Los Angeles Times

Trump clears path for Bi­den tran­si­tion plan

Pres­i­dent- elect makes sev­eral his­toric picks for key Cabi­net posts as Michi­gan cer­ti­fies re­sults from elec­tion.

- By Evan Halper, Tracy Wilkin­son and Don Lee

WASH­ING­TON — The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion yielded to the re­al­ity Mon­day that the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion will not be over­turned, f in­ally au­tho­riz­ing the start of for­mal tran­si­tion pro­ceed­ings as Pres­i­den­t­elect Joe Bi­den moved to make good his vow to ap­point a his­tor­i­cally di­verse Cabi­net.

Soon af­ter Michi­gan cer­ti­fied its vote for Bi­den, a ma­jor blow to Pres­i­dent Trump’s ef­forts to con­test the vote, the Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who has blocked the start of the for­mal tran­si­tion for three weeks for­mally rec­og­nized Bi­den as win­ner of the elec­tion and said she would pro­vide of­fice space, ac­cess to govern­ment of­fi­cials and other lo­gis­ti­cal re­sources to as­sist his team.

In a two- page let­ter to Bi­den, GSA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Emily Mur­phy wrote that she de­cided “in­de­pen­dently” to with­hold the of­fi­cial nod un­til now and was not pres­sured “di­rectly or in­di­rectly” by the White House as Trump un­suc­cess­fully fought the elec­tion in court with false claims of fraud. She de­nied that she had with­held the aid “out of fear or fa­voritism.”

“To be clear, I did not re­ceive any di­rec­tion to de­lay my de­ter­mi­na­tion,” Mur­phy wrote. “I did, how­ever, re­ceive threats on­line, by phone, and by mail di­rected at my safety, my fam­ily, my staff, and even my pets in an ef­fort to co­erce me into mak­ing this de­ter­mi­na­tion pre­ma­turely. Even in the face of thousands of threats, I al­ways re­mained com­mit­ted to up­hold­ing the law.”

Soon af­ter, the pres­i­dent tweeted that he had rec­om­mended that Mur­phy “do what needs to be done ... and have told my team to do the same.” Trump no­tably did not con­cede, how­ever.

The start of the for­mal tran­si­tion means Bi­den and his top aides will be given clas­si­fied brief­ings on na­tional se­cu­rity threats, among other as­sis­tance. They are also able to co­or­di­nate with fed­eral health of­fi­cials on the widen­ing pan­demic and a pos­si­ble na­tional vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign next year.

The lat­est twist in one of the na­tion’s strangest elec­tions came hours af­ter Bi­den an­nounced that he will nom­i­nate the first Latino to run the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity and the f irst woman to lead the na­tion’s vast in­tel­li­gence ap­pa­ra­tus.

Bi­den is also re­port­edly poised to nom­i­nate Janet Yellen, for­mer chair of the Fed­eral Re­serve, as the first woman to run the U. S. Trea­sury. A re­spected fig­ure with pro­gres­sives and Wall Street alike, Yellen would help lead Bi­den’s re­sponse to the econ­omy- wreck­ing pan­demic if she is con­firmed by the Se­nate.

The nom­i­nees sig­nal a wide- rang­ing White House

na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy lead­er­ship team. Un­like many in Trump’s ever- shift­ing Cabi­net, Bi­den chose known ad­vi­sors with long records of pub­lic ser­vice and expertise.

Bi­den chief ly tapped trusted con­fi­dants and es­tab­lish­ment f ig­ures for his in­ner cir­cle, pack­ing his Cabi­net with for­mer se­nior Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials with whom he had worked closely.

Ab­sent from Bi­den’s ini­tial round of Cabi­net picks are any par­ti­san war­riors. The list is de­fined by de­lib­er­ately non­par­ti­san and non­con­tro­ver­sial in­sid­ers who re­in­force the pres­i­den­t­elect’s in­cli­na­tion to project com­pe­tence and unity over set­tling po­lit­i­cal scores.

The most con­tro­ver­sial f ig­ure may be Ale­jan­dro May­orkas, Bi­den’s pick for sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity. As a deputy sec­re­tary of DHS un­der Pres­i­dent Obama, the Cuban- born May­orkas was a pri­mary ar­chi­tect of the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram and a pri­mary ne­go­tia­tor of the thaw in then­frozen U. S.- Cuban re­la­tions.

DACA and the open­ing to Cuba be­came top po­lit­i­cal targets for Trump and other Re­pub­li­cans. But the Se­nate has con­firmed May­orkas, who at­tended UC Berke­ley and worked as a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in Cal­i­for­nia, three times in the past for his roles in govern­ment.

