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National News

Biden Names Several Aides Who Will Join White House

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Biden Names Several Aides Who Will Join White House

2020-11-18 21:29:53

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Joe Biden (Image source: Screenshot)

Despite the Trump administration still denying President-elect Joe Biden a peaceful transition process, it's full steam ahead for the former vice president. He has found a way to get some of the information he needs and named a select group as incoming aides to his administration.

"You know that I've been unable to get the briefings that ordinarily would have come by now," said Biden during a virtual meeting with former national security officials. "I just wanted to get your input on what you see ahead. To state the obvious, there's no presidential responsibility more important than protecting the American people."

Before the Tuesday meeting with the former officials, Biden announced nine aides who will be joining the Biden administration. It shows that he's relying on the same people who were behind him during the campaign and also shows his commitment to diversity. Previously, he called on his longtime aide Ron Klain to be his chief of staff.

Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti, two of Biden's longtime advisers, will become senior adviser and counselor to the president, respectively. Jen O'Malley Dillon, Biden's campaign manager, will become deputy chief of staff. The general counsel for his campaign, Dana Remus, will become counsel to the president. She once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

One of Biden's biggest African American allies, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), will leave Congress and become senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Activists were critical of this choice because of donations he's received from the fossil fuel industry. He represented the New Orleans area, and the industry is a prominent employer there. "Today feels like a betrayal," said Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash in a statement.

Biden said in his statement that these appointments "bring diverse perspectives and a shared commitment" to meeting major challenges. Five of the aides who were named on Tuesday are women.

Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Biden's former deputy campaign manager, will become director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. She is the granddaughter of Cesar Chavez and previously worked for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Annie Tomasini, Biden's traveling chief of staff, is set to become the director of Oval Office operations.

The future first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, has hired Reynoso Pantaleon, a former ambassador to Uruguay, to be her chief of staff. A top aide during the campaign, Anthony Bernal, will become her senior adviser. She will presumably need plenty of help, as she plans to be the first first lady to work outside the White House. She does not plan on giving up her job.

Ricchetti was campaign chairman for Biden and also his chief of staff when he was vice president during the Obama administration. Prior to that he worked as a registered lobbyist. Donilon had an integral role in the Biden campaign as chief strategist. He was behind many of the president-elect's speeches. O'Malley Dillon joined the campaign later when it was reorganizing after struggling early in the primaries. Richmond was a Biden supporter from his years in Congress.

There have not been any Cabinet members announced at this point. It's expected that the president-elect will begin announcing the names before the end of the month. A transition adviser said he is very close on some decisions.

The former national security officials who briefed Biden include Obama administration veterans: U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power; retired Adm. William McRaven, the former head of U.S. Special Operations Command; and retired Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who didn't see eye to eye with Biden and was fired after being critical of the administration in a magazine article.

The president-elect is also still taking congratulatory calls from other world leaders. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Trump ally, said it had been in touch with Biden.

"In a warm conversation, the president-elect reiterated his deep commitment to the State of Israel and its security," the office wrote on Twitter.

Not having access to classified information and other transition materials, including information regarding the pandemic, former FDA commissioner David Kessler said during a briefing arranged by the Biden transition office, "We don't have a day to waste."

Two vaccines recently announced their success and that they would soon be applying for emergency authorization from the FDA. But Biden's team is being locked out of all that planning. 

"There is valuable information inside the administration that you know is held by career officials, by other political appointees, and others who have been working hard at the COVID response for the last year. We need to talk to those individuals. We need to work together with them," said former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy.

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