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Latest In Presidential Transition: Trump Makes Comments, Biden Unveils Cabinet Picks


There was a lot of strutting of tail feathers today in U.S. politics, both literally and figuratively. President-elect Joe Biden had a very sober and earnest parade of his picks for top national security positions, while President Trump...


KELLY: That is the sound of actual turkeys, which President Trump pardoned in the time-honored White House tradition. Well, joining us now from the White House is NPR's Franco Ordoñez.

Hey, Franco.


KELLY: I'm going to let you kick us off with the event not at the White House today - President-elect Biden formally introducing some of his picks for his national security team. He had his choice for Secretary of State Tony Blinken there, also U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Jake Sullivan for national security adviser. What stood out to you as you watched?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, to me, it just shows that Biden has gone for experience. And he's chosen people that he knows, people he's worked with for a long time in the Obama administration and even before that, when he was head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. You know, in his remarks, he highlighted what made each of them unique. Alejandro Mayorkas - he was the first immigrant and Latino to be the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Avril Haines - she'll be the first woman to be director of the national intelligence. And there was a focus on a new Cabinet-level position, the climate envoy. And that person is a very well-known face - John Kerry, who was former secretary of state. Here's Joe Biden describing the importance of this new focus on the climate.


JOE BIDEN: We're going to have a principal on the National Security Council whose full-time job is to fight climate change. For the first time ever, that will occur.

ORDOÑEZ: And Biden said next month that he's going to announce what he called a high-level White House climate policy coordinator and a structure to address this threat.

KELLY: Now, just before Biden spoke, President Trump, the current president, made a sudden appearance. He walked into the White House briefing room. What was that about?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, it was really strange. You know, he has stayed away from the cameras for the most part since he lost the election. And there was almost no warning. We were all scrambling to get to our seats in the briefing room. You know, last night, of course, was the first time that he acknowledged that the transition is going ahead, but that doesn't mean he has conceded exactly. But he is kind of sort of standing aside so that the formalities can continue. And when he came out today, you know, he looked to be taking a victory lap on the stock market, one of his favorite barometers.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The stock market's just broken 30,000. Never been broken, that number. That's a sacred number, 30,000. Nobody thought they'd ever see it.

ORDOÑEZ: But it was only a minute long. And he left as reporters - frustrated reporters, I'll add - were shouting questions about whether he was going to concede.

KELLY: Yeah - frustrated reporters, including you.


KELLY: Before I let you go, Franco, the turkey pardon - always a fun tradition, always kind of a weird tradition. How was it this year?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. You know, it is an annual tradition, a bit of fun ahead of Thanksgiving - you know, kids in the Rose Garden petting a turkey. But, you know, everyone was really watching President Trump more than the turkeys to see how they - he would act. Pardon me. There were a few less jokes than usual. I'll give you just one example. He joked two years ago that one of the turkeys had refused to accept the results of a, quote, "fair and open election" on who should get the pardon and that the turkey demanded a recount. That's the kind of thing that maybe hits a little closer to home these days.

KELLY: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.