Biden’s transition moves ahead

52 min ago

Biden to pick Susan Rice to lead White House Domestic Policy Council

From CNN’s Dan Merica and Arlette Saenz

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice speak together during a press briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in 2015.
Then-Vice President Joe Biden and then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice speak together during a press briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in 2015. Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will tap former National Security Adviser Susan Rice to lead the White House Domestic Policy Council, according to two sources familiar with the decision.

Politico was the first to report the decision.

1 hr 25 min ago

Biden to tap longtime Obama adviser to lead Veterans Affairs

From Jake Tapper and Jeff Zeleny

Denis McDonough speaks during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit in New York.
Denis McDonough speaks during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit in New York. Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

President-elect Joe Biden is poised to tap Denis McDonough to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, a person familiar with the decision says, adding a longtime chief of staff to former President Barack Obama to his new Cabinet. 

It’s the latest example of how Biden is turning to a trusted set of advisers to surround him in his new administration.

As VA Secretary, McDonough would be inheriting one of the most challenging agencies in the government, so Biden was looking “for a seasoned hand, who knows the government well,” a person familiar with the decision says.

Several veterans groups were hoping Biden would chose a veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. McDonough did not serve in the military, but rather has long experience navigating bureaucracies on Capitol Hill and the White House.

McDonough, a native of Minnesota who served as the chief of staff during Obama’s entire second term, also worked as deputy national security adviser. He developed a close relationship with Vice President Biden during both positions.

He is a devout Catholic, a bond he also shares with Biden.

The announcement of McDonough is forthcoming. He could join other prospective Cabinet nominees on Friday in Wilmington, but timing is still not confirmed.

Politico was first to report the McDonough selection.

1 hr 6 min ago

Biden will travel to Georgia next week to campaign for Democratic candidates ahead of crucial runoff election 

From CNN’s Jessica Dean, Ryan Nobles and DJ Judd

Joe Biden waves to supporters as he finishes speaking during a drive-in campaign rally in Atlanta on October 27.
Joe Biden waves to supporters as he finishes speaking during a drive-in campaign rally in Atlanta on October 27. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will travel to Atlanta next Tuesday, Dec. 15 to campaign for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock ahead of the crucial Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate.

Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — the Republican candidates in the Georgia runoff campaign — have enjoyed the benefit of high profile surrogates making non-stop regular appearances since almost the beginning of the campaign.

In addition to President Trump’s visit last Saturday and a promise to return, the GOP ticket has also benefited from Vice President Mike Pence who has already made one trip and will be back in the Peach State today. Trump and Pence join a long list of prominent Republicans who have come to Georgia.  

The Democratic approach to surrogates has been much different. In general, the campaigns of Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have taken much greater pains to prevent the spread of coronavirus than their Republican counterparts which limits the value of surrogates to travel to the state.

Democrats have been taking advantage of virtual campaign tactics. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Elizabeth Warren both held virtual fundraisers to support the Georgia campaigns. 

President Barack Obama held a virtual rally with the two candidates. The campaign says it was watched by more than a half a million people and led to the recruitment of 14,000 volunteers.

2 hr 1 min ago

Biden’s transition team will meet with Operation Warp Speed today and tomorrow

From CNN’s Arlette Saenz

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team will meet with Operation Warp Speed today and Friday, a transition official says. The official would not detail who would participate in these meetings from the Biden side.

The meetings come after the president-elect last week said he has not seen a “detailed plan” from the Trump administration about how a vaccine would be distributed to people.

Asked whether President-elect Biden would consider using the Defense Production Act to acquire vaccines if needed, a transition official punted, saying “We are continuing to work with the Operation Warp Speed team and our focus will be ensuring safe and effective vaccines are available to all Americans and around the world, and we’ll likely have additional details to share in the coming weeks and months.”

The US FDA has not yet approved a coronavirus vaccine. The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is meeting today to discuss Pfizer’s application for an emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine.

The US meanwhile continues to break grim records. December has already proved devastating. Wednesday recorded more than 3,100 Covid-19 deaths — the highest daily death toll ever since the pandemic’s start, beating a record set just days ago.

