Joe Biden, the US president-elect, made another sharp break from Donald Trump on Tuesday by naming a White House senior staff that “looks like America”, including several women and people of colour.
Trump has been criticised for running the most white and male administration since Ronald Reagan. There are currently four women and 19 men in cabinet or cabinet-level positions. Picks for the federal judiciary are also dominated by white men.
But Biden and Kamala Harris, who will be the first female and first Black vice-president, have promised to build a team to reflect shifting demographics. Tuesday’s first wave of appointments included five women and four people of colour.
Jen O’Malley Dillon will be White House deputy chief of staff. The 44-year-old, who as campaign manager was the first woman to lead a winning Democratic presidential bid, will work under Ron Klain, anointed chief of staff last week.
Cedric Richmond, a national co-chair of Biden’s campaign and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, will quit the House of Representatives to join as a senior adviser and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Dana Remus, the campaign’s top lawyer, will be senior counsel to the president. Longtime advisers Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti will be senior adviser and counsellor to the president respectively.
Julie Chavez Rodriguez, one of Biden’s deputy campaign managers and the granddaughter of the farmworker union leader César Chávez, will be director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Annie Tomasini, currently Biden’s traveling chief of staff, will be director of Oval Office operations.
In a statement, Biden’s transition team said: “These diverse, experienced, and talented individuals demonstrate President-elect Biden’s commitment to building an administration that looks like America.”
It also quoted Biden as saying: “America faces great challenges, and they bring diverse perspectives and a shared commitment to tackling these challenges and emerging on the other side a stronger, more united nation.”
The appointments reward many of the advisers who helped Biden beat Trump in the 3 November election. Biden won the national popular vote by at least 5.6m votes, or 3.6 points, and in the state-by-state electoral college secured 306 votes to 232.
The announcement also reflected Biden’s determination to press ahead with a transition despite Trump’s increasingly tenuous effort to reverse the election.
The former vice-president was due to discuss national security threats on Tuesday with his own advisers, rather than government officials, as the Trump administration has blocked him from receiving the classified briefings normally accorded to a president-elect.
Emily Murphy, the general services administrator, has not yet recognised Biden as the “apparent winner”, which is needed to release funding and office space.
Seeking to project calm, Biden told reporters on Monday: “I find this more embarrassing for the country, than debilitating for my ability to get started.”
But he expressed frustration over the impact on his attempt to fight the coronavirus pandemic: “More people may die if we don’t coordinate … If we have to wait to 20 January to start that planning, it puts us behind over a month and a half. So it’s important that it be done, that there be coordination now or as rapidly as we can get it done.”
Trump has not conceded and has repeatedly claimed without evidence he is the victim of widespread voter fraud. His campaign has filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states – without success. The president has remained defiant even as a minority of Republicans have said Biden should be considered president-elect.
Election officials in both parties have said they see no evidence of serious irregularities.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine was asked on Tuesday what evidence the campaign had for its claims. She told Fox News: “That’s part of what our pursuit is at this point … There’s no silver bullet here. It’s going to take a little bit of time.”
One of Trump’s legal challenges was due a hearing on Tuesday in a Pennsylvania federal court, where another setback would probably kill off his already slim chances. US district judge Matthew Brann will hear arguments in a Trump lawsuit that seeks to block the state’s top election official from certifying Biden the winner.
Pennsylvania officials have said the dispute only affects a small number of ballots in a state where Biden is projected to win by more than 70,000.
Georgia is undertaking a manual recount. Its top elections official, secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, said in TV interviews the audit was almost complete and the results would be largely unchanged.
Raffensperger also repeated his assertion that fellow Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have pressured him to find ways to throw out legally cast votes.
“I’ve always been a conservative Republican and I want to make sure we have a lawful process because I think integrity still matters,” he told CBS. “That’s what this audit is going to do.”
Graham, a diehard Trump loyalist, denied the allegation. “No, that’s ridiculous,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I talked to him about how you verify signatures.”
Asked why a senator from South Carolina was involving himself in Georgia, Graham replied: “Because the future of the country hangs in the balance.”
The Rev William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, tweeted: “Lindsey Graham trying to get [the Georgia secretary of state] to not count legal votes is not a surprise. Graham has supported voter suppression tactics for years.
“Election rigging is real, but it doesn’t suppress the Republican vote. It’s of Black, brown, Native American, & poor voters.”