Biden nominee Blinken makes first visit to State Department

FILE PHOTO: Antony Blinken, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, speaks as President-elect Biden announces his national security nominees and appointees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. top diplomat, Antony Blinken, on Thursday went to the State Department for the first time since the election, taking part in meetings and briefings as he prepares to take over as Secretary of State.

Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, is quarantining after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. It was not immediately clear if the two would have a virtual meeting or who Blinken met with while at the department.

A Biden transition team spokesman said Blinken and his team were following strict COVID-19 protocols during the visit, adding that the trusted Biden aide was expected to continue to attend occasional in-person meetings at the department over the coming weeks.

The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Blinken’s visit.

The State Department on Wednesday said that Pompeo was quarantining, but did not answer further queries about how or when he came into contact with the infected person, whether he was displaying symptoms or on contact tracing protocols at the department.

After weeks of waiting, the Trump administration in November cleared the way for Biden to transition to the White House, giving him access to briefings and funding even as Trump vowed to continue fighting the presidential election results which he has falsely claimed were marred by fraud.

Days later, the State Department informed staff that the transition process had begun and a team had been assigned inside the agency to support a handover to the incoming Biden administration, according to an internal email seen by Reuters.

Pompeo came under fire a couple of weeks earlier for saying at a news briefing that there would be a smooth transition to a “second Trump administration,” despite Biden’s election victory.

He later softened his tone and promised a “good transition” for whoever was in the White House on Jan. 20, the presidential Inauguration Day.

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