Biden White House team takes shape amid stalled transition

Joe Biden has chosen a diverse group of Obama-era allies for key roles

US President-elect Joe Biden shows a face mask as he answers questions about COVID 19 from the press at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020.  US President-elect Joe Biden expressed frustration on November 16, 2020 about Donald Trump's refusal so far to cooperate on the White House transition process, saying "more people may die" without immediate coordination on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. / AFP / ROBERTO SCHMIDT
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President-elect Joe Biden is drawing from the senior ranks of his campaign to fill out an increasingly diverse White House leadership team.

Sources familiar with Mr Biden’s initial decisions confirmed on Monday that former campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon will serve as a deputy chief of staff, while campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman and campaign adviser Steve Ricchetti will play senior roles in the new administration. Mr Richmond will leave his Louisiana congressional seat to fill the White House job.

The sources were not authorised to disclose internal discussions before a formal staffing announcement expected for Tuesday.

The new hires represent an initial wave of what will ultimately be hundreds of new White House aides hired in the coming weeks as Mr Biden builds out an administration to execute his governing vision. The Democrat will be inaugurated January 20.

Late last week, Mr Biden tapped former senior campaign adviser Ron Klain to serve as his chief of staff.

Ms O’Malley Dillon, 44, was the first woman to manage a successful Democratic presidential campaign. She is a veteran political operative who worked on both of former President Barack Obama’s White House bids.

Mr Ricchetti worked as a lobbyist for the health care industry, among others, before becoming Mr Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration.

Mr Biden’s campaign was staffed with many appointees from the Obama era and his administration is expected to be as well.

Less clear is the shape of his Cabinet, which will be subject to Senate confirmation. Since winning the election earlier this month, the president-elect has been hunkered down with Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect near his home in Delaware preparing for the business of governing.

Mr Biden will begin rolling out his higher-profile Cabinet picks in the coming weeks.

Mr Richmond, a 47-year-old African-American, will take on a public engagement role in Mr Biden's administration that will allow him to deal with Congress along with a focus on the Black community and other minority groups. Mr Richmond’s role will be like that of Valerie Jarrett in Obama’s administrations, said two Democrats with knowledge of the hire.

A gifted choice 

A former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Mr Richmond was among Mr Biden’s earliest high-profile supporters and served as his campaign co-chair.

Mr Richmond was a key figure in helping Mr Biden leverage his own long-standing relationships with CBC members. The congressman, who was first elected in 2010 when Mr Biden was Obama’s vice president, was especially important in outreach to younger lawmakers who, like him, came to Washington later in the 77-year-old president-elect’s career.

Mr Richmond has scheduled a Tuesday morning news conference in which he’s expected to announce that he’s leaving his congressional seat.

Mr Richmond established a strong relationship with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, claiming the South Carolina Democrat and highest-ranking Black member of Congress as a personal mentor not long after Richmond arrived in the House. Mr Clyburn’s endorsement of Mr Biden before the South Carolina primary was a seminal moment in the president-elect’s campaign after his disastrous start in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

Informed of the Richmond news on Capitol Hill on Monday, Mr Clyburn said it was “great.” He described Mr Richmond as “very gifted, very energetic.”

Mr Richmond remains friends with Republican House Minority Whip Steve Scalise from their days in the Louisiana Legislature.