Biden introduces national security team as official transition begins

WILMINGTON, Del. (NewsNation Now) — In one of his first moves after the Trump administration approved the start of the presidential transition, Joe Biden formally introduced some of the appointees to his national security and foreign policy teams Tuesday.

“It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” Biden said at the event in Wilmington, Delaware. His selections stood on stage, at least six feet apart and masked.

The president-elect first announced several key Cabinet picks on Monday, which include former Secretary of State John Kerry and Janet Yellen, the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve.

Kerry, who will take lead of combatting climate change for Biden’s administration, was among those officially introduced Tuesday afternoon. Others included longtime adviser Antony Blinken to be secretary of state; Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary; Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser.

Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, will be nominated as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold that post. Mayorkas, a Cuban American lawyer, will be the first Latino to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Biden’s emerging Cabinet marks a return to a more traditional approach to governing, relying on veteran policymakers with deep expertise and strong relationships in Washington and world capitals. And with a roster that includes multiple women and people of color — some of whom are breaking historic barriers in their posts — Biden is acting on his campaign promise to lead a team that reflects the diversity of America.

“We are going to have the first woman lead the intelligence community, the first Latino and immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and a groundbreaking diplomat at the United Nations,” Biden said on Tuesday. “We are going to have a principal on the National Security Council whose full-time job is to fight climate change — for the first time ever.”

The path for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to start of the transition process cleared Monday, after the General Services Administration ascertained him as the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election.

Administrator Emily Murphy made the determination Monday after Trump’s efforts to overturn the vote failed across battleground states, most recently in Michigan.

Trump also gave the GSA and his administration the green light to participate in the transition on Monday.

Trump tweeted shortly after Murphy’s decision was made public: “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good… fight, and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

Now Biden’s aides can begin coordinating with federal agencies on plans for the handoff on Jan. 20.

“I am pleased to have received ascertainment from GSA, to carry out a smooth and peaceful transition of power so our team can prepare to meet the challenges at hand — to control the pandemic, build back better, and protect the safety and security of the American people,” Biden said during the event on Tuesday

Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday that while it’s been offered, he hasn’t yet received the Presidential Daily Brief, the briefing on the most sensitive intelligence offered to top U.S. officials.

Biden said he’ll now have the briefing “on a regular basis.” Since the ascertainment, he said, Trump administration officials “have been very forthcoming, offering all access.”

The Pentagon said Tuesday that Kash Patel, the chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense, 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 Defense Department facilities in the Washington area.

Muir said the first meeting with Biden’s team was held virtually on Tuesday morning and that he expected daily meetings to come — some virtually and some in person. He said normal accommodations for the Biden team have been made, including provision of briefing materials, video-teleconferencing capabilities, and office space inside the Pentagon.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also said his agency is working to get briefing materials to Biden’s aides immediately and pledged a “professional, cooperative and collaborative” transition.

Azar said in a news briefing Tuesday that the deputy surgeon general Rear Admiral Erica Schwartz began communicating Monday night with Biden’s team.

Biden also said Tuesday that he had not yet spoken to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, but that his staff had and that he’s been “very, very helpful.”

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