Attorney General William Barr speaks during a news conference on Monday.

Attorney General William Barr speaks during a news conference on Monday. Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP

Transition Roundup: Biden Says COVID Deal is ‘Just the Beginning,’ Barr Advises Next AG 

Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.

Former Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., head of the Biden-Harris transition and for whom a key piece of transition law is named, did his most extensive interview since the election on the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service’s transition podcast, which was published on Friday. “I thought we [saw] the most difficult transition because of the Great Recession, the financial crisis, in 2008, but it's nothing like this,” he said. “No other transition has ever taken place with this set of challenges: a pandemic, a recession, a racial justice crisis, an unpredictable president and political polarization.” He also outlined the “four rules” of the Biden-Harris transition team, which are: until Election Day, the campaign is the most important thing; what happens in the transition, stays in the transition; the campaign set the policy priorities; and transition staff should reflect the country’s diversity. Here are some of the other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed. 

President-elect Biden said in a statement on Sunday night that the coronavirus relief deal Congress reached “is just the beginning.” He outlined the actions he will take on day one to curb the pandemic and said, “Immediately, starting in the New Year, Congress will need to get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan, for support to struggling families, and investments in jobs and economic recovery. There will be no time to waste.” 

On Monday morning, the transition team announced additional members to the National Economic Council. Joelle Gamble, formerly a principal at Omidyar Network, a social change venture, will be special assistant to the president for economic policy; David Kamin, professor at New York University School of Law and former White House official, will be deputy director of the council; and Bharat Ramamurti, managing director of the corporate power program at the Roosevelt Institute and member of the Congressional Oversight Commission for the CARES Act, will be deputy director for financial reform and consumer protection.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is Biden’s “closet partner” in picking Cabinet officials, The Washington Post reported on Friday. “In most of his picks, Biden has valued expertise — not necessarily in particular subject areas but in crisis management,” said the report. “In his view, his administration is inheriting a multipronged crisis, and a government workforce that has spent four years being disparaged and downplayed. That is why many of his appointments have extensive government service, those close to the decision-making say.”

Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, said “the ascertainment process, I really believe, needs to be reformed because GSA just doesn’t have the expertise to be second guessing who wins elections,” during an interview with ABC7’s “Government Matters” on Sunday. Her decision (made “independently,” she said, on November 23) came down to watching states certify their results as well as the initial outcomes of the Trump campaign’s lawsuits. While GSA is “well-positioned” to provide presidential campaigns and transition teams with “back office functions,” such as office space, funding and technology support, the notion of ascertaining an apparent winner “without greater guidance, [is] really the challenge,” she said.

Top House Republicans wrote to Ron Klain, incoming White House chief-of-staff, on Friday with “serious concerns” over Biden’s picks to lead the State and Homeland Security departments and Office of Management and Budget. This is in regard to their previous work, management styles and possible conflicts of interest. 

Attorney General William Barr said during an event on Monday he sees “no reason” to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, the president-elect’s son, or possible election fraud. Barr's resignation is effective on Wednesday. 

During an interview last week, The Wall Street Journal asked Barr if he has any advice for his successor. “There has been a tendency for AGs to let the bureaucracy run itself, to sit in the office and look at the inbox,” he replied. “After all, you can never get in trouble by going along with the institution.” However, the attorney general should “be active. Make sure people understand the priorities, understand what they are there to do. Make the decisions.”

Despite the fact that President Trump has still refused to concede the election, he has been giving out “plum appointments” to friends, donors, allies and loyalists, ABC News reported.

Trump signed an executive order on Monday mandating that classical architecture be the preferred style for federal buildings. A draft of the order was leaked to the Architectural Record back in February, which angered many architects. This executive order is one of the many the president has signed during his lame duck period. 

The Democratic majority staff of the House Natural Resources Committee released a report on Friday about “injustices perpetrated by [the Trump} administration” for indigenous communities and gave recommendations for the Biden administration. “Key recommendations include the creation of a White House Office of Native American Affairs, establishing a deputy secretary of Native American affairs position under the secretary of the Interior, and reestablishing and restructuring the Obama administration’s White House Council on Native American Affairs,” said a press release. “One of the main problems identified in the report is the lack of advocacy on behalf of Indian Country within the executive branch and the White House itself, where tribal equities are often sidelined or subsumed into other, sometimes conflicting portfolios.” Biden nominated Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to be Interior Department secretary and, if confirmed, she will be the first Native American to serve in the position. 

Upcoming: Biden will get his coronavirus vaccine this afternoon.

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode examines how Trump’s rhetoric and management style the past four years have impacted how Americans view the federal government. 

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