President Joe Biden has announced that White House Chief of Staff Ron Klein will step down next week Jeff Giants will be replaced, Former Obama administration official who led Biden’s Covid-19 response
Biden said there will be an “official transition” event at the White House next week, “thanks to Ron’s tireless work and to officially welcome Jeff back to the White House in this role.”
Biden praised Klein in a statement Friday morning, saying he wanted Klein to be his chief of staff when he was elected president, calling him “as tough, smart, determined and tenacious as anyone I’ve ever met.”
At Zients, Biden said, “Jeff will continue Ron’s example of smart, sustainable leadership, working hard every day for the people we are sent here to serve.”
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In his resignation letter on Friday, Klein said serving Biden has been “quite a journey,” writing that he joined Biden’s then-Senate staff 36 years ago on the day he returned from his honeymoon.
“After leaving and returning to your staff several times, my work for you has defined my life personally and professionally,” Klein wrote to Biden, adding that he was “filled with gratitude.”
Klein promised to complete an “orderly handover” to his successor and “do what I can for your campaign” if Biden chooses to run for re-election.
“The halfway point of your first term — two successful years behind us, and major results in the next two years — is the perfect time for this team to get new leadership,” Klein said. “I’ve served on more than eight of the last nine commanders-in-chief, and I’ve given this job my all; now it’s time for someone else to take it.”
Klein touted Biden’s policy record in the first two years of his presidency, comparing him to some of the most notable Democratic leaders of the past century. War in Europe since the Truman Era.”
“You did it all in the middle of the worst public health crisis since the Wilson era, with the smallest legislative majority for a newly elected Democratic president in a century,” Klein wrote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has maintained a close relationship with Klein over the past two years, hailed his tenure as “the most historic and productive first two years of a presidency in generations.”
Schumer, a New York Democrat, spoke with Zients by phone before the decision was officially announced, and said the two “agreed to maintain the same close relationship with the White House chief of staff that I had with Ron.”
“He is organized, focused and deliberate, the right person to lead the Biden administration and ensure the American people see and feel the benefits of these new laws,” Schumer, who spoke with Klein several times a day by phone, said in a statement to Zients.
With the Giants replacing Klein, Biden is turning to an adviser with more business experience than political background as he enters the third year of his presidency.
The decision to pick the Giants surprised some internally because of the differences in management styles between Biden and the Giants early in the administration. While the Giants inherited what officials described as a “largely dysfunctional” effort by the Trump administration, Biden was drawn to his job as the coronavirus response coordinator.
Giants is expected to focus on managing the White House and implementing Biden’s legislative and policy agenda, while other senior advisers — senior adviser Anita Dunn and Deputy White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon — lead Biden’s political operation. Gearing up for re-election campaign.
The balance of power is expected to be similar to the split portfolios of then-White House chief of staff Jack Lew and David Plouffe, a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama who managed political operations. Klein is expected to seek outside input and additional political advisers are expected to be hired.
A White House official praised Giants as having the best skills and relationship with Biden to lead the White House through a year focused on implementing key parts of Biden’s legislative agenda. Officials pointed to Zients’ experience as Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, director of the National Economic Council and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget under Obama. Giants has worked closely with other senior advisers to Biden.
Klein’s departure comes at a difficult time for Biden, as a special counsel is investigating his handling of classified information after his time as vice president and the administration and the president’s family have faced renewed scrutiny by the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. An official familiar with Klein’s plans said his decision to step down will likely be made before the special counsel is announced, along with the investigation into classified documents found in Biden’s personal office and Delaware home.
Klein has been mulling an exit since November’s midterm elections, according to a person familiar with the matter who said people in the White House have been paying close attention to clues about his intentions. Klein has been known to email employees at all hours and check gas prices in the middle of the night — a work pace that many of his colleagues find unsustainable in the long run.
Klein himself has publicly – and more extensively privately – noted the harshness and exhaustion of the condition. But his decades-long relationship with Biden and his deep involvement in every facet of the West Wing have made him crucial in the administration’s first two years.
Cline’s departure could herald other changes within West, as senior staff transition to an expected re-election campaign or decide to leave the administration after two years. A talent search process led by Zients is underway to identify potential replacements for top positions.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.