Biden said leaning toward former Obama national security adviser for CIA chief

US President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly considering former US national security adviser and longtime confidant Tom Donilon to head the CIA in his new administration set to be sworn in on January 20.

Donilon, a Democratic government veteran who served as chief strategist for Biden’s 2020 campaign, is a leading candidate to run the US spy agency, which has seen a tumultuous four years under the Trump administration, Politico reported Wednesday.

As the first-term national security adviser of president Barack Obama, Donilon oversaw a foreign policy agenda at the White House that put increased emphasis on the US relationship with Asia. He’s also played a key role in the administration’s counterterrorism strategy, including the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, and in managing the complex US ties with Russia.

Additionally, he and former US negotiator, adviser and ambassador Dennis Ross served as advisers to the president on the Middle East.

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon with President Barack Obama (photo credit: White House/Pete Souza)

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon with President Barack Obama ( White House/Pete Souza)

Known for his closeness to Israel, Donilon visited the country on a number of occasions as national security adviser.

In 2012, Donilon reportedly informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a five-hour meeting in Jerusalem that the US was preparing in earnest for the possibility that diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s unsanctioned nuclear program would fail.

To demonstrate this, and perhaps to dissuade Israel from striking Iran on its own, Donilon took the unusual step of outlining the US’s plan for striking Iran’s nuclear sites, and gave a detailed overview of the weapons capable of destroying them, according to a Haaretz report at the time.

Ross, in a 2015 interview with The Times of Israel, said Donilon “saw Israel through a collaborative-partnership premise and prism.”

The report comes after Biden introduced selections for his national security team on Tuesday, his first substantive offering of how he’ll shift from Trump-era “America First” policies by relying on foreign policy and national security experts from the Democratic establishment as some of his most important advisers.

Like Donilon, Biden’s picks all have ties to Obama’s administration as the president-elect has sought to deliver a clear message about his desire to reestablish a more predictable engagement from the United States on the global stage.

US Vice President Joe Biden (R) speaks to President Barack Obama (L) as National Security Advisor Tom Donilon (second from R) and the vice president’s national security adviser Tony Blinken look on in the Oval Office, November 4, 2010. (Pete Souza/White House)

“It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” said Biden at an introductory event.

The president-elect’s team includes Anthony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy hand well-regarded on Capitol Hill whose ties to Biden go back some 20 years, for secretary of state; lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary; veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be US ambassador to the United Nations; and Obama White House alumnus Jake Sullivan as national security adviser.

Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, was picked to serve as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold that post, and former secretary of state John Kerry will make a curtain call as a special envoy on climate change.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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