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Biden Names People To Top Positions On His Staff

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To politics now, President-elect Joe Biden is staffing up for his White House. Biden named people to several top positions today. Progressive groups are already criticizing some of them. NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow is here with the latest.

Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

KELLY: What were the roles announced today?

DETROW: Biden filled nine positions, and all of them are being described as senior staff. And the common thread here is that these are people who have worked closely with Joe Biden. Many have been in his inner circle for decades. So a couple names to highlight - one is Jen O'Malley Dillon. She'll be a deputy chief of staff. She was Biden's campaign manager. And even though she was on TV a lot less than previous campaign managers have been, she is widely credited with making the key decisions that won Biden the White House. She's just the second woman to steer a presidential campaign to victory and the first on the Democratic side.

Another name that's notable is Cedric Richmond. He is a Louisiana congressman. He'll be the - he was the co-chair of the campaign, and he's going to head the White House Office of Public Engagement. Richmond was a vocal defender of Biden's, and he was a key link to Black voters. And - but his selection is actually being criticized today by progressives, as you mentioned.

KELLY: Yeah. And what is the criticism?

DETROW: So with Richmond, they are concerned. He represents New Orleans in Congress, and he's gotten a lot of money over the years from the fossil fuel industry, which, of course, has a big presence along the Gulf Coast. So several progressive groups who backed Biden in the general election despite a lot of differences on policy - they're saying this is pretty disappointing, especially given how much Biden has promised to prioritize climate change. One example, the Sunrise Movement, which is a really influential group of younger progressives on climate change - they went as far as to call this a betrayal. And I think we're going to see more like this, especially since, you know, as I mentioned, Biden is filling his positions with people who have been around him for a while. They've been in and out of government for a long time.

So another example of some frustration on the progressive side - another senior staffer announced today is Steve Ricchetti. He worked for Biden when Biden was vice president. But he went on to lobby, and he represented at some health care and pharmaceutical companies. So Biden is getting a lot of pushback today for putting him on White House staff.

KELLY: Setting the pushback and criticism aside for a moment, nine names - that's a lot. Does that indicate that the transition is transitioning, Scott - is speeding up?

DETROW: There's a lot of activity. That's for sure. Biden says he's now spoken to 13 heads of government. Notable today - that included two Trump allies on the foreign stage, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and Prime Minister Modi of India. They are ready to engage with a President Biden even if some Republican allies of Trump in the U.S. are not. Biden's COVID advisory board held a briefing today. But, you know, there's a lot of signs that this is still in a holding pattern. And one illustration of that is that today Biden held what kind of boiled down to a show national security briefing with advisers because he is still not able to access official intelligence briefings. And on that COVID call, his COVID advisers say, look. We need access to government scientists. We need access to government data to put our plans together. Right now that is still not happening.

KELLY: Still a lot of questions about a formal transition, which we have yet to see materialize.

NPR's Scott Detrow, thank you.

DETROW: Sure thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF RATATAT'S "KENNEDY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.