Biden Praises Pence’s Knowledge Of Russia, Gives Him Tips On Ukraine
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has praised the man who will replace him, saying Vice President-elect Mike Pence knows more about Russia than his running mate, Donald Trump.
Olympians From Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan Sanctioned For Doping
Eight athletes have been disqualified from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in Beijing and London after drug retests, including two Belarusians and six athletes from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and China.
Vice President Biden to Make Swansong Visit to Ukraine
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will fly to Kiev on Sunday on a farewell visit by one of Ukraine’s strongest political supporters, as the country looks forward with apprehension to the new administration of Donald Trump.
Biden, whose visit was announced by the office of President Petro Poroshenko, has been the front man for U.S. policy towards Ukraine since street protests in 2013-2014 forced a Russian-backed leader to flee and the pro-Western opposition took over, promising sweeping reforms whose delivery has been patchy.
The United States has invested heavily in the reform process, providing over $3 billion in economic assistance. It has imposed sanctions against Russia for annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and backing separatists in a conflict in the east of the country.
Biden has been closely involved, visiting Ukraine four times since the change in power and maintaining regular telephone contact with Poroshenko and the prime minister.
Officials in Ukraine have expressed concern that U.S. support could wane following the Jan. 20 inauguration of Trump, who has voiced admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and a desire to improve ties with Moscow.
Biden, who last year promised the “unwavering support” of the United States for Ukraine, has nevertheless chastised officials for lacklustre reform efforts, warning that endemic corruption risks undermining international will to maintain sanctions on Russia.
During Biden’s last visit to Kyiv in December 2015, he made an impassioned speech to the Ukrainian parliament, saying lawmakers needed to do more in “a historic battle against corruption.”
France Orders Release On Bail Of Former Kosovo PM
A court in France has ordered former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj released from custody pending a decision on his possible extradition to Serbia.
Trump’s Nominees to Lead Pentagon, CIA, HUD Get Confirmation Hearings
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Defense gets his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, while the same committee considers legislation necessary to make him even eligible for the job.
Retired General James Mattis will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is expected to give him approval.
Mattis would become the first career military member to lead the Pentagon in more than 50 years. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2013 after serving as the head of U.S. Central Command and with experience leading forces during the war in Afghanistan and two wars in Iraq.
A law bars military officers from becoming defense secretary until they have been retired for seven years, so Congress will have to pass a one-time exception for Mattis.
Written in 1947, the law was meant to create space between military service and civilian directorship of the department.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to discuss the exception immediately after the confirmation hearing. The House Armed Services Committee is also due to consider the measure Thursday, but without testimony from Mattis, who had been scheduled to attend the hearing before Trump transition officials canceled the appearance.
Mattis has expressed concerns about security threats posed by Iran, and has said he does not support enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo, is appearing Thursday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for his confirmation hearing.
Pompeo has criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for reining in the interrogation techniques, saying the methods were “within the law, within the Constitution, and conducted with the full knowledge” of appropriate lawmakers.
Pompeo, a graduate of Harvard Law School and the West Point military academy, drew criticism in 2013 after he suggested Muslim leaders who don’t publicly condemn terror attacks are “potentially complicit” in the attacks.
Trump has frequently criticized the U.S. intelligence community, and speculated that the agencies were responsible for leaking unsubstantiated allegations about his ties to Russia. The president-elect said in nominating Pompeo he would be a “brilliant and unrelenting leader for our intelligence community.”
HUD nominee Ben Carson
A third confirmation hearing Thursday involves one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is up for the job of leading the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
After Trump took the lead in the race about a month after he declared he was running for president, Carson was the only challenger in the Republican field who managed to pull ahead of him in national polls, though that lasted only a few days. He supported Trump quickly after dropping out of the race.
Carson lacks public policy experience, but a collection of former HUD secretaries who served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush wrote in a letter to the committee they believe he will listen to the agency’s civil servants to help its mission to create affordable homes and inclusive communities.
In the past, Carson has voiced opposition to government programs that encourage what he says is “dependency,” and has touted the virtues of individual effort in becoming successful.
Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report
Clapper: US Intel Sources Did Not Leak Russian Allegations to Media
U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday he told President-elect Donald Trump the intelligence community did not create a document featuring claims Russia compiled information to attempt to compromise Trump.
CNN, which first reported the unsubstantiated allegations Tuesday, did not give details of the compromising information. But the BuzzFeed digital media site posted online what it said was the full dossier alleging Russia’s government had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump” for years.
In his statement, Clapper said the intelligence community has not made any judgment that the information is reliable, and that he emphasized to Trump that he does not believe it was leaked to the media by intelligence sources.
Clapper said it is part of his obligation to make sure policymakers have the most complete picture possible of matters that might affect national security.
Trump was given a two-page synopsis of the unsubstantiated information last Friday, when he also was given a classified briefing on alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. President Barack Obama was given the same information during a Thursday briefing.
Trump angrily rejected the reported claims during his first news conference as president-elect Wednesday.
“I think it is a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information. I read the information outside of that meeting. It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen,” he said.
WATCH: Trump denounces ‘fake news’
The president-elect’s attorney, Michael Cohen, told reporters the allegations in the document are false and were invented to malign Trump.
In Moscow, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday the claims are meant to hurt U.S.-Russian relations.
“No, Kremlin doesn’t have any compromising information on Trump. This information [the report] does not correspond to reality and is nothing else by an absolute fabrication,” he said.
What does Russia have on Trump?
House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters Wednesday any financial or personal allegations against President-elect Donald Trump “cannot have an impact on the national security of the United States of America.”
Pelosi declined to get into the details of the latest revelations alleging ties between Russia and Trump, noting the information had been in circulation among journalists for some time and had remained uncorroborated.
Pelosi did say she had broader concerns about the president-elect’s approach to the U.S.-Russia relationship. “I always wondered what did Russia have on Donald Trump?” she told reporters.
Pelosi cautioned that her judgements were based on information in the public domain and not on any classified briefings she has received. The House Democratic leader declined to speculate on the consequences of the allegations if they are found to be true.
Such materials, known in Russian as “kompromat,” are frequently prepared by some intelligence agencies to create negative publicity for purposes of blackmail and to ensure loyalty.
“It should not be a surprise to anyone that the Russians are always looking for dirt on any politician,” House of Representative intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes told reporters.
“I would not jump to any conclusions. This seems maybe taken a little out of context,” added Nunes, a Republican who has worked with the Trump transition team.
U.S. intelligence agency chiefs last week testified to the Senate that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an operation to meddle with the U.S. election with the aim of hurting Clinton’s campaign and boosting that of Trump who won the decisive electoral college count but lost the popular vote to Clinton.
VOA Senior Diplomatic correspondent Steve Herman and VOA House of Representatives correspondent Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.
World Bank Warns Russia On Lagging Competitiveness
In a new report, the World Bank has said Russia must diversify its economy, improve its investment climate, and make major infrastructure investments if it hopes to be competitive in the global economy.
Tajikistan Protests Remarks By Afghan Ambassador To Russia
The Tajik Foreign Ministry says that it summoned the Afghan ambassador in Dushanbe late in December and lodged a diplomatic protest over remarks made by the Afghan ambassador to Russia.