As Bi­den filled out his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Trump’s ef­forts to over­turn the elec­tion sput­tered. A bi­par­ti­san Michi­gan board cer­ti­fied Bi­den’s vic­tory in the state, and coun­ties in Penn­syl­va­nia ignored Trump’s de­mands that they de­lay cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of re­sults.

Trump spent an­other day re­fus­ing to con­cede, but his authorizat­ion of the for­mal tran­si­tion process, in­clud­ing clas­si­fied brief­ings for Bi­den and his team,

came af­ter even some Repub­li­can law­mak­ers urged Trump to ac­knowl­edge re­al­ity. Un­of­fi­cial elec­tion re­turns show Trump lost to Bi­den by 6 mil­lion votes and 306- 232 in the elec­toral col­lege.

The Bi­den tran­si­tion team de­clined to con­firm me­dia re­ports that he has cho­sen Yellen as sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury, say­ing eco­nomic nom­i­nees will be an­nounced next week. Yellen would be the f irst Trea­sury chief who is not a white man.

At 74, the for­mer UC Berke­ley pro­fes­sor and head of the San Fran­cisco Fed bank is well- liked by mod­er­ates and pro­gres­sives in the Demo­cratic Party. She is re­garded in the fi­nan­cial world as some­one who guided the cen­tral bank and pro­vided key eco­nomic sup­port dur­ing a crit­i­cal pe­riod of re­cov­ery from the Great Re­ces­sion of 2007- 09.

Wall Street cheered the news, f irst re­ported by the Wall Street Jour­nal, with stocks mov­ing higher.

Yellen re­ceived bi­par­ti­san Se­nate sup­port when she was con­firmed as the f irst woman to chair the na­tion’s cen­tral bank in 2014. She is a strong ad­vo­cate for max­i­mum em­ploy­ment and for those on the fringes of the la­bor mar­ket and econ­omy.

As Fed chair, she vis­ited job train­ing cen­ters, spoke often about the need to address eco­nomic in­equal­ity, and pushed to pro­vide greater sup­port to help dis­ad­van­taged work­ers and com­mu­ni­ties.

Bi­den picked Avril Haines as the first fe­male director of na­tional in­tel­li­gence, the na­tion’s top spy. She served as deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor un­der Obama and be­fore that as CIA deputy director. The DNI helms the U. S. in­telli

gence com­mu­nity, which has 16 agen­cies scat­tered across govern­ment.

The pres­i­dent- elect plans to bring long­time col­league John F. Kerry into the White House to serve as a spe­cial en­voy for cli­mate on the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, ref lect­ing Bi­den’s pledge to boost U. S. ef­forts to bat­tle cli­mate change. Kerry was sec­re­tary of State from 2013 to 2017 af­ter serv­ing as se­na­tor from Mas­sachusetts and the 2004 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

Bi­den said that he will nom­i­nate Linda ThomasGree­n­field to f ill the Cabi­net- level post of U. S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions. A Black woman and for­mer U. S. am­bas­sador to Liberia, she was as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of State for African af­fairs un­der Obama.

The tran­si­tion team pub­licly con­firmed re­ports that emerged Sun­day that Bi­den

will nom­i­nate Antony Blinken, a vet­eran diplo­mat and deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, for sec­re­tary of State.

Bi­den also said he had picked Jake Sul­li­van for his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor. Sul­li­van was deputy chief of staff for Hil­lary Clin­ton when she led the State Depart­ment, and later be­came a se­nior aide in her failed 2016 pres­i­den­tial bid.

Sul­li­van was cred­ited with help­ing set up a se­cret back chan­nel to Iran that pro­duced the am­bi­tious nu­clear ac­cord signed by Tehran and the six ma­jor pow­ers in 2015. Trump with­drew from the deal in 2018, and Sul­li­van is ex­pected to look for ways to re­join the ac­cord.

“Th­ese in­di­vid­u­als are equally as ex­pe­ri­enced and crisis- tested as they are in­no­va­tive and imag­i­na­tive,” Bi­den said in a state­ment.

“Their ac­com­plish­ments in diplo­macy are un­matched, but they also ref lect the idea that we can­not meet the pro­found chal­lenges of this new mo­ment with old think­ing and un­changed habits — or with­out di­ver­sity of back­ground and per­spec­tive. It’s why I’ve se­lected them.”

