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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

Jan 28, 2021 - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

The week the Trump show ended

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Donald Trump was eclipsed in media attention last week by President Biden for the first time since Trump took office, according to viewership data on the internet, on social media and on cable news.

Why it matters: After Trump crowded out nearly every other news figure and topic for five years, momentum of the new administration took hold last week and the former president retreated, partly by choice and partly by being forced off the big platforms.

Young people want checks on Big Tech's power

Data: Generation Lab; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The next generation of college-educated Americans thinks social media companies have too much power and influence on politics and need more government regulation, according to a new survey by Generation Lab for Axios.

Why it matters: The findings follow an election dominated by rampant disinformation about voting fraud on social media; companies' fraught efforts to stifle purveyors of disinformation including former President Trump; and a deadly Jan. 6 insurrection over the election organized largely online.