Obama fills White House positions, still vetting Clinton

November 20th, 2008 - 10:11 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 20 (DPA) President-elect Barack Obama has unveiled new members of future White House staff and key policy directors as US media speculated Wednesday on his potential cabinet picks for health, justice and the top job in US diplomacy.The names released so far include many familiar faces from the administration of former president Bill Clinton, the last Democrat in the White House, as well as some of Obama’s top campaign officials.

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist during the presidential campaign, was named a senior advisor. Gregory Craig will serve as White House counsel, the top lawyer in the executive branch. Craig led Clinton’s defence during his impeachment and Senate trial in 1998-99.

“I am pleased to announce these new additions to our team, and I’ll be relying on their broad and diverse experience in the months ahead as we work to strengthen our economy, reform Washington and meet the great challenges of our time,” Obama said in a statement.

Obama has been unveiling his White House team since the Nov 4 elections but not yet cabinet posts. One of his first post-victory announcements was the pick of Congressman Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. Emanuel was a senior advisor in the Clinton administration and prolific fundraiser for the Democrats.

Former president Clinton, meanwhile, has opened up his personal financial books to the Obama transition team in an effort to pave the way for his wife, US Senator Hillary Clinton, to get the job of secretary of state, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Bill Clinton has travelled around the world and raised millions for his charitable foundation since leaving the White House in 2001, as well as garnering a personal fortune in speaking fees. His financial dealings were being investigated by Obama’s people to ensure no foreign conflicts of interest if Hillary Clinton were to head the State Department.

Tom Daschle, a former US Senate majority leader and co-chair of Obama’s presidential campaign, has been given the job of health and human services secretary, CNN reported Wednesday.

Daschle is known as a passionate advocate for health care reform, which is likely to be one of Obama’s top domestic priorities in 2009.

On Tuesday, media reported the position of attorney general had been offered to Eric Holder, who would become the first African-American to lead the Justice Department. Holder was deputy attorney general under Clinton.

Obama faces an economy in crisis and the first wartime US presidential transition since Vietnam, increasing the pressure to quickly put a team in place ahead of his Jan 20 inauguration.

He said in an interview earlier this week on CBS News that he would soon begin naming cabinet members.

Clinton, Holder and Daschle were going through an extensive vetting process before they are formally announced. All cabinet nominees must be confirmed by the US Senate.

Few details are available on Obama’s potential pick for Treasury secretary, possibly his most hotly anticipated choice as the US faces a financial sector threatened with collapse. Names floated include Larry Summers, who was Treasury secretary under Clinton, and New York Federal Reserve Chairman Timothy Geithner.

Obama issued details Wednesday on who would be directing policy in various key areas during the transition, a sign of who may get some of the top jobs in an Obama administration.

Daschle was tapped to develop policy on health care, while Georgetown University law professor Daniel Tarullo will lead economic policy. Tarullo worked in the Clinton administration and may join the White House Council of Economic Advisors, a three-people panel that advises the president on economic issues.

James Steinberg and Susan Rice will direct national security policy during the transition. Both worked in the State Department in the 1990s and have been mentioned as possible national security advisors, the top foreign-policy position in the White House.

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