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By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said on Wednesday it had scheduled a confirmation hearing for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be director of national intelligence, after delays in the transition process for some nominees.
The intelligence panel set its hearing for former Deputy CIA Director Avril Haines, nominated to be the nation's top spy, on Jan. 15, five days before Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are inaugurated.
A Biden transition official said on Tuesday that the Democratic president-elect would appoint interim agency heads to lead Cabinet agencies and departments while his nominees awaited confirmation, citing delays in the process.
Trump's administration delayed the process of transferring power while he claimed, falsely, that Biden's election was fraudulent. The process was also complicated by uncertainty over which party would control the Senate, before Democrats won two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5.
Many of Trump's fellow Republicans in the Senate put off meetings with Biden's nominees as Trump contested the election.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced late on Tuesday that it had scheduled for Jan. 19 a hearing for Antony Blinken, a former State Department No. 2 nominated to be secretary of state.
The Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month scheduled a hearing for retired Army General Lloyd Austin to be secretary of defense, also on Jan. 19, although the panel's outgoing Republican chairman, Senator Jim Inhofe, said that might be delayed.
In contrast, the Republican-led Senate Foreign Relations Committee held its confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, Trump's first secretary of state, on Jan. 11, 2017, nine days before his inauguration. The hearing for Trump's first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, was Jan. 12, 2017.
It is typical for the Senate to hold such hearings before inauguration to help assure a smooth transition.
The hearing for Dan Coats, Trump's first director of national intelligence, was held on Feb. 28, 2017.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)