Joe Biden names picks for secretary of State, Homeland Security chief, director of national intelligence

(L-R) U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry listen as President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki address reporters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, November 1, 2013.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden announced his intended nominees for top national security positions Monday, assembling a team of experienced institutionalists to fill his incoming Cabinet.

In addition to his previously reported plan to nominate Antony Blinken to be his secretary of State and Jake Sullivan to be national security advisor, Biden also announced he will nominate Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security and Avril Haines to be the director of national intelligence.

Blinken is a well known figure in national security circles, having worked as an advisor to Biden for decades, where he developed a reputation as a pragmatic realist and a strong backer of multilateral institutions.

Sullivan is a former top aide to Hillary Clinton, who joined Biden’s inner circle during the presidential campaign. Sullivan has previously said that effective U.S. foreign policy is rooted in strong democratic institutions at home.

Blinken and Sullivan are expected to take the lead on several of Biden’s top priorities in his first 100 days in office: Rejoining and strengthening the Paris Climate Agreement, rejoining and reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran and rejoining the World Health Organization.

Sullivan has also said Biden intends to organize a summit of global democracies early in his first term, part of a broader attempt to assemble a united front to push back against creeping autocracy in places like Russia and China.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a career officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, will be nominated to serve as the United Nations Ambassador, a post which will be elevated to Cabinet-level in the Biden administration.

Biden also announced he will name former secretary of State John Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate and place the post within the National Security Council, the first time a high level envoy for climate has been formally part of the NSC.

“America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,” Kerry tweeted following the announcement. “I’m proud to partner with the President-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the President’s Climate Envoy.”

From a Biden transition team statement:

• Antony Blinken, a former Deputy Secretary of State, will be nominated to serve as  Secretary of State having previously held top foreign affairs posts on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in the State Department.

• Alejandro Mayorkas, a former Deputy Secretary of DHS, who has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate three times throughout his career, will be the first Latino and immigrant nominated to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

• Avril Haines, a former Deputy Director of the CIA and Deputy National Security Advisor, will be nominated to serve as Director of National Intelligence and will be the first woman to lead the intelligence community.

• Jake Sullivan has been appointed National Security Advisor and will be one of the youngest people to serve in that role in decades.

White House legislative team takes shape

Earlier the day Monday, Biden also announced two more senior White House hires: Reema Dodin and Shuwanza Goff, who will both serve as deputy directors in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Dodin is an alumnae of Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin’s office, where she most recently served as his deputy chief of staff and floor director.

Like Dodin, Goff comes to the White House from Capitol Hill, where she is a longtime aide to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and was most recently floor director for the House. Both Goff and Dodin will report to Obama administration alum Louisa Terrell, who was tapped last week to serve as the White House director of legislative affairs.

Terrell, Goff and Dodin will be tasked with transforming Biden’s campaign pledges into actual legislation that has a fighting chance in what is expected to be a closely divided House and Senate. At the top of their agenda is a massive coronavirus relief package that both Republicans and Democrats say will need to be passed shortly after Biden takes office in late January.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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