US President-elect Joe Biden has picked veteran political operative Ron Klain to be White House chief of staff, his first major appointment as he builds his administration.
Klain, 59, served as Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president under President Barack Obama and had been widely expected to be named to the post.
He also has experience battling a public health crisis, as he worked as Obama’s “Ebola Czar” in 2014 during an outbreak of that virus in Africa.
A fierce critic of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Klain is expected to be a key figure in Biden’s response to the health crisis.
Biden paid tribute to Klain in a statement issued by his transition team on Wednesday.
“His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum,” said Biden, “is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again.”
The White House chief of staff – who manages the president’s daily schedule and is often described as his gatekeeper – is a political appointee who does not require confirmation by the Senate.
As Biden moved toward assuming office, Trump’s campaign filed a federal lawsuit in Michigan as it continued its legal strategy of trying to overturn the election results in key states.
Biden clinched victory last Saturday as he won a series of battleground states to exceed the 270 electoral votes needed in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines who wins the presidency. Biden is also winning the national popular vote by more than 5 million ballots with a few states still counting votes.
Trump has refused to concede, and his administration has resisted cooperating with transition efforts.
All week, Biden has paid little public attention to Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, instead focusing on transition issues as he prepares to be sworn in on January 20.