Joe Biden will name a longtime ally, Antony Blinken, as his secretary of state, according to people close to the process.
Blinken, 58, served as Biden’s national security adviser during President Barack Obama’s first term, then became the deputy national security adviser to the president.
Biden is also expected to name another close aide, Jake Sullivan, as national security adviser. Sullivan, 43, was a former adviser to Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state and succeeded Blinken as Biden’s national security adviser.
Biden is expected to officially unveil his first round of cabinet appointments tomorrow, Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.” That puts Biden well ahead of the usual pace for presidents-elect, as he marches forward with the transition process despite President Trump’s refusal to cooperate. Adding to the pressure on Trump, more than 100 chief executives plan to urge the administration today to begin the transition process.
When asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether the cabinet would include more progressives than Obama’s did, Jennifer Psaki, a senior Biden adviser, said that it would “look like America” in terms of ideology and background.
If the two Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia do not both win their runoff elections in January, Biden will become the first president in over 30 years to take office with the opposing party controlling the chamber. That means he may run into roadblocks as he seeks to confirm his cabinet appointments.
Even if the Democratic candidates, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, do pull off victories, Biden is likely to have made many of his cabinet decisions before the runoffs take place — and the daunting prospect of persuading a Republican-held Senate to confirm his appointments will have factored into his decision-making process either way.
The possible nomination of Senator Bernie Sanders, who is under consideration for labor secretary, has emerged as a point of contention. In a past era, it would be almost unimaginable for a sitting senator to have his own confirmation blocked by colleagues in the chamber. But times have changed.
On that note, how absurd is too absurd for the Trump campaign when it comes to making unfounded allegations about voter fraud? Sidney Powell, who until yesterday had been a high-profile member of President Trump’s legal team, apparently just found out.
Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, two of the president’s other lawyers, issued a curt statement last night announcing that Powell was no longer “a member of the Trump legal team,” adding, “She is also not a lawyer for the president in his personal capacity.”
Last week, Powell stood alongside Giuliani and Ellis and unfurled an elaborate conspiracy theory claiming that Latin American leftists had conspired to throw the election to the Democrats. In another appearance, she argued that Republican officials in Georgia were implicated in the scheme, and that they had been taking payoffs.
Even some of Trump’s staunchest allies derided those claims. In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Chris Christie said Trump’s legal team had become “a national embarrassment.”
But what might have bothered Trump even more was the humiliating loss he suffered in court over the weekend, when a federal judge in Pennsylvania issued a scathing rejection of his lawyers’ attempt to have the election results in that state declared wholly invalid. (Powell was not directly involved in that case.) The judge, Matthew Brann, said the campaign had presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations.” Trump’s lawyers have appealed the ruling.
Trump’s team has been busy these past few weeks sowing disinformation about the legitimate outcome of the election, in a desperate bid to keep him in power.
But his administration has also been hard at work ensuring that, when he does inevitably trudge out of office, many of Trump’s policies will be difficult for Biden to roll back.
Even as Trump’s Twitter feed offers a nonstop stream of unsupported claims about the election, his actions at the White House suggest that he knows he will be leaving soon. He has encouraged top officials to rapidly withdraw troops from Afghanistan, secure oil drilling leases in Alaska, further weaken environmental protections, antagonize the Chinese government, carry out executions and undermine any move by Biden to re-establish the Iran nuclear deal.
Unlike past departing presidents, Trump is also rushing to fill positions on scientific panels, confirm federal judges and eliminate longstanding health care regulations.
In a striking display of political noncooperation, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, has declined to allow the Federal Reserve to keep feeding credit to struggling businesses or state and local governments through emergency lending programs set up in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since May — when the House passed a $3 trillion stimulus package, only to watch it languish in the Republican-controlled Senate — Democrats have argued that another big, ambitious piece of legislation is needed to respond to the pandemic.
But now, with Biden on his way to the Oval Office and the economy showing signs of a double-dip recession, his team is urging its allies in Congress to take whatever they can get so that the government can increase federal unemployment benefits; give more aid to small businesses; and increase funding for virus testing, contact tracing and vaccine distribution.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has endorsed a much slimmer $500 billion package. Top Democrats continue to publicly insist that Republicans meet them closer to their stated goal of a $2.4 trillion deal. But there is a growing sense that some action would be better than none, and that a smaller deal may be all that is possible.