Biden signals stark shift with new national security team
Declaring "America is back," President-Elect Joe Biden has introduced selections for his national security team.
Declaring "America is back," President-Elect Joe Biden has introduced selections for his national security team, his first substantive offering of how he'll shift from Trump-era "America First" policies by relying on foreign policy and national security experts from the Democratic establishment to be some of his most important advisers.
Mr Biden's Washington veterans all have ties to former President Barack Obama's administration as the president-elect has sought to deliver a clear message about his desire to reestablish a more predictable engagement from the United States on the global stage.
"It's a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it," said Mr Biden, at an introductory event at which his selections stood on stage, at least two metres apart and masked.
The president-elect's team includes Antony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy hand well-regarded on Capitol Hill whose ties to Mr Biden go back some 20 years, for secretary of state; lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary; veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be US ambassador to the United Nations; and Obama White House alumnus Jake Sullivan as national security adviser.
Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, was picked to serve as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold that post, and former Secretary of State John Kerry will make a curtain call as a special envoy on climate change. Mr Kerry and Mr Sullivan's position will not require Senate confirmation.
With the Senate's balance of power hinging on two runoff races in Georgia that will be decided in January, some Senate Republicans have already expressed antipathy to Mr Biden's picks as little more than Obama world retreads.
Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and potential 2024 GOP presidential hopeful, derisively accused Mr Biden of surround himself with "panda huggers" who will go soft on China. Senator Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will consider Blinken's nomination, broadly wrote off the early selections as uninspiring.
"Biden's cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America's decline," Mr Rubio tweeted.
But Mr Biden's transition team hailed the president-elect's selection as a group of "crisis-tested leaders" who will be ready to hit the ground running in the new administration.
Meanwhile, there were signs on Tuesday that the stalled formal transition of power is now underway.
The Pentagon said Tuesday that Kash Patel, the chief of staff to the acting secretary of defence, is heading the department's transition work. A transition task force has been assembled, led by Tom Muir, the head of the Pentagon office that provides administrative and management services to all Defence Department facilities in the Washington area.
The move came a day after the head of the General Services Administration wrote the necessary letter of "ascertainment" acknowledging Mr Biden as the apparent winner of election, triggering the transition process.
Mr Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, abruptly came into the White House briefing room Tuesday for remarks scheduled minutes before on the stock market that clocked in just over one minute.
The Dow hit 30,000 for the first time earlier Tuesday as uncertainty about the outcome of the presidential election lifted and new hopes that a COVID-19 vaccine could soon be available.
Mr Trump made brief remarks and did not take any questions.
"I just want to congratulate everybody. The stock market, Dow Jones Industrial Average, just hit 30,000, which is the highest in history. We've never broken 30,000, and that's just, despite everything that's taken place with the pandemic.
"I'm very thrilled with what's happened on the vaccine front, that's been absolutely incredible. Nothing like that has ever happened, medically, and I think people are acknowledging that, and it's having a big effect."