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Emanuel to Be Chief of Staff

The llinois Congressman has accepted the job as President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff.

In Chicago yesterday, Obama began to take on the routine of a president-elect, returning calls to nine foreign leaders and meeting with top defense, national security and intelligence advisers. He also received his first intelligence briefing since winning election on Tuesday in a meeting with Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Michael J. Morell, head of the CIA's intelligence directorate. Between now and his inauguration, Obama will receive regular briefings from senior intelligence officials.

Those around Obama remained tight-lipped about prospective Cabinet nominees, although advisers said he will move quickly to put his national security team in place. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates continues to be the most discussed possibility for a Bush administration holdover, although aides said he has given them no indication of any talks with Obama. Former Navy secretary Richard Danzig, a longtime Obama adviser, also remains among those mentioned for the post.

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) is said to be interested in becoming secretary of state, although former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and others are also seen as possibilities. With Connecticut Democrat Christopher J. Dodd's announcement yesterday that he will remain as chairman of the Senate banking committee, Kerry is next in line to take over the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee from Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

One high-profile and potentially controversial candidate for a Cabinet post to emerge yesterday was Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as a possible head of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to sources familiar with the transition process.

Kennedy founded and now chairs the Waterkeeper Alliance, which promotes water quality in the United States and abroad, while simultaneously serving as a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a professor at Pace University School of Law in White Plains, N.Y. He backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) in this year's Democratic presidential primaries, but his cousin Caroline Kennedy co-chaired Obama's vice presidential search team.

Obama is also considering several candidates with more nuts-and-bolts experience for the job, including former Sierra Club president Lisa Renstrom; California Air Resources Board chair Mary D. Nichols; Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty; and Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles.

On the domestic side, union leaders began pressing for a labor secretary in sync with their priorities. One prominent candidate to emerge was former House Democratic whip David E. Bonior (Mich.), chairman of American Rights at Work, a nonprofit that pushes for the rights of workers to form unions and for stricter enforcement of worker safety provisions. Bonior is also on the guest list for Obama's economic summit today, joining prominent business leaders such as Anne Mulcahy, the chairman and chief executive of Xerox; William H. Donaldson, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission under Bush; and Eric E. Schmidt, the chairman and chief executive of Google.

Policy teams met separately from those working on Cabinet nominations and other appointments, and sources said a virtual firewall was being erected between the two. In the national security sphere, advisers studied briefing books provided by the Bush administration and began to set priorities in keeping with both policy demands and Obama's agenda.

"The challenge is to both deal with the urgent -- Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan -- but also to keep your eye on the ball for the long term," said one foreign policy expert close to the process. "You have to do both at the same time, and a lot of it is about just getting up to speed. Obviously, there is no way from the outside that you can know all of what's happening on the inside."

By next week, the policy teams will have finished setting up shop in Washington, as will the transition teams that are moving directly into departments and agencies.

"The first phase is to engage with people inside the administration to get their version of what's happening," he said. "They've been dealing with it for the last eight years."

Staff writers Michael A. Fletcher, Alec MacGillis and Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

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