Ex­cept for Kerry and Sul­li­van, the Se­nate must conf irm the nom­i­na­tions. The names on Bi­den’s list mark a cau­tious ap­proach to a hos­tile, GOP- con­trolled Se­nate, where Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell ( R- Ky.) is threat­en­ing to scut­tle nom­i­na­tions his cau­cus deems un­ac­cept­able.

Con­trol of the Se­nate re­mains in limbo un­til Ge­or­gia holds two runoff elec­tions on Jan. 5. Un­less Democrats win both — a long shot — the Bi­den ad­min­is­tra­tion will have to ne­go­ti­ate with McCon­nell.

At least so far, Bi­den’s nom­i­na­tions ap­pear well­po­si­tioned for Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion.

“Th­ese are peo­ple who are highly ex­pe­ri­enced and they are non- ide­o­log­i­cal,” Michael Singh, a for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, said of the for­eign pol­icy nom­i­na­tions. “They are prag­matic for­eign pol­icy prac­ti­tion­ers with a his­tory of work­ing across the aisle.”

The nom­i­na­tions un­der­scored Bi­den’s ap­ti­tude for f in­d­ing the cen­ter, with sev­eral of them wel­comed en­thu­si­as­ti­cally by di­ver­gent fac­tions in his own party. But there are emerg­ing ten­sions as promi­nent voices on the left de­mand Bi­den give lead­er­ship roles to stri­dent pro­gres­sives.

Bi­den ran on a bold blue­print for gov­ern­ing that drew wide buy- in from the left, who were de­ter­mined to oust Trump. Some pro­gres­sives now worry that an ad­min­is­tra­tion dom­i­nated by the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment will walk back Bi­den’s prom­ises to gain Se­nate sup­port.

“It is about time Democrats de­cided to quit giv­ing in to bullies,” said Jeff Hauser, founder of the Re­volv­ing Door Project, a pro­gres­sive group that scru­ti­nizes ex­ec­u­tive branch ap­pointees. “Bi­den should not be duck­ing from this f ight. You lose ev­ery f ight you are un­will­ing to take.”

Bi­den’s picks show he is seek­ing both to help ad­vance his am­bi­tious agenda and to bring com­pe­tence back to key agen­cies af­ter the chaos of the Trump years.

In Haines, for ex­am­ple, Bi­den is look­ing to re­store pro­fes­sion­al­ism and non­par­ti­san­ship to the DNI’s off ice, which was rat­tled by Trump loy­al­ists such as Richard Grenell and John Rat­cliffe.

“Any­thing is go­ing to be bet­ter than the last two guys,” said Larry Pfeif­fer, who over­lapped with Haines at the White House and the CIA.

John Brennan, who headed the CIA un­der Obama, said Haines “en­joys the com­plete trust and conf idence of Joe Bi­den, who will look to Avril to re­store in­tegrity and hon­esty at the helm of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.” He praised her “su­pe­rior in­tel­lect, hu­mil­ity and leg­endary work ethic.”

Blinken is a con­sum­mate diplo­mat, pol­ished and tele­genic, though so much in the for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment that some pro­gres­sives are un­easy with his ap­point­ment. His ap­proach is likely to con­trast sharply with Sec­re­tary of State Michael R. Pom­peo, who leaves a legacy marked by overt par­ti­san­ship and pol­icy changes often based on what was po­lit­i­cally ben­e­fi­cial to Trump.

Blinken has ac­knowl­edged that some Trump- era steps will be dif­fi­cult to re­verse. In the Mid­dle East, Bi­den does not plan to re­turn the U. S. Em­bassy in Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, for ex­am­ple, but has said he will work to bring the Pales­tini­ans back into ne­go­ti­a­tions af­ter they were side­lined by Trump.

Blinken would re­turn to a more tra­di­tional diplo­macy but also says the world has changed enough in the last four years to man­date new ap­proaches. Some con­ti­nu­ity is ex­pected on trade and China in sub­stance, if not in tone and tem­per­a­ture.

 ?? I N HER Su­san Walsh As­so­ci­ated Press ?? let­ter to Pres­i­dent- elect Joe Bi­den, GSA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Emily Mur­phy wrote that she was not pres­sured “di­rectly or in­di­rectly” amid elec­tion fraud claims by Pres­i­dent Trump and White House off icials.
I N HER Su­san Walsh As­so­ci­ated Press let­ter to Pres­i­dent- elect Joe Bi­den, GSA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Emily Mur­phy wrote that she was not pres­sured “di­rectly or in­di­rectly” amid elec­tion fraud claims by Pres­i­dent Trump and White House off icials.

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