President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday formally unveiled his picks for diplomatic and security positions — all of the officials previously senior members of the Obama administration.
Biden’s picks include Antony Blinken for secretary of state and Avril Haines as intelligence director.
“It’s a team that will keep our country and our people safe and secure,” Biden said in Wilmington, Del., as his masked nominees for Cabinet and other top positions stood behind him. “This team behind me, they embody my core beliefs that America’s strongest when it works with its allies.”
Biden, denounced as a warmonger by President Trump, including for supporting the 2003 Iraq War, said his team would work to prevent “needless military conflicts” and to fight global warming.
Biden’s selections, which many have dubbed “Obama 2.0,” were already announced by his campaign and include Alejandro Mayorkas as homeland security secretary, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador, Jake Sullivan for White House national security adviser and John Kerry to fill a new senior role as “special presidential envoy for climate.”
Blinken, deputy secretary of state from 2015-2017, will “rebuild morale and trust in the State Department, or where his career in government began,” Biden said.
The incoming top diplomat “is ready on day one” and “starts off with the kind of relationships around the world that many of his predecessors have had to build over the years,” the president-elect said.
Mayorkas, deputy secretary of homeland security from 2013-2016, during a time when then-President Barack Obama was dubbed “deporter in chief” by liberal activists, will end the Trump administration’s “absolute cruelty at DHS,” Biden maintained.
Mayorkas, a descendant of Cuban Jews, is “an immigrant, a Latino,” Biden said, and “helped implement DACA,” which since 2012 has given work permits and shielded from deportation illegal immigrants who arrived to the US as children.
It’s possible Mayorkas will face Republican headwinds in the Senate over an inspector general report that determined he intervened to help foreign investors connected to top Democrats with a visa program.
Biden said it was Mayorkas’ birthday, joking: “Happy Birthday, man… he’s 21.”
Kerry, the failed 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and a secretary of state in the Obama administration, will address “one of the most pressing threats of our time,” Biden said.
Biden, who stumbled in the final president debate by pledging to “transition” away from oil, joked that his global warming chief Kerry — who is 6-foot-4 — needed a stool as he approached the podium.
“I will do all in my power to live up to your expectations. And to this moment for our country and for the world,” Kerry said.
Kerry praised Biden for pledging to rejoin the Paris climate accord of 2015, which Trump scrapped for unfairly giving China greater permission to pollute.
“You’re right to rejoin Paris on day one, and you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough,” Kerry told Biden. “At the global meeting in Glasgow one year from now, all nations must embrace ambition together.”
Kerry, who brokered the Obama administration’s controversial Iran nuclear deal, which Trump also scrapped, said, “Mr. President-elect, you’ve put forward a bold transformative climate plan… But you’ve also underscored that no country alone can solve this challenge. Even the United States for all of our industrial strength is responsible for 13 percent of global emissions.”
Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, is “a fierce advocate for telling the truth,’ Biden said.
“I’ve worked with her over a decade — brilliant, humble — can talk literature and theoretical physics, fixing cars, flying planes, running a bookstore cafe, all in a single conversation, because she’s done all that,” he said.
Haines faces potential criticism from left-wing Democrats for her private-sector work, including for the tech company Palantir, led by billionaire Trump backer Peter Thiel, and for helping shield CIA workers who surveiled a Senate investigation of post-9/11 interrogation tactics considered by critics to be torture.
Sullivan, whose job is not Senate confirmed, told reporters in 2016 that Trump’s campaign may have links to Russia.
“I pledge to you and to the American people, that I will work relentlessly in service of the mission you have given us to keep our country and our people safe to advance our national interests, and to defend our values,” Sullivan said in his remarks.
“I had the honor of serving as Joe Biden’s national security advisor when he was vice president. I learned a lot about a lot — about diplomacy, about strategy, about policy, but most importantly about America at its best,” Sullivan added.
Biden praised Thomas-Greenfield’s life story.
“Her dad couldn’t read or write,” Biden said.
Thomas-Greenfield has held diplomatic posts around the world and is known as “the people’s ambassador,” Biden said. She was a top State Department official in charge of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during the Obama administration, and Biden said she would have Cabinet status.
The General Services Administration on Monday ascertained that Biden is president-elect, beginning the formal transition process. Senior administration officials told The Post that the White House budget office approved apportionment of those funds Monday night.
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