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Biden signals US diplomatic shift with new team

  • Sebastian Smith

    Agence France-Presse

Washington   /   Tue, November 24, 2020   /   09:00 am
Biden signals US diplomatic shift with new team This combination of pictures created on Monday shows shows US Ambassador to Liberia Linda Thomas-Greenfield in New York City, US Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, Avril Haines, former deputy national security advisor and former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, in Washington, DC, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in New York City, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, DC and former US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris. US President-elect Joe Biden announced on Monday the nomination of former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to head the US Treasury, the nomination of former US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to serve as United Nations Ambassador, the nomination of former deputy national security advisor and former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency Avril Haines to serve as Director of National Intelligence, the nomination of veteran diplomat Antony Blinken as his secretary of state secretary of state, the nomination of former US Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security and the nomination of former US Secretary of State John Kerry to serve as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. (Getty Images via AFP/Stephane de Sakutin, Win McNamee, Thos Robinson, Brad Barket, Bertrand Guay, Daniel Roland)

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced a foreign policy and national security team crammed with veterans from the Barack Obama years, signaling an end to the upheaval under President Donald Trump and a return to traditional US diplomacy.

Top of the list was former State Department number two Antony Blinken, tapped for secretary of state.

Biden also named the first female head of intelligence, the first Latino chief of Homeland Security, the first woman as treasury secretary, and a heavyweight pointman on climate issues - Obama-era top diplomat John Kerry.

Even as Trump continued to make flailing attempts at overturning the results of the election three weeks ago, Biden's rollout of cabinet names was his biggest step yet signaling he is ready to change America's direction on January 20.

The list put out by Biden's team ahead of a formal announcement Tuesday demonstrated a push to bring back the US role of leader in multilateral alliances, in contrast to Trump's "America first" regime.

"They will rally the world to take on our challenges like no other - challenges that no one nation can face alone," Biden tweeted. "It's time to restore American leadership."

Blinken, a longtime advisor to Biden, will spearhead a fast-paced dismantling of Trump's go-it-alone policies, including rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization and resurrecting the Obama-crafted Iran nuclear deal.

Biden named the first woman, Avril Haines, as director of national intelligence, and Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security, the agency whose policing of tough immigration restrictions under Trump was a frequent source of controversy.

Signaling the Democratic president-elect's campaign promise to raise the profile of global warming threats, he named Kerry as a new special envoy on climate issues.

And in a further message of US re-engagement with the international community, Biden named career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador. 

Jake Sullivan, who also advised Biden when he was vice president under Obama, was named national security advisor.

Picked to manage the world's biggest economy as Treasury secretary was Janet Yellen, who will make history as the first woman in the job if confirmed. The 74-year-old was confirmed as Federal Reserve chairwoman under Obama in 2014 and replaced by Trump four years later.

The picks underline an emphasis on professionals whom Biden already knows well, in contrast to the Trump White House where officials were often picked without having traditional background for the job or proved incompatible and departed in acrimony.

The announcements come against an unprecedented backdrop of Trump refusing to concede defeat and blocking Biden's access to the normal process for preparing an incoming government.

So far only a slowly growing minority of Republican leaders has denounced Trump's conspiracy theory that mass fraud robbed him of victory, despite there being no evidence for this.

Many of Biden's cabinet picks will require confirmation in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority, although this would change if Democrats score an upset victory in two Georgia Senate runoff elections.

The president, meanwhile, has largely halted at least his public work duties, while heading out to a golf course he owns in Virginia half a dozen times since the election.

He has also not taken questions from reporters since the election -- a previously unimaginable silence from a president who for most of his time in office sparred near daily with the press.

His options for overturning the election, however, are dwindling rapidly in the face of repeated court defeats.

With Biden having won a comfortable victory, Trump's last card is to disrupt the normally routine process of state-by-state certification of results, followed by the formal December 14 vote by the Electoral College. However, that too is bearing little fruit.

There, Trump suffered another setback Monday when Michigan election officials became the latest to certify Biden's win.

More cracks appeared in the facade of Republican unity over the weekend with Trump confidant and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie calling the president's legal team a "national embarrassment."

Senator Patrick Toomey, from Pennsylvania, said after the court ruling there that Trump had "exhausted all plausible legal options."

And on Monday, Senator Rob Portman, another Republican, said it was "time to expeditiously resolve any outstanding questions and move forward."

"There is no more sacred constitutional process in our great democracy than the orderly transfer of power after a presidential election," he wrote in The Enquirer newspaper.

There was also a push from Trump's highest profile Wall Street backer, Stephen Schwarzman, head of the Blackstone private equity group, who told Axios "the country should move on."