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Wake Up To Politics - November 24, 2020

It’s Tuesday, November 24, 2020. Inauguration Day is 57 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Barring any breaking news, this will be the last Wake Up To Politics newsletter for the week. I hope you all have a happy and safe Thanksgiving; I will see you back in your inboxes on Monday.

  • There’s still time to email me questions for the next episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast. You can ask about any of the topics we’ve covered in past episodes, from polling to the Electoral College, or other areas of interest in American politics in 2020 and beyond.

The Biden Transition

After a weekslong delay, the General Services Administration authorized President-elect Joe Biden to begin his formal transition process on Monday. The decision, made official with a letter from GSA chief Emily Murphy, gives Biden’s transition team access to $7.3 million in government funds, as well as briefings and other resources from the outgoing administration.

  • Murphy had spent weeks refusing to formally “ascertain” Biden’s victory and allow his transition to begin, an unprecedented delay that came as President Donald Trump steadfastly refused to concede the 2020 race. Trump did not change his stance on Monday — promising that his legal team was “moving full speed ahead” — although he did offer his blessing to Murphy’s decision.
  • Trump’s legal strategy is running out of moves, a reality that was underlined by Murphy’s “ascertainment.” The Michigan Board of Canvassers voted to certify Biden’s victory in the state on Monday; more battleground states are slated to follow in the coming days.

Biden will unveil his national security team today, rolling out his first Cabinet appointees. Here’s a rundown of who Biden plans to announce:

  • Antony Blinken as Secretary of State. Blinken served under Biden when he was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as Biden’s National Security Advisor during his vice presidency. He also served as Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.
  • Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security. Mayorkas, the son of Cuban refugees, was appointed as a U.S. Attorney by President Bill Clinton and later served as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration. If confirmed, he will be the first Latino and first immigrant to lead DHS.
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield as Ambassador to the United Nations. Thomas-Greenfield served as a career diplomat for more than three decades until being terminated by the Trump administration. She held postings around the world, including as Ambassador to Liberia under President George W. Bush. During the Obama era, she served as Director-General of the U.S. Foreign Service and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. If confirmed, she will be the second Black woman to hold the role.
  • Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence. Haines, who also served as a Senate committee aide for Biden, held the roles of Deputy White House Counsel, Deputy CIA Director, and Deputy National Security Advisor in the Obama administration. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead the intelligence community.
  • Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor. Sullivan is an experienced Democratic policy hand, having served as National Security Advisor to then-Vice President Biden and as Director of Policy Planning and Deputy Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was also a top aide on the Clinton and Biden presidential campaigns. At age 43, he will be the youngest National Security Advisor in decades.
  • John Kerry as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. A former U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and presidential nominee, Kerry brings decades of governmental experience and stature to his newly-created role overseeing Biden’s efforts to address climate change. He will sit on the National Security Council, the first time that the body has included a climate-focused official.

Biden’s initial picks share a few characteristics in common. They are all veterans of the Obama administration who have served in the agencies they are being appointed to lead. Most have Ivy League pedigrees. Many were seen as the frontrunners for the posts they received, and are regarded as broadly acceptable across the Democratic Party spectrum.

  • They are also the fulfillment of Biden’s promise to fill his government with diverse and experienced appointees, in contrast to Trump’s less-credentialed team of loyalists.

The president-elect is expected to introduce more Cabinet picks in the coming days and weeks. According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden has chosen former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as his Treasury Secretary. Like his other appointees, Yellen served in the Obama administration, is well-liked among both progressives and moderates, and would be a paradigm-breaking pick: she would be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its 231-year history.

  • Biden is not expected to formally announce Yellen today, nor will he announce a nominee for Secretary of Defense. Michèle Flournoy, who served as Under Secretary of Defense during the Obama era, had been seen as the top choice for Pentagon chief, but “Biden is not entirely sold” on her, according to Politico.


California Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced Monday that she would step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the next Congress. Feinstein, 87, had been criticized by members of her own party for her passive approach during Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation process earlier this year. She repeatedly praised Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during the Barrett hearings, a move that enraged progressive activists already frustrated with her leadership.

  • Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced his intention to seek the top Democratic spot on the Judiciary Committee after Feinstein’s announcement. Durbin, who serves as the Senate Minority Whip, is the next-highest-ranking Democrat on the panel.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey at 2 p.m. in the Rose Garden. First Lady Melania Trump will also attend the event.

  • The two candidates for the pardon are Corn and Cob, a pair of five-month-old turkeys from Iowa. The winner will be decided by an online poll, which Corn is winning as of press time. (While only one will be formally pardoned, both turkeys will be spared.)

Vice President Mike Pence has no public events scheduled.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will introduce key members of their national security team at 1 p.m. in Wilmington, Delaware.

  • Biden will also sit down for his post-election interview, with NBC’s Lester Holt. The interview will air on “NBC Nightly News” at 6:30 p.m.The Senate will meet at 12:15 p.m. for a brief pro forma session.

    The House will meet at 10 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

    The Supreme Court does not have any conferences or oral arguments scheduled.

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