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Biden Expected To Name More Cabinet Members As Transition Of Power Goes On

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Joe Biden is wasting no time getting ready for the White House.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The president-elect is preparing to announce more key staff positions after the holiday weekend. His transition aides now have clearance to work with members of the outgoing administration. Donald Trump, the departing president, still claims he won the election. But during this week, his actions and even some of his words have been more in line with the reality that he lost.

GREENE: And we have NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid with us this morning. Hi, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi, there.

GREENE: OK. So Biden has already unveiled his foreign policy and national security teams. What is he turning to this week?

KHALID: Well, the big news of this week was that the General Services Administration told Joe Biden's team that it could officially begin the transition process. So what this means is that he will likely begin to have his first in-person national security briefings next week. He will likely begin receiving the president's daily brief on Monday. And, you know, typically, the incoming president would receive classified intelligence briefings just so that they have a sense of, you know, what they're stepping into into the White House. But Biden had not been receiving these classified briefings because of the delays in the transition process.

You know, in terms of other key appointments, we already know - thanks to my colleague Franco Ordoñez's reporting - that Biden is planning to nominate Janet Yellen as his treasury secretary. She, of course, has plenty of experience navigating tough economic environments. But we'll get a fuller picture of the other people on Biden's economic team. And I'm really interested to see this, in part, David, because it's coming at a critical moment when millions of people are set to lose unemployment benefits at the end of the year and there's this ongoing debate about additional COVID relief.

GREENE: Yeah, a lot of important debate over that issue - obviously, important to so many Americans. So the president-elect didn't make any public appearances over Thanksgiving itself - right? - but he and the future first lady did put out an op-ed. I mean, what message are they trying to convey now?

KHALID: They're really trying to focus on collective sacrifices that people are making and the importance of acknowledging that this is all happening against such a deadly pandemic. You know, they wrote in this op-ed, and they also called frontline workers, firefighters and nurses, yesterday to thank them to emphasize this idea of gratitude and recognition for people having this pared-down Thanksgiving. It was a message akin to the one that he delivered on Wednesday afternoon. He gave this Thanksgiving address to the nation. And I will say, it felt like a rather jarring contrast from what we've seen and heard from the president lately. You know, where the president, I think, has sounded somewhat divisive and, frankly, kind of petty at times, Biden is trying to sound presidential, delivering this message of reconciliation, unity and resolve in the face of a pandemic with record numbers of cases and increasing numbers of deaths.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: Two-hundred-and-sixty thousand Americans and counting - it's divided us, angered us, set us against one another. I know the country has grown weary of the fight. We need to remember - we're at war with a virus, not with one another, not with each other.

KHALID: You know, David, he talks about how hard it is for families to forego traditional Thanksgiving celebrations but that it's what's needed in this moment.

GREENE: Well, then we also did hear from President Trump - I mean, talking to reporters for the first time since the election. Sounds like - what? - not a concession but maybe getting closer to accepting reality.

KHALID: That's right. You know, for the first time, President Trump explicitly did say that he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Certainly, I will. Certainly, I will, and you know that. But I think that there will be a lot of things happening between now and the 20 of January - a lot of things.

KHALID: And, you know, he didn't say what those lot of things were. (Laughter) But I will say that he continues to push these baseless allegations of voter fraud. There really is no route for him to overturn the election results. So at this point, you know, it feels largely like rhetoric, nothing that's going to actually be able to change the outcome.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Asma Khalid. Asma, thank you so much.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.