Obama taps Deputy National Security Adviser McDonough as new chief of staff

President Obama on Friday tapped Denis McDonough as his new chief of staff, replacing Jack Lew, whom Obama nominated to be Treasury secretary earlier this month.

McDonough's appointment as chief of staff brings a trusted adviser from Obama's inner circle to the second-most powerful job in the administration. It also puts a national-security focus at the chief of staff position after three chiefs whose backgrounds were more focused on domestic issues.

Calling him “an indispensable member” of his national security team, Obama explained that he has relied on McDonough’s “intellect and good judgment” for the better part of a decade, first as a Senate staffer and recently as deputy national security adviser.

“The truth is, nobody outworks Denis McDonough,” Obama said during the personnel announcement in the East Room of the White House, adding that he is “one of my closest and most trusted advisers.”

The president quipped that McDonough was an original member of his Senate staff who “was able to show me where the restrooms are” and “how you pass a bill.”

McDonough will be Obama's fourth chief of staff, and the first who comes to the office with more of a portfolio on national security than on domestic issues. Obama's first chief of staff was former Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), and his second chief of staff was former Secretary of Commerce William Daley. Lew has served in the position since last January.

A White House official credited McDonough with playing a key role in all of Obama's national-security decisions, including the end of the war in Iraq and the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. McDonough has also helped in the response to natural disasters in Haiti and Japan, along with the repeal of the militayr's “Don't ask, don't tell” policy.

The official also played up McDonough’s roots on Capitol Hill, arguing he understood the importance of working with Republicans, “whether it's on jobs and the economy, healthcare or education, reducing the deficit or addressing climate change.”

The climate change issue is one of Obama's priorities for a second term, something he made apparent in his inaugural address on Monday.

McDonough was the most high-profile of 10 personnel announcements the White House made Friday on internal positions.

A White House official said Rob Nabors would be assistant to the president and deputy White House chief of staff for policy; Tony Blinken would be assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser; Danielle Gray would be assistant to the president and Cabinet secretary; Katy Kale would be assistant to the president for management and administration; and Lisa Monaco would be assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism, upon confirmation of John Brennan as director of the CIA.

Jennifer Palmieri, who served as White House deputy communications director, will replace Dan Pfeiffer as communications director. Pfeiffer will be tapped for senior adviser, replacing Obama senior adviser David Plouffe.

Other announcements include Miguel Rodriguez as director of legislative affairs and David Simas as deputy senior adviser for communications and strategy.

Obama paid tribute during the Friday announcement to Plouffe, who is leaving the White House on Friday to return to the private sector. Plouffe played a pivotal role in the 2008 campaign as Obama’s campaign manager before serving as a senior adviser in the White House.

“Were it not for him, we would not have been as effective a White House and I probably wouldn’t be here,” Obama said on Friday.


—This story was posted at 9:29 a.m. and updated at 12:54 p.m.