Who is in the Biden-Harris presidential transition team?

Republicans, academics and former Obama administration officials are working toward transition 

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 17 November 2020 18:15
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Donald Trump may be refusing to start the transition of power to Joe Biden, but the president-elect’s transition team is working to prepare him nonetheless. 

Mr Biden, who launched a presidential transition website the day after the election, has been preparing for the transition for months.

Obama administration officials, advisers to other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, and even Republicans are all on board with the effort to ensure a smooth transition of power for him and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Ted Kaufman, the man who wrote the laws on presidential transitions as a senator and long-time Biden adviser, was appointed earlier this year to lead the team.

He started early, calling potential recruits around March, as he set-about creating a team that by June, was reported to have six people working towards a possible Biden administration.  

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Sources told Politico in September that some 350 people could be working on the team by Inauguration Day.

Alexander Mackler, who served as Mr Kaufman's deputy chief of staff in the Senate, told the outlet that individuals “[who[ are first looking out for themselves” would not be recruited.

"He has been clear for a long time that he doesn’t look kindly upon the revolving door," Mr Mackler said about Mr Kaufman’s plans.

Since then, several former officials from the Obama administration have been appointed to the former vice president’s transition team, having worked with both Mr Biden and Mr Kaufman.

Yohannes Abraham, who served in Mr Obama’s legislative affairs office at the White House, manages the Biden transition team’s day-to-day operation, while Jeffrey Zients, an economist and former Obama administration adviser, also sits on the Biden transition team’s senior leadership board. As does Avril Haines, who served as an Obama administration deputy national security adviser.

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According to reports, progressives, academics and even Republicans have also joined, with Mr Kaufman prioritising “diversity of ideology” in his approach.

Advisers to Gautam Raghavan and other progressive lawmakers, as well as former staffers to 2020 Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are also on Biden’s team.

Bob McDonald, a former veterans affairs secretary and a Republican, belongs to the Biden transition team’s advisory board. As does Cindy McCain, the widow of late Republican senator John McCain.

Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, has also joined Mr Biden’s team to assist in reviewing the Department of the Treasury. 

The differing viewpoints included on the transition team indicate Mr Biden’s need to carry various wings of the Democratic party with him as he approaches inauguration, as well as his cross-party appeal to voters on the campaign trail.  

As required by a 2015 law co-authored by Mr Kaufman, his transition co-chair, Mr Biden’s transition team has been working on possible key appointments and preparing a policy agenda.

Mr Biden’s team has previously said the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout were the main focus of their plans.

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