Vice President Kamala Harris will have her first private lunch with Secretary of State Antony Blinken Wednesday, meetings that are expected to continue with regularity, according to two administration officials.
The meetings, which will be worked around their schedules and Covid-19 regulations, continue a tradition of vice presidents in close collaboration with their administration’s secretary of state. Then-Vice President Joe Biden was known to host meals with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Harris has told those close to her that she wants to shape her vice presidency after Biden’s own tenure. Regular lunches with Blinken, a longtime Biden aide now serving as secretary of state, could benefit that mission. It also shows a deliberate progression of her on-the-job foreign policy education – something sure to play a role in any future presidential campaigns.
Generally, Harris is looking to solidify her foreign policy and national security accolades over time, sources familiar with the vice president’s thinking have told CNN, and to lean on her four years of experience as a member of the Senate intelligence committee.
One source says the effort shows, in part, that Biden is providing Harris with space to grow in the foreign policy arena.
“The lunch reinforces the relationship with the White House and State Department,” the source said. “But also, Biden trusts her, Biden trusts Tony Blinken and wants (them) to form their own relationship on their own.”
Last week, Harris accompanied Biden visited the State Department, previewing her own vision of where the issues lie.
“The world is counting on us. And we as a nation must show both our allies and our adversaries, that American will deliver. It’s time to deliver,” she said.
Blinken spoke highly of Harris during that visit, saying “she fully shares the President’s commitment to crafting a foreign policy that puts diplomacy first and that keeps our nation safe and delivers real results to the American people.”
And Harris has undertaken some solo ventures of outreach to foreign allies. She has spoken with the World Health Organization’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
As the new White House navigates the complexities of Covid-19, Harris is not expected to make foreign travel within the first six months of the new administration, an official said, but domestic travel could come sooner.
And in service of her on-the-job education, Harris chose a career diplomat to lead her national security team. Her national security adviser, Nancy McEldowney, is a veteran of the State Department who served more than 30 years in the foreign service. Former State Department officials told CNN at the time of McEldowney’s appointment that her diplomatic experience would be a boon to the vice president.
“Nancy will be able to give (Harris) this broad experience that she has, steeped in foreign policy at all levels,” said Melanne Verveer, the executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and former US Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues.
CNN’s Dan Merica and Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.