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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Biden’s Cabinet picks and Trump’s fraud claims

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including President-elect Joe Biden's selections for top posts in his administration and President Trump's continued claims of fraud in the 2020 elections.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Over the holiday weekend, we learned more about those who will surround president-elect Biden in the White House, even as the current president ramps up his claims of election fraud.

    Here to analyze it all, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of you. We hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

    Let's talk first about what Joe Biden has done over the last week or so, Amy, putting the teams together. We saw the national security team. Today, we learned more names from the economics team. We have seen some who are going to be in the White House.

    Give us a sense of the political forces at play on him at this point.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

    Well, Judy, when I look at the team around him, there is the difference between the team that needs to be Senate-confirmed and the team that doesn't. And when you look at the group — right now, there are six of them — who need Senate confirmation, of those six, only one of them is a white male. The rest are either female or persons of color. Some are both female and a person of color.

    We also know, though, that this is the first time, certainly in recent memory, that a Democratic president has come into office without having a Democratic Senate. So, getting those folks confirmed is going to be a very different story than it was, say, for the last Democratic president.

    Barack Obama came into office in 2009 with about 57, 59 seats…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    … when his confirmation hearings took place.

    So it is going to be really important for Biden's picks to be able to pick off some Republicans. Some Republicans are going to have to come along. And so we're already seeing that there is one person in particular who has been getting some pushback, at least on Twitter, as well as, it seems, from at least one Republican senator, and that's Neera Tanden, his pick for the Office of Management and Budget.

    Also, notably, Judy, in 2016, the OMB seat, which went to Mick Mulvaney, was also one of the most contentious. And Mulvaney only barely won, thanks to the fact that, well, Republicans had 52 seats in the Senate that year.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A good reminder about that.

    And, Tam, whatever the Republicans do, what about on the Democratic side? Are we seeing — how are the fissures, if you will, in the Democratic Party opening up or closing as Biden makes these announcements?

  • Tamara Keith:

    You know, there hasn't been massive amounts of pushback on Biden's picks. Many of these people are widely respected.

    They may not be as progressive as progressives would want, but they're also not as moderate as some of the people that Biden could have picked. And, certainly, they are people who are known quantities.

    To go back to what Amy was talking about with Neera Tanden, the vice president — the president-elect's pick for OMB director, for budget director, she is the one who is generating the most heat, both on the left and on the right. And part of that is less about what she stands for, because she currently leads the Center for American Progress.

    She is — certainly has progressive bona fides, but, also, she very openly feuded with people who supported former Senator — or Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016. She was very strongly, and in an outspoken way, behind Hillary Clinton. And that meant that she tangled with people on Twitter.

    I mean, right now, Republican senators have returned to Capitol Hill, and they are starting to talk to reporters. And what every one of them who I have gotten tape of has said is, well, she has been very outspoken on Twitter or something like that.

    But, as Amy said, Senator John Cornyn from Texas said that she is a nominee who would be radioactive. People I know who support her, who back her say that she has a compelling life story. And if she is given a hearing — and that may well depend on Senate control — but if she is given a hearing, they believe she will perform well, and that it would be difficult for Republicans to, as a whole, tank a nominee that has a compelling life story and is — has experience in multiple administrations and much competency.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, one thing we are seeing, Amy, for sure, is, Joe Biden talked in his campaign about wanting an administration that looks like America.

    This is, so far, a pretty diverse Cabinet group. And you made the point earlier about Cabinet vs. the White House.

    But there is — I mean, we are — first woman of color to head the Council of Economic Advisers and so on.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right, and the first woman who would be the secretary of Treasury. We have a communications team that is all female as well.

    One other thing to point out that, again, we don't know control of the Senate right now, so it could still be that Democrats do get control of the Senate. It would be narrowly, 50/50.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    Just wanted to make sure that I noted that.

    But, if it's not, then that's the challenge for the — what would be then President Biden to win over some Republicans. And I think, quite frankly, Judy, we're going to be spending a lot of time looking at folks like Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Susan Collins from Maine. They have bucked the president. They have bucked their party, even on Donald Trump's nominees, when he first came into office in 2017.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of President Trump, Tam, the president is still insisting on a regular basis that he won the election, that it's only by fraud that Joe Biden is able to rack up these states, even as one state after another certifies the results, certifies that Joe Biden won enough states, enough votes to climb over the necessary 270 electoral votes.

    My question, though, is, what is this saying, though, to American — the people who supported President Trump? They're citizens under the Joe Biden presidency. What is that going to mean for Joe Biden as he tries to pull the country together, which is what he says he wants to do?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, that is certainly going to be something that Joe Biden is going to have to work on, and something that he has begun working on, if you go back to his Thanksgiving remarks and some of his other public comments, trying to make clear that he sees himself as a president for all Americans. Essentially, that is what he ran on as well.

    The remarkable thing with what is happening with President Trump is, there is a reality — there is reality, and then there is what President Trump is doing. And the professional lawyers who worked on his campaign aren't putting their names on any of these efforts right now to claim fraud or to overturn the election results.

    It's not the well-known professional lawyers who have worked on campaigns before who are doing this. And, as senators are returning from the Thanksgiving break, they're still — essentially, the Republican senators aren't calling Joe Biden president-elect, but they're talking about how there is a transition, and there is a process, and it's moving on, and that's all that matters, is that they're moving towards it, and that the Electoral College will vote, and that this will all be over soon.

    And so there is — I am detecting more of a sense from Republicans that they have moved on, that they are moving on to a Joe Biden presidency. Now, voters, that's a different story.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And — but, just quickly, Amy, these senators may be moving on, but they're still confirming President Trump's nominees for different jobs, including judgeships.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

    I mean, we live in a time, Judy, where, although this has been true for quite some time, I guess, which is, don't ever waste political power when you have it.

    And given how much just in the last 20 years and how quickly power has changed hands, whether control of the Congress or control of the White House, being able to have power and use it when you have got it, knowing that it may be gone any minute now, is where we are. There's a lot of short-term thinking, very little about the long-term institutional success.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We're told first president in a century on his way out the door to be having this kind of benefit from the Senate.

    We're watching it all. Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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