US president-elect Joe Biden will declare the first names chosen for his cabinet on Tuesday, the incoming White House chief of staff said – and is expecting a scaled-down inauguration celebration because of the risks of spreading coronavirus.
In a sign that his transition team is pressing ahead swiftly – despite Donald Trump’s failure to concede the election and ongoing attempts to thwart the transition process – Ron Klain said on Sunday that the appointments were moving at a faster pace than the previous two administrations.
“You’re going to see the first cabinet picks this Tuesday. But if you want to know what cabinet agencies they are, who’s going to be in those cabinet agencies, you’ll have to wait for the president-elect to say that himself on Tuesday,” he told ABC.
Antony Blinken, a career diplomat who served as No 2 at the state department and as deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, was Biden’s most likely pick to be secretary of state, according to reports on Sunday night by the New York Times and Reuters.
This news comes after Biden said on Thursday that he had already chosen his treasury secretary, hinting only that it is somebody who will be “accepted by all elements of the Democratic party”.
Klain said that while parts of the transition are progressing at “record setting pace”, there are limits to what the incoming team can do while the current administration continues to attempt to block the transition, the impacts of which “escalate every day”.
He said Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris are not getting access to intelligence briefings, coronavirus data or background checks for cabinet nominees and criticised US general services administration (GSA) administrator Emily Murphy, who has delayed declaring Biden’s win.
“The law only requires her to find who is the apparent victor of the election and I can’t imagine there’s any dispute that Joe Biden is the apparent winner of the presidential election.”
Klain said the president “has definitely set back the democratic norm here in the United States. He’s been doing that for four years and that’s ramped up since the election.”Asked about how the incoming administration plans to balance moving forward with holding the previous one accountable, he said the president-elect “is not going to tell the justice department who to investigate or who not to investigate.”
On inauguration day, 20 January, the incoming president normally is received by the outgoing president at the White House, followed by the swearing-in in front of the Capitol, watched by the public on the National Mall and millions on television. There’s a special launch, a procession down Pennsylvania Avenue and the inaugural balls.
Everything about Joe Biden’s celebrations are expected to be different in January, because of the ongoing pandemic.
“We know people want to celebrate … we just want to try to find a way to do it as safely as possible,” Klain said.
There is speculation that Trump will not take part in the ceremony at all.