The latest on Biden's transition

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:02 p.m. ET, December 23, 2020
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1:12 p.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Students urge Biden's education secretary nominee to engage young voices in Department of Education

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Before President-elect Joe Biden formally introduced Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona as his nominee for education secretary, more than 100 organizations endorsed a student-crafted roadmap that was sent to the Biden-Harris transition team encouraging youth input in the incoming Department of Education.

Student Voice — the nationwide student-led non-profit organization behind the roadmap -— congratulates Cardona on his nomination for education secretary and is now calling on Cardona and the Biden-Harris administration to listen to students. 

The roadmap, which asks the incoming US Department of Education to engage young voices through listening sessions, include students on all commissions and to prioritize equity in education, was the result of Zoom listening sessions with over 200 high school students and a survey of 1,500 kindergarten-college aged students from across the country on what they would like to see from the Biden-Harris Department of Education.

It was presented by Student Voice to President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and the Education Agency Review team prior to Dr. Cardona’s appointment and was endorsed by 100 organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, Center for American Progress, Southern Poverty Law Center, GLSEN and student groups such as March For Our Lives, Students for Gun Legislation, Future Coalition, 18by Vote and more.

“As a former educator, principal and current commissioner, we are hopeful that Dr. Cardona will be prepared to tackle the unprecedented challenges facing America’s schools on day one. We appreciate that Dr. Cardona regularly hosted listening sessions for student stakeholders throughout his career and Connecticut and has shown previous support for students as a vital part in the decision making process,” 18-year-old Jenna Yuan, the Communications Director at Student Voice, said in a statement congratulating Cardona on Wednesday.

But, Yuan added that Cardona must continue to engage with young people.

“Before Dr. Cardona is confirmed, students are calling on him to speak with us directly about the issues we face within our educations today, including through hosting a roundtable conversation with a diverse and representative group of K-12 and college students from across the country,” Yuan added in the statement.

According to Merrit Jones, who at 23 years old is the oldest member of the Student Voice team, along with their roadmap, the organization is also suggesting that Dr. Cardona prioritize five issues, “Protection against discrimination, Covid safety, mental health, college access and affordability and access for students with disabilities.”

Jones added that she believes it is imperative for Cardona to have a conversation with young people prior to Biden’s inauguration.

 “Ahead of inauguration, and of course confirmation, we want [Cardona] to have a conversation with young people to show and demonstrate early that young people are a stake holder and will be a stake holder,” Jones told CNN.

Jones added that Student Voice has already asked the Biden-Harris transition team for a conversation with Cardona to cement young people’s role in building the incoming Department of Education.

12:42 p.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Biden not expected to announce pick for CIA director until after the holidays

From CNN’s Jeff Zeleny

President-elect Joe Biden is still deliberating who he will nominate to lead the CIA, people familiar with the matter say, with a decision not expected until after the holidays.

Mike Morrell, the former acting director of the CIA in the Obama administration, is no longer in the running, people familiar with the matter say, after he came under fire for his role in drone strikes and torture.

Our reporting indicates final contenders are David Cohen, a former deputy director of the CIA under former President Obama, Lisa Monaco, counter terrorism adviser under Obama and Darrell Blocker, who served as deputy director of the agency's counterterrorism center and led the CIA's training facility.

1:42 p.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Education secretary nominee says he is "as American as apple pie and rice and beans"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Miguel Cardona spoke about his background after President-elect Joe Biden introduced him as education secretary nominee, using his story as a call to action for equality in the US education system. 

“I, being bilingual and bicultural, am as American as apple pie and rice and beans,” Cardona said.

His grandparents emigrated from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, and he was born in housing projects in the state, he said.

He attended public schools in his hometown of Meriden, Connecticut, was the first in his family to graduate from college, and went on to become a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent in “the same community that gave me so much,” he said.

“For me, education was the great equalizer. But for too many students, your ZIP code and your skin color remain the best predictor of the opportunities you'll have in your lifetime.

He compared education in America to a “wilted rose” in Spanish, saying it is “neglected, in need of care.”

“We must be the master gardeners who cultivate it, who work every day to preserve its beauty and its purpose,” he said. 

Hear his full remarks:

12:18 p.m. ET, December 23, 2020

"Forge opportunity out of crisis:" Biden's education secretary emphasizes importance of fixing disparities

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Dr. Miguel Cardona, President-elect Joe Biden's pick for education secretary, said he will focus his efforts on making changes that address disparities in the American public educations system.

He talked about how this year's pandemic has exposed these inequities.

"It's taken some of our most painful, longstanding disparities and wrenched them open even wider," Cardona said.

"Though we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, we also know that this crisis is ongoing, that we will carry its impacts for years to come, and that the problems and inequities that have plagued our educational system since long before Covid will still be with us even after the virus is gone," he added.

Cardona said America needs to take this situation to "forge opportunity out of crisis" and "build something better than we've ever had before."

He called for solutions that prioritize innovation and giving respect to the teaching profession.

"It shouldn't take a pandemic for us to realize how important teachers are for this country," he said.

1:23 p.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Biden introduces Miguel Cardona as education secretary nominee: He's "ready on day one" 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Jasmine Wright

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden is formally introducing Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona as his nominee for education secretary at an event happening now in Wilmington, Delaware.

If confirmed by the Senate, Cardona would play a key role in reopening schools across the country that have been forced online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"In this critical moment of our nation's history, it's essential that there is an educator serving as secretary of education. I want to make that clear again, an educator, someone who has taught in the classroom, comes out of the classroom. Today I'm pleased to announce that such a nominee we have, Dr. Miguel Cardona," Biden said as Cardona sat behind him on stage.

