President-elect Joe Biden’s senior White House staff will include several close, longtime advisers and will be a first step toward his promises of a diverse administration.
As outgoing President Donald Trump continues to ignore and withhold information from Biden’s transition team, Biden forged ahead Tuesday, announcing several key hires.
The picks include Steve Ricchetti, a veteran of Democratic administrations who served as chief of staff to then–vice president Biden, as a counselor; Mike Donilon, a longtime Biden strategist, as a senior adviser; and former Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Cedric Richmond as another senior adviser and director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement.
“America faces great challenges, and they bring diverse perspectives and a shared commitment to tackling these challenges and emerging on the other side a stronger, more united nation,” Biden said in a statement.
The official transition has been held up by a Trump appointee at the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, who has refused to acknowledge Biden’s election win. As a result, resources and access to information typically available to an incoming president’s team during the transition period are being withheld from Biden’s team. The Trump White House has also taken other measures to stall the transition: White House officials directed federal agencies to continue preparing for the current administration’s budget plans to be rolled out in February. The Biden team has been adamant that Trump’s refusal to cooperate is not stopping their planning. But on Monday, Biden appeared to be putting more pressure on Trump to move things along — he said in a speech that "more people may die" as a result of the pandemic if the Trump administration continues to not cooperate with his COVID-19 task force.
Biden’s choices are largely an extension of the campaign, which Ricchetti chaired. Donilon, the campaign’s chief strategist, has long been central to shaping Biden’s message. He made the video Biden used to launch his campaign in April 2019 — a dark callback to the white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a rebuke of Trump’s assertion that there were “fine people” on both sides.
Richmond cochaired Biden’s campaign and emerged as one of the former vice president’s top emissaries on Capitol Hill and in the Black community. Richmond took a lead role in selling the theory of Biden’s case after big losses in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. “The vice president's base is a very diverse base with substantial support in the African American community,” Richmond told BuzzFeed News in February as Biden was preparing for a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire and turning his attention to South Carolina, where a majority of the Democratic electorate are Black. “African Americans having a say in who the nominee is very important."
Jen O’Malley Dillon, who took over as Biden’s campaign manager after the early primaries, will be deputy chief of staff. Julie Rodriguez, a deputy campaign manager, will serve as director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Other veterans of Biden’s political career and recent campaign going to the White House include Anthony Bernal, who will be a senior adviser to Jill Biden; Annie Tomasini, who will be the director of Oval Office operations; and Dana Remus, counsel to the president. Biden’s transition team also announced Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón, a former US ambassador to Uruguay during the Obama administration, as Jill Biden’s chief of staff.
Last week, Biden chose another longtime close adviser, Ron Klain, to be his chief of staff.