Biden's transition formally begins

By Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 1013 GMT (1813 HKT) November 25, 2020
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3:14 p.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Biden just introduced his first Cabinet selections. Here are some key lines from their remarks. 

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/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris just introduced their first Cabinet-level picks and appointments to key national security and foreign policy posts.

Here are some key lines from the nominees' remarks in Delaware:

Antony Blinken, Secretary of State nominee

Blinken said that the US needs to proceed "with equal measures of humility and confidence" in working with other countries because "we can't solve all of the world's problems alone." 

"We need to be working with other countries, we need their cooperation. We need their partnership," he said.

Blinken said the US has a "greater ability than any other country on Earth to bring others together to meet challenges of our time."

Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Secretary nominee

Mayorkas, who would become the first Latino to helm the department if confirmed, said that the Department of Homeland Security has "a noble mission, to help keep us safe and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome."

Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence nominee

Haines, who would become the first woman to lead the US intelligence community, said that Biden knows she has "never shied away from speaking truth to power," adding, "that will be my charge as director of national intelligence." 

"I worked for you for a long time and I accept this nomination knowing that you would never want me to do otherwise and that you value the perspective of the intelligence community and that you will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult, and I assure you, there will be those times."

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, UN Ambassador nominee

Thomas-Greenfield, who has worked for 35 years in foreign service across four continents, said she likes to put a "cajun spin" on diplomacy.

"I called it gumbo diplomacy. Wherever I was posted around the world, I'd invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to help me make a roux, chop onions for the holy trinity, and make homemade gumbo." 

She added: "It was my way of breaking down barriers, connecting with people, and starting to see each other on a human level." 

Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser nominee

Sullivan noted that he served as Biden's national security adviser when he was vice president. 

"I learned a lot about a lot, about diplomacy, about strategy, about policy. Most importantly about human nature. I watched him pair strength and resolve with humanity and empathy." 

On Biden, he added, "That is the person America elected. That's also America at its best." 

John Kerry, Climate Envoy nominee

Kerry said that in the fight against climate change "failure is not an option." 

"Succeeding together means tapping into the best of American ingenuity, creativity, diplomacy, from brain power to alternative energy power, using every tool we have to get where we have to go," he said.

Kerry added: "No one should doubt the determination of this president and vice president, they shouldn't doubt the determination of the country that went to the moon, cured supposedly incurable diseases, and beat back global tyranny to win World War II."

1:35 p.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Biden's Cabinet nominations and appointments include several firsts 

From CNN's Sarah Mucha and Gregory Krieg

President-elect Joe Biden's first Cabinet picks and appointments to key national security and foreign policy posts include several firsts.

He has selected Avril Haines, the first woman to lead the US intelligence community, and Alejandro Mayorkas, the first Latino to helm the Department of Homeland Security.

Cuban-born Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary of DHS who Biden has nominated to lead the department, will be tasked with rebuilding an agency that carried out some of the most draconian measures associated with President Trump's hardline immigration policy, including family separations at the US-Mexico border.

"My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism," Mayorkas said at Biden's announcement in Delaware. "They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become United States citizens as was I. I have carried that pride throughout my nearly 20 years of government service and throughout my life. My parents are not here to see this day. Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice president-elect, please know I will work day and night in the service of our nation to ably lead men and women of the United States Department of Homeland Security. And to bring honor to my parents and of the trust you placed in me to carry vision for our country forward."

Biden's pick for director of national intelligence, Haines, a former top CIA official and deputy national security adviser, will also make history if confirmed by the Senate.

"If afforded the opportunities to do so, I will never forget that my role on this team is unique. Better than that of a policy adviser, I will represent to you, Congress, and the American public, the patriots that comprise our intelligence community. Mr. President-Elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power and that will be my charge as director of national intelligence," Haines said.

Here's who else has been tapped to serve in Biden's Cabinet:

  • Antony Blinken, Secretary of State
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations 
  • Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser
  • John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate 

3:04 p.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Biden introduces first Cabinet selections: "A team that reflects the fact that America is back"

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduce their nominees and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts at The Queen theater on November 24, in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduce their nominees and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts at The Queen theater on November 24, in Wilmington, Delaware. Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden is introducing his Cabinet nominees and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts, including the first woman to lead the US intelligence community and first Latino to helm the Department of Homeland Security.