"Like other Cabinet nominees and appointees, he's brilliant, he's qualified and he's tested," Biden continued. He said that Cardona is "ready on day one."

"We needed an education secretary who truly understands what it's been like for educators, administrators, families, caregivers and students this past year," Biden said. "But we also need someone who knows what it's like, what it takes to get through this crisis."

The President-elect once again praised his "historic Cabinet," saying that there are already "more people of color in this Cabinet than in the history of the United States."

Cardona, whose parents moved from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, would be another high-profile Latino in the Cabinet. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus had urged the President-elect to select him. 

More about the nominee: Cardona was appointed Connecticut's commissioner of education by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont in August 2019.

He came to the role with two decades of experience as a public school educator from the city of Meriden, according to the state's government website, after beginning his career as an elementary school teacher and later serving for 10 years as a school principal.

In 2013, Cardona became the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

2:11 p.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Biden transition team says Pentagon "intransigence" continues

From CNN’s Jeff Zeleny

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team on Wednesday is refuting suggestions from Pentagon officials who questioned the accuracy of Biden’s assertion one day earlier that the Department of Defense has refused to brief his team on the massive cyberattack on government agencies and major American technology and accounting companies.  

“As the President-elect noted yesterday, the Department of Defense has continued to refuse to meet with our Agency Review Team members,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the Biden transition, said in a statement to CNN.

“There has been no substantial progress since transition officials spoke to the intransigence of the Department’s political leadership late last week,” Price said. “As we said then, no Department is more pivotal to our national security than the Department of Defense, and an unwillingness to work together could have consequences well beyond January 20.”

Last week, the Pentagon said briefings would resume after Jan 1, 2021.

Read more about the tensions between the Biden team and the Pentagon here.

12:16 p.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Biden's inauguration is less than a month away. These are the key roles he is yet to announce. 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

President-elect Joe Biden has yet to announce several key roles in his incoming administration, including attorney general, labor secretary and commerce secretary.

Biden's goal was to have all —or most — of his remaining Cabinet selections announced by Christmas, a transition official previously told CNN, but prospects for reaching it are dimming.

The nominee for attorney general is no longer expected to be announced before Christmas, a person familiar with the matter tells CNN, as Biden continues deliberating on one of the most high-profile positions in his incoming administration.

Here are the positions that haven't yet been announced:

  • Attorney general
  • CIA director
  • Secretary of commerce
  • Secretary of labor
  • Small business administrator

Here's a look at who Biden has selected so far for his Cabinet and other top roles:

10:57 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

If confirmed as education secretary, Miguel Cardona would be another high-profile Latino in Biden's Cabinet 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Joe Biden's transition team late Tuesday announced Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona as the President-elect's nominee for education secretary.

The President-elect is set to formally introduce his nominee this morning in an event in Wilmington, Delaware.

Cardona, whose parents moved from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, would be another high-profile Latino in the Cabinet. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus had urged the President-elect to select him.

If confirmed, Cardona would join other Latino picks in the Cabinet including Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban American man who would be the first Latino to serve in the position if confirmed by the Senate, and Xavier Becerra, who Biden picked to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and was the first Latino to serve as the attorney general of California.

Throughout the Cabinet selection process, Biden has faced pressure to follow through on his pledge to nominate people who reflect the diversity of America.

As education secretary, Cardona would play a key role in reopening schools across the country that have been forced online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

CNN was first to report that Cardona would be nominated for the role.

"In Miguel Cardona, America will have an experienced and dedicated public school teacher leading the way at the Department of Education — ensuring that every student is equipped to thrive in the economy of the future, that every educator has the resources they need to do their jobs with dignity and success, and that every school is on track to reopen safely," Biden said Tuesday night in a statement.

Read about other historic firsts in Biden's administration here.

10:22 a.m. ET, December 23, 2020

Biden team pushes back against Twitter's plan to wipe White House accounts' followers

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden's transition team is calling out Twitter's decision to not allow the millions of followers of the White House Twitter accounts to be automatically retained when the accounts are handed over to the new administration.

When President Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration inherited the millions of followers of each account handed over from the Obama administration. It was the first Twitter transfer of power in US history, and at the time, the @POTUS accounts and @WhiteHouse each had more than 13 million followers.

Nearly four years later, the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts have 33.2 million and 26 million followers, respectively.

Trump, a famously prolific tweeter, will retain control of his personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, which has 88.5 million followers on the platform.

"In 2016, the Trump admin absorbed all of President Obama's Twitter followers on @POTUS and @WhiteHouse — at Team 44's urging," Biden transition official Rob Flaherty tweeted on Tuesday.

"In 2020, Twitter has informed us that as of right now the Biden administration will have to start from zero," Flaherty said.

Flaherty said in a later tweet that this was Twitter's decision, not the President's. He said in a separate tweet directed at Nick Pacilio, a Twitter spokesperson, that he was "happy to share the email thread where we pushed back and we were told this was unequivocal."

Pacilio said in a statement on behalf of Twitter that the multiple White House accounts being transferred "will not automatically retain their existing followers."

"Instead, Twitter will notify followers of these accounts to provide context that the content will be archived and allow them the choice to follow the Biden administration's new accounts," Pacilio said. "For example, people who follow @WhiteHouse will be notified that the account has been archived as @WhiteHouse45 and given the option to follow the new @WhiteHouse account."

Pacilio did not provide a reason for the change when asked in a follow-up question by CNN.

On January 20, the day Biden will be inaugurated, Twitter will facilitate the transfer of @WhiteHouse, @POTUS, @VP, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, @Cabinet and @LaCasaBlanca to the Biden administration, according to Pacilio.