Biden push to restore U.S. global role starts with Blinken

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Matt Spetalnick
·5-min read

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Matt Spetalnick

WILMINGTON, Del./NEW YORK (Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward on his campaign pledge to restore America as a leader on the global stage and lean on experts, tapping veteran diplomats for key posts even as President Donald Trump continues to refuse to concede.

Biden will name Antony Blinken as secretary of state and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the U.N., bringing deep foreign-policy backgrounds to the nascent administration while providing a sharp contrast with Trump, who distrusted such experience and embraced an "America First" policy that strained longstanding U.S. relationships.

Blinken could be named as early as Tuesday, according to sources close to Biden, while Axios first reported Thomas-Greenfield's impending nomination.

Blinken's appointment made another longtime Biden aide and foreign policy veteran, Jake Sullivan, the top candidate to be U.S. national security adviser, a source said.

During the campaign, Biden severely criticized Trump's go-it-alone foreign policy and pledged to recommit to NATO and other global pacts, while promising to tap experts to fight the COVID crisis and other problems at home. He has promised to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization and potentially the Iran nuclear deal.

“America First has made America alone,” Biden said in a town-hall meeting in October.

Blinken is a longtime Biden confidant who served as No. 2 at the State Department and as deputy national security adviser in President Barack Obama's administration, in which Biden served as vice president.

Thomas-Greenfield, a Black woman who served as the assistant secretary of state for Africa under Obama, was intended to restore morale and help fulfill Biden’s pledge to choose a diverse cabinet, Axios reported.

Sullivan served as Biden's national security adviser during the Obama administration and also as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ron Klain, Biden's choice as White House chief of staff, told ABC'S "This Week" that the first Biden cabinet picks would come on Tuesday.

Biden said last week he had settled on a treasury secretary. Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen is believed to be the top candidate in Democratic and monetary policy circles.

A spokesman for Biden's transition team declined to comment.

Klain again urged that the Trump administration - specifically a federal agency called the General Services Administration (GSA) - formally recognize Biden's victory in order to unlock resources for the transition process.

Biden is due to take office on Jan. 20.

"A record number of Americans rejected the Trump presidency, and since then Donald Trump's been rejecting democracy," Klain told "This Week."

Since Biden, a Democrat, was declared the winner of the Nov. 3 election two weeks ago, the Republican president has launched a barrage of lawsuits and mounted a pressure campaign to try to prevent state officials from certifying their vote totals, suffering another emphatic legal setback on Saturday in Pennsylvania.

Biden received 6 million more votes nationwide than Trump and prevailed 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College system that determines the election's victor.

SCALED-DOWN INAUGURATION PLANS

Klain said there would be "scaled-down versions of the existing traditions" for Biden's inauguration. Inauguration ceremonies and related events typically draw huge crowds to Washington. COVID-19 cases and deaths are surging in many parts of the country amid a pandemic that has killed more than 256,000 people in the United States.

Critics of Trump, including Democrats and some Republicans, have accused him of trying to undermine faith in the American electoral system and delegitimize Biden's victory by promoting false claims of widespread voter fraud.

Attempts to thwart certification of vote tallies have failed thus far in courts in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Arizona. U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann, in dismissing the Pennsylvania lawsuit on Saturday, compared the Trump team's arguments claiming voter fraud to a "Frankenstein's Monster" that was "haphazardly stitched together" using meritless legal arguments and speculative accusations.

Trump's campaign issued a statement on Sunday distancing itself from Sidney Powell, a lawyer who made baseless allegations of a vast vote-rigging conspiracy at a campaign news conference on Thursday.

"Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own," Trump campaign lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said in the statement. "She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity."

Both Giuliani and Ellis attended the Thursday news conference alongside Powell. Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump's campaign also said it was appealing Brann's decision to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Pennsylvania is expected to send its county results to its top election official for certification on Monday.

Trump's campaign has filed a petition for another recount in Georgia. A previous laborious hand recount reaffirmed Biden's victory by a margin of more than 12,000 votes in the southern state, a longtime Republican bastion in presidential elections.

Some of Trump's fellow Republicans are now breaking ranks, although many, including the most senior ones in Congress, have not.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski tweeted on Sunday that "it is time to begin the full and formal transition process," noting the courts had thus far found Trump's legal claims without merit and that the pressure campaign on state legislators "is not only unprecedented but inconsistent with our democratic process."

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, David Morgan, Jan Wolfe, Trevor Hunnicutt, David Brunnstrom, Linda So, Lisa Shumaker, Andy Sullivan, Andrea Shalal and Makini Brice in Washington; Writing by Will Dunham and James Oliphant; Editing by Daniel Wallis; Peter Cooney and Raju Gopalakrishnan)