionaire who has no experience with public schools, faced a rocky confirmation hearing last month.
Immediately after voting ended, she tweeted: “I appreciate the Senate’s diligence & am honored to serve as @usedgov Secretary.
“Let’s improve options & outcomes for all US students.”
Image source EPA
On February 7, Senate Democrats staged a 24-hour debate to hold up her confirmation.
They hoped their all-night speaking marathon would pressure more Republican senators to oppose the nomination, but their efforts were in vain.
Mike Pence was also the first vice-president to cast a deciding vote in the Senate since 2008, when Dick Cheney voted on a tax adjustment plan.
No Democrats voted in favor of Betsy DeVos. Two Republican senators stood by their plan to oppose her confirmation, leaving the Senate in a deadlock.
Critics say Betsy DeVos is unqualified to run the Department of Education.
The 59-year-old faced intense scrutiny before a Senate committee in January, when she made headlines for noting that a Wyoming school might need a gun to defend against grizzly bears.
Labor unions, rights groups and teaching organizations have also spoken out against her nomination.
Groups including the American Federation of Teachers and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights held protests against Betsy DeVos outside of Congress on February 6.
She is a wealthy Republican Party donor and a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman who has long campaigned for education reform in the state.
Betsy DeVos is a champion of charter schools, which are publicly funded but operate outside state school systems.
Her husband Dick DeVos was a chief executive of the beauty and nutrition giant Amway and her brother is Erik Prince, the founder of the controversial private security company Blackwater.
Betsy DeVos is among several of Donald Trump’s cabinet picks whom Democrats have been trying to block from being approved.
Democrats said in January they would target eight of Donald Trump’s nominees based on their lack of qualifications and policy positions.
According to the Washington Post, before Betsy DeVos’ approval, just six of Donald Trump’s cabinet picks had been confirmed, compared with former President Barack Obama’s 12 cabinet secretaries at this point in 2009 and 16 of George W. Bush’s in 2001.
The slowed process is also partly due to the fact that some of Donald Trump’s picks have not completed a lengthy vetting process typically required of Cabinet candidates, which helps identify potential conflicts of interest.
Hundreds of staff positions also remain vacant as the fate of 15 of Trump administration’s nominees hangs in the balance.
Donald Trump’s team has become embroiled in a fresh war of words with the media.
On January 21, President Trump had condemned media reporting of the number of people attending his inauguration.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said there was “an obsession… to de-legitimize this president. We’re not going to sit around and take it.”
However, photos show more people attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009.
Reince Priebus said on Fox News Sunday that the “media from day one has been talking about de-legitimizing the election”. He said Donald Trump’s presidency would fight such coverage “tooth and nail every day”.
The latest row was mainly sparked by the inauguration figures.
There were no official estimates. President Trump said during a visit to the CIA on January 21 that it “looked like a million and a half people”, but provided no evidence. He called reporters “among the most dishonest human beings on Earth” for saying it was far lower.
Image source CNBC
Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer outlined figures amounting to 720,000 people in Washington’s National Mall, despite also saying that “no-one had numbers” for the inauguration.
Sean Spicer also said it was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe”.
Many outlets, using photos of the National Mall showing the difference in numbers attending the 2009 inauguration and Donald Trump’s, hit out at Sean Spicer’s statements.
The New York Times denounced “false claims” and described the statements as a “striking display of invective and grievance at the dawn of a presidency”.
Both CNN and ABC News went into detail to refute Sean Spicer’s claims.
Donald Trump’s aide Kellyanne Conway also criticized the media in a feisty exchange on NBC.
Kellyanne Conway was challenged by Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press to say why Sean Spicer’s first appearance had been to “utter a probable falsehood”.
“If we are going to keep referring to our press secretary in those type of terms, I think we are going to have to rethink our relationship here,” she said.
Pressed on Sean Spicer’s claims, Kellyanne Conway said he had been presenting “alternative facts”.
“Alternative facts are not facts they are falsehoods,” Chuck Todd replied.
Kellyanne Conway insisted there was “no way to really quantify crowds” and, taking offence at a laugh from the reporter, said: “You can laugh at me all you want. It’s symbolic of the way we are treated by the press the way you just laughed at me.”
She also highlighted another issue that caused friction with the media – the Time Magazine reporter who incorrectly reported that a bust of civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. The reporter later apologized for the error.
On January 22, Donald Trump tweeted about TV ratings of the inauguration, saying that 31 million people had watched, 11 million more than four years ago.
The president also referred to January 21 protests that saw millions in the US and hundreds of thousands around the globe take to the streets in some 600 demonstrations against his presidency.
Donald Trump’s initial tweet said he was “under the impression that we just had an election”, asking: “Why didn’t these people vote?”
A later tweet said that “peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy”.
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