The six foreign policy and national security nominees and appointees, which were unveiled yesterday, are on stage with him in Wilmington, Delaware.

"Today, I'm pleased to announce nominations and staff for critical foreign policy and nation security positions in my administration. It is a team that will keep our country and our people safe and secure. And it is a team that reflects the fact that America is back. Ready to lead the world, not retreat from it," Biden said. 

"The team meets this moment, this team behind me. They embody my core beliefs that America is strongest when it works with its allies," Biden continued. "Collectively this team has secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory."

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also praised the individuals, saying they are the leaders the country needs "to meet the challenges of this moment."

"I have always believed in the nobility of public service, and these Americans embody it," Kamala Harris said. "These women and men are patriots and public servants to their core. And they are leaders, the leaders we need to meet the challenges of this moment. And those that lie ahead."

The nominees and appointees include:

  • Antony Blinken, Secretary of State
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security 
  • Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence 
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations 
  • Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser
  • John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate 

Watch President-elect Joe Biden's remarks:

12:55 p.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Trump touts stock market in one-minute briefing room statement

From CNN's Alison Main and Betsy klein

President Donald Trump walks out to speak in the Brady Briefing Room in the White House, on November 24.
President Donald Trump walks out to speak in the Brady Briefing Room in the White House, on November 24. Susan Walsh/AP

President Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, abruptly came into the White House briefing room Tuesday for remarks scheduled minutes before on the stock market that clocked in just over one minute.

The Dow hit 30,000 for the first time earlier Tuesday as uncertainty about the outcome of the presidential election lifted and new hopes that a Covid-19 vaccine could soon be available.

The President made brief remarks and did not take any questions. 

Here's what the President said:

"I just want to congratulate everybody. The stock market, Dow Jones Industrial Average, just hit 30,000, which is the highest in history. We've never broken 30,000, and that's just, despite everything that's taken place with the pandemic.
I'm very thrilled with what's happened on the vaccine front, that's been absolutely incredible. Nothing like that has ever happened, medically, and I think people are acknowledging that, and it's having a big effect.
But the stock market's just broken 30,000, never been broken that number. That’s a sacred number 30,000, nobody thought they'd ever see it. That's the ninth time since the beginning of 2020. And it's the 48th time that we've broken records in, during the Trump administration.
And I just want to congratulate all the people within the administration that work so hard. And most importantly, I want to congratulate the people of our country, because there are no people like you. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you."

12:50 p.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Nevada certifies 2020 general election results

From CNN's Augie Martin

An election worker scans mail-in ballots at the Clark County Election Department on November 7 in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
An election worker scans mail-in ballots at the Clark County Election Department on November 7 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara K. Cegavske officially certified the state's 2020 general election results before the state's Supreme Court Tuesday.

Cevaske, a Republican, highlighted several state races and their results, but did not verbally acknowledge the winner of the presidential race, President-elect Joe Biden.

The Nevada Supreme Court signed the canvassing for each county prior to official certification of the results.

Biden won the state by more than 33,000 votes, according to the latest numbers on the Secretary of State’s website.

Here's a breakdown of the general election vote count:

  • 1,407,754 people, or 77.26% of the Nevada populous, voted in the general election.
  • Four counties had over 85% turnout.
  • Mineral county, which had the lowest voter turnout, still had an impressive 74.3% turnout. 
  • 49.2% voted by mail
  • 40.98% by early voting
  • 9.73% early on Election Day

1:18 p.m. ET, November 24, 2020

HHS secretary says his agency is coordinating with Biden transition team

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 19.
US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 19. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said his department has been in communication with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team, following the General Services Administration's acknowledgement of Biden's win Monday night.

"Our top career official, Rear Admiral (Erica) Schwartz, who has been leading our transition planning efforts, was last night in communication with the Biden transition team," Azar said during an Operation Warp Speed briefing on Tuesday.

"We are immediately getting them all of the pre-prepared transition briefing materials. We will ensure coordinated briefings with them to ensure they're getting whatever information that they feel they need that's consistent with statute and past practice," Azar said. 

