BY: JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Sunday that President-elect Joe Biden will soon announce his first cabinet picks, a sign that he is moving swiftly forward with his transition despite President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the race.
“You’re going to see the first of the president-elect’s cabinet appointments on Tuesday of this week,” Klain told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview on “This Week.”
“But if you want to know what cabinet agencies they are or who’s going to be those cabinet agencies, you’ll have to wait for the president-elect, He’ll say that himself on Tuesday,” Klain added.
But while Biden and his transition remain stalled, Klain did say that their team is moving forward with plans for an inauguration in Washington, albeit one that is drastically different than in years past due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s going to definitely have to be changed. We’ve started some consultations with House and Senate leadership on that. Obviously this is not going to be the same kind of inauguration we’ve had in the past,” Klain told Stephanopoulos, noting that Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ top priorities will be public health and ensuring they do not exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris conducted this campaign with the safety of the American people in mind,” Klain said. “They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal.”
But Klain also maintained that while public safety is paramount, the American people do have a lot to celebrate after Biden’s win. He said to expect many of the tactics and methods deployed by Democrats during their mostly virtual convention in August to be utilized again for the inauguration.
“We saw the day that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were announced as president and vce president of the United States people all over the world, and particularly in America, dancing in the streets. We know people want to celebrate. There is something here to celebrate. We just want to try to find a way to do it as safely as possible,” Klain said.
Klain also continued to push for the General Services Administration (GSA) to ascertain Biden as the winner of the election, which would allow their team to formally begin its transition work and said that while the scientists and other officials who have worked on a plan to distribute a vaccine for COVID-19 deserve credit, the Trump administration cannot be trusted to carry out the plan due to their record of failure on testing for and stopping the rampant spread of the virus.
“I think that everyone involved should get credit for that. It starts most importantly with the scientists and brilliant men and women who have done this work, but … vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccinations save lives,” Klain said. “So the scientific work that’s been done to get this vaccine to the place where it can be approved by the FDA, hopefully very, very soon, is just the first step. The much bigger step is actually getting those vaccinations to the American people. That’s hard.”
“The Trump administration has been at this for eight or nine months. In the course of that, fewer than one in three Americans has gotten a COVID test. And so, now, the question is how can we get 100% of Americans a vaccine in short order? That is a challenge that I think the American people are right to be skeptical about in terms of the way in which the Trump administration would handle it, and that’s a challenge that has been largely fallen to the Biden administration. The sooner we can get briefed on those plans, the sooner we can get our experts in with their experts, I think more confidence everyone can have that those plans will proceed apace in 2021.”
Pressed on comment Biden made during an interview on ABC back in February about the need for Democrats to take back the United States Senate, something they will fail to do unless they win the remaining two runoff elections in the state of Georgia, Klain said that they’re team has already begun devoting resources to the southern state too flip both seats blue, but added that Biden will work with whatever Senate is ultimately elected come January.
“The reality, of course … is that even if we win them both, and I think we will win them both — I think both candidates are doing a great job — we’re going to have a closely divided Senate kind of under any scenario,” Klain said, touting Biden’s record of working across the aisle and noting that Biden met with both Democratic congressional leaders this week.
“Whatever happens in Georgia. Obviously we want to win those seats. I really want to see Chuck Schumer be the next majority leader in the U.S. Senate … but however that comes out, we are going to deliver for the American people. And that’s the mission.”
Klain also called Trump’s refusal to concede the election to Biden “corrosive” and “harmful,” but said it will not change the facts.
“Donald Trump’s been rejecting democracy. He has been … launching baseless claims of voter fraud, baseless litigation rejected by 34 courts and now these efforts to try to get election officials to overturn the will of the voters. It’s corrosive, it’s harmful, but … it’s not going to change the outcome of what happens here at 12 noon on Jan. 20, Joe Biden will become the next president of the United States,” Klain said.
Pressed on worries that Trump may be attempting to sow doubt about the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency, Klain argued that the president-elect and his team know they need to work to reach out to Republicans, and made clear that Biden will keep the promise that he made during the campaign to try and unite the country.
“We know we have to reach out to Republicans. We know we have to bring the country together. In fact, that’s been the entire essence of Joe Biden’s campaign for the presidency, trying to heal this nation, repair its soul, restore its backbone, unite the country, and uniting the country is what he’s doing,” Klain said.
The incoming White House chief of staff also said he hopes top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will soon accept the results of the election, and said he is encouraged by statements from Republican Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah who have called on Trump to concede and begin the transition process.
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