1 hr 5 min ago

Biden is yet to fill the key Cabinet spot of attorney general. These are his top contenders.

From CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Evan Perez

As President-elect Joe Biden formally introduced his defense secretary nominee Wednesday, the role of attorney general remains the biggest outstanding position in the Cabinet yet to be named.

Three leading contenders for the post are: Sen. Doug Jones, Judge Merrick Garland and Sally Yates, people familiar with the matter say, after Jeh Johnson informed allies late Tuesday he would not be serving in the Biden administration.

Here are key things to know about the contenders:

  • Jones: The Alabama senator who lost his race in November, is seen as the leading candidate to run the Department of Justice, people close to the matter say, particularly given his long-standing friendship with Biden and his strong civil rights record. He also fits a pattern developing among several key Cabinet nominees: Biden is turning to people with whom he has strong relationships, are seen as competent and could face an easier road to confirmation.”All signs point to Doug Jones,” a person close to the Biden transition tells CNN, but noted that Biden had not informed candidates of his final decision.
  • Garland: The judge has also been under consideration for weeks. Some people close to the process say his candidacy has become more serious over the last week and he remains an option. Yet his nomination also faces more challenges than Jones, including a more complicated confirmation battle, the vacancy it would create on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and questions from civil rights groups. Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the final year of the Obama administration
  • Yates: A former deputy attorney general, would also likely face a more difficult confirmation than Jones. As a 30-year career official at Justice, it’s also an open question whether she is best suited to lead the department in the post-Trump era. During her time as deputy attorney general, she stood by while then-FBI Director James Comey, who reported directly to her, repeatedly violated Justice Department policy in handling the Hillary Clinton email probe.

CNN has previously reported that Lisa Monaco, a former Homeland Security adviser in the Obama White House who worked closely with Biden on his vice presidential search, is also under consideration for the attorney general post. Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor and former civil rights chief at the Justice Department, was also being considered.

A Biden transition official said a decision had not yet been made and a formal announcement is not expected this week.

Read more here.

2 hr 10 min ago

Biden continues to build out his Cabinet. Here’s what you need to know about his nominees.

From CNN’s Kate Sullivan

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet announcement event in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 24.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet announcement event in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 24. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has moved swiftly to build out his administration since his election last month, and has named several people to top roles in his Cabinet and other key posts.

Several of Biden’s picks would make history if confirmed by the United States Senate as the first woman or person of color to serve in their role. Many also have decades of experience in their field and served in President Barack Obama’s administration.

Here are key things to know about some of Biden’s nominees, who will all need Senate confirmation:

Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense

  • Austin would make history as the first Black person to lead the Pentagon if confirmed by the Senate.
  • Austin is a retired Army general and is the former commander of the US Central Command.
  • He has worked closely with Biden in the past. While Biden was vice president, Austin served as the vice chief of staff of the Army and commanding general of US forces in Iraq, and later the commander of CENTCOM. Biden and Austin had discussions on a range of issues, including those in the Middle East and Central and South Asia.
  • Austin would need a congressional waiver to be confirmed for the civilian post because federal law requires seven years of retirement from active duty before taking on the role. Austin retired from active-duty service only four years ago.

Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services

  • Becerra would be the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services if confirmed by the Senate.
  • He currently serves as California’s attorney general, and is the first Latino to hold that office in the history of the state.
  • Becerra has been a chief defender of the Affordable Care Act in court. As the Trump administration and a coalition of Republican state attorneys general fight to invalidate the landmark health reform law, Becerra has led a group of Democratic attorneys general arguing why the law remains valid.
  • Becerra served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the US House of Representatives and held several leadership posts. He was the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. He was also the first Latino to serve as a member of the Ways and Means Committee.
  • Becerra also served one term in the California Legislature and is a former deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice. 

Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary

  • Yellen would make history as the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary if confirmed by the Senate.
  • Yellen already made history as the first woman to have chaired the Federal Reserve, serving from 2014 to 2018. She previously served for four years as the vice chair of the board, and president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco for four years prior to that.
  • Yellen was also chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999.

Read more about the other nominees here.