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Biden transition kicks into gear as Trump admits dwindling options

WASHINGTON, DC: In this file photo , US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki delivers a daily briefing at the US State Department in Washington, DC. US President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday announced an all-female senior White House communications team. – AFP

WILMINGTON, Del: US President-elect Joe Biden was expected to unveil his picks for several top economic positions as early as yesterday when he will also finally receive his first classified intelligence briefing, an essential step towards taking control of national security. While Biden’s transition to the White House appeared to be hitting its stride, the president-elect was hobbling after fracturing his foot while playing with his dog on Sunday.

The incoming administration has been hampered for weeks by President Donald Trump who has refused to concede claiming, without evidence, that Biden’s Nov 3 electoral victory was due to fraud. Biden was expected to name leading members of an economic team that will have to combat the crushing blows to US workers and businesses from the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden on Sunday announced an all-female senior White House communications team, in what his office called a first in the country’s history. Among those named was Jen Psaki, who will serve in the highly visible role of White House press secretary. Psaki, 41, has held a number of senior positions, including White House communications director for the Barack Obama-Biden administration.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have sought to emphasize diversity in their appointments and nominations so far ahead of their January 20 swearing-in. “I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women,” Biden said in a statement. “These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better.”

In addition to Psaki, six other appointments were announced. They include Kate Bedingfield, who was Biden’s deputy campaign manager, as White House communications director. Bedingfield had also served as Biden’s communications director when he was vice president.

In contrast to Trump, who largely picked white men for key positions, Biden’s early appointments were shaping up to be highly diverse, including an all-women communications team unveiled on Sunday night. Biden was expected to announce Janet Yellen, who was the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve, as his Treasury secretary, and Adewale Adeyemo, who would be the first Black deputy Treasury secretary.

Other members of his economics team are expected to be announced include Neera Tanden, chief executive of the progressive Center for American Progress think tank, as director of the White House Budget Office, who would be the first woman of color to lead that agency, Reuters and other media outlets reported. Brian Deese, who helped lead Obama’s efforts to bail out the automotive industry during the 2009 financial crisis, will head the National Economic Council, the New York Times reported on Sunday, sparking some criticism from progressives for his ties to Wall Street.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were also set to receive their first classified presidential daily briefing on Monday, which the Trump administration had previously refused to provide. The briefing is the first step toward transfer of responsibility for the most sensitive intelligence to a new administration. Trump, for his part, kept up his unfounded fraud claims in an interview with Fox News on Sunday and with Sunday evening Tweets that the social media service flagged as disputed.

But the Republican president, who on Thursday said he would vacate the White House if Biden were formally declared winner by the Electoral College on Dec. 14, appeared to retreat from his combative legal stance, telling Fox that he did not see a path toward making his case to the Supreme Court.

While most of Trump’s fellow Republicans have followed his lead and refused to refer to Biden as President-elect, one Republican member of the House of Representatives appeared on Twitter late on Sunday to have lost patience. In a Tweet addressing Trump, Representative Paul Mitchell said: “Please for the sake of our Nation, please drop these arguments without evidence or factual basis. #stopthestupid,” he wrote.

Other appointees include Ashley Etienne as communications director for Harris and Symone Sanders as Harris’s senior advisor and chief spokeswoman. Pili Tobar was named deputy White House communications director and Karine Jean Pierre will be principal deputy press secretary. Elizabeth Alexander was named communications director for incoming First Lady Jill Biden.

The appointments do not require Senate confirmation unlike most cabinet-level positions. “Honored to work again for @JoeBiden, a man I worked on behalf of during the Obama-Biden Admin as he helped lead economic recovery, rebuilt our relationships with partners (turns out good practice) and injected empathy and humanity into nearly every meeting I sat in,” Psaki said on Twitter.

  • More landmark nominations –
    There were reports of a number of landmark nominations set for this week. The New York Times reported that they were to include Cecilia Rouse as the first Black woman to lead the Council of Economic Advisers and Neera Tanden as the first Indian-American at the head of the Office of Management and Budget. Those reports follow news that Biden intends to nominate former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to head the US Treasury.

Yellen would be the first woman in the role if she is confirmed by the Senate. Biden has also named the first female head of intelligence and the first Latino chief of Homeland Security. The president-elect has sought to move swiftly to assemble his team, despite Donald Trump’s refusal to concede his loss in the November 3 election and continued baseless claims of voter fraud. – Agencies

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