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President Donald Trump has accepted a formal transition should begin for President-elect Joe Biden to take office.

He said the federal agency overseeing the handover must “do what needs to be done”, even as he vowed to keep contesting his election defeat.

The General Services Administration (GSA) said it was acknowledging Joe Biden as the “apparent winner”.

It came as Joe Biden’s victory in the state of Michigan was officially certified, a major blow to President Trump.

The GSA announcement means the president-elect now has access to top security briefings, office space and government officials as he prepares to take office on January 20.

Joe Biden’s transition website has now changed to a government domain. He will begin announcing the people he wants in the top jobs in his cabinet on November 24.

Biden’s team welcomed the start of the transition process as the Democratic president-elect gears up to be sworn in.

A statement said: “Today’s decision is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”

Earlier, Joe Biden unveiled his nominations for his foreign policy and national security team, consisting of old colleagues from his years in the Obama administration.

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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 are twofold.

  • 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 less harmful.
    • 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 health.
  • 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 handle.

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 sense.

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.


President Donald Trump has refused to respond to a request from Congress to provide a report determining who killed the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In October 2018, senators wrote a letter demanding the murder be investigated and that the White House give more information.

A Trump administration official said the president was within his rights to decline to act.

Jamal Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year.

The journalist was a strong critic of the Saudi government. His body was reportedly dismembered and has still not been found.

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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 appropriate”.

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 Khashoggi’s murder.

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.

Image source Wikimedia

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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>>.”

Image source Wikimedia

White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter Resigns amid Abuse Claims

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.

President Donald Trump has rolled back the access to birth control as his government issued a ruling that allows employers to opt out of providing free birth control to millions of Americans.

The rule allows employers and insurers to decline to provide birth control if doing so violates their “religious beliefs” or “moral convictions”.

About 55 million women benefited from the Obama-era rule, which made companies provide free birth control.

Before taking office, Donald Trump had pledged to eliminate that requirement.

The mandate requiring birth control coverage had been a key feature of ObamaCare – President Obama’s efforts to overhaul the healthcare system.

However, the requirement included a provision that permitted religious institutions to forgo birth control coverage for their employees.

Image source Wikimedia

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on October 6 it was important to expand which organizations can opt out and deny free contraceptive coverage.

“We should have space for organizations to live out their religious ideas and not face discrimination because of their religious ideas,” said one HHS official, who did not wish to be named.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, praised the decision as “a landmark day for religious liberty”.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Women’s Law Center have announced that they will sue the federal government over the decision.

In announcing the rule change, HHS officials cited a study claiming that access to contraception encourages “risky s**ual behavior”.

The HHS disputes reports that millions of women may lose their birth control coverage if they are unable to pay for it themselves.

Roger Severino, the director of the HHS Office of Civil Rights, argued that only a small percentage of employers will choose to opt out, and therefore only a limited number of women will be affected.

However, many health policy analysts say employers that do not wish to pay for their employees’ contraceptive coverage will now be able to.

Anthony Scaramucci has been removed as White House Communications Director after less than 10 days in the post.

The former Wall Street financier had drawn criticism after calling a New Yorker reporter to give a profanity-laced tirade against his own colleagues.

President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and spokesman, Sean Spicer, both left their posts after Anthony Scaramucci’s appointment.

Chief of staff Gen. John Kelly, sworn in on July 31, fired Anthony Scaramucci.

President Trump was also unhappy with Anthony Scaramucci’s performance, the White House confirmed.

Image source Wikipedia

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His spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the president thought Anthony Scaramucci’s comments to the reporter “were inappropriate for a person in that position”.

Anthony Scaramucci has not been moved to another White House role, she added.

President Trump had tweeted in the morning about job and wage figures, and insisted there is “No WH chaos”, referring to reports about fighting among White House staff.

Anthony Scaramucci, The Mooch, as he is widely known, had boasted of reporting directly to the president, rather than to his chief of staff.

Gen. John Kelly, who had formerly served as secretary of homeland security, was sworn in on July 31at the White House.

The resignation of Reince Priebus came on July 28 after Anthony Scaramucci posted and then deleted a tweet which many interpreted as an accusation and a threat against Priebus.

Anthony Scaramucci also called a reporter to attack Reince Priebus as a “paranoid schizophrenic” and accuse him of leaking information to the media.

During the on-the-record phone call, he also made vulgar statements about chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Anthony Scaramucci also pledged to fire every member of the communications team, as part of his crusade against “leakers”.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer wants to minimize talk of divisions within the Trump administration after announcing his resignation.

Sean Spicer is reportedly stepping down because he is unhappy with President Donald Trump’s appointment of a new communications director.

However, he told Fox News he had “no regrets” about his six-month stint.

Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci has been picked for the role that Sean Spicer had partially filled.

The shake-up at the White House comes amid several investigations into alleged Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election and whether Donald Trump’s campaign team colluded with Moscow.

“The president obviously wanted to add to the team, more than anything,” Sean Spicer told interviewer Sean Hannity.

“I just thought it was in the best interest of our communications department, of our press organization, to not have too many cooks in the kitchen.

“Without me in the way, they have a fresh start, so that I’m not lurking over them.”

Sean Spicer, 45, defended President Trump’s agenda, saying it was an honor and a privilege to serve him, and hit out at what he termed “media bias”.

