Monday, 23 November 2020

Biden turns to familiar faces for his cabinet: President-elect 'will name confidant Tony Blinken as his Secretary of State and longtime Democrat adviser Michele Flournoy as Secretary of Defense'

 Joe Biden is expected to nominate his close confidant Antony Blinken as Secretary of State and longtime Democrat Michele Flournoy as the first female Secretary of Defense, sources said Sunday. 

In nominating Blinken and Flournoy, Biden would be turning to familiar faces for his cabinet. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2013-17, is being touted as his UN ambassador. 

Blinken, 58, is currently Biden's foreign policy adviser. He served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden.


His appointment makes another longtime Biden aide with a foreign policy background, Jake Sullivan, the top candidate to be U.S. national security adviser. 

Nominating Blinken would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list to be America’s top diplomat: Susan Rice and Sen. Chris Coons.

Rice would have faced significant GOP opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

Coons’ departure from the Senate would have come as other Democratic senators are being considered for administrative posts and the party is hoping to win back the Senate. Control hangs on the result of two runoff elections in Georgia in January.  

Facing a Republican controlled Senate and calls from some progressives to make bold choices for the cabinet Sen. Coons told The Hill: 'The suggestions that we should leap ahead and assume that no one can get confirmed and that we should use some extraordinary measures is just getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.' 

Sen. Chris Murphy added: 'Let’s just wait. My hope is that progressive groups focus on one thing at a time, and right now, we should be focused on winning Georgia.' 

Tony Blinken, 58, will reportedly be named as Joe Biden's Secretary of State

Tony Blinken, 58, will reportedly be named as Joe Biden's Secretary of State

Biden, 78, is set to announce members of his Cabinet this week, his chief of staff has said

Biden, 78, is set to announce members of his Cabinet this week, his chief of staff has said

Biden's appointing of his Cabinet members will likely infuriate Donald Trump, who has insisted that the election is not yet settled.  

New York-born international relations expert, Blinken, was Barack Obama's deputy Secretary of State from 2015 until the inauguration of Donald Trump, in January 2017.

Prior to that Blinken served as Obama's Deputy National Security Adviser starting in 2013, and was part of Biden's own advisory team as the National Security Adviser for the Vice President from 2009 to 2013.

He was part of the Obama-Biden transition team in 2008.

Blinken grew up in New York until, at the age of nine, he left the US with his mother to live in Paris. He returned to the United States to obtain a degree from Harvard, and work as a journalist before obtaining a law degree.


By 1994 he was in the White House, as a member of Bill Clinton's National Security Council.

In recent years Blinken co-founded a political strategy firm, WestExec Advisors, and worked as a foreign affairs analyst for CNN. 

His wife, Evan Ryan, was assistant for intergovernmental affairs and public liaison while Biden was vice president. She then went on to be the assistant Secretary of State. 

Michele Flournoy is expected to be named as Joe Biden's Secretary of Defense

Michele Flournoy is expected to be named as Joe Biden's Secretary of Defense

Michele Flournoy, pictured with Marines Lt. Gen. John Paxton, in February 2010

Michele Flournoy, pictured with Marines Lt. Gen. John Paxton, in February 2010

Biden is also believed to have chosen Flournoy as Secretary of Defense - an announcement which, if confirmed, would make her the first woman to lead the Pentagon.

Flournoy, 59, served in the Clinton White House as deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, and was secretary of defense policy under Obama.

She worked as an advisor to former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta. 

She co-founded WestExec Advisors with Blinken. 

Biden is also thought to have chosen his UN ambassador, with Thomas-Greenfield, 68, being named by Axios as his representative at the New York institution.

She was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2013-17. From 2008-12 she served as ambassador to Liberia.

The Louisiana-born diplomat previously worked at the US mission to the UN in Switzerland, and during a 35-year career with the foreign service was posted to Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. 

Longtime Democrat adviser Sullivan is also in the mix for a top job, including White House national security adviser. 

He became one of the key policy advisers to Biden. He served as the former vice president’s national security adviser during the Obama administration.

A 43-year-old graduate of Yale, who was also a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and has a reputation as a behind-the-scenes operator, Sullivan took part in secret back channel talks with Iran that led to a 2015 international nuclear deal that Trump subsequently overturned.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield is believed to have been chosen as Biden's UN ambassador

Linda Thomas-Greenfield is believed to have been chosen as Biden's UN ambassador

Thomas-Greenfield is pictured with John Kerry in August 2016 while in Kenya

Thomas-Greenfield is pictured with John Kerry in August 2016 while in Kenya

Longtime Democrat adviser Sullivan, right, is also in the mix for a top job, including White House national security adviser. He became one of the key policy advisers to Biden. He served as the former vice president’s national security adviser during the Obama administration

Longtime Democrat adviser Sullivan, right, is also in the mix for a top job, including White House national security adviser. He became one of the key policy advisers to Biden. He served as the former vice president’s national security adviser during the Obama administration

Biden's chief of staff said on Sunday that the 78-year-old will name his first cabinet picks on Tuesday, even as Trump clung to unsubstantiated claims of fraud despite growing dissent from within his own party.

