Samantha Power leaving White House

Samantha Power leaving White House

Samantha Power, a close personal aide to President Barack Obama and the top White House staffer on preventing genocide and mass atrocities, will leave government – temporarily – at the end of this month.

Since 2009, Power has served as the National Security Staff’s senior director for multilateral affairs and has been a key figure in forming and implementing Obama’s policies related to human rights. Her husband, former White House regulations czar Cass Sunstein, left the administration late last year to take a teaching position at Harvard Law School and Power will take some time off from government service to join him and their two young children in Boston.

"After four years at the White House, Samantha will be leaving the NSC later this month and will spend some well-deserved time with Cass and her two small children, Declan (3) and Rian (eight months). While she is likely to return to the administration, no decisions have been made on her next steps," NSS Spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Cable. "Samantha has been a powerful voice in this administration and a long-time friend and adviser to the President. We will miss her at the NSC, and we look forward to continuing the President’s work promoting human rights and dignity."

Power has long been rumored as a possible replacement for Susan Rice if and when Rice leaves her post as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Around the State Department, several sources told The Cable that Power could return to government to replace Maria Otero as the Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Otero’s last day at the State Depatment was today.

Power, a former journalist who covered the wars in former Yugoslavia, won the Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem from Hell, an examination of the U.S. response to genocide. She was a top advisor Obama’s first presidential campaign for president until March, 2008, when she resigned after calling Hillary Clinton "a monster" in a press interview.

She played a key role in the Obama administration’s decision to intervene militarily in Libya in 2011, but she leaves office at a time when the White House faces severe criticism for perceived inaction in Syria, where over 60,000 civilians have been killed after two years of civil war.

For outside experts, Power’s tenure was successful in that she pushed hard for the institutionalization of human rights advocacy and atrocity prevention in the U.S. government despite dealing with a White House leadership whose record on such issues is decidedly mixed.

"There is a small group of people that really care about genocide prevention and prevention of mass atrocities and we all appreciate that we had a real champion for those issue at the highest levels of government," said Mike Abramowitz, director of the Committee on Conscience, which conducts the genocide prevention efforts at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "She worked very hard to strengthen the interagency treatment of these issues and she had a great deal of passion for those issues and she brought that passion to the government."