Biden’s U.N. Pick Assembles Team of Foreign-Policy Veterans

Linda Thomas-Greenfield is staffing her New York and Washington offices with a range of career and political foreign-policy hands with extensive experience in U.N. affairs. 

By Colum Lynch, a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, and Robbie Gramer, a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Joe Biden's pick to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Joe Biden's pick to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks at a ceremony announcing Biden's cabinet in Wilmington, Delaware, on Nov. 24, 2020. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has assembled a team of foreign-policy veterans with extensive experience in U.N. affairs, in a departure from the Trump administration, which staffed the U.S. Mission largely with political appointees who had limited experience in global diplomacy.

The United Nations’ acting chargé d’affaires, Richard M. Mills, will continue to serve as Thomas-Greenfield’s No. 2, at least during the new ambassador’s transition. Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the former top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, has been appointed acting U.S. ambassador for special political affairs, a post he previously held during the Obama administration. He is likely to help Thomas-Greenfield in the transition to her new position but will only be there temporarily. Jennifer Davis will serve as Thomas-Greenfield’s chief of staff. And Olivia Dalton, who led communications for the Biden-Harris transition’s confirmations team, will serve as chief spokesperson and director of communications for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

The new appointees are included in an internal list, reviewed by Foreign Policy, of 19 or so political and career officials who will serve in the executive office of the U.S. Mission and the ambassador’s office in Washington. Some of the appointees were announced by the mission Tuesday morning as part of an effort to signal that the United States will be up and running even before Thomas-Greenfield faces her confirmation hearing in the Senate on Wednesday.

“These appointees, most of whom were sworn in on Inauguration Day, reflect President Biden’s and Vice President Harris’s commitment to building a talented, experienced, and diverse administration that looks like America and is ready to hit the ground running on day one,” according to a statement issued by the mission.

Already, the U.S. Mission has struck a more conciliatory tone in public statements at the United Nations, compared with the Trump-era team. Addressing the U.N. Security Council on Monday, Rodney Hunter, the U.S. political coordinator, assured governments that the United States was committed to participating in international efforts to combat the coronavirus and support wider global access vaccines. He also offered praise for the World Health Organization, which the Trump administration had persistently attacked for failing to confront China more forcefully when the coronavirus pandemic spread from Wuhan to the rest of the world. “The WHO must play a central role in our combined response to this pandemic,” Hunter said.

“As a WHO member state, the United States will work closely with all of you to ensure the WHO is strengthened and reformed appropriately, not only to face this current challenge but also to effectively stand up to other challenges yet to come.”

Thomas-Greenfield, a seasoned former career diplomat who served as the top Africa envoy during the Obama administration, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Wednesday for a nomination hearing. Congressional aides told Foreign Policy that she is expected to sail through her confirmation process with bipartisan support and could take up her post in New York as soon as early next month, depending on the Senate schedule.

Jeffrey Prescott, the new deputy to the U.S. ambassador in Washington, will manage Thomas-Greenfield’s office in Washington, where he will be responsible for interacting with Congress and serving as the ambassador’s representative in deputy-level meetings. Prescott held several national security posts during the Obama administration, including director in the National Security Council for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Persian Gulf, as well as deputy national security advisor to the vice president, then Biden.

The U.S. ambassador’s team in Washington also includes Andrew Miller, Lesley Anne Warner, Jennifer Hendrixson White, and Paula Garcia Tufro. Miller is an expert on Middle East issues and former NSC staffer during the Obama administration. Warner is a seasoned expert on African affairs who served as a professional staff member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) for Democrats and has a Ph.D. from King’s College, London. Hendrixson-White, another HFAC staffer, is an authority on East Asia, and Tufro is an expert on Latin American issues.

The list includes a number of officials who previously served stints at the U.S. Mission, including Kelly Razzouk, a former mission staffer who recently worked at the International Refugee Committee, and Mike Pan has been named acting senior policy adviser, a position he held under the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. He is expected to serve in that role temporarily.

Aditi Gorur, an expert on U.N. peacekeeping who was until recently a senior fellow and director of the Protecting Civilians in Conflict Program at the Stimson Center, was scheduled to begin working Monday as a policy advisor at the mission. Laurence Pevsner, whose Twitter bio describes him as a speechwriter and strategist and a former member of the West Wing Writers, will serve as speechwriter.

Others include Sohini Chatterjee, an expert on global development, conflict, and mass atrocities who previously worked in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and will serve as a senior policy advisor; Zach Vertin, an expert on multilateral diplomacy, conflict, mediation, and political transitions, with a focus on the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa; Jasmine Wyatt, who worked as a legislative and policy analyst for oversight and investigations at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will serve as a special assistant; and Amber McIntyre, who served on the Biden State Department transition, and has been named director of operations.

The list also included several career officials, among them Philip Young, Carly Bainbridge, Elisa Berisso, and Faith Kroeker-Maus. It is still unclear who will fill a number of important posts, including the U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council and the U.S. ambassador for U.N. management and reform.

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer