Rep. Gregory Meeks, a senior Democratic Congressman from New York, is taking the helm of a powerful oversight committee of Congress that has in the past repeatedly come into conflict with the Trump administration over impeachment, arms sales, U.S. State Department management, and other issues four Years.
Now that Meeks takes office, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is preparing for the transition to a Democratic White House, setting the stage for the Congressman as a key ally on Capitol Hill for the future Biden administration.
But aside from President Donald Trump’s unfounded challenges to the certified election results, members of the Democratic Committee will have their hands full in the first few days of the new Congress, with a number of policy decisions by the outgoing government in the eleventh hour The Biden administration could step in. These include troop withdrawals in Iraq and Afghanistan, the doubling of the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, a renewed trade offensive against European allies and increased efforts to dismantle economic ties with China.
In an interview with Foreign policyMeeks said he will make cybersecurity a top priority, especially after a massive cyber attack targeted against US government agencies and private companies last year. It is believed that the Russian foreign intelligence service SVR was behind the attack. Some experts describe The data breach is possibly the largest espionage operation against the United States.
Meeks criticized Trump for downplay the massive data breach. “I’m not surprised that the current president has always reported for Russia. It seems like no matter what the evidence shows, Russia is covering Russia, ”he said.
The Congressman also pledged to continue the Democrat-led committee’s investigation into allegations of mismanagement at the State Department under outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, even after Pompeo stepped down later that month. The committee investigated whether Pompeo misused departmental resources for personal use and to make political decisions during the election cycle. including During the State Department’s official trip to Israel, the State Department will host lavish dinners with leading Republican donors and foreign dignitaries, and address the Republican National Convention.
“I think it’s important that the entire committee is involved in … what we are doing to remedy this so that it never happens again,” he said. “I’m looking at how we’re progressing and how we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. We need to continue this investigation. “
Pompeo has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and his White House allies as well as Republican lawmakers have accused the Democrats of investigating to get political points.
One of the biggest challenges for Biden’s new administration – and for Congress – will be US-Russia politics, which have dwarfed Trump’s White House for years.
In the last few weeks of the Trump administration, the State Department announced that it would close the last two US consulates in Russia. That news came within days of revelations about the massive data breach that affected Russian intelligence agencies.
Meeks reprimanded the move and urged the State Department to reverse course and keep consulates open, even amid mounting tensions between Washington and Moscow.
“I generally want consulates to be open. I believe in diplomacy, ”said Meeks. “Diplomacy means you still have to… speak and know what is going on on the ground. When you move your eyes and ears off the floor, I think it is more difficult to achieve. “
Former diplomats who served in Russia said Foreign policy In addition to doing routine consular work like issuing visas, these consulates also serve as valuable political and diplomatic antennas for advancing U.S. interests in other countries outside of its capitals.
The State Department told Congress last month that the remaining two US consulates in Russia would be closed – one in Vladivostok, a major port city in Russia’s Far East, and one in Yekaterinburg, a city east of the Ural Mountains. That would only leave one diplomatic outpost in Russia, the Embassy in Moscow, for diplomacy and American civil services while President-elect Joe Biden prepares for office.
Meeks said now is not the time to shrink the United States’ diplomatic “footprint around the world,” especially given China’s growing diplomatic reach. “To have relationships with allies and opponents, you have to have a footprint on the ground,” he said.
In the notice to Congress of December 10th, received by Foreign policyThe State Department said the consulate shutdown was the result of “ongoing human resource challenges” caused by Russia’s 2017 cap on US diplomatic staff. The notice did not specify a timeframe for the consulates to close, and the State Department did not respond to additional requests for comment on whether the closings would occur before or after Biden took office.