Great Britain

Biden introduces national security team as stocks soar before Trump pardons a turkey

President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled part of his national security team and said it would not bend sensitive intelligence to his personal beliefs while Donald Trump tried to take credit for a stock market surge and pardoned a turkey.

The incoming national security team will only “tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know”, Mr Biden said in a not-so-veiled dig at the man he will replace on 20 January. Democrats and some Republicans for years criticised Mr Trump for cultivating a culture in which his top security aides tried to please him more than warn him of possible threats.

Mr Biden introduced several Cabinet-level nominees as he declared “America is back … at the head of the table” on global affairs. He previewed a foreign policy he contended will seek to restore America’s relationships with other countries and depart from the Trump administration’s hardline policies.

He also indirectly eschewed Mr Trump’s withdrawal from several global pacts and signaled an interest at re-entering them.

But it was Mr Trump’s immigration and climate policies that seemed most on the president-elect’s mind.

He slammed what he called “years of … outright cruelty at DHS”, an apparent reference to Mr Trump’s immigration policies like one to separate migrant families at the US-Mexico border.

The vice president-elect, Kamala Harris, wrapping up the event in Wilmington, Delaware, said the national security team she and the incoming commander in chief selected will follow “facts” – another dig at Mr Trump and his fact-challenged presidency.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Mr Biden’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, a Cuban-born immigrant who would be the first Latino to lead the agency, talked about his background after being introduced by the president.

“I will work day in night in the service of our nation,” he said, “and to bring honor to my parents.”

The family fled the Castro revolution for the United States when he was young.

The department he is being asked to lead “has a noble mission, to help keep us safe and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome”, Mr Mayorkas said, after his soon-to-be-boss hailed the coming historical moment if he is confirmed and sworn in next year.

“I'm proud that for the first time ever, the department will be led by an immigrant, a Latino, who knows we are a nation of laws and values,” Mr Biden said.

Meantime, at the White House, Mr Trump made a sudden, unplanned and brief appearance in the briefing room as the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared past the 30,000-point mark for the first time ever.

“I just want to congratulate everybody. The stock market, Dow Jones Industrial Average just hit 30,000, which is the highest in history,” Mr Trump said. “We’ve never broken 30,000, and that’s despite everything that’s taken place with the pandemic.”

“That’s a sacred number: 30,000,” he added before leaving without taking reporters’ questions. “Nobody thought they’d ever see it.”

Experts said the Dow appeared to soar because Wall Street was eager to move on to the Biden administration after weeks of a stalled transition as Mr Trump mounted legal challenges in several swing states. But his team has, so far, failed to win a major court case or invalidate any ballots that went for Mr Biden.

Investors also seemed buoyed by news that leaked on Monday about Mr Biden planning to make former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen the first female Treasury Secretary.

During her time as Fed chair under Presidents Barack Obama and Trump from 2014 to 2018, Ms Yellen presided over steady economic growth. She is a believer in low interest rates, and earlier this year urged Congress and the Trump administration to strike a deal to extend $600 weekly payments to those out of work during the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “catastrophic” to not do so.

“We need the spending that those unemployed workers can do,” she told a House committee.

Mr Trump also later ignored reporters’ questions after pardoning a turkey ahead of America’s Thanksgiving feast in an annual lighthearted event made permanent by the Republican former president from whom Mr Trump mirrored his “America first” governing philosophy and “Make America great again” mantra and line of merchandise.

“Will you be issuing a pardon for yourself?” a journalist shouted as the president was leaving the event. Mr Trump did not answer.

“Mr President, will you invite President-elect Biden," a female reporter asked next, presumably meaning for the usual meeting in the Oval Office between an outgoing and incoming president to discuss the job and challenges the new commander in chief will face.  Again, Mr Trump did not answer.

But during his prepared remarks to start the event, he did appear to have some advice for Mr Biden: “America first – shouldn’t go away from that.”

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