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

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”.

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
L-R Alejandro Mayorkas, Janet Yellen, Avril HainesIMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES/ALAMY
image caption(L-R) Alejandro Mayorkas, Janet Yellen and Avril Haines are expected to be formally unveiled for posts

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.

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Biden projects stability and familiarity

In his choice of a national security team, Joe Biden has signalled that the US is resuming its conventional international role, after four turbulent years of Donald Trump’s America First.

He’s appointing Obama administration veterans to top positions and elevating a long-serving career diplomat sidelined by the Trump administration.

His pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is an advocate of global alliances. If confirmed, Mr Blinken will lead the charge to re-establish ties with allies and rejoin agreements and institutions rejected by Mr Trump. And there’s no doubt that he’ll be speaking for the man in the White House: Mr Blinken has advised Joe Biden on foreign policy for so long he’s been described as an alter ego.

Another familiar face is former Secretary of State John Kerry. The president-elect’s decision to give him a new cabinet-level position as climate envoy shows he’s treating the issue as a significant national security threat.

But even with the old team this is not going to be Obama 2.0: the landscape has shifted in both America and the world during the past four years. Still, Mr Biden is projecting stability and familiarity, and international leaders know what they will be getting.

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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.

His latest setback came when Michigan voted to certify Mr Biden as the winner in the battleground state.

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.”

West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito said “at some point, the 2020 election must end”.

High-profile Trump supporter Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of investment company Blackstone, also said it was time for Mr Trump to accept he lost.

“Like many in the business community, I am ready to help President-elect Biden and his team as they confront the significant challenges of rebuilding our post-Covid economy,” he said in a statement reported by US media.

BBC.COM

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