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White House musical chairs continue

President Barack Obama elevated Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough to be White House chief of staff today, but also appointed several other officials to new positions throughout the White House. "I have been counting on Denis for nearly a decade, since I first came to Washington, when he helped set up my Senate office, ...

Alex Wong / Getty Images
Alex Wong / Getty Images
Alex Wong / Getty Images

President Barack Obama elevated Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough to be White House chief of staff today, but also appointed several other officials to new positions throughout the White House.

"I have been counting on Denis for nearly a decade, since I first came to Washington, when he helped set up my Senate office, along with Pete Rouse.... He, you know, was able to show me where the restrooms were and, you know, how you passed a bill," Obama said, standing alongside McDonough and Jack Lew, who has been nominated to be the next Treasury secretary.

President Barack Obama elevated Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough to be White House chief of staff today, but also appointed several other officials to new positions throughout the White House.

"I have been counting on Denis for nearly a decade, since I first came to Washington, when he helped set up my Senate office, along with Pete Rouse…. He, you know, was able to show me where the restrooms were and, you know, how you passed a bill," Obama said, standing alongside McDonough and Jack Lew, who has been nominated to be the next Treasury secretary.

"I should point out that even then, Denis had gray hair," Obama said. "I’ve been trying to catch up to him. But at that time, I relied on his intellect and his good judgment, and that has continued ever since. He’s been one of my closest and most trusted advisers on my presidential campaign, on my transition team.  He has been an indispensable member of my national security team as well…. The truth is nobody outworks Denis McDonough."

McDonough, originally from Stillwater, MN, was mentored by Lee Hamilton and Tom Daschle, and has played a key role in a host of both foreign policy and national security issues, Obama said. Some things will change, though. He "will probably have to stop riding his bike to work," Obama said. "As chief of staff, I don’t think that’s allowed."

"Denis, you’re not just one of my closest friends, but you’re also one of my closest advisers. And like everybody here, I cannot imagine the White House without you," said Obama.

Senior advisor David Plouffe is also leaving the White House, effective this week, Obama announced. The White House also put out a press release announcing several new staffing decisions.

As The Cable previously reported, Antony Blinken, the top national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, will replace McDonough as deputy national security advisor under Tom Donilon. Rob Nabors has been elevated to deputy White House chief of staff for policy. Miguel Rodriguez will replace Nabors as White House director of legislative affairs. Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco is the new deputy national security advisor for homeland security and counterterrorism, replacing John Brennan, who has been nominated to be CIA director.

Dan Pfeiffer has the new title of senior advisor and is no longer White House communications director. That title now belongs to Jennifer Palmieri, who will be working with the new deputy senior advisor for communications and strategy David Simas. Danielle Gray is the new assistant to the president and cabinet secretary, and Katy Kale is the new assistant to the president for management and administration.

"The challenges we face as a country, from rebuilding middle class security to strengthening our national security are complicated, and require thoughtful, comprehensive solutions. That’s why I am proud to announce a team with the deep expertise necessary to move our country forward," Obama said in the release. "From growing the economy and shrinking our deficits, to keeping our country safe and addressing the dangers of climate change, these are people who will not rest until we get the job done. Led by Denis, this team is an extraordinary group of talented individuals with whom I will be honored to work."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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