WILMINGTON, DELAWARE (REUTERS) – President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday (Nov 17) named several top advisers from his election campaign and a Democratic congressman as senior White House aides, sticking with a tight inner circle as he transitions to the White House.
Biden has been preparing to take over the presidency on Jan 20, meeting with advisers and mapping out his policy plans, despite President Donald Trump’s increasingly tenuous effort to reverse the outcome of the Nov 3 election.
Biden presidential campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon, the first woman to lead a winning Democratic presidential bid, will be named a deputy chief of staff, Biden said in a statement released by his transition team.
Longtime close advisers Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti will join the White House as senior adviser to the president and counsellor to the president, respectively. Dana Remus, the campaign’s top lawyer, will be counsel to the president.
Another close adviser, Ron Klain, was already named chief of staff.
US Representative Cedric Richmond, who was a national co-chair of Biden’s campaign and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, will vacate a House seat in Louisiana to join as a senior adviser and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. The five-term lawmaker has some experience bridging gaps between the parties, which could help Biden advance his priorities in Congress.
Biden, who may name more staff soon, could still be weeks away from naming his Cabinet appointees.
The former vice-president met virtually with a panel of national security experts on Tuesday, including several advisers under consideration for foreign policy posts, such as former deputy US secretary of state Antony Blinken, former deputy national security adviser Avril Haines and former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.
Trump’s refusal to concede has stalled the normal transition to a new administration, including funding and office space to ensure a smooth handover. Biden is also not receiving the classified intelligence briefings normally accorded to an incoming president, a point Biden noted during a brief glimpse of the meeting offered to reporters.
After noting he had predicted the next president would “inherit a divided country and a world in disarray,” Biden said, “Just stating the obvious. You know that I’ve been unable to get the briefings that ordinarily would have come by now. And so I just want to get your input on what you see ahead.”
Biden said he had spoken to 13 foreign heads of state thus far, telling them, “America’s back. And it’s no longer America alone.”
He had a “warm conversation” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, according to Netanyahu’s office.
Biden also warned on Monday that stalling the transition much longer would cost lives in the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 247,000 in the United States and is intensifying daily.
Clear Biden victory
Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence he is the victim of widespread voter fraud, and his campaign has filed a flurry of lawsuits in battleground states. Election officials in both parties have said they see no evidence of serious irregularities.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine on Tuesday defended the campaign’s effort, even as courts in multiple states have rejected their legal challenges.
Asked what evidence Trump campaign had, Perrine told Fox News, “That’s part of what our pursuit is at this point... There’s no silver bullet here. It’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Biden won the national popular vote by more than 5.6 million votes, or 3.6 percentage points, with some ballots still being counted.
In the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner, Biden has secured 306 votes to Trump’s 232.
A hearing on one of Trump’s legal challenges was under way on Tuesday in a Pennsylvania federal court, where another setback would likely doom his already slim chances.
US District Judge Matthew Brann was weighing arguments in a Trump campaign lawsuit that seeks to block the state’s top election official from certifying Biden as the winner.
To remain in office, Trump would need to overturn results in at least three of the closely contested states in unprecedented fashion, and has no apparent legal means to do so.
Trump supporters are also clinging to hope that recounts could reverse state results, even though experts have said Biden’s margins appear insurmountable.
Georgia is undertaking a manual recount on its own, but in Wisconsin the Trump campaign would have to pay for a recount in advance. The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday estimated such a recount would cost US$7.9 million (S$10 million).
Wisconsin completed its certification on Tuesday, giving Biden a winning margin of just over 20,000 votes. Trump has until Wednesday to decide whether to pay US$7.9 million for a recount.