The Transition Formally Begins (Finally)

Trump’s government designates Biden as the apparent winner of the election, and more of Biden’s cabinet picks emerge — representing both a hard break from Trump and more of the same old in Washington. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Trump supporters protesting the Michigan election results in Lansing yesterday.


Biden has begun rolling out his choices to serve as the nation’s top foreign policy, national security and economic policy officials.

While the list is full of historic firsts, it lacks any big surprises.

Most of the names served in senior roles during Barack Obama’s presidency. Taken together, they indicate that Biden is seeking to reposition the United States’ standing on the world stage by rebuilding pre-Trump alliances and restoring old diplomatic approaches.

And they suggest that progressives’ hopes that Biden’s administration would line up to the left of the Obama administration on matters of foreign policy are unlikely to be met.

Biden is expected to formally announce his first round of cabinet-level picks during a speech today in Wilmington, Del., but his team has already publicly confirmed a number of them.

His transition office said yesterday that Biden planned to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas as his homeland security secretary, and Avril Haines as the director of national intelligence. Mayorkas would become the first Hispanic official and the first immigrant to run the Department of Homeland Security, and Haines would become the highest-ranking woman in the national security bureaucracy.

Both come with years of experience in the Obama administration. Mayorkas served as deputy homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2016, and Haines was the deputy national security adviser during Obama’s last two years as president. Before that, she had served as the deputy director of the C.I.A.

Biden plans to select Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be his ambassador to the United Nations, and he will restore the job to cabinet-level status, giving her a seat on his National Security Council. Thomas-Greenfield filled a variety of roles at the State Department during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, as well as serving as ambassador to Liberia from 2008 to 2012. She left the State Department in 2017 after Trump took office.

Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, served as his national security adviser when Biden was vice president, then became the deputy national security adviser to Obama during his second term. Blinken is seen as a coalition builder and an interventionist, and he is expected to lead an attempt to shore up the United States’ allegiances in its global power struggle with China.

To fill a new, forward-looking position, Biden picked John Kerry, an establishment figure who served as secretary of state during Obama’s second term. He will become Biden’s special envoy for climate, which will become a cabinet-level position in the incoming administration but will not be subject to Senate confirmation.

Biden plans to choose Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary, making her the first woman to fill that role. She previously served as the chair of the Federal Reserve during Obama’s presidency.

A labor economist by trade, Yellen is among the more liberal of Biden’s picks so far. She is expected to bring to bear a fondness for government intervention on behalf of workers as she helps to shape the new administration’s response to the economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

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