Meeting With Schumer and Pelosi, Biden Keeps Focus on Virus and Economy

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday announced new staff appointments and met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, maintaining his focus on the economy and the coronavirus pandemic while ignoring President Trump’s continued efforts to subvert the election results.

The Democratic leaders gathered in Wilmington, Del., for their first in-person meeting since the election to “discuss their shared priorities to provide immediate help to struggling working families and small businesses,” they said in a joint statement.

In a brief photo opportunity with reporters, Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were seated with Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer at a large rectangular table, all wearing masks and distanced several feet from one another.

“In my Oval Office, me casa, you casa,” Mr. Biden joked, drawing chuckles from the others. “I hope we’re going to spend a lot of time together.”

Friday was Mr. Biden’s 78th birthday, and Ms. Pelosi gave the president-elect a white orchid in celebration, according to an aide.

None of the Democrats said anything more of substance to reporters, but in a joint statement afterward they said they “agreed that Congress needed to pass a bipartisan emergency aid package in the lame duck session,” including money to fight the coronavirus and to support struggling families, businesses and state and local governments.

Mr. Biden had discussed his agenda for the first 100 days of his presidency, including to “contain” the coronavirus and restore the economy, in what the statement called “the American people’s mandate for action.”

The statement made no reference to Mr. Trump’s false claims about the election, a day after Mr. Biden called them “totally irresponsible.” Jen Psaki and Yohannes Abraham, speaking for the Biden-Harris transition, were measured on the subject during a briefing for reporters, saying that they were “moving full speed ahead” but avoiding provocative language that would escalate tensions.

The message of discipline appeared in keeping with the Biden campaign’s winning strategy of declining to engage with Mr. Trump’s theatrics and presenting the president-elect as a steady figure focused on the pandemic.

But underscoring the strange limbo Mr. Trump has created, Mr. Biden on Friday posted on Twitter a plea for private donations to fund his transition activities. “Here’s the deal: Because President Trump refuses to concede and is delaying the transition, we have to fund it ourselves and need your help,” he wrote. Clicking the link leads to a form hosted by ActBlue, a Democratic network, which suggests donations of $15 to $5,000, though users can give any amount.

Ms. Psaki and Mr. Abraham reiterated calls for the head of the General Services Administration, Emily W. Murphy, to approve paperwork that would begin an official presidential transition and provide Mr. Biden and his staff members with access to federal resources, data and personnel.

“This isn’t a game,” Mr. Abraham said, noting that a growing number of business groups and leaders, such as the heads of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, had recently called for the transition process to begin.

Asked whether the Biden team has had contact with Trump administration officials, as some reports have indicated, Ms. Psaki said, “We certainly would love to have that engagement.”

But, she added, the transition team “has been very careful, of course, about following those rules and guidelines, and we’ll have to abide by that until ascertainment happens.”

Ascertainment is the term for when the General Services Administration concludes that the election has produced a winner and a transition can begin.

Mr. Biden has spoken repeatedly in recent days about the urgent need for Congress to agree on a new stimulus spending package, saying that Senate Republicans should drop their opposition to a measure that House Democrats passed last month. He has made no public suggestion that Democrats should change their position and offer new compromise legislation.

Ms. Psaki said that Mr. Biden had also spoken with “elected officials from both sides of the aisle.” When asked whether that included congressional Republicans, whom Mr. Biden has said he hopes will break ranks to challenge Mr. Trump’s election claims and compromise on stimulus spending, she did not offer more specifics.

Mr. Biden also announced four more appointments to his White House staff.

Catherine M. Russell will be the director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. During the Obama administration, Ms. Russell served as the chief of staff to Jill Biden, then the second lady, and was U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues at the State Department. She is married to former President Barack Obama’s former national security adviser, Tom Donilon, who is the brother of Mr. Biden’s chief political strategist, Mike Donilon, and who may also land a big administration job.

Taking over the White House Office of Legislative Affairs will be Louisa Terrell, a former special assistant for legislative affairs to Mr. Obama and a former Capitol Hill aide whose jobs included chief of staff to Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey.

The policy director for Ms. Biden will be Mala Adiga, a lawyer who served in a similar role in the Biden-Harris campaign and handled women’s and human rights issues at the State Department and National Security Council under Mr. Obama.

The White House’s social secretary will be Carlos Elizondo, who was the social secretary to the Bidens during the Obama administration and the first Hispanic American to hold that job. The position involves planning and managing official White House events, including state dinners.

Transition officials offered no specifics about when the team might announce further personnel appointments, including Mr. Biden’s first cabinet nominees.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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