Biden building transition team as Trump attacks PA vote

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On Nov. 17, President-elect Joe Biden announced more key placements for his new administration and spoke to the nation about the exploding coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, outgoing President Donald Trump was fighting — and losing — yet another battle in the Pennsylvania courts in an attempt to overturn Biden’s win.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected arguments by Trump’s campaign that Republican election observers were improperly denied access to closely watch vote tallying in Philadelphia.

The loss could end the Trump campaign’s related legal battle in federal court, where Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is trying to block Pennsylvania from certifying election results.

Pennsylvania remains the focal point of all the legal maneuvering by Giuliani. If the Trump campaign fails at Giuliani’s latest gambit, as it has in every lawsuit it has brought thus far in Pennsylvania and in Philadelphia since August, it will not be able to overturn the Pennsylvania vote, which officially would end Trump’s attack on the fair and secure election.

On Nov. 17, City Commissioner Al Schmidt, said, “We’ve completed the official computation of the election results from Election 2020. I want to thank my fellow Philadelphians who turned out in record numbers and the election workers who worked day and night on the most transparent and secure election in Philadelphia history.”

For his part, Biden is moving forward and ignoring the lawsuits. But in his press briefing Biden was succinct: Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his win and that he will be president January 20 has a tremendous cost: American lives.

Biden’s key concern is administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, which will require serious coordination between the federal government and the states and territories. His frustration with the Trump stance was palpable as he answered press questions about the surge and the timeline for vaccine delivery.

But Biden has continued to build his team. Many of the faces are well-known, others less so. PGN reported last week on the coronavirus team as well as Biden appointing Ronald Klain as his chief of staff.

The team also released diversity figures on Nov. 15. Biden had promised to have his Cabinet and administration “look like America.” It does: nearly half of the transition team laying the groundwork for his administration is comprised of people of color, and women are the majority.

Forty-six percent of the transition staff are people of color, according to new diversity data of the transition team provided to CNN, and 41% of the senior staff are people of color. The majority of transition staff — 52% — are women, and 53% of the senior staff are women.

On Nov. 17 Biden announced he was hiring Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, as a senior adviser and the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Richmond will be resigning from the House to take the position. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards will appoint a replacement until a special election can be held.

Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillion, who took over the campaign and turned it into a fundraising monolith, will be Biden’s deputy chief of staff.

Mike Donilon has worked with Biden for decades, including as a counselor during the first Obama term. As chief strategist for Biden’s campaign, Donilon created the Biden theme for the general election, positioning Biden against the aggressively vituperative Trump in a “battle for the soul of the nation.” Donilon will be senior advisor to the president.

“Mike is a brilliant message strategist with a deep understanding of, and loyalty to, Joe Biden,” said David Axelrod on CNN. Axelrod held the same position for President Barack Obama.

Axelrod said of Donilon, who will ostensibly be maintaining Biden’s empathic and conciliatory brand during what is expected to be a contentious transition from Trump, said, “His inspiration from the beginning about framing the race as one about character proved out. And he shepherded it with great skill, discipline and even poetry.”

Steve Ricchetti, the Biden campaign chairman and a veteran of the Obama and Bill Clinton White Houses, will be a counselor to the president.

Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a top aide to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign during the primary, will be director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Chavez Rodriguez was also in the Obama administration, as a special assistant to the president and senior deputy director of public engagement.

Biden also hired attorney Dana Remus. She was the Biden campaign’s general counsel, but her role as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito caused media buzz after the announcement Tuesday.

Last week Alito gave a vitriolic and partisan keynote address to the conservative Federalist Society’s conference in which he attacked LGBTQ rights and women’s reproductive freedom from birth control to abortion.

Alito criticized the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. According to Alito, “You can’t say that marriage is the union between one man and one woman” because it might be labeled “bigotry.”

Remus defended Alito in a 2013 letter to the editor published in The Washington Post. She called Alito “a good man who serves every day with humility, dedication and incredible intelligence and insight.”

Remus also clerked for another Republican appointee, Third Circuit Court Judge Anthony Scirica.

Remus’s history is considered integral to dealing with the Trump Supreme Court, which is now 6-3 conservative, with the three Trump appointees. Remus will have the pivotal position of White House counsel.

The importance of the position cannot be overstated. The transition will demand a plethora of significant legal wrangles and Remus’ ability to cross the aisle is considered key in the transition and beyond.

Other Biden appointees include Annie Tomasini, who was Biden’s traveling chief of staff during the campaign. She will be director of Oval Office Operations, a critical gatekeeping role in the White House inner circle.

Biden has appointed trans veteran Shawn Skelly to his transition team, in a role as yet to be determined. Skelly is the first openly transgender member of Biden’s team. A retired commander in the U.S. Navy, Skelly became one of the first trans people to receive a presidential appointment in January 2017 when outgoing President Obama appointed her to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Skelly has also served in the Departments of Defense and Transportation.

Biden was the first nominee to mention trans people specifically in his acceptance speech. He has vowed to end the ban on trans people serving in the military and also pledged to make passing the Equality Act a priority during his first 100 days in office. Biden is expected to appoint other LGBTQ people to his administration.

Word on who Biden will nominate for positions in the Cabinet as Secretaries of State, Defense, Labor, Education and others remain somewhat speculative, but former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who was a top contender for the vice presidential post and assistant Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton, is considered the most likely candidate.

Randi Weingarten is an out lesbian and president of the American Federation of Teachers and a former Brooklyn public high school teacher who previously served as president of the United Federation of Teachers. She is being considered as Education Secretary. Weingarten has been an outspoken critic of current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose virulently anti-LGBTQ policies have been damaging to students in K-12 and secondary education.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has expressed keen interest in being Secretary of the Treasury. She was assistant Treasury Secretary in the Obama administration and created the Consumer Finance Protection Board. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been campaigning hard for the job of Labor Secretary. Complicating the appointment of either to the Biden administration is the fact both seats in the Senate would be replaced by their respective governors, both Republicans, which would be a setback for Biden who needs a Democratic majority in the Senate to pass legislation.

For more info on the Biden staff visit: http://buildbackbetter.com/.