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Biden’s economic team faces unprecedented crises in shift from Trump

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday introduced his economic team, which is planning on making a sharp shift from the Trump years and his economic policies. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now to president-elect Joe Biden's public rollout today of the team he wants advising him on the economy.

    They come with a new agenda that's intended to make a sharp break with the Trump years.

    Lisa Desjardins reports.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The president-elect slowly made his way into Wilmington's Queen Theater, wearing a walking boot after he fractured his foot playing with his dog over the weekend.

    But, inside, he said he's moving ahead full speed on the nation's economic troubles.

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    I know times are tough, but I want you to know that help is on the way.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    At the tables around him, president-elect Joe Biden's key economic team and a theme repeated by each one, to not just regain a full economy, but to tackle inequality and make it more fair.

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    We can build a new American economy that works for all Americans, not just some, all. We need to act now, though.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It's a team of policy heavyweights, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to serve as Treasury secretary, Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, to lead the Office of Management and Budget, and labor economist Cecilia Rouse to chair the president's Council of Economic Advisers.

    Yellen spoke first.

  • Janet Yellen:

    We will be an institution that wakes up every morning thinking about you, your jobs, your paychecks, your struggles, your hopes, your dignity, and your limitless potential.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    If confirmed, Neera Tanden would be the first woman of color to be OMB director. She reflected on being raised by a single mother, an immigrant from India.

  • Neera Tanden:

    I am here today because of social programs, because of budgetary choices.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But Tanden's become a lightning rod for some Republicans, like Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who say she has been a partisan, divisive figure.

  • Neera Tanden:

    I think Neera Tanden's nomination, like so many of the nominations that Joe Biden has already made, show that he is not committed to unifying the country.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Princeton dean Rouse would be the first African American to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.

  • Cecilia Rouse:

    This is a moment of urgency and opportunity unlike any we have faced in modern times.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Among the other Biden selections, Nigerian-born attorney and political adviser Wally Adeyemo, who worked with Biden when he was vice president, will serve as deputy Treasury secretary.

    Longtime Biden adviser Jared Bernstein would serve on the Council of Economic Advisers, alongside economist Heather Boushey, the president, CEO, and co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

    As team Biden moves toward governing, President Trump continues to fight, suing in Wisconsin to try and throw out 221,000 ballots in two heavily Democratic counties. He repeated baseless claims of voter fraud, this the same day as Attorney General William Barr said there is no evidence to support those claims.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins me from Wilmington, Delaware, while Yamiche Alcindor is here in Washington.

    Hello to both of you.

    So, Lisa, picking up on that, now that we have seen the economic team that Joe Biden wants advising him, what does that tell us about what they want to do now and once they're in office?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, this is a team that faces unprecedented double crises and, rarely, a new president taking over with them at the same time.

    However, this team is also unique, in that the president who is elected, who will be their leader, has had many plans in the works for a long time.

    Right off the bat, we know this team, Judy, is working on a larger plan, bigger stimulus, bigger COVID relief coming next year, in addition to what they hope will be perhaps some relief coming in the next few months.

    And I think we see in this team some of the hints of how they hope to get this done. And I think what we will see from more Biden announcements, this is a team of experienced people, they are diverse, and they are known for doing the hard work of policy.

    Also, what I noticed today, they are disciplined and very coordinated, right down to the masks, each one of them wearing the exact same mask that was handed out to them beforehand. And they're also coordinated in another goal, trying to not just respond to the economic crisis, but to try and solve more than one problem at once.

    Listen to the coordination on these talking points. We heard from Yellen she's concerned about the disproportionate impact of the crisis. From Tanden, she wants a fair shot for American workers. From Adeyemo, he wants to reduce inequality.

    Biden is being very aggressive in signaling that he is concerned about inequality in America. He wants whatever plan they come up to address the crisis to squarely tackle inequality and also perhaps climate change, as I'm told by some who are working with him that that's something we could also see as part of their plan.

    One other thing, Judy, that they have to continue with, of course, is Congress and whether or not any immediate relief will come out. As you reported earlier, this is a tricky situation for a new president, doesn't want to spend any capital before he comes into office. But they also would like to have some kind of stimulus moving now.

    I want to also add, Speaker Pelosi sent out a statement late today saying, interestingly enough, that she says there must be some COVID relief passed in this lame-duck session of Congress. That's the next two weeks.

    So, we see both sides at least acknowledging they need to do something. Whether they will is a different question.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We have heard it before. We will see if it's real this time.

    Lisa, thank you.

    And, Yamiche, to you.

    As we reported earlier, the attorney general, Bill Barr, said today in an interview the Department of Justice has found no widespread evidence of fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

    How is the president, how is his campaign responding to this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Attorney General William Barr has really angered the president's campaign, as well as allies of President Trump, simply by telling the truth, and that truth being that the election was not full of any sort of voter fraud that would have tipped the scales and changed the outcome, thus lending credibility to the fact that president-elect Biden is, in fact, the projected winner and President Trump is, in fact, the projected loser.

    I have been talking to people that are close to the president all day about this. They say that they think — they think Attorney General William Barr is — quote — someone who is a "total failure." They also said this was a complete betrayal on his part, talking to the Associated Press.

    In that interview, William Barr told the Associated Press that some see the Department of Justice as a sort of fix-it-all. In there, he was essentially hinting at the fact that there are people who want to look at the courts and the criminal justice system and say, you overturn election this election for President Trump. You try to do something.

    And Attorney General William Barr is making it very clear that he's not going to do that.

    Another thing to note is that, as all this is going on, the rhetoric is really getting more and more tense from the Trump campaign. We heard yesterday a Trump campaign lawyer suggests that Christopher Krebs, the former U.S. head of election security that President Trump fired, that he should be shot, Judy.

    He said those words. And now Christopher Krebs is saying that he's looking at legal action.

    All this is happening as a Republican official in Georgia tonight is saying, someone is going to get killed. We need you, President Trump, to really lower down this rhetoric, calling up to the president. The president has not done that as of yet.

    Another thing to note, as all of this is happening, the president has continued to fund-raise for this election defense fund. He's raised at least $150 million, we're told by sources. So, as the president is dealing with all of this, he's continuing to get supporters to give him money for what is really now a longshot bid to try to win back the election in some way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So disturbing, those reports about the potential for threats and for loss of life. Really disturbing.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, we thank you both.

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