"Transition planning and execution will be professional, cooperative and collaborative," he added.

WATCH:

1:16 p.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Trump loyalist connected to Biden conspiracy theories is leading Pentagon transition to new administration

From CNN's Barbara Starr

Senator Lindsey Graham (left) and National Security Council Senior Director of Counterterrorism Kashyap "Kash" Pramod Patel (right) listen as President Donald Trump makes a statement in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House October 27, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Senator Lindsey Graham (left) and National Security Council Senior Director of Counterterrorism Kashyap "Kash" Pramod Patel (right) listen as President Donald Trump makes a statement in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House October 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Kash Patel, a Trump loyalist who was connected to efforts to spread conspiracy theories about Joe Biden has been put in charge of the Pentagon transition effort with the incoming Biden-Harris administration, according to two US defense officials.  

Patel is the chief of staff to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller.  While its not unusual for a chief of staff to take a leading role in a transition effort, officials tell CNN that Patel is likely to come under scrutiny by many inside the Pentagon who are watching to see how cooperative he may be with the Biden team in providing critical information. 

Patel just recently came to the Pentagon after President Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and is viewed as an ardent Trump loyalist who will continue to do whatever he can to further the President’s political agenda in the time remaining in office.

The House impeachment inquiry uncovered evidence that Patel, who was then an aid to Rep. Devin Nunes was connected to the diplomatic back channel led by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and the efforts to spread conspiracy theories about Joe Biden and coerce Ukraine into announcing an investigation of the former vice president.

Thomas Muir, the director of Washington Headquarters Services is providing the major Department of Defense support to the transition while Patel heads the overall effort another defense official said.Muir is expected to facilitate office space, communications and access to information. 

A senior defense official said that prior to Patel overseeing the transition process, his predecessor Jen Stewart who was chief of staff to Esper was leading the process.

Since coming to the Pentagon, Patel has overseen decisions to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan

The Pentagon said Monday night that the Biden-Harris team has been in touch with the Department of Defense team.

Barbara Starr reports:

11:46 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Health and Human Services held a key transition meeting this morning

From CNN's Kristen Holmes

As the nation continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, Health and Human Services held a key meeting this morning following the ascertainment declaration from the General Services Administration.

“Given GSA’s ascertainment last night, HHS Chief of Staff Brian Harrison met this morning with HHS’s career transition lead, Deputy Surgeon General RADM Erica Schwartz, to receive an update and ensure smooth transition planning,” an HHS spokesperson told CNN in a statement.

HHS also says it will have a cooperative a professional transition. It also notes that the career people involved with the pandemic response and vaccine distribution will be the same after inauguration day.

Remember: The delay in ascertainment meant that President-elect Joe Biden's team was locked out from government data and could not make contact with federal agencies, nor could it spend $6.3 million in government funding now available for the transition.

A Biden official said the most urgent need was for the transition to be given access to Covid-19 data and the vaccine distribution plans.

11:35 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

State Department transition team and Biden team are in touch and will meet virtually later today

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

The State Department transition team was contacted by President-elect Joe Biden’s State Department agency review team last night after the General Services Administration ascertained Biden’s victory, according to a senior State Department official with knowledge of the transition.

The outreach came from Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is the team lead and Biden’s pick for Ambassador to the UN, the official said.

Today there will be a virtual meeting with the State Department transition team, led by Ambassador Dan Smith, and the Biden transition team, the official said. This will be their first official meeting and comes more than two weeks after Biden gave a victory speech and was declared the winner of the election.

The meeting will begin to dig into logistical and substantive details, such as the pace of the process over the next few weeks and how much of the process will be done in person and how much will be done virtually, the official said.

While there is a scurry of activity in the transition offices at the State Department this morning, none of the Biden State Department team members have yet visited the offices, the official said.

Today Thomas-Greenfield is with Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, as he formally unveils a slew of high-profile Cabinet appointments, including his plan to send her to represent the US at the UN.

Traditionally the Cabinet picks don’t happen until after the transition has been in motion for at least a few weeks.

With the key Cabinet picks for State already done – with Tony Blinken chosen to be Biden’s Secretary of State – the transition process will operate a bit more quickly as the career transition team at State knows who they are working with and can prepare materials that they need with their input, the official said.