Malcolm Turnbull and the United States’ stand-in for ambassador to Australia have both said they are “disappointed” that admiral Harry Harris will not be coming to take the role permanently.
Turnbull and the US charge d’affaires, James Carouso, have both sought to downplay claims that the Trump administration’s decision to redirect Harris to represent the US in South Korea amounts to treating Australia like a second-class ally.
On Thursday Carouso told ABC News Breakfast it was a “top priority” to bring a US ambassador to Australia but conceded that “we are all disappointed” Harris, the head of the US Pacific command, will not fill the role.
He asked Australians to look at the “bigger picture” in Korea, citing upcoming talks between Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to argue that the US needs an ambassador on the ground in South Korea.
Carouso said the US was sending Harris “because of the urgency of the situation in Korea” and applied a positive spin by claiming it “reflects the fact that the United States and Australia have worked together to apply pressure on Korea that has brought us to this point”.
Carouso said Australia’s relationship with the US was “incredibly broad and tight”, citing the fact that ministers can contact their US counterparts and more than 700 Australian officials had visited Washington and vice versa in the last year.
“Australia should have an ambassador here, there is no doubt … I don’t know the exact situation but I have been told this is the top priority to get the next person out here as quickly as possible,” he said.
Turnbull has not spoken to the US president since learning of the decision earlier this week but insists he is unperturbed.
“I’m disappointed that Harry’s not coming because he’s a really good friend, and I think Harry will be disappointed that he’s not coming to Canberra too because he loves Australia,” Turnbull told reporters in France.
“He is a guy of enormous experience and ability and, given the situation on the Korean peninsula, given the tensions there, I can well understand why the president has decided that the admiral’s expertise and experience is going to be able to be put to better use in Korea than in Australia.”
Turnbull praised the “fantastic job” being done by Carouso. The full-time Canberra post has been vacant since September 2016.
“The relationship between Australia and the United States, as you all know as well as I do, that is so deep and so intense and operates at so many levels,” Turnbull said. “The absence, if you like, of an ambassador is not really troubling the very strong relationship we have whatsoever.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, confirmed Harris would not be heading to Canberra after being notified by the acting US secretary of state, John Sullivan.
Bishop said Sullivan made it clear a new appointment to Canberra would be a priority for the next secretary of state.
“Based on the assumption he is confirmed by the Senate this week, I hope to have a conversation with Mike Pompeo as soon as possible,” she said.
Andrew Shearer, a senior policy adviser for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has said it is “hard to escape a bit of a sense that Australia is being treated here as a second-class ally”.
A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Thomas Wright, told Fairfax Media the backflip sent a “terrible” and “unfortunate” message because it suggested Australia “is not a priority”.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow
The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.
The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan.
The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.
In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.
Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.
“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”
Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President
(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.
Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.
Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.
It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.
Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.
Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.
California Governor Formally Appoints Alex Padilla To Fill US Senate Seat Vacated By Kamala Harris
(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to the US Senate today, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Padilla formally resigned as Secretary of State this morning and Gov. Newsom also submitted his nomination letter for Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace him. The Deputy Secretary of State, James Schwab, will be the Acting Secretary of State.
“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Gov. Newsom.
“I am humbled and honored by your trust in me to represent California in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the great State of California as a United States Senator and to ensuring that the rights and democratic principles we cherish are protected and preserved for all people,” Padilla wrote in a letter to Gov. Newsom.
Some context: Earlier today, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally resigned her seat as one of California’s US Senators. She’ll be inaugurated as vice president on Wednesday, Jan. 20. In a farewell addressed posted to Twitter, Harris said, “Of course, I’m not saying goodbye. In many ways, I’m now saying hello as your vice president.”