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Biden moves to solidify senior team in advance of midterms with top lawyer set to depart

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By Phil Mattingly, CNN

President Joe Biden is set to announce a series of senior staff moves as he takes steps to solidify his team ahead of the November midterm elections, including the departure of the top White House lawyer.

Dana Remus, the White House counsel, who helped oversee a Supreme Court nominee selection and a blitz by Biden’s team to fill vacant seats on the federal bench, will depart the White House next month. She will be replaced by Stuart Delery, her top deputy and the No. 3 in the Justice Department during the Obama administration, in what is considered one of the most critical and challenging roles in the White House.

The President will also announce, as first reported by Axios, that former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will join the West Wing as a senior adviser for public engagement, filling the vacancy left by the departure of close Biden aide Cedric Richmond. Julie Rodriguez, the director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, will continue in that role as she’s promoted to senior adviser and special assistant to the president.

While Biden’s senior staff has remained mostly static over his first 18 months in office, the White House has been in a state of transition during the two months in what historically marks the period when senior officials consider departures in their first terms. The new addition and a series of promotions reflect an internal push by White House chief of staff Ron Klain to finalize Biden’s senior team for the coming months before July 4 in preparation for a heated political season in advance of the midterm elections.

Richmond and White House press secretary Jen Psaki have both left, with Psaki replaced by her deputy Karine Jean-Pierre. A number of midlevel aides have also moved to more high-profile jobs in the administration.

Close Biden adviser Anita Dunn returned to the White House in May and along with Klain, Biden’s close-knit inner circle of advisers — including Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti, Jen O’Malley Dillon and Kate Bedingfield — remains intact. Still, the staffing changes come as the White House grapples with soaring inflation, a war in Ukraine and the President’s low approval ratings — all as House and Senate Republicans eye pathways to win back majority control in the November elections.

Remus leaves behind focus on diversity

Remus, who joined the Biden campaign as a founding member three years ago before joining the White House, oversaw the confirmation of a record-setting number of federal judges in the first year of an administration.

In that role she helped set up a process focused on diversity — both in background and professional experience — that has served as the road map for Biden’s judicial selections. She also stood up the President’s clemency program and led an effort to reinforce the guardrails between the White House and Justice Department that had been largely ignored by Biden’s predecessor.

“I am immensely grateful for the service of Dana Remus, who has been an invaluable member of my senior staff for the past 3 years and helped reinstate a culture of adherence to the rule of law,” the President said in a statement. “I wish her the best as she moves forward.”

Remus had a child during Biden’s campaign, during which she initially committed to staying on for a year, and is leaving to spend time with her now-toddler.

Rodriguez’s promotion comes after she played a key role rallying the support of governors, mayors, county officials and tribal leaders for Biden’s major legislative initiatives. She also helped reconstitute the White House Working Group on Puerto Rico and the White House Tribal Nations Summit in her role.

Previously, Rodriguez served as the national political director and traveling chief of staff for then-Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign and as an official in President Barack Obama’s White House.

Biden’s selections mark historic firsts

Biden’s latest moves hold some White House history. Delery, who remains the highest-ranking out LGBTQ+ official in the Justice Department’s history, will become the first out White House counsel when he moves into the role. Rodriguez will become the first Latina to serve as assistant to the president under Biden, as well as the highest-ranking Latina in the White House.

“In advance of the midterms, I am proud to announce two historic promotions to our senior team,” Biden said in a statement. “Stuart Delery and Julie Rodriguez are dedicated public servants that bring diverse perspectives and a shared commitment to tackling the critical issues our nation faces today.”

Bottoms, one of the most influential Democrats in a state Biden flipped from Republicans in 2020, was once mentioned as a potential Biden running mate and turned down an offer to join Biden’s Cabinet after his election.

But after deciding not to seek reelection as mayor of Atlanta and a stint as a CNN political commentator, Bottoms will now become one of the most senior Black members of Biden’s team. She will fill the role vacated by Richmond, a former Louisiana congressman, serving as the administration’s point person for working at the local, state and national levels to ensure community leaders across the spectrum have access to the administration and its policy process.

“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. “She led the city of Atlanta with strength through the pandemic, through a summer of protests and pain, and through the mass shooting that left Atlanta’s Asian American community in fear.”

Delery, whose work as deputy White House counsel included the Covid-19 response and major legislative initiatives including the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure law, will move into the role of counsel at a moment when White House officials are starting to prepare for the possibility that Republicans could take the majority in one or both chambers of Congress in November — and if so they pledge to launch a series of investigations into the Biden administration.

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