Biden team previews plans for presidential inauguration

Heidi Gutman/ABC NewsBy MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — With fewer than 50 days until President-elect Joe Biden takes his oath of office, Biden’s team has been laying the groundwork for the upcoming inauguration — a task further complicated this year by the growing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to work with Congress to have an inaugural that is safe, that does not put anybody in jeopardy to the extent we can control that, and that is appropriate for the middle of a pandemic,” Anita Dunn, senior adviser for Biden’s transition, said during an appearance on ABC’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast Wednesday.

“So what that ends up looking like hasn’t been quite settled yet, but I think it is fair to say that, as was the case with our convention, as was the case with our election night, it will not look like a traditional inaugural in all aspects,” she added.

On Monday, Biden’s transition team officially launched its presidential inaugural committee, the team in charge of spearheading the quadrennial event. It’s the latest official step the transition team has taken since Biden was ascertained president-elect by General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy last week — 21 days after Election Day.

Dunn told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein that despite the delayed start, the team is moving ahead on schedule with their preparations to enter the White House on Jan. 20.

“President-elect Biden is someone who is going to be ready, day one, and is putting together a team that is going to be ready day one. So, we didn’t feel we lost as much time as some others might have because we were ready to go with the transition,” Dunn said.

“He’s spending time on policy briefings, he’s spending time on personnel briefings and he’s spending time preparing to hit the ground running — even with the boot,” she added, joking about Biden’s recently fractured foot, sustained while playing with his dog.

The pandemic is expected to consume Biden’s focus through the early days of his administration, tasked with ensuring an equitable distribution of the pending COVID-19 vaccine, and helping the country recover economically.

Throughout his campaign, Biden touted his ability to work across the aisle — a point that has continued to draw criticism as the majority of congressional Republicans have still not acknowledged Biden as the president-elect, and he faces a Republican-controlled Senate. Dunn argued Biden is clear-eyed about the challenges he will face.

“I think that his legislative background and his level of trust and relationships that he has still, and the respect he has for members of the Senate, members of the House, is a critical aspect of how he’s going to approach being able to deal with Congress. But he’s very realistic,” Dunn said.

“There are issues where they’re not going to agree and they will not be able to find common ground, but he also believes that you’ve got to try,” she continued. “You have to try and the American people need to see that you have tried. And that is his intention, and he thinks he can do it. And he has a track record of being able to do it both in the Senate and then as vice president.”

Dunn, who served as one of the highest-ranking women on Biden’s winning campaign, is not expected to join the administration, but has served in a key advisory role during the transition.

Earlier this week, Biden announced the leadership for his White House communications staff — a historic, all-female group including incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki, whom Dunn praised for her decision to “suit up and take the playing field.”

“She’s an excellent spokesperson, but she also shares President-elect Biden’s belief that this is now part of the face of America to the world, and that we have to have someone who believes in transparency and credibility,” she said.

Asked if Biden’s return to the White House would also mean the return of a daily press briefing, Dunn said there would be “some kind of briefing,” but noted that they could be “improved,” suggesting Biden’s team may undertake “some innovations.”

“We’re committed to making sure that what you hear, and what the American people hear in that White House press room, that it reflects what President-elect Biden wants to do as president, which is restore our credibility, both with the people, the United States and around the world,” she said.

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