WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is expected to name Jeff Zients, who ran the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of Biden’s term, as his next chief of staff, according to two people familiar with the matter. Biden’s current top aide, Ron Klain, is preparing to leave the job in the […]
Biden to pick Zients as his next chief of staff (AUDIO)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is expected to name Jeff Zients, who ran the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of Biden’s term, as his next chief of staff, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Biden’s current top aide, Ron Klain, is preparing to leave the job in the coming weeks.
Since serving as COVID-19 response coordinator, Zients has returned to the White House in a low-profile position to work on staffing matters for the remainder of Biden’s first term.
The two people familiar with the matter were not authorized to publicly discuss Biden’s plans before an official announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Washington Post first reported on Zients’ expected appointment. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
The change at the highest levels of senior staff comes as Biden passes his two-year mark in office and pivots to a defensive stance against a House Republican majority hungry to investigate his administration’s actions and his family. The White House remains mired in controversy over discoveries of classified documents at Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and at his former institute in Washington, with the latest tranche of found records disclosed Saturday evening.
Biden, 80, is also preparing to launch his reelection campaign in the coming weeks.
The president’s main sphere of advisers, in addition to Zients, on politics and legislation will continue to include presidential counselor Steve Ricchetti, senior advisers Mike Donilon and Anita Dunn, legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell, and Jen O’Malley Dillon and Bruce Reed, who are deputy chiefs of staff.
Klain will remain in Biden’s political orbit, according to a person familiar with his plans — not unlike the role played by Cedric Richmond, who was the president’s first director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and now is a senior adviser at the Democratic National Committee.
The outgoing chief of staff was also known to be friendly with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. But some liberal critics of Zients swiftly went on the attack against the appointment even before it was official, highlighting in particular his private-sector ties.
Jeff Hauser, the founder and director of the Revolving Door Project, a progressive group that advocates for liberal appointees in government, said Sunday that the selection of Zients as the top White House aide did not jibe with Biden’s “Scranton Joe” political image.
“Unfortunately, Zients is a veteran of private equity, rapacious health care providers, and Big Tech, which sets up a fundamental question that could determine Biden’s political future: Will a Zients-led executive branch pursue the unpopular misconduct of people like Jeffrey Zients?” Hauser said. “It would be against Zients’ character to pursue corporate lawbreaking, but it is also the only way Biden can retain the mantle of populist against the likes of (Florida Gov. Ron) DeSantis and Trump.”