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President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Tuesday at an event introducing the incoming administration's top national security officials, where he told the story of his stepfather being the only one of 900 children at his school in Poland to survive the Holocaust.

What they're saying: "At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the woods in 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," Blinken said.

  • "He ran to the tank. The hatch opened. An African-American GI looked down at him," Blinken continued.
  • "He got down on his knees and said the only three words he knew in English that his mother had taught him before the war. God bless America."

Why it matters: "That's who we are," said Blinken, who like many of Biden's other picks is a committed multilateralist and advocate for the United States as a leading force for good. "That's what America represents to the world, however imperfectly."

The big picture: In addition to Blinken, Biden introduced nominees Alejandro Mayorkas (Homeland Security secretary), Avril Haines (Director of National Intelligence), Linda Thomas-Greenfield (UN ambassador), Jake Sullivan (National Security adviser) and John Kerry (special envoy for climate). The picks are meant to look like America, as Biden seeks to assemble the most diverse Cabinet in American history.

Highlights:

  • Mayorkas: "My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism. They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become United States citizens, as was I. I have carried that pride throughout my nearly 20 years of government service and throughout my life."
  • Haines: "Mr. President-Elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power and that will be my charge as director of national intelligence. I worked for you for a long time and I accept this nomination knowing that you would never want me to do otherwise, and that you value the perspective of the intelligence community, and that you will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult. And I assure you, there will be those times."
  • Thomas-Greenfield: "On this day, I'm thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats, public servants around the world. I want to say to you, America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back."
  • Sullivan: "To the American people, I had the honor of serving as Joe Biden's national security adviser when he was vice president. I learned a lot, about a lot. About diplomacy, about strategy, about policy, but most importantly about human nature. I watched him pair strength and resolve with humanity and empathy. That is the person America elected. And that is also America at its best."
  • Kerry: "At the global [climate] meeting in Glasgow one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together or we will all fail together. And failure is not an option. Succeeding together means tapping into the best of American ingenuity, creativity, diplomacy, from brain power to alternative energy power, using every tool we have to get where we have to go."

The bottom line: Biden's description of Haines embodied his approach toward his Cabinet picks, while also serving as a slight to his predecessor, President Trump: “To lead our intelligence community, I didn’t pick a politician or a political figure; I picked a professional."

Go deeper: Dive deep into Biden's foreign policy team with the Axios World newsletter

Go deeper

Biden administration unveils plan to combat domestic extremism

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced at a briefing on Friday that the Biden administration will roll out a three-pronged interagency plan to assess and combat the threat posed by domestic violent extremism.

Why it matters: The federal government's approach to domestic extremism has come under scrutiny in the wake of the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. In his inaugural address, Biden repudiated political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism, vowing to defeat them.

Schiff asks new intel chief Avril Haines to declassify Jamal Khashoggi report

Photo: congress.gov via Getty Images

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff on Friday formally asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to declassify a report on the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Why it matters: The Washington Post has reported that the CIA concluded with a high degree of confidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — a close ally of the Trump administration — ordered Khashoggi's assassination. The Trump administration never released the report to the public.

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.