Biden poised to make first Cabinet announcements

Access Bank

President-elect Joe Biden has expedited the selection of his Cabinet and is planning to make the first of several key announcements next week, an official said, as part of a concerted effort to show that he is moving forward despite President Donald Trump’s increasingly brazen attempts to sabotage the election.

On Thursday, Biden said he has settled on his choice for Treasury secretary, but officials said he’s also reached a decision – or is on the cusp of doing so – on other critical Cabinet posts, a few of which are expected to be announced before Thanksgiving. Monday and Tuesday are being eyed as tentative days for the first introductions of members of Biden’s Cabinet, an official said, with others coming later.

Lael Brainard, a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, is seen as the top contender to lead the Treasury Department. If selected, she would become the first female Treasury secretary, a move that would help Biden to start to deliver on his pledge to name a diverse Cabinet. But three officials close to the Biden transition declined to say whether Brainard was the final choice, saying it is a closely held decision that the President-elect would likely reveal right after Thanksgiving.

But Biden could announce his choice for secretary of state as soon as next week, officials said, along with another Cabinet post.

While Biden is well-known for his deliberate and often slow decision-making, particularly on personnel matters, the timeline of some Cabinet decisions is being accelerated because of a desire to move quickly to form a new government in the wake of Trump’s intransigence about the election.

Biden had talked with his advisers about taking a far slower approach, including waiting for the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate, but Trump’s actions have motivated Biden to move without delay.

“There is a desire to convey that we are governing, operating and up and running,” an official close to the transition said, explaining the urgency facing Biden’s team in the wake of Trump’s antics.

It’s been only a week since Ron Klain was named the incoming White House chief of staff, but that decision jump started movement inside the Biden team. And Jeff Zients, a co-chair of the transition, has been working for months on a variety of options for Biden to make about top personnel decisions.

Biden has been interviewing prospective Cabinet members virtually, with one or two exceptions, officials said, as serious steps are being taken to safeguard his health in light of the surging cases of Coronavirus.

In an interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room” on Thursday night, Klain said that more White House staff announcements would be made on Friday. Those posts are expected to be for the Office of Legislative Affairs and the Presidential Personnel Office, CNN has learned, in addition to White House social secretary.

Carlos Elizondo is expected to be named as White House social secretary on Friday, a transition official told CNN.

Elizondo worked in the Obama administration as social secretary for then-Vice President Biden and then-second lady Jill Biden. He will be only the second man to serve as White House social secretary and will inherit a unique dynamic as the White House adapts its activities to the age of coronavirus.

Elizondo is the third Latino to be named to the East Wing. Earlier in the week, Anthony Bernal was named as a senior adviser to Jill Biden, and Julissa Reynosa Pantaleon was tapped as her chief of staff.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, is under consideration to lead the Department of Defense, officials said, a decision that would be historic. Not only is Duckworth a decorated veteran, but also would be the first woman to serve as Defense secretary. Michèle Flournoy, who served in key defense roles in the Clinton and Obama administrations, is also a leading contender for the post.

“This is all expedited more than we thought it would be,” an official said, noting that Biden was projected as the winner less than two weeks ago.


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