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President-Elect Joe Biden Names His 1st Cabinet Pick

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President-elect Joe Biden has named his first Cabinet pick. It is Ron Klain. He is Biden's new White House chief of staff. Klain is a longtime Democratic adviser and consultant. He was a key part of the Obama-Biden administration. Biden says there are two fronts on which Klain has the necessary experience. He led the last economic recovery after the Great Recession, and he advised President Obama on the Ebola crisis. Let's talk this through with NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid. Asma, good morning.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So Ron Klain, maybe not a household name for most people, certainly a name people in the Democratic Party and who have worked in Democratic White Houses know very well. Tell us more about him.

KHALID: That's right. You know, David, he's been close to Joe Biden for years. When Biden became vice president in 2008, he selected Ron Klain as his first chief of staff. He also worked as a top aide to him back in the '80s when Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was also an adviser to Biden on his two previous failed presidential bids. So Klain, you know, he is a longtime Democratic operative. He has worked in some capacity for nearly every recent Democratic presidential campaign. But in a statement, he called this appointment the, quote, "honor of a lifetime."

GREENE: OK. So Biden has known him, and familiarity can be really important for the job of White House chief of staff when it comes to that relationship with the president. Talk more about why Biden chose him.

KHALID: Yeah, you know, in a statement, Biden called Klain invaluable and highlighted his work on both the economic recovery and then the Ebola crisis. You know, in addition to inheriting a public health crisis with the coronavirus pandemic, the Biden team is acutely aware that they're going to need to deal with a recession. And I actually spoke to Ron Klain about this some months ago. At that time, he was telling me how he felt that Biden's experience with the 2009 Recovery Act would help him with a shaky economy now. They had experience doling out millions of dollars with stimulus funds and ensuring transparency and accountability. And, you know, Ron was Biden's chief of staff at that time. Later, he was also named the Obama administration's Ebola czar. And so in choosing him now as chief of staff, to me, it sends a sign of where the Biden administration's focus will be once they step into the White House.

GREENE: OK, I think it's fair to say this has not been a normal transition so far. Does this pick say anything about how the president-elect is handling this moment?

KHALID: You know, I will say, to me, it suggests two major things, David. One is it gives us a window - right? - into Joe Biden's priorities and his focus both on the pandemic as well as the economic recovery. But it also shows that Biden is moving ahead in shaping an administration despite President Trump's reluctance to accept the results. You know, the president remains in denial of reality. Just yesterday evening, he tweeted out a video of his supporters with the phrase, we will win, in all capital letters, even though the election is over.

GREENE: NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid. Asma, thank you.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.