Biden Introduces Diplomatic, National Security Team
By Ken Bredemeier
WASHINGTON - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden held an event Tuesday to introduce the individuals he plans to nominate for top diplomatic and national security posts in his administration.
The group includes Antony Blinken, one of Biden’s closest foreign affairs advisers, as the choice for secretary of state.
“We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy,” Biden said in a statement Monday about his intended appointments. “I need a team ready on Day One to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table, rally the world to meet the biggest challenges we face, and advance our security, prosperity and values.”
Biden said he intends to nominate former Secretary of State John Kerry to a new position as special presidential envoy for climate while holding a seat on the National Security Council. It was a reflection, the Biden transition said, of the incoming president’s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue.
According to news reports, Janet Yellen, the 74-year-old former chair of the Federal Reserve, would be nominated as Biden’s Treasury secretary. As first reported in The New York Times, Yellen would be the first woman to lead the U.S. Treasury.
Biden, 78, is set to become the 46th U.S. president at his inauguration on January 20, even as President Donald Trump continues his long-shot legal attempt to upend the Democrat’s November 3 election victory.
Biden, overseeing his transition to power in Washington from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, selected Alejandro Mayorkas as head of the Department of Homeland Security. A Cuban American lawyer, he is a former deputy secretary at the agency, and if confirmed by the Senate, would be its first Latino and immigrant leader.
The incoming U.S. president picked an African American, former Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who has served on four continents, to serve as the U.S. envoy to the United Nations. Biden elevated her role to a seat in his Cabinet, a rank past presidents have also occasionally given the high-profile position.
Biden picked another woman, Avril Haines, as director of national intelligence. She is a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a deputy national security adviser. She will be the first woman to lead the U.S. intelligence community.
Jake Sullivan, a Biden foreign affairs adviser, was named as his national security adviser.
In announcing the appointments, Biden said, “We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy. I need a team ready on Day One to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table, rally the world to meet the biggest challenges we face, and advance our security, prosperity, and values.”
“This is the crux of that team,” Biden said. “These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative. Their accomplishments in diplomacy are unmatched, but they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet the profound challenges of this new moment with old thinking and unchanged habits -- or without diversity of background and perspective. It’s why I’ve selected them.”
Biden appears set to re-engage the United States in an array of global alliances that Trump abandoned over the last four years.
The 58-year-old Blinken is a veteran of U.S. foreign affairs decision-making for two decades, and according to multiple news accounts, agrees with Biden on the need for the U.S. to play a leading role again in world affairs, a change from Trump’s “America First” credo that at times left the United States at odds with other long-time Western allies.
In his first days in office, Biden has said he plans to overturn Trump policies and rejoin the Paris climate agreement, stop the U.S. exit from the World Health Organization and attempt to again join other nations in the international pact to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons development.
Blinken, if confirmed by the Senate, would become the face of U.S. diplomacy. He served first under former President Bill Clinton, then later as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under former Democratic President Barack Obama when Biden was vice president. And while Republican former President George W. Bush was in power, Blinken was the Democratic staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
On Monday, the General Services Administration cleared the way for Biden to officially begin his administration’s transition, which includes access to certain resources such as a government domain for a website and email, federal office space, detailed briefings about security threats and covert operations and security clearances for his staff.
“In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies,” Yohannes Abraham, the head of Biden’s transition team, said in a statement.
Trump is continuing to claim he won the election, despite Biden’s unofficial 306-232 majority vote in the Electoral College. The electoral vote determines U.S. presidential elections, not the national popular vote, although Biden leads there, too, by more than 6 million votes.
Trump tweeted after the GSA decision Monday that he had recommended the move “in the best interest of our Country,” but later wrote another post signaling he intends to continue his legal battle against the election outcome.
“What does GSA being allowed to preliminarily work with the Dems have to do with continuing to pursue our various cases on what will go down as the most corrupt election in American political history? We are moving full speed ahead. Will never concede to fake ballots & “Dominion,” Trump said.
Trump’s legal fight against the election results has been fruitless so far, with his campaign losing or withdrawing 34 lawsuits claiming vote and vote-counting fraud in key battleground states Biden was projected to win.
Trump is pursuing other lawsuits and appeals of decisions he has lost.