Obama taps McDonough as White House chief of staff in shake-up

Olivier Knox and Rachel Rose Hartman

President Barack Obama on Friday formally announced his choice of Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough as White House chief of staff, part of a sweeping shake-up at the dawn of the president's second term.

McDonough has played a "key role in every major national security decision" during my presidency, the president said, speaking in the East Room of the White House. "Nobody outworks Denis McDonough."

Obama referred to McDonough as one of his "closest and trusted advisors." "I know you'll always give it to me straight as only a friend can," Obama said.

He joked that McDonough will probably have to stop biking to work as Chief of Staff. "