He said: “I was increasingly disappointed about the way the media here do their job – or don’t do their job.”

Sean Spicer also said he had told President Trump he “would stay on for a few weeks to achieve a smooth transition”, and was looking forward to spending more time with his family.

Meanwhile, President Trump wrote on Twitter: “Sean Spicer is a wonderful person who took tremendous abuse from the Fake News Media – but his future is bright!”

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The New York Times reported that Sean Spicer had “vehemently” disagreed with the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci, which he believed to be a “major mistake”.

Sean Spicer’s often chaotic press briefings over the past six months were a cable news hit, but in recent weeks he had withdrawn from appearances in front of the camera.

In an assured debut, Sean Spicer attended Friday afternoon’s news conference to announce that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, formerly his deputy, would step into his shoes.

“I love the president and it’s an honor to be here,” Anthony Scaramucci said, adding: “He is genuinely a wonderful human being.”

Anthony Scaramucci, who has no previous experience in communications roles, paid tribute to Sean Spicer as “a true American patriot” and “incredibly gracious”.

“I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money,” he added.

Anthony Scaramucci also apologized and said he had been “unexperienced” as he explained his previous criticism of Donald Trump.

In an August 2015 interview with Fox Business, Anthony Scaramucci dismissed Donald Trump as a “hack” and “an inherited money dude” with “a big mouth”.

Anthony Scaramucci is currently senior vice-president of the Export-Import Bank, a government agency which guarantees loans for foreign buyers of American exports.

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

Positive Development

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.

Tax Reforms

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.

Banking Regulations

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.

Ivanka Trump is officially joining the Trump administration as an unpaid employee with the title Assistant to the President, the White House has announced.

Donald Trump’s daughter bowed to pressure following an outcry from ethics experts at her initial plans to serve in a more informal capacity.

Ivanka Trump, 35, said she had “heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity”.

Her husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser to President Donald Trump.

In a statement, the White House said it was “pleased that Ivanka Trump has chosen to take this step in her unprecedented role as first daughter”.

The first daughter said in her statement that she had been “working in good faith with the White House Counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role”.

Image source Flickr

Ethics experts cried foul when it emerged last week that Ivanka Trump was to be given a West Wing office and security clearance, without formally joining the administration.

Critics said Ivanka Trump’s role ought to be made official so she could be bound by federal employee transparency and ethical standards, including a law prohibiting conflicts of interest.

Her lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said her client will file the necessary financial disclosures and be subject to official ethics rules.

Former President Barack Obama’s ethics counselor, Norman Eisen, told the Associated Press that “for a change in what has largely been an ethics disaster, the White House came to their senses”.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be an isolated moment of sanity,” he added.

Norman Eisen was among several lawyers and government watchdog experts who wrote last week to White House counsel Don McGahn complaining about Ivanka Trump’s appointment.

Ivanka Trump has already taken steps to limit possible conflicts of interest in her business affairs.

She has passed management of her eponymous fashion label to the company president and established a trust for oversight.

Ivanka Trump has also stepped down from a leadership role in the Trump Organization, although she will continue to receive fixed payments from the real estate company.

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”.

Donald Trump has unveiled the names of the first women in his incoming administration.

Betsy DeVos has been nominated as education secretary and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as US envoy to the UN.

Both of them are former critics of Donald Trump, with Nikki Haley once saying she was “not a fan”, and Betsy DeVos branding the Manhattan tycoon an “interloper”.

Donald Trump’s presidential primary rival Ben Carson also hinted he would soon be named for a post.

Ben Carson wrote on Facebook: “An announcement is forthcoming about my role in helping to make America great again.”

Photo AP

Photo AP

Donald Trump tweeted on November 22 that he was “seriously considering” Ben Carson for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The appointments of Nikki Haley and Betsy DeVos will need to be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Donald Trump called Nikki Haley “a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals”.

“She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage,” he added.

Nikki Haley, 44, said she was “moved” to accept the assignment and would stay on as South Carolina governor, pending her congressional confirmation.

During the Republican primaries, Nikki Haley supported Florida Senator Marco Rubio and then Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

She also strongly attacked Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants, describing it as “un-American”.

In response, Donald Trump had called her “very weak on illegal immigration” and said people in South Carolina were “embarrassed” by her.

Nikki Haley is the first minority and female governor of South Carolina.

Born Nimrata “Nikki” Randhawa to Indian parents, Nikki Haley was raised in a Sikh household and now identifies as a Christian.

She was praised by members of both parties in 2015 when she ordered the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the grounds of the state capitol.

Betsy DeVos said she was honored to accept her appointment.

The billionaire Republican donor from Michigan once described Donald Trump as an “interloper” who “does not represent the Republican Party”.

Betsy DeVos also contributed to Donald Trump’s rivals – Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush – during the election race.

She previously supported the Common Core education standards that Donald Trump and many conservatives have pilloried.

Donald Trump, however, said Betsy DeVos would be “a brilliant and passionate education advocate”.

Betsy DeVos’ husband is heir to the Amway fortune, with a wealth estimated by Forbes at $5.1 billion.

So far, Donald Trump has appointed Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, Mike Pompeo for CIA director, Reince Priebus for Chief of Staff for his top team.

More announcements are expected after the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend.