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Valerie Biden Owens, her brother's closest political adviser for 49 years, told me in an interview for "Axios on HBO" that President-elect Joe Biden plans to ignore the distractions of President Trump while building and launching a government.

Driving the news: "He's never going to see Donald Trump again," Owens said Sunday in Wilmington, in her first on-camera interview since Joe Biden became president-elect. "Donald Trump is going off the stage on January 20th. ... That's history, that's past."

Why she matters: Owens stays behind the scenes, and rarely gives interviews.

  • She's the ultimate gatekeeper, adviser and confidant — Biden's "judgment barometer," as one friend told me. She was the last word on some of the campaign's biggest decisions, and a voice always pushing him to "Just be Joe."

Reflecting the soaring confidence in Biden's camp, Owens replied, "Sure" and "Absolutely" when I asked her if he would run for a second term:

  • "He's transitional in that he's bringing in all these young people and bringing [us] back again [so] we're not a divided country. ... But sure. He's going strong."

Owens said that despite the current celebrations, the president-elect recognizes the scale of the calamities he faces — and the constraints of a narrowed House Democratic majority, and possible Republican control of the Senate.

  • "He is the most experienced person to ever enter the White House in American history, because of his 36 years in the Senate and then his eight with President Obama. So he's very clear eyed," she said.
  • "But ... he really, really believes that where we are now in this country, we have such a tremendous opportunity to make things better for all Americans."

Owens sketched a radically different governing style than the past four years:

  • She said Biden will engage "progressives or conservatives or Republicans or liberals or Democrats and independents. ... He will bring respect back to governing."
  • "We all know him as a great talker," she said with a laugh. "I mean: There goes Biden again — as I'm doing right now — talking and talking. But my brother's even a better listener."

I asked her what she'll call him when he's in the White House.

  • "Joey. Joe," Owens said. "If he calls me First Sister, I'll call him Mr. President."
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Go deeper

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden to name Antony Blinken as secretary of state

Anthony Blinken, then deputy secretary of state speaks at a 2016 summit 2016 in New York City. Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

President-elect Joe Biden will name as secretary of state his longtime adviser Antony Blinken, who has held diplomatic and national security jobs since the Clinton administration, a Biden adviser confirmed to Axios on Sunday.

Our thought bubble: By nominating Blinken, who has worked closely with Biden over the past two decades, Biden may return more authority to and work to rebuild the ranks and morale inside the diplomatic corps after President Trump moved to diminish its reach and centralize decision making inside the White House.

Nov 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer: Transition should start "tomorrow morning"

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said on "Meet the Press" on Sunday that it is past time to "cooperate with the transition" to President-elect Joe Biden, adding that he believes President Trump still has the right to continue fighting in court over election results.

Driving the news: Trump has refused to allow the transition process to begin as he has sought to discredit the election results in swing states across the country — baselessly alleging mass voter fraud.

Murkowski: "It is time to begin the full and formal transition process"

Murkowski leaves the Senate Republicans lunch in September. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tweeted Sunday, "It is time to begin the full and formal transition process." She called Trump's attempts to overturn President-elect Biden's win "inconsistent with our democratic process."

Why it matters: Only a handful of congressional Republicans have acknowledged Biden as president-elect as Trump and his campaign continue unsuccessful legal challenges in key swing states.