Geithner likely treasury pick; Clinton 'on track'

WASHINGTON (AP) - President-elect Barack Obama is likely to name Timothy Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve, as Treasury Secretary in a time of intense economic turmoil as he rounds out the upper echelon of his Cabinet, a senior Democratic official familiar with the deliberations said Friday. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in line to become Secretary of State, said through a spokesman that discussions were "very much on track" for her appointment but no final arrangement had been made.

Obama also has selected Eric Holder, a top Justice Department aide in the Clinton administration, as his attorney general.

If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Geithner, 47, would assume chief responsibility for tackling an economic slowdown and a credit crunch that threaten to create the deepest recession in more than a generation. The president of the New York federal reserve, he has played a key role in the government's response to the financial crisis and has worked closely with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Separately, officials said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had emerged as a likely pick as Commerce Secretary. Like Clinton, he was a rival of Obama's for the Democratic presidential nomination last winter. He dropped out after the early contests, though, and soon threw his support behind the eventual winner.

It was not clear when Obama intended to make a formal announcement of any of his picks. He has largely stayed out of public view since his election on Nov. 4, preferring to work quietly in a suite of offices in downtown Chicago.

While speculation has been rampant about numerous Cabinet-level appointments, there has been relatively little about Obama's choice as Defense Secretary. His aides encouraged speculation before the election that Robert Gates, who now holds the position, would remain in office for an interim period.

The officials who discussed Obama's plans Friday did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to pre-empt any formal announcement.

Obama has repeatedly referred to the economic crisis as the top priority for his new administration.

Geithner held posts in the Treasury Department under three administrations and five secretaries before moving to the New York Fed in 2003. He also held positions at the International Monetary Fund and was employed at the private firm of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The Dow Jones industrials soared by nearly 500 points late in the day, a sharp rise that coincided with first reports of Geithner's possible appointment.

Meanwhile, the Clinton saga was proving to be one of the longest-running and more public of the secrecy-shrouded search for an Obama Cabinet.

A week ago, the New York senator flew unannounced to Chicago to meet with the president-elect. That gave way to days of negotiations in which her husband, former President Bill Clinton, agreed to disclose the names of donors to his library and charitable foundation in anticipation of the close scrutiny her nomination would be sure to face.

Obama has moved with unusual speed to select officials for his administration. And one Democrat said John Podesta, a leader of the transition team, had told Senate aides during the day that Obama hopes for speedy confirmation so the new administration can get to work quickly after Jan. 20.

Other Cabinet selections include former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota as secretary of Health and Human Services, and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Napolitano was an early supporter of candidate Obama among the ranks of Democratic governors, as was Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. Sebelius has figured prominently in recent days in speculation as possible secretary of labor.

Obama also is filling out the ranks of his White House staff.

He's set to name Patrick Gaspard as his political director, according to a Democrat with knowledge of the upcoming appointment. Gaspard was Obama's national political director during the general election campaign, and has long ties to labor.

Other appointments also are imminent. Among them: Jackie Norris as chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama; Catherine M. Russell as chief of staff to Vice President-elect Joe Biden's wife Jill; Cynthia Hogan, as counsel to the vice president, and Moises V. Vela Jr. as director of administration for the vice president.