January 21, 2021

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US election 2020: Biden to present team as Trump allows transition

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US President-elect Joe Biden will formally introduce the first people he has chosen for his cabinet later, as the transition of power gathers pace.
Joe Biden (US President-elect )

Joe Biden (US President-elect )

US President-elect Joe Biden will formally introduce the first people he has chosen for his cabinet later, as the transition of power gathers pace.

Many of the choices, already announced, are Mr Biden’s colleagues from his years in the Obama administration.

John Kerry will be climate envoy, while foreign policy veteran Antony Blinken is nominated for secretary of state.

President Donald Trump has finally agreed that the transition process should start, after weeks of wrangling.

The General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency overseeing the handover, said it was now acknowledging Mr Biden as the “apparent winner” of the 3 November election.

The move grants the Democrat access to millions of dollars in funds, as well as access to national security briefings and government officials, so he can properly prepare to take over the presidency on 20 January.

Mr Trump said the GSA must “do what needs to be done”, but still refuses to concede the election, repeating unsubstantiated claims of a “rigged election”.

Mr Biden is projected to beat President Trump by 306 votes to 232 in the US electoral college when it meets to formally confirm the winner on 14 December. This is far above the 270 votes he needs.

On Tuesday, Governor Tom Wolf said he had certified the victory of Mr Biden in Pennsylvania, one of the key swing states. Another, Michigan, certified the same result on Monday.

Who has Biden picked for the top jobs?

A statement from the transition team said those being nominated “are experienced, crisis-tested leaders who are ready to hit the ground running on day one”.

It said: “These officials will start working immediately to rebuild our institutions, renew and re-imagine American leadership to keep Americans safe at home and abroad, and address the defining challenges of our time – from infectious disease, to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, and climate change.”

The transition website has now switched to a .gov domain.

It is not yet clear when Mr Biden will be given his first classified national security briefing as incoming president. The so-called Presidential Daily Brief gives Mr Trump details of the latest international threats and developments.

Mr Biden revealed his key picks for his national security and foreign policy teams on Monday. Almost all of the top posts will require Senate approval.

  • Antony Blinken was nominated as secretary of state – the most important foreign policy position. He is expected to manage a Biden foreign policy agenda that will emphasise re-engaging with Western allies
  • Ex-US Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the incoming administration’s effort to combat climate change. He was one of the leading architects of the Paris climate agreement, which President Trump withdrew from. Mr Kerry will not require Senate approval
  • Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, was nominated as the first female director of national intelligence
  • Alejandro Mayorkas was the first Latino nominated to serve as secretary of homeland security. He previously served as deputy secretary of homeland security under President Obama
  • Jake Sullivan was named White House national security adviser. This does not require Senate approval. Mr Sullivan served as Mr Biden’s national security adviser during Mr Obama’s second term
  • Long-time diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield was nominated US ambassador to the UN. She also served under President Obama, including as assistant secretary of state for African affairs between 2013 and 2017
  • Reports say former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen will be the choice for treasury secretary

Senate rejection of a nominee to the cabinet is rare. The last was in 1989, although some nominees have withdrawn from consideration.

Mr Biden’s first TV interview as president-elect is scheduled to air in the US on Tuesday evening.

Joe Biden’s picks for the top roles in his administration have been celebrated by centrist Democrats: they speak glowingly of the diversity and experience of the individuals, a group that includes veteran foreign policy experts, and accomplished women and people of colour.

Yet progressives feel cheated. They say they helped Mr Biden win, and now they have been shut out of power.

These progressives say the cabinet will be filled with “Clinton and Obama retreads”, as one of them puts it, describing it as a return to the “Blob”, a term that Ben Rhodes, who served as Mr Obama’s speechwriter, once used to describe the Washington establishment.

Stephen Wertheim from the Quincy Institute, a think tank focused on foreign policy, says the new Democratic team in the White House may end up acting like the old one, a group of centrists who, he says, focused more on military threats than on issues such as climate change. He adds: “Progressives have a right to be concerned about whether there will be significant change.”

What are Republicans saying?

While the nominees bring decades of diplomatic experience to the White House, they also face criticism from those who object to the baggage that comes along with years of serving the US government.

However, Republicans in the Senate have so far mostly remained quiet on Mr Biden’s picks.

President Trump continues to allege massive voter fraud without providing evidence, and his legal challenges have so far proved fruitless.

On Tuesday, he reiterated that he had not yet conceded, by tweeting that the GSA “does not determine who the next President of the United States will be”.

Although most of Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans have united behind his refusal to accept defeat until now, some have begun to break rank.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, who is retiring, said the president should “put the country first” and help Mr Biden succeed.

“When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do.”

Source: BBC

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