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Biden Makes Staff Changes as White House Counsel Departs, Midterms Loom

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Wednesday appointed Keisha Lance Bottoms, the former mayor of Atlanta, as a senior White House adviser, further shaking his senior staff amid a series of high-profile departures en route to the mid-term campaigns.

Dana Remus, the president’s top attorney at the White House, announced she would be leaving next month after overseeing Mr. Biden’s efforts to appoint a record number of judges to federal court, including the successful confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Ms. Remus will be replaced by Stuart Delery, her deputy in the White House counsel’s office.

Ms. Bottoms succeeds Cedric Richmond as the president’s ambassador to community and corporate organizations at a time when Mr. Biden struggles with low approval ratings and his party faces the prospect of losing one or both houses of Congress in the fall election.

“Mayor Bottoms understands that democracy is about making government work for working families, for the people who are the backbone of this country,” Biden said in a statement. “Keisha,” he added, “is smart, honorable, tough and has the integrity needed to represent our government to the American public.”

Biden’s core White House staff has remained relatively stable since he took office. He is still led by Ron Klain, the chief of staff, and three longtime advisers: Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed. None of his original cabinet members have left the administration.

But an increasing number of departures in recent weeks has heightened feelings of frustration within the West Wing as the president struggles to deal with inflation, the war in Ukraine and a host of other difficult issues, pushing his approval rating to around 40 percent. increased.

The latest moves are part of a series of staff changes. In addition to Mr. Richmond, the president’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, and his Covid Czar, Jeffrey D. Zients, recently departed, as well as several aides to Vice President Kamala Harris. Many Democrats speculate that further changes will be forthcoming, especially if the midterm elections go badly as they expected.

Mr. Biden also brought Anita Dunn, a veteran Democratic communications consultant, back to the White House full-time. And he moved John F. Kirby, who had been the Pentagon spokesman, to the National Security Council to oversee foreign policy reporting. Julie Rodriguez, the director of the Bureau of Intergovernmental Affairs, will also be a senior adviser to Mr Biden, the White House said Wednesday.

White House officials are bracing for the possibility of a barrage of incoming legal attacks from congressional committees if Republicans take control of the House or Senate. Republicans have already pledged to use the committees to investigate a series of actions by the Biden administration if they audit Congress’ oversight functions next year.

With the departure of Ms. Remus, the job of responding to those investigations will fall to Mr. Delery, who served as the number 3 officer of the Justice Department during the Obama administration. He will be the first openly gay person to serve as White House counsel.

Mr. Biden called Mr. Delery a committed official and praised Ms. Remus, who has provided him with legal advice since the beginning of his presidential campaign.

“I am immensely grateful for the service of Dana Remus, who has been a valuable member of my senior staff for the past three years and helped restore a culture of rule of law adherence,” the president said in a statement.

White House officials said Ms. Remus, who had a baby during the campaign, told the president she wanted to serve in the White House for about a year. In the end, she exceeded that tenure by several months.

It’s not uncommon for top White House officials to leave after more than a year, but presidents often ask that this be done early in an election year so that the new team can be in place before the vote, which could lead to changes in political life. dynamics of Washington.

Mr. Richmond, a former member of the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana, recently left the White House to enter the private sector and take up a position as a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee. Tensions between the party’s activist progressive wing and its leaders posed a challenge during his stay in the White House.

Ms. Bottoms will play the role of Mr. Richmond as head of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Ms. Bottoms served as mayor of Atlanta for one term and drew national attention for her handling of protests following the 2020 police murder of George Floyd, which at times turned violent. She was an early supporter of Mr. Biden in the 2020 primary for the Democratic nomination, and he briefly considered her a potential vice presidential running mate. She later turned down a cabinet-level position in the administration.

Her appointment to the White House staff was: previously reported by Axioswhich she quoted saying that she intended to “listen more than anything”.

“It’s important that people feel that their voices are reflected and that their voices are heard,” she told the news channel.

Ms. Bottoms was a judge and city council member before being elected mayor in 2017, but chose not to run for a second term last year due to rising crime in Atlanta. The homicide rate there rose 58 percent in 2020, and challengers accused her of not focusing enough on crime reduction.

She gained national fame when she spoke directly with protesters after Mr. Floyd’s murder, expressing her own deep pain over his murder at the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer, while reprimanding protesters who resorted to violence. and told them “to go home.”

Mr Biden praised her approach. “We saw her stand tall over the summer and speak about protests and pain,” he said during a fundraiser last year.

Ms. Bottoms told Axios, “We’ve been through some very challenging times, especially for African Americans in this country.”

“Those challenges are still very new and real to me,” she said. “And I live it every day: I live it as a black woman, I live it as a mother of four, and I know where those challenges are, but I also know where the opportunities lie.”

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