John Kerry gets climate brief as Joe Biden names new team

Michigan board of canvassers votes to certify the state’s election results

US president-elect Joe Biden has announced senior members of his cabinet, foreign policy and national security teams, as he accelerates preparations to assume the presidency on January 20th.

Antony Blinken, the former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security advisor, will become secretary of state.

Jake Sullivan, a former Hillary Clinton aide who also served as Mr Biden's national security adviser in the Obama administration, will be national security advisor. The 43-year-old was closely involved in Ms Clinton's work on the Belfast Agreement.

Career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be the new US ambassador to the United Nations.


Avril Haines, the former deputy of the CIA director, will become the first female director of National Intelligence, while Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary of the department of homeland security, is the first Latino and immigrant nominated to serve as secretary of the department of homeland security.

Former secretary of state John Kerry has been appointed as a special envoy on climate change, an indication of the priority Mr Biden will give to climate change during his presidency. This will be the first time a climate change envoy will sit on the National Security Council.

Announcing the appointments – some of which had been flagged – Mr Biden said that he needed a team “ready on day one to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table.”

“These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative. Their accomplishments in diplomacy are unmatched, but they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet the profound challenges of this new moment with old thinking and unchanged habits – or without diversity of background and perspective. It’s why I’ve selected them.”

GSA refusal

Though Mr Biden's team of officials – many of whom will need to be confirmed by the Senate – is one of the most diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity, the appointments also mark a return to the politics of the Obama administration.

The appointment of Mr Kerry in particular, though rumoured, took some analysts by surprise, though the former secretary of state and presidential candidate was an early supporter of Mr Biden’s candidacy, campaigning for him in Iowa and elsewhere.

The announcement of some of the most senior members of Mr Biden's team is taking place earlier than usual in the transition cycle, suggesting that the president-elect is seeking to emphasise that he is moving ahead with his plans to assume the presidency, despite outgoing president Donald Trump refusing to accept the outcome of the election.

In addition, the General Services Administration (GSA) has refused to accept Mr Biden’s election victory, denying his team the resources and information they are entitled to ahead of inauguration day on January 20th.

The president-elect could also name a Treasury Secretary and other roles as early as this week.

Almost three weeks since the US election, Mr Trump has continued his attacks on the electoral system, even as his campaign suffered a further blow in its attempt to overturn the result of this month’s presidential election.

A Pennsylvania court dismissed Mr Trump's attempt to invalidate millions of mail-in ballots in the state - a case that was central to his campaign's legal strategy.

Outlining the court’s decision on Saturday night, Judge Matthew Brann said that the plaintiffs had used “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” which were “unsupported by evidence.”

Dismissed challenges

The Trump campaign has mounted approximately 30 legal challenges, the vast majority of which have been dismissed by courts across the country. Mr Trump would need to overturn the results in several states to win the presidency, a prospect that is virtually impossible.

The president also made an audacious call for state legislatures to overturn the election result in their states, ahead of the meeting of the college of electors on December 14th. Each state in the union will officially certify their results in the coming days and weeks, while some, including Georgia, have already done so.

The Michigan board of canvassers voted to certify the state’s election results on Monday. The outgoing president had hoped to sway the Republican-members of the board to declare him the victor in Michigan, despite Mr Biden winning the state by approximately 155,000 votes.

The head of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, had co-signed a letter asking the state's board of state canvassers to delay the certification process for two weeks. Mr Trump hosted Republican members of Michigan's state legislature at the White House on Friday.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent