- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2000

Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney yesterday received from the Clinton administration the official keys to the presidential transition headquarters.

"We're delighted to have this opportunity to begin to receive the official support from the government for the Bush-Cheney transition," Mr. Cheney said as the General Services Administration's No. 2 official, Thurmand Davis, turned over the keys to a downtown Washington federal office building at the Bush team's temporary transition headquarters in McLean, Va.

"This has been, as many folks have said, a unique time in American political history," the vice president-elect said. "The transition is well under way. We've been able to do that, in part, through the foresight of the Congress that had authorized the use of private funds, as well as public funds, for the transition."

Despite the delay and legal wrangling of the past five weeks, Mr. Cheney said President-elect George W. Bush still would name his full Cabinet by Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

"We will move as rapidly as we can to have the Cabinet in place by the time of the inauguration," he told reporters after accepting the keys to the transition headquarters. "We'll name Cabinet members and they'll start the clearance process."

Clay Johnson, executive director of the Bush-Cheney transition, said the FBI was cooperating to overcome problems caused by the postelection delay.

"The FBI understands how unusual this circumstance is, and they've committed to attach additional resources to expedite this every way possible," Mr. Johnson said.

Transition sources said Cabinet choices were being examined. Mr. Cheney promised that Mr. Bush would make announcements "soon" regarding his choices for secretary of state and national security adviser, but he refused to be pinned down on a specific timetable.

"I don't want to establish an artificial deadline," he said. "I expect to see the first announcement soon."

One major problem caused by the prolonged Florida legal challenge was the Bush-Cheney team's difficulty in contacting possible Democratic choices for top-level appointments, the vice president-elect said.

It was "awkward" to talk to Democrats about positions, "aggressively interview people, be able to source various folks in terms of what kind of individuals we ought to look for for certain jobs, or to be able to check out the references on certain individuals," he said.

"So those constraints are now off and we're able to begin to be much more aggressive in that regard."

Once the clearance process is completed, nomination papers can be sent to the Senate for confirmation hearings "right after the January 20th inauguration, then they begin to vote to confirm Cabinet members," Mr. Cheney said. "And we're going to try to adhere to that schedule."

He said Mr. Bush's planned meeting Monday with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore is important to "healing the wounds" and "getting on" with the business of the country after the divisive election campaign.

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