President-elect Joe Biden’s transition is trying to jump-start the transfer of power even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede and the federal government is stalling the transition.
The transition is releasing the names of scores of their “agency review teams” Tuesday, including several exclusively provided to POLITICO. They include team leaders in charge of coordinating the handover of power at some of the federal government’s biggest departments and agencies: Ur Mendoza Jaddou, who will lead the team at the Department of Homeland Security; Leandra English at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Cecilia Martinez at the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Gary Gensler taking lead on the Federal Reserve plus banking & securities regulators.
The transition team argued that the new list of personnel represented its commitment to the party’s left wing, despite some progressives’ skepticism of Biden. “The strong, progressive values of many of the ART members, in addition to the deep roots in the labor movement, will set the tone for the incoming Biden-Harris administration,” the transition said in a statement.
The teams are equivalent to the “landing teams” that Trump’s transition sent into agencies after his victory four years ago, with an important difference: the General Services Administration hasn’t certified that Biden won the election yet, limiting the teams’ ability to work with officials at the agencies for which they’re responsible.
Until the GSA’s administrator, Emily Murphy, says she has determined that Biden is president-elect, the review teams are prohibited from contacting the agencies they are expecting to staff. In the meantime, the transition is deploying them to meet with former civil servants and experts at NGO’s, think tanks, trade groups and labor unions in order to better understand their agencies.
“We must be prepared for a seamless transfer of knowledge to the incoming administration to protect our interests at home and abroad,” Ted Kaufman, the Biden transition co-chairman, said in a statement. “The agency review process will help lay the foundation for meeting these challenges on Day One.”
The “ART personnel,” as the transition calls them, will number in the hundreds, the transition said. More than half of them will be women, and at least 40 percent of them will be people of color or people who identify as LGBTQ+, according to the transition. The transition declined to provide separate stats for people of color and LGBTQ+ personnel and said that they are all communities underrepresented in the federal government.
Transition law requires the Biden team to publicly disclose the names of officials working on agency review. Normally the transition team would send them to the White House and GSA in addition to publishing them, but the stand-off between the Biden transition and the GSA has led the transition team to try to move forward in any way it can, including by publicizing the names now and allowing them to begin working with outside groups.
Perhaps the highest profile of the team leaders shared with POLITICO is English, a former CFPB chief of staff who will lead Biden’s review team at the agency.
English got caught in a legal fight with the Trump administration after the CFPB’s director, Richard Cordray, resigned in 2017 so he could run for Ohio governor. Cordray promoted English to deputy director and said she would replace him in an acting capacity, but Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney as acting director, triggering a standoff over who had the right to lead the agency.
Two other team leaders are also veterans of President Barack Obama’s administration.
Jaddou, who’s leading the Homeland Security team, served as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ chief counsel under Obama. And Gensler, a progressive favorite, served as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission during the Obama administration.
In addition to the team leaders — Gensler’s involvement was first reported last week by The Wall Street Journal — the transition has also tapped Jenny Yang and Rajesh Nayak as members of the Labor Department review team. Yang is a former chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who’s now a fellow at the Urban Institute. Nayak worked in Obama’s Labor Department and is a fellow in Harvard Law School’s labor and worklife program.
Anne Reid, who worked in the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration and later served as chief of staff to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), will be a member of the review team for the agency.
Brad Markell, who will serve on the Department of Energy review team, is the executive director of the AFL-CIO’s industrial union council and was previously an international representative for the United Auto Workers. And Esther Olavarria, who will serve on the Department of Homeland Security review team, worked in that agency during the Obama administration.
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