WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama announced a reshuffling of his top White House personnel Friday, naming Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough as his new chief of staff and saying goodbye to longtime senior adviser David Plouffe, a key architect of his political strategy.
Obama promoted McDonough, one of his most trusted and loyal deputies, to oversee White House operations as the administration tackles the major legislative initiatives of his second term, including gun-control measures, immigration reform and tax and budgetary issues.
McDonough, 43, replaced Jack Lew, whom Obama has nominated to run the Treasury Department. White House officials said Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, would replace McDonough as the second-most-senior official on the National Security Council.
Obama also named U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco to replace Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan, who has been tapped to lead the CIA.
Monaco adds more female diversity among the administration’s top leadership as Obama seeks to rebut criticism that his national security team, in particular, is too dominated by men. In addition to Lew and Brennan, Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, a veteran of Obama’s 2008 campaign like McDonough, will replace Plouffe, the leading political adviser during Obama’s first term.
Announcing the appointments in the White House’s East Room, Obama recalled that McDonough, a Capitol Hill veteran who worked for former Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle, helped set up his Senate office in 2005, showing him where the bathrooms were and explaining how to pass a legislative proposal.
“Since then, I’ve relied on his intellect and good judgment,” Obama said. “Denis (McDonough) has played a key role in every key national security decision in my presidency.”
McDonough will be Obama’s fourth permanent chief of staff, succeeding Rahm Emanuel, William Daley and Lew. Pete Rouse spent several months as interim chief of staff after Emanuel’s departure in 2010. McDonough helped guide the military drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the response to the major earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. But his personal relationship with the president meant that the Minnesota native’s influence in the White House was far broader.
The devout Catholic also served as an informal religious adviser, helped reach out to minorities and acted as a political strategist and enforcer of internal administration discipline. He is described as a tireless, demanding boss who is not averse to dressing down senior staff.
In other moves announced by Obama, Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors will become deputy chief of staff for policy. He will be replaced by Miguel Rodriguez.
David Simas, a pollster for the Obama campaign, is joining the White House as deputy senior adviser in the communications shop.
Danielle Gray and Katy Kale were named as assistants to the president.
While most of the appointees have worked within the White House or vice president’s office, Monaco comes from the Justice Department, where she was one of the highest-ranking women. At Justice, Monaco has served as assistant attorney general for national security since 2011.
A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School, she is widely respected by officials with the Republican and Democratic parties. She previously worked for FBI Director Robert Mueller, serving as his counsel and chief of staff.