Biden has pushed ahead with preparations to assume the presidency on January 20, regardless of Trump's bid to undo the results of the November 3 vote.

'You are going to see the first of the president-elect's cabinet picks on Tuesday of this week,' said Ron Klain, Biden's chief of staff, on Sunday.

He declined to say which posts the president-elect would announce, though Biden said last week he has already decided on his pick for the key position of Treasury Secretary. 

Biden is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the first African American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.  

A growing number of Republicans have either recognized Biden's victory or at least urged the General Services Administration - the usually low-profile agency that manages the federal bureaucracy - to release federal funds for the Biden transition.

With Trump refusing to acknowledge the election outcome, Biden and his top aides have been denied briefings on sensitive domestic and foreign policy issues - most urgently the coronavirus pandemic battering the country.

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who in 2016 advised the Trump transition, said on ABC that the president's legal team was a 'national embarrassment' and that it was time for the GSA to release transition funds.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, another prominent Republican, said on CNN that Trump was making the country look like a 'banana republic.' 

He tweeted later that the president should 'stop golfing and concede.'

Trump smiles as he gets into his motorcade to leave the White House on Sunday

Trump smiles as he gets into his motorcade to leave the White House on Sunday 

Biden leaves mass at Saint Ann Catholic Church on Saturday in Wilmington, Delaware

Biden leaves mass at Saint Ann Catholic Church on Saturday in Wilmington, Delaware

The president has golfed on every weekend day since the election, though he took part virtually in the conference of the G20 leading economies this weekend. 

Trump skipped a session Saturday on the pandemic.

Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, said that if Trump's lawyers cannot prove the claims of fraud, the president should be 'respecting the sanctity of our electoral process.'

Even Representative Devin Nunes, an ardent Trump loyalist, conceded on Fox News that Biden was 'the first guy to run a successful campaign from a basement.'

Appearances by Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have drawn mockery, as have claims by another member of his legal team, Sidney Powell.

Supporters of Trump seen Sunday as he arrives at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling

Supporters of Trump seen Sunday as he arrives at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling

Powell has alleged baseless conspiracy theories involving the possible hack of the election, earning her heaps of derision but also praise from some of Trump's most ardent supporters.

On Sunday, Giuliani distanced the team from her, saying in a statement she had been dropped.

'Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own,' he said.

Trump's latest legal setback came Saturday, when a Pennsylvania judge threw out the president's fraud claims there in a scathing judgment.

Pennsylvania was a must-win state this year, and went solidly into Biden's column after backing Trump in 2016.

Judge Matthew Brann wrote that Trump's team had presented 'strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations' in their complaints about mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.

His ruling paved the way for Pennsylvania to certify Biden's victory there, which is scheduled to take place Monday.

Biden won the state-by-state Electoral College votes that ultimately decide who takes the White House by 306 to 232.

The Electoral College is due to formally vote on December 14, with certifications to take place beforehand.

States' certification of results of their popular votes is usually routine following a US presidential election.

A woman shouts at a 'Stop the Steal' rally on Sunday in Long Valley, New Jersey

A woman shouts at a 'Stop the Steal' rally on Sunday in Long Valley, New Jersey

But Trump's refusal to concede has raised concerns that he could cause long-term damage to Americans' trust in the voting system that underlies US democracy.

The judgment in Pennsylvania came hours after Republicans also requested a delay in certification in Michigan, another battleground, in a letter that repeated allegations of irregularities in the state, which Biden won by 155,000 votes.

They requested a two-week delay to allow a full audit of results in Wayne County. Wayne is the state's largest county and home to majority-black Detroit, which Biden won overwhelmingly.

Michigan's board of canvassers, which includes two Democrats and two Republicans, is due to meet Monday to certify the results.

There were reports that a Republican member of the board was considering voting against certification.

Biden has so far moderated his criticism of Trump's actions, though he has spoken of 'incredibly damaging messages being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions,' adding: 'It's hard to fathom how this man thinks.'

Other Democrats have been unsparing in their criticism.

Samantha Power, who was UN ambassador under Barack Obama, told CNN that Trump's failure to allow a smooth transition was 'reckless in the extreme,' depriving Biden of up-to-date briefings on issues as sensitive as troop levels in Afghanistan and any potential threats to US targets overseas.

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