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US election 2020: Historic firsts as Joe Biden unveils key posts

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US President-elect Joe Biden has formally introduced the first people he has chosen for his cabinet, as the transition of power gathers pace.

If confirmed, Avril Haines would be the first female director of national intelligence and Alejandro Mayorkas the first Latino homeland security boss.

The team will help enact an agenda reflecting that “America is back, ready to lead the world,” Mr Biden said.

It comes as Mr Trump has agreed that the transition process should start.

However, he still refuses to concede defeat. He said the General Services Administration (GSA), which oversees the handover, must “do what needs to be done” but continues to repeat unsubstantiated claims that the 3 November election was “rigged”.

Mr Biden can now access millions of dollars in funds, national security briefings and key government officials to properly prepare to take over the presidency on 20 January.

Mr Biden is projected to beat President Trump by 306 votes to 232 in the US electoral college when it meets to formally confirm the winner on 14 December. This is far above the 270 votes he needs.

On Tuesday, Governor Tom Wolf said he had certified the victory of Mr Biden in Pennsylvania, one of the key swing states. Another, Michigan, certified the same result on Monday.

The president-elect highlighted the need to rebuild alliances, as well as tackling coronavirus and climate change. The cabinet choices he had named reflect “the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it”, suggesting a move away from the “America First” narrative of Donald Trump.

“We cannot meet these challenges with old thinking and unchanged habits,” he said.

Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, herself making history as the first woman in the role, appeared to refer to the previous administration when saying Mr Biden would be “guided by facts and expect our team to tell the truth no matter what”.

Many of the choices are Mr Biden’s colleagues from the Barack Obama administrations.

Mr Biden presented six key figures on Tuesday:

Antony Blinken. Secretary of state. Mr Biden said the veteran diplomat would be “ready on day one”

John Kerry. Climate change envoy. He was one of the leading architects of the Paris climate agreement, from which President Trump withdrew. Mr Kerry said the world must “come together to end the climate crisis”

Avril Haines. Director of national intelligence. Mr Biden said: “I picked a professional… a fierce advocate for telling the truth”.

Alejandro Mayorkas. Secretary of homeland security. Mr Biden said this was “one of the hardest jobs in government” and Mr Mayorkas would play a critical role in “fixing our dysfunctional immigration system”

Jake Sullivan. White House national security adviser. Mr Biden hailed “one of my trusted advisers” in the election campaign

Linda Thomas-Greenfield. US ambassador to the UN. A “seasoned and distinguished diplomat” who “treats everyone with dignity and respect”, Mr Biden said

One choice that is expected but has not been announced yet is former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary

Most of the picks, although not Mr Kerry nor Mr Sullivan, will need confirmation by the Senate. Rejection of a nominee is rare. The last was in 1989, although some nominees have withdrawn from consideration.

Mr Biden’s first TV interview as president-elect is scheduled to air in the US on Tuesday evening.

It is not yet clear when Mr Biden will be given his first classified national security briefing as incoming president. The so-called Presidential Daily Brief gives Mr Trump details of the latest international threats and developments.

BBC

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