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Antony Blinken to be Biden's pick for secretary of state

He's emerged as leading candidate for the president-elect's top diplomat post.

WASHINGTON — Editor's note: The related video above was published Nov. 12.

President-elect Joe Biden will choose Antony Blinken as his nominee for secretary of state, news outlets report according to sources. Blinken is close to Biden and has expressed interest in the job.

Blinken, a former deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state, is expected to bring the U.S. back into many global agreements left during the Trump administration, The New York Times and Bloomberg reported Sunday. 

President Donald Trump has pulled the country out of the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the World Health Organization. Biden's secretary of state would inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention. 

A transition official told CNN Sunday night that Blinken's the leading contender, but said the announcement isn't official until Biden reveals his pick.

Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain says the president-elect will make his initial cabinet announcements on Tuesday.  

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Blinken's worked with Biden for almost two decades, including as top aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later as national security adviser when he was vice president. He helped develop the U.S. response to political instability in the Middle East. The 58-year-old was deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama and started his State Department career in the Clinton administration. 

Blinken was considered to be one of two finalists to be America’s top diplomat. The other was Sen. Chris Coons, who's on the foreign relations committee and holds Biden’s former seat from Delaware.

With the balance of power in the Senate depending on two runoffs in Georgia, Blinken was thought of having the upper hand over Coons, according to people close to the transition. The thinking, these people said, is that even if Coons is tapped for the post and replaced with a Democrat by Delaware’s Democratic governor, the loss of his influence in the Senate may outweigh his value as secretary of state.

If nominated and confirmed, Blinken would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which Trump questioned longtime alliances.

In nominating Blinken, Biden would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list: Susan Rice and Coons.

Rice would have faced significant GOP opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

Coons’ departure from the Senate would have come as other Democratic senators are being considered for administrative posts and the party is hoping to win back the Senate.

For his part, Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, file photo, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria. Blinken is the leading contender to become President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team's planning. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Although the State Department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration that they believe does not value their expertise.

A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.

He served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved on to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Associated Press contributed.