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Photo: Ben Hider via Getty Images

President-elect Biden's selection of William Burns, a retired top diplomat, as his nominee for CIA director marks a potential pivot point for the agency.

Why it matters: Burns’ background is in statecraft, not subterfuge. His appointment may offer an unusual opportunity to better integrate the CIA’s intelligence-gathering, analysis and covert action capabilities with larger U.S. foreign policy aims.

What they’re saying: The pick “means [Biden] intends for American intelligence to serve American diplomacy in a way unseen since the Dulles brothers led those forces in the 1950s. That’s an urgent and monumental mission,” writes Tim Weiner.

Catch up quick: Burns, who currently heads the Carnegie Endowment, was something of a surprise pick.

  • Insiders had believed front-runners for the job included former CIA deputy director David Cohen and former senior CIA official Darrell Blocker.
  • Another well-known CIA hand, former acting director Michael Morell, earlier asked to be removed from consideration for the job after some Senate Democrats signaled their opposition to him over his past statements on torture.

Background: Burns, who retired in 2014 as deputy secretary of state, is a widely respected 33-year veteran of America’s diplomatic corps.

  • He was deeply involved in the Obama administration’s Iran strategy, including leading backchannel negotiations surrounding the Iran Deal.
  • He was also previously the U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Of note: Although some former CIA heads, like Richard Helms and George H.W. Bush, were later appointed to diplomatic posts, Burns would be the first career diplomat to ascend to the top CIA post.

Yes, but: Burns’ diplomatic background doesn’t necessarily mean he will eschew the harder-edged aspects of spy work. After all, under the Obama administration, the CIA undertook a concerted covert action campaign to degrade Iran’s nuclear program while also pushing for a negotiated suspension of Tehran’s activities.

Go deeper

17 hours ago - World

Iran lays out "road map" for nuclear talks with Biden

Khamenei earlier this month. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Iran has been accumulating bargaining chips and laying out its strategy for engagement with Joe Biden, who arrives in office promising to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear deal if Iran returns to compliance.

Why it matters: Recent statements from Iran's leaders indicate that they're willing to strike such a deal. But the sides differ over who will have to make the first move, and when.

57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Read: Pete Buttigieg's opening statement ahead of confirmation hearing

Pete Buttigieg, President Biden's nominee to be secretary of transportation, in December. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AFP via Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg, President Biden's nominee to lead the Transportation Department, will tell senators he plans to prioritize the health and safety of public transportation systems during the pandemic — and look to infrastructure projects to rebuild the economy — according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: Buttigieg will testify at 10 a.m. ET before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He is expected to face a relatively smooth confirmation process, though GOP lawmakers may press him on "green" elements of Biden's transportation proposals.

Off the Rails

Episode 8: The siege

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 8: The siege. An inside account of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that ultimately failed to block the certification of the Electoral College. And, finally, Trump's concession.

On Jan. 6, White House deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger entered the West Wing in the mid-afternoon, shortly after his colleagues' phones had lit up with an emergency curfew alert from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.