World

Biden ignores Trump and builds team as coronavirus cases soar

WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON : President-elect Joe Biden will press on with building his governing team, ignoring President Donald Trump's refusal to accept defeat.

New records for coronavirus infections and hospitalisations ensured that the transition will be dominated by the response to the pandemic, which has accelerated since the Nov 3 election.

Mr Trump remains in office until Mr Biden's inauguration on Jan 20.

On Wednesday, Mr Biden, who has shrugged off Mr Trump's challenge to his victory, named long-time adviser Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff, his first major appointment.

Attention is now expected to shift to Mr Biden's picks for Cabinet posts, though aides have so far given few clues about when announcements will be made.

On foreign policy, Mr Antony Blinken, a diplomat and long-time confidant, is seen as a possible choice for Secretary of State or National Security Adviser.

Whoever is chosen for Treasury Secretary will have to cope with a recession and joblessness, as well as serving as the fulcrum to address wealth inequality, climate change and other issues.

Mr Klain, who served as president Barack Obama's "Ebola Czar" in 2014 during an outbreak of that virus in West Africa, is expected to take a leading role in the Biden administration's response to the nationwide spike in Covid-19 cases.

The US set records on Wednesday with more than 142,000 new infections and nearly 65,000 hospitalisations, according to a Reuters tally.

The death toll rose by 1,464, approaching the levels reached during a catastrophic first wave early this year.

In Mr Klain, Mr Biden has a trusted operative who also served as a top aide during the Clinton administration.

"He was always highly informed and his advice was always grounded in exceptional command of the policy process, the merits of the arguments, and the political and justice context," former vice-president Al Gore told Reuters.

As Mr Biden's chief of staff during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, Mr Klain helped oversee the implementation of the US$787 billion (S$1 trillion) Recovery Act that boosted the then-cratering economy. - REUTERS

WORLD