Is there anyone in a top role in President Donald Trump’s administration whom President-elect Joe Biden might keep around?
After President Barack Obama was elected, he retained the services of President George W. Bush’s Defense secretary, Robert Gates.
Gates was viewed as a steady hand at the Pentagon. But given the constant upheaval at the top levels of the Trump administration, there aren’t many figures with that kind of nonpartisan gravitas. Because Gates was already Senate-confirmed, there was no need for a nomination.
Asked during a press briefing Friday whether the incoming Biden administration wants a “clean break” from the Trump era, incoming White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield indicated that was part of the ongoing agency review process.
Bedingfield praised the cooperation of career federal employees at departments and agencies, as well as some political appointees of the outgoing president.
“We’re grateful, as I said, certainly to the civil servants, but also to a number of folks in the Trump administration who have been helpful and forthcoming with information,” she told reporters.
“We are in the process of assessing … what the map will look like moving forward for staffing,” Bedingfield said. “The president-elect first and foremost is focused on building out agencies that are competent, that are capable, able to carry forward the important work of the government and are able to … get this virus under control, to get the vaccine distributed.”
“Those are important logistical undertakings that are going to require some of the work that’s been laid down by the [Trump] administration, but it’s also going to require an efficient partnership moving forward,” she added.
The two names referenced in the question to the transition team during their Friday press Zoom call were Deborah Birx, the State Department official who has traveled the country as coronavirus response coordinator for the Trump White House task force, and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
The final tally in support of Haspel’s 2018 Senate confirmation to lead the intelligence agency was 54-45, with opponents largely critical of what they saw as a lack of candor about her role in past CIA torture programs (called “enhanced interrogation” during the Bush presidency). Transition officials did not immediately respond when asked for clarification about whether Haspel might stay in her post.
Biden has already said he asked Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to not only stay on in his career role but also to serve as a top medical adviser to the administration, an assignment Fauci has accepted. Beyond that, Bedingfield had no announcements.
“It’s premature to name any names in this moment,” Bedingfield said.