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Top House Democrat raises concerns about Biden’s likely defense secretary pick

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A Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee expressed concerns on Tuesday about President-elect Joe Biden‘s likely pick for Secretary of Defense, retired General Lloyd Austin. Fox News reported Monday night that Biden is set to make the announcement this week.

In a Twitter thread, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) wrote that picking Gen. Austin, a retired four-star general, “just feels off,” saying that the cabinet position is traditionally reserved for civilians. Slotkin is a former CIA analyst who served three tours of duty in the Iraq War during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“I have deep respect for Gen. Lloyd Austin. We worked together when he commanded U.S. forces in Iraq, when he was vice chief of the Army, and when he was the CENTCOM commander,” Slotkin said in a Twitter statement. “But choosing another recently retired general to serve in a role designed for a civilian just feels off.”

“The job of secretary of defense is purpose-built to ensure civilian oversight of the military,” Slotkin stressed. “That is why it requires a waiver from the House and Senate to put a recently retired military officer in the job.”

“And after the last 4 years, civil-military relations at the Pentagon definitely need to be rebalanced,” she added. “Gen. Austin has had an incredible career––but I’ll need to understand what he and the Biden Administration plan to do to address these concerns before I can vote for his waiver.”

Previously during the Trump administration, retired four-star Gen. Jim Mattis served for a period of time as Secretary of Defense. President Trump also appointed former Marines Corps Gen. John Kelly to be his Secretary of Homeland Security and then his White House chief of staff, as well as retired Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security advisor. Significantly, Mattis was the first retired military officer to serve as defense secretary in seven decades.

This public statement comes from a member of Biden’s moderate wing of the Democratic Party, a congresswoman who is also a military veteran and member of the intelligence community,.

If Austin is in fact appointed, he will need a special waiver approved by both chambers of Congress because of a federal law that bans retired officers from serving as secretary of defense for at least seven years after they retire from the military. After this approval, Austin would then need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He would be the first Black American to serve in this cabinet position.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Boston Celtics Player Legally Changing Name to ‘Enes Kanter Freedom’ to Celebrate U.S. Citizenship

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Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is celebrating becoming a U.S. citizen in an incredible way. The 29-year-old athlete from Turkey is having his citizenship oath ceremony Monday, and will legally change his name to Enes Kanter Freedom.

Kanter is an outspoken human rights advocate who had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017 after he criticized Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mediaite reports “he has also criticized NBA stars Michael Jordan and LeBron James for not doing enough to help the Black community and not speaking out against exploitative labor practices in China respectively.”

Celtics head coach Ime Udoka told the Boston Globe the team is “all for” the player’s name change. Kanter’s manager says the player will complete his legal name change to have Kanter become his middle name and Freedom be his new last name at Monday’s ceremony.

“We congratulated him as a group for getting his American citizenship last week,” Udoka said. “That’s who Enes is, we’re proud of him. Enes is who he is. He’s passionate about his stances and the name change; you look at [Ron] Artest [who changed his name to Metta Sandiford-Artest in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak] and guys that have done it in the past. It’s something he wants to express and we’re all for it.”

Kanter has already changed his official Twitter account to Enes Kanter FREEDOM with his new last name in all caps. Freedom made waves when he tweeted the following on November 18: Money over Morals for the ‘King’. Sad & disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice. They really do ‘shut up & dribble’ when Big Boss [inserted Chinese flag] says so. Did you educate yourself about the slave labor that made your shoes or is that not part of your research?”

The tweet included photos of basketball shoes he wore painted with human rights depictions and phrases such as “hey still researching and getting educated?” as well as “I am informed and educated on the situation.”

The statement is with regard to his criticism of LeBron James’ partnership with Nike. “Nike remains one of the NBA’s biggest sponsors as both organizations feed off their partnerships with China” reports Mediaite. Kanter Freedom also made an offer to take Michael Jordan and Nike co-founder Phil Knight to China in order for the men to “visit these slave labor camps and you can see it with your own eyes.”

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