'America is back': Biden formally introduces national security, foreign policy team

Allan Smith and Nicole Via y Rada and Dareh Gregorian and Geoff Bennett and Ken Dilanian and Marianna Sotomayor

President-elect Joe Biden introduced key members of his Cabinet and national security team during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, Tuesday afternoon, and declared: "America is back."

“It’s a team that will keep our country and our people safe and secure. It's a team that reflects the fact that America is back. Ready to lead the world, not retreat from it. Once again, sit at the head of the table. Ready to confront our adversaries, and not reject our allies, ready to stand up for our values,” Biden said as he introduced his choices for positions he described as "critical."

Those picks include Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of Homeland Security, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser and John Kerry as Biden's special envoy for climate.

The remarks were Biden's first public comments since the head of the General Services Administration on Monday informed the president-elect that the official government transition process has been approved.

Biden said he was "pleased to have received the ascertainment from GSA to carry out a smooth and peaceful transition of power, so our teams can prepare to meet the challenges at hand — to control the pandemic, to build back better and to protect the safety and security of the American people."

He also urged lawmakers to take swift action in confirming his national security team.

“To the United States Senate, I hope these outstanding nominees receive a prompt hearing, and that we can work across the aisle in good faith to move forward for the country,” Biden said.

Earlier in the day, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who has acknowledged Biden as the president-elect, offered some faint praise for the cabinet picks, saying Biden’s “resisting the far left on most of the picks to date.” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl., tweeted that Biden's choices "went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline ... I have no interest in returning to the 'normal' that left us dependent on China."

Mayorkas, who like Rubio is Cuban American, is the first Latino and the first immigrant picked to head Homeland Security, while Haines is the first woman nominated to be DNI. Kerry's selection marks the first time that the National Security Council will include an official dedicated to climate change.

All of Biden's national security nominees spoke at the event, with Blinken discussing the importance of the country's ideals.

"My late stepfather, Samuel Pisar, he was one of 900 children in his school in Bialystok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps," Blinken said. “At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the woods of Bavaria. From his hiding place, he heard a deep rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the Iron Cross, he saw painted on its side a five-pointed white star. He ran to the tank, the hatch opened. An African-American GI looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words that he knew in English that his mother taught him before the war, 'God bless America.' That's who we are. That's what America represents to the world, however imperfectly.”

After the event, Biden was asked if he'd be willing to meet with President Donald Trump, who's refused to concede the election. "Of course I would, if he asked," Biden said.

Trump spoke briefly to reporters in the White House briefing room Tuesday afternoon, but made no mention of the election results. Instead, Trump touted the stock market, claiming credit for its record high.

"I just want to congratulate all the people within the administration that worked so hard. And most importantly I want to congratulate the people of our country because there are no people like you," Trump said, before leaving the room without taking any questions. He later pardoned a turkey named Corn, who was joined by another named Cob, in honor of Thanksgiving.

After weeks of delay, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy wrote in her Monday letter that Biden, whom she referred to as "the apparent president-elect," is now able to access to millions of federal dollars and other government resources to begin his transition to power.

A Biden transition official told NBC News on Tuesday that the Biden transition team is now communicating and interacting with all federal agencies.

Biden is also set to receive the president's daily intelligence briefing, giving him access to crucial national security information, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence's office said.

Biden told reporters "it's been offered."

"They've been very forthcoming, offering all access and so we are going to be starting those on a regular basis," Biden said.

Asked if he's spoken with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, Biden said he hadn't but "my staff has." He added, "He's been very, very helpful."

Trump said Monday he is still fighting the election results, later posting a baseless conspiracy about voting machines, but said he recommended that Murphy "do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same."

In other transition news:

  • In an exclusive interview with NBC News's Lester Holt, Biden said he was optimistic that his team could make up for the time already lost in the transition given the "outreach" from the Trump administration. "We're already working out meeting with the Covid team in the White House and how to not only distribute but get from a vaccine being distributed to a person able to get vaccinated, so I think we're gonna not be so far behind the curve as we thought might be in the past," Biden said.

  • Biden is expected to nominate Janet Yellen, former chair of the Federal Reserve, as his treasury secretary.

  • Mayorkas signaled a shift from Trump's hard-line immigration policies.

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the GSA letter is "probably the closest thing to a concession that President Trump could issue."

  • Legal experts called the effort from Trump and his lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to overturn the election results "beyond an embarrassment."

  • Pennsylvania certified Biden's win as more states prepare to certify, dimming Trump hopes of overturning election results.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., says she's stepping down as top Democrat on Senate Judiciary Committee.