Biden fills out State Department team with Obama veterans

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WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden is filling out his State Department team with a group of former career diplomats and veterans of the Obama administration, signalling his desire to return to a more traditional foreign policy after four years of uncertainty and unpredictability under President Donald Trump.

A transition official said Biden intends to nominate Wendy Sherman as deputy secretary of state and Victoria Nuland as undersecretary of state for political affairs — the second- and third-highest ranking posts, respectively.

They were expected to be the 11 department appointees that Biden was announcing Saturday to serve under his pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, the official said. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the appointments before the announcements and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Among the others joining the Biden team are:

—longtime Biden Senate aide Brian McKeon, to be deputy secretary of state for management.

—former senior diplomats Bonnie Jenkins and Uzra Zeya, to be under secretary of state for arms control and undersecretary of state of democracy and human rights, respectively.

—Derek Chollet, a familiar Democratic foreign policy hand, to be State Department counsellor .

—former U.N. official Salman Ahmed, as director of policy planning.

—Suzy George, who was a senior aide to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will be Blinken's chief of staff.

—Ned Price, a former Obama administration National Security Council staffer and career CIA official who resigned in protest in the early days of the Trump administration, will serve as the public face of the department, taking on the role of spokesman.

—Jalina Porter, communications director for Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who is leaving Congress to work in the White House, will be Price's deputy.

Price and Porter intend to return to the practice of holding daily State Department press briefings, officials said. Those briefings had been eliminated under the Trump administration.

Jeffrey Prescott, a former national security aide when Biden was vice-president , is Biden's pick to be deputy ambassador to the United Nations, He would serve under U.N. envoy-designate Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Five of the 11 are either people of colour or LGBTQ. Although most are not household names, all are advocates of multilateralism and many are familiar in Washington and overseas foreign policy circles. Their selections are a reflection of Biden's intent to turn away from Trump's transactional and often unilateral “America First” approach to international relations.

“These leaders are trusted at home and respected around the world, and their nominations signal that America is back and ready to lead the world, not retreat from it," Biden said in a statement. “They also reflect the idea that we cannot meet this new moment with unchanged thinking or habits, and that we need diverse officials who look like America at the table. They will not only repair but also reimagine American foreign policy and national security for the next generation.”

Sherman led the Obama administration’s negotiations leading to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, from which Trump withdrew, and had engaged in talks over ballistic missiles with North Korea during President Bill Clinton's second term. Nuland served as assistant secretary of state for European Affairs during the Ukraine crisis..

Sherman, McKeon, Nuland, Jenkins and Zeya will require Senate confirmation to their posts while the others will not.

Matthew Lee, The Associated Press