Schumer meets with Biden national security picks

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday met virtually with President-elect Joe Biden's intended nominees for secretary of State and director of national intelligence, praising the two in a statement while levying attacks against the Trump administration's foreign policy record. 

Schumer said he had a "productive conversation" with Antony Blinken, a longtime Biden foreign policy adviser, and Avril Haines, former deputy director of the CIA and principal deputy national security adviser under former President Obama. Biden announced last week his intention to nominate the two for the top U.S. diplomatic and intelligence positions, respectively. 

Schumer said Tuesday's conversation particularly focused on urging "the incoming Biden administration to be tough on China, but in a much smarter, multilateral way than the Trump administration was so that American workers aren't left behind and so the U.S. leads in critical industries like semiconductors, quantum computing, and clean energy." 

The Trump administration has since 2018 engaged in a trade war with China, imposing tariffs and trade barriers on the country as well as companies that conduct business there. 

On Monday, Reuters reported that President Trump was preparing to add China's top chipmaker, SMIC, and national offshore oil and gas producer CNOOC to his list of blacklist companies for allegedly being controlled by China's military. 

Trump has also repeatedly blamed Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic.

Schumer argued on Tuesday that Biden's planned foreign policy team will mark a significant shift from the approach waged by Trump and his appointees. 

"What was immediately clear in our discussion, is that President-elect Biden's foreign policy and national security officials are exceptionally qualified, accomplished individuals with the expertise to protect our nation and advance American interests abroad," he said in the statement. 

"Both of them are head and shoulders above the current occupants of their positions," the Democratic leader added, referring to Trump-appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe. 

Schumer argued that Blinken is "just the right person" to "repair diplomatic relationships with our friends and restore America's standing in the world" and that Haines "will be taking over an organization that has been marginalized by President Trump's sycophants and yes-men, political appointees who often refused to tell the president difficult truths." 

"Avril will not repeat those mistakes," he said. 

The meeting comes a day after Schumer revealed that he wants hearings for Biden's Cabinet picks to start in early January immediately after the Georgia Senate runoffs, which will determine which party controls the upper chamber. 

Schumer added that the timeline would set up key Cabinet picks to get confirmation votes on the Senate floor on Jan. 20 "and soon thereafter, which is traditional for a new president."