Joe Biden to name longtime aide Antony Blinken as secretary of state

Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday the president-elect would be making his initial cabinet announcements on Tuesday.
Blinken is the leading contender to become President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team's planning.(AP Photo)
Blinken is the leading contender to become President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team's planning.(AP Photo)
Published on Nov 23, 2020 06:30 AM IST
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ByBloomberg | Posted by Kanishka Sarkar

President-elect Joe Biden intends to name his longtime adviser Antony Blinken as secretary of state, according to three people familiar with the matter, setting out to assemble his cabinet even before Donald Trump concedes defeat.

In addition, Jake Sullivan, formerly one of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides, is likely to be named Biden’s national security adviser, according to two people familiar with the matter. An announcement is expected Tuesday, the people said.

Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday the president-elect would be making his initial cabinet announcements on Tuesday, but declined to specify which positions would be filled first. The people familiar with Biden’s selections asked not to be identified because he hasn’t yet made the announcements.

Both Sullivan, who is 43, and Blinken, 58, served stints as Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice president.

State is regarded as one of the most prestigious cabinet posts. The secretary of state is the nation’s top diplomat, conducting meetings with foreign leaders across the globe.

The president’s national security adviser is one of the most important and powerful jobs in the White House, leading a staff of dozens of experts drawn from the government’s military, diplomatic and intelligence agencies who develop US foreign and military policy.

Blinken and Sullivan didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. A Biden spokesman declined to comment.

Blinken has been regarded as one of the leading candidates to run the State Department. After serving as the vice president’s national security adviser, he was elevated to deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama.

When Biden was a senator, Blinken served as his staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before leaving to work on Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign. Blinken graduated from Harvard and from Columbia Law School.

Following the Obama administration, Blinken co-founded WestExec Advisors, a political strategy firm, with a top Obama-era Pentagon official, Michele Flournoy.

The selection of Blinken to be America’s top diplomat signals Biden’s aim to place experienced people in key cabinet posts and a return to a foreign policy strategy that prioritizes alliances, a contrast to President Trump’s America’s First policies.

Blinken, a career foreign policy official, has a sprawling global network and is expected to lead the US’s efforts to rejoin international agreements like the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal. He is also likely to oversee a tougher posture toward China.

“The first thing is we have to dig out from a strategic deficit that President Trump has put us in,” Blinken said in a July Bloomberg TV interview. “President Trump has helped China advance its own key strategic goals.”

In particular, Blinken said Biden would “step up defenses of Taiwan’s democracy by exposing Beijing’s efforts to interfere. The irony is Taiwan has been a success story over the last decades in terms of how the U.S. and China have handled it.”

Last week, Biden met with defense and intelligence experts, including Blinken and others who worked for Obama when Biden was vice president, because the Trump administration has blocked him from getting the intelligence briefings traditionally granted the president-elect.

“We’ve been through a lot of damage done over the last four years, in my view. We need to rebuild our institutions and my workforce to reflect the full strength and diversity of our country,” Biden said at the briefing. “We need to focus on readiness for whatever may come.

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