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Former senior Obama advisor discusses the Inauguration of Joe Biden

Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, talks to Yahoo Finance's Seana Smith about the upcoming Inauguration day as well as what can be expected from four years of a Biden led administration in the White House.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: I'm Seana Smith with "Yahoo Finance Live." With President-elect Joe Biden set to take office tomorrow, we want to bring in Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama. And Valerie, great to have you back on the program.

Let's just start with the transition process, because you were one of President Obama's-- one of the co-chairs of his transition team. When you're looking at the situation today, what lessons can be learned from your experience? And also, what does Joe Biden have to do in order to have an effective first 100 days?

VALERIE JARRETT: Good question, Seana. And hello. I'm delighted to be with you at this historic moment in our country.

Well, I think what President-elect Biden has done over the course of the last several months is exactly what was necessary, which is to surround himself by talented people who will help him stand up his administration. He's identified not just his cabinet, but also those in the White House who will be help supporting his effort. They've gone through a lengthy vetting process.

And although it got off to a late start, the Trump administration agencies have now been cooperating, for the most part, with that transition. It would have been more impactful, of course, if President Trump had encouraged that support, and if he, too, had been willing to participate in the transition.

But the good news is this-- that President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, have breadth and depth of experience in order to be able to hit the ground running. And then the next step, after tomorrow, is to get to work. And the President-elect has already laid out a very ambitious plan to contain the COVID-19 virus, and make sure that we are addressing the health care needs of the American people.

But also, building back our economy. You saw the package that he announced last week, that he'll be asking for Congress to support. He's also going to be very ambitious about making sure that we reverse many of the positions of the Trump administration around climate, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, rejoining the World Health Organization, ending the Muslim ban, making sure that he proposes legislation that will give immigration reform a chance, path to citizenship, but also giving some certainty now to the DREAMers.

So he has a lot to do to make sure that our country unifies, and heals, and, as he says, "builds back better."

SEANA SMITH: Valerie, you mentioned the COVID relief package. A lot of these policies that Biden has put forward, he needs support from both not only Democrats, but also from Republicans.

And I bring this up because throughout Obama's administration, we heard from Senator Mitch McConnell. He obstructed Obama's agenda. He rejected his appeals to compromise, and made sure other Republicans did as well. How do you think-- or how can Joe Biden maneuver that if, if Senator McConnell does do this again?

VALERIE JARRETT: Well, I think he has to try to work with McConnell, who will now be the Minority Leader. And so obviously, Joe Biden goes into office having the Democrats control both the House and the Senate, but by narrow margins.

And he has made it clear that he intends to reach out. He was a member of the Senate for decades. He has long-term relationships with many of those members. And he's going to call on them to do the people's work, and to stop putting their short-term political interests ahead of what's good for our country.

I do think our nation is at a very different point today than it was 12 years ago. I think there is a lot more pressure that we're going to see, both in terms of voices from the American people, the younger members of Congress who have been elected, and who are not just sitting by waiting their turn, but are willing to put pressure on their colleagues.

And I think that you will see both President Biden and Vice President Harris reach out and try to find that common ground. We certainly did it a lot. By then, Vice President Biden was very engaged on this front, but they made the political decision to not work with us. I hope that that has changed in this current climate.

SEANA SMITH: And when we talk about this current climate right now, it's no secret, clearly, we're facing a deeply divided country. Seems like there's two opposing realities at this point. And still, a large percentage of Republicans don't think Biden won the election, and won it fairly.

If you were advising President-elect Joe Biden right now, I guess, how would you advise him on how to best unify the country at this point?

VALERIE JARRETT: Well, I think you're going to hear his vision for that tomorrow in his inaugural address. It's a very important speech. I know from his advisors that he spent a lot of time and effort in that. The theme, of course, of the entire inauguration is America United.

He is well aware of the divisions in the-- in our country, and committed to being not just the president for those who voted for them-- for him-- but the president for all of America. So I think you'll see both in his tone, in his outreach, and in the way he comports himself as president, as someone who will invite in all parties, and try to look for how to move forward, not to get exactly everything he wants, but the art of what's possible.

And I think that that's a strength that both President-elect Biden and President-- Vice President-elect Harris have.

SEANA SMITH: When we talk about everyone's voices being heard, I think it is interesting, when you take a look at what President Trump is going to do. He's leaving DC before the inauguration tomorrow.

When we talk about the need to unify and bring everyone together here, what message, though, does this send to his supporters-- to President Trump's supporters? And also, do you think it makes it harder for President-elect Joe Biden to unify the country at this point?

VALERIE JARRETT: Well, sure. It makes it harder. I mean, the events of January 6 that led to the president inciting his supporters to go to the Capitol and try to overthrow the democracy in action, the certification of the new president and vice president, is unprecedented in our history.

But I would hasten to add that many of the actions we've seen from President Trump since he's taken office have been inconsistent with the norms that have been established by all of his predecessors. So we should not be surprised that he's leaving town in advance of the inauguration.

I have a bunch of photos that I took on Inauguration Day in 2017, when President and Mrs. Obama welcomed the Trumps to the White House. That was a hard day for all of us. But you rise to the occasion.

And in this case, President Trump is opting out of doing that. Will it make it harder? Sure, it will. Would it have been a lot easier if he conceded the election after it was called, and said to his supporters, this was a lawful election, and we should show our support for the new president? Yes.

It makes President Biden's job as president harder. Is he up to that challenge? You bet. Yeah. But it doesn't-- it didn't have to be this way.

But in a sense, it is what it is. And I am confident that you will see-- beginning with President-elect Biden's speech tomorrow, when he's sworn in as president-- a message that I hope will resonate deeply all across America, and in fact, the world. Because keep in mind, the President of the United States has always been that beacon of the symbolism of our democracy around the world.

And we haven't [AUDIO OUT] over the last four years. And I'm sure Joe Biden will reclaim it, and earn it back.

SEANA SMITH: Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.