WASHINGTON – The Trump administration Monday redesignated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” hitting the country with new sanctions that could hamstring President-elect Joe Biden's promise to renew relations with the communist-governed island.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the step, citing in particular Cuba's continued harboring of U.S. fugitives, its refusal to extradite a coterie of Colombian guerrilla commanders as well as its support for Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro. The designation, which had been discussed for years, is one of several last-minute foreign policy moves the Trump administration is making before Biden takes office Jan. 20.
Removing Cuba from the blacklist had been one of former President Barack Obama's main foreign policy achievements as he sought better relations with the island, an effort endorsed by Biden as his vice president. Ties had been essentially frozen after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
Acting DHS head abruptly resigns
President Donald Trump's acting head of the Department of Homeland Security abruptly resigned Monday, leaving the post ahead of schedule as the nation faces a heightened terrorism threat from extremists seeking to reverse the election.
The announcement by acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf was perplexing. It came less than a week after Wolf pledged to remain in office and just 10 days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Wolf cited a legal challenge to his leadership as a reason for his resignation, but that had surfaced months ago.
Wolf's departure followed the abrupt resignation of other Cabinet officials angered by Trump's role in encouraging the mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 over his false claims of election fraud. The resignation also comes a day before Trump is set to visit the U.S.-Mexico border wall, Trump's signature political project and one overseen by DHS.
Veteran diplomat named to lead CIA
William Burns, a well-known figure in diplomatic circles around the world, is President-elect Joe Biden's choice to lead the CIA, a selection likely to be embraced by the rank and file at the nation's premier spy agency.
A former ambassador to Russia and Jordan, Burns, 64, had a 33-year career at the State Department under both Republican and Democratic presidents. He rose through the ranks of the diplomatic corps to become deputy secretary of state before retiring in 2014 to run the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace.
If confirmed, he would succeed Gina Haspel, the first female CIA director, who guided the agency under President Donald Trump. Trump expressed skepticism about intelligence and frequently disparaged the assessments of U.S. spy agencies, especially about Russia's interference in the 2016 election to help his campaign.
First lady decries riot, 'accusations'
Melania Trump said Monday she is “disappointed and disheartened” by the deadly riot at the Capitol last week by supporters of her husband. But in breaking her silence, she also lashed out at people she said have used the tragic event to spread “salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks and false and misleading accusations about me.”
The first lady did not say whom she was referring to. Last week, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the first lady's former friend and one-time assistant, wrote an editorial accusing Mrs. Trump of being “complicit in the destruction of America.”
Their friendship ended bitterly after Wolkoff, who had worked on arranging festivities for Trump's inauguration in 2017, said the first lady failed to defend her after questions arose about inaugural spending, now the subject of federal and congressional investigations.