Obama’s Last Words, Trump’s First, and Also Confirmation Hearings: The Weekend Behind, the Week Ahead
- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
This week, so many people are going to speak.
U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver a farewell address in Chicago on Jan. 10. Then, on Jan. 11, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will hold his first press conference since last summer (when he pleaded with Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.)
Jan. 11 is also the day Republican leadership scheduled six Cabinet confirmation hearings. Democrats say this may be a ploy to rush through nominees. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) stressed that six hearings in one day is “not standard,” while Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said, “They’re jamming them together so that they receive less scrutiny and attention individually.”
Among those: ExxonMobil chief and Russia’s Order of Friendship winner Rex Tillerson, nominated for secretary of state; Rep. Michael Pompeo (R-Kan.), nominated to lead the CIA; and Gen. John Kelly, nominated to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Jan. 11 will also be the second day of hearings for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s pick to lead the Justice Department, despite the fact that the Senate considered him too racist to be a federal judge in the 1980s. Whether Democrats will oppose nominations — or whether they will heed Sen. Mitch McConnell’s advice to “grow up” and confirm those tapped by Trump — is still to be seen.
Also still to be seen: whether Russian disinformation, hacking, and leaking will play a role in this year’s French and German elections. On Saturday, German authorities fought back against a fake story published by Breitbart. The publication, formerly run by Trump’s incoming White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, alleged a mob of 1,000 burned down a church in Dortmund while chanting “Allahu Akbar.” No such incident took place. German politicians and publications alike have repeatedly asserted that this may be a taste of what is to come ahead of elections.
Similarly, on Sunday, an interview was published in which French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke to the threat of Russian electoral influence. “The risk to democratic life is real,” he said.
Perhaps the tension between fear for democracy and fear of terrorism will play out in France’s elections this spring, as terror continues to dominate world headlines. On Sunday, a truck drove into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem, killing four (three of whom were women). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attacker may have been acting out of sympathy for ISIS.
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