President Joe Biden after speaking with supporters on the campaign trail. Editorial Credit: Stratos Brilakis, Shutterstock.
In arguably the most-anticipated personnel move of the decade, President Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday. The Democrat replaced one-term Republican President Donald Trump, who became the first Commander in Chief to fail a reelection bid in nearly 30 years.
Having served as Barack Obama's Vice President from 2009 to 2017, President Biden is no stranger to the White House and therefore has a better sense of the overall org chart and reporting structure than most first-term presidents.
President Biden will lean heavily on his own VP, Kamala Harris, during the entirety of his term, but particularly during the transition to office.
Harris, who made history on Wednesday by becoming the first female and first Black VP in the U.S., will be supported by a strong team, many of whom are trailblazers in their own right. Longtime Democratic aide Hartina Flournoy, the Chief of Staff for former President Bill Clinton, will hold the same role under Harris. Under her are staffers like Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson Symone Sanders, once the youngest presidential press secretary in history, and Communications Director Ashley Etienne, the former Communications Director for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who was the first woman and first person of color to hold that position. Also making history is Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer who is now the White House’s first-ever Second Gentleman.
The other two staffers to report directly to President Biden during the transition and beyond are Ron Klain, Chief of Staff, and Jen O'Malley Dillon, Deputy Chief of Staff. The Deputy COS usually reports to the COS, but O'Malley Dillon, a veteran of seven presidential campaigns and the former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, has carved out her own role and will report directly to the President, according to sources within the White House.
Klain, a former lawyer who has been working alongside and under President Biden since the 1980s, including as Chief of Staff to the then-VP from 2009-2011, has more than 40 staffers already reporting to him. He’s incredibly well-connected to Democratic insiders, having worked for Presidents Obama and Clinton, as well as Democratic Presidential nominees Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton.
One of those nominees, John Kerry, is now reporting to Klain, this time as the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. President Biden has stated that focusing on climate change will be a priority and his early personnel selections appear to back that up, as Klain’s staff also includes National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, former head of the EPA, and Deputy National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, current leader of climate change efforts in New York.
Holding the more public-facing positions of the new White House staff are Kate Bedingfield, Communications Director, and Jen Psaki, Press Secretary. Veteran speechwriter Vinay Reddy will also play a role in communications as the Director of Speechwriting, as will Rob Flaherty, Director of Digital Strategy, both of whom held those same roles for the Biden-Harris campaign.
Other notable appointments include Director of Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice, a former ambassador to the UN and national security advisor who has been on the board of directors at Netflix since 2018, and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond, a five-term Louisiana congressman and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
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