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How Biden’s national security team seeks to represent ‘the diversity of America’

President-elect Joseph Biden on Monday announced the nominations for his national security team, including the first Latino to head the Department of Homeland Security and the first woman to lead the intelligence community. Wendy Sherman, the former undersecretary of state for political affairs during the Obama administration, joins Nick Schifrin to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Nick Schifrin is with us now to take a closer look at the members of president-elect Biden's national security team — Nick.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Judy, Tony Blinken is the president-elect's nominee for secretary of state.

    Blinken was the deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He is one of the president-elect's closest and most longstanding advisers.

    Avril Haines will be the nominee for the director of national intelligence, which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies. She's the former deputy director of the CIA and was an aide to Biden in Congress. She would be the highest ranking woman in the intelligence community's history.

    Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be the nominee for U.N. ambassador. She's a longtime Foreign Service officer who was the most senior Black member of the State Department when she resigned at the beginning of the Trump administration.

    And Jake Sullivan will be the national security adviser. He was then Vice President Biden's national security adviser in the White House and a senior adviser to then Secretary of State Clinton. He will be the youngest national security adviser in 60 years.

    To talk about the new national security team, we turned to Wendy Sherman, the former undersecretary of state for political affairs during the Obama administration, who has worked closely with all of these people.

    Wendy Sherman, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    Tony Blinken is one of Biden's oldest advisers. Does Blinken reflect Biden's caution?

  • Wendy Sherman:

    I think this team represents the diversity of America, the professionalism, the experience, the seasoning that we need in a time of enormous challenge.

    So, what I think the president-elect has done here is put together the beginning of his team that can reach out across America and reach out across the world.

    Tony Blinken, the president-elect, the vice president-elect all understand that 2021 is not 2016. The world has changed. America has changed. And we have got a lot of tough challenges ahead.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    You mentioned the diversity of these picks.

    What — but what this is not is team of rivals. Of course, President Obama brought in his chief political rival, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Are you concerned about any groupthink among this group?

  • Wendy Sherman:

    I don't think so. These are all people with a keen intellect who are ready to debate with each other.

    I have been inside rooms with all of them. None of them are shrinking violets. They all will speak their minds. There will be pretty rigorous debate. There was not agreement among these players in the Obama administration. I don't expect there will always be agreement within the Biden administration.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The Obama National Security Council, as you know, was accused of micromanaging by multiple agencies, especially the Pentagon.

    Do you believe that that will be a concern under Jake Sullivan?

  • Wendy Sherman:

    Well, one of the things that's very positive here is that Jake Sullivan was a senior adviser and head of policy planning for Secretary Clinton at the State Department. So, he has been both at the White House and inside a department.

    So, he understands the push and pull. Historically, nobody who sits in a department wants the White House to be operational. The White House always says it doesn't want to be operational, and then finds it hard sometimes not to try to be.

    But I think that Jake will want to reflect the president-elect's point of view, the — what he's driving for, what he's striving for, working with the vice president-elect. Jake will run a very honest process to hear from all parts of the national security and foreign policy community, which is quite large.

    And he will want to take those views into account.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Blinken and the expected nominee for defense secretary, Michele Flournoy, both started a strategic consulting firm after they left government most recently. It made them a lot of money. It gave them clients, of course, whose concerns were more profit than national security.

    Is that revolving door an issue, do you think?

  • Wendy Sherman:

    I don't think so, because we all have to be very transparent.

    I have been in the private sector, still do some consulting. And if you go into government, you have to make it clear what you have done, who your clients have been. There are ethics rules, which, actually, the Biden/Harris administration will follow, about not being engaged in decisions which might have affected your pocketbook or your firm's pocketbook.

    There are very good guidance around those ethics. And I have no doubt that all of this team will follow those ethical considerations.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Avril Haines, the nominee to be the director of national intelligence, she has talked about reducing civilian casualties in the past.

    But she was also on the National Security Council staff helping architect the increased drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a longtime aide of Joe Biden.

    Will she be accepted both by progressives and also those who are looking for the intelligence community to be less politicized?

  • Wendy Sherman:

    There is no question in my mind that Avril Haines is not about politics. She is about policy.

    This is an extraordinary individual. She is both a physicist and a lawyer. She is just unbelievably thoughtful, rigorous in her assessment of a situation. She will not play games with intelligence. She would want intelligence to have its rightful place at the table, but understanding that the intelligence community does not make policy.

    She will make sure that, if there is another pandemic, she does not sit on that information, that president-elect Biden and vice president-elect Harris know what is coming at them. She will not withhold information. She will be transparent.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Wendy Sherman, thank you very much.

  • Wendy Sherman:

    Thank you, Nick.

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