Trump Plucks Political Pros for White House Staff

Trump Plucks Political Pros for White House Staff
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Donald Trump made it official Wednesday: The incoming senior White House staff will have a deep bench of aides steeped in politics, including staff members pulled from the Republican National Committee and Trump’s campaign.

In 16 days, the businessman-turned-president will rely on a mix of mostly young political operatives and communicators whose focus will be on the agenda, messaging and business style he favored last year and in the weeks since his November victory.

Trump also added former aides who served President George W. Bush to help manage the operations of the executive office of the president, as well as presidential travel, security and event planning. And he turned to a top aide with experience in New Jersey politics under Gov. Chris Christie, Bill Stepien, to become White House political director. Christie fired Stepien, who was his deputy chief of staff during the George Washington Bridge scandal, but he later became national field director for Trump’s presidential campaign.

Few on the new team granted the coveted “assistant to the president” title have federal executive experience. Legislative know-how comes to the West Wing via the staff of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an early Trump supporter and nominee to lead the Justice Department as attorney general, and aides to Vice President-elect Mike Pence and in the office of presidential personnel.

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the departing head of the RNC, described the president-elect’s evolving White House team as “instrumental over the last several months, and in some cases years, in helping the president-elect."

Among those with previous executive branch experience is Rick Dearborn, who will be deputy chief of staff under Priebus, responsible for legislative, intergovernmental and Cabinet operations for Trump. Dearborn, chief of staff to Sessions, has 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill and served in the Energy Department under Bush 43. The assistant to the president and director for legislative affairs will be Marc Short, a Pence aide.

Joe Hagin, who served under President George H.W. Bush and was deputy chief of staff for operations under George W. Bush, will lead management and administration, White House advance, security, and the military office. Currently in the private sector, Hagin has been advising the transition.

In the top slots so far, Trump’s West Wing staff is predominantly male and white. Exceptions will be incoming White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway; new White House Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh; designated Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks; and Trump’s new director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, Omarosa Manigault. The deputy at the National Security Council, previously appointed, is also a woman, Kathleen “KT” McFarland.

Conway served as Trump’s campaign manager. Walsh, who is in her early 30s, has been chief of staff to Priebus at the RNC. Hicks worked as a media gatekeeper and aide in the Trump Organization and press secretary during the campaign. And Manigault, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” was a TV surrogate for Trump and conduit to the African-American community during the campaign.

Conway, in a statement, praised Walsh for helping “our party achieve sweeping victories across the country, and I’m thrilled to have another strong female leader on our senior White House team.”

As deputy chief of staff, Walsh’s portfolio will include “overseeing senior staff,” the White House scheduling operations, and the Office of Public Liaison, where Manigault will direct communications.

The key post leading the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, a team that will help Trump fill up to 4,000 federal positions in the next year to 18 months, will be helmed by John DeStefano, a longtime political aide to former House Speaker John Boehner. DeStefano helped the RNC build a 2016 voter file and political database.

To date, the White House team includes:

  •  Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus
  • Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist & Senior Counselor Steve Bannon
  • Assistant to the President and Counselor Kellyanne Conway
  • Assistant to the President and Senior Adviser for Policy Stephen Miller
  • Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh
  • Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Joseph Hagin
  • Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative, Intergovernmental Affairs and Implementation Rick Dearborn
  • Assistant to the President and Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks
  • Assistant to the President and Press Secretary and Communications Director Sean Spicer
  • Assistant to the President and Director of Social Media Dan Scavino
  • Assistant to the President and White House Counsel Don McGahn
  • Assistant to the President and Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short
  • Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Personnel John DeStefano
  • Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault
  • Assistant to the President and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
  • Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland
  • Assistant to the President and Director of the National Trade Policy Council Peter Navarro
  • Assistant to the President and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn
  • Assistant to the President and Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Thomas Bossert
  • Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the Vice President Josh Pitcock
  • Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Oval Office Operations Keith Schiller
  • Deputy Assistant to the President and Political Director Bill Stepien
  • Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director Jessica Ditto
  • National Security Council Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary Keith Kellogg
  • National Security Council Senior Director of Strategic Communications Monica Crowley
  • Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director and Research Director Raj Shah
  • Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Advance George Gigicos
  • Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President Jen Pavlik
  • Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Scheduling Caroline Wiles
  • Special Adviser for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt
  • Special Assistant to the President and Personal Aide to the President John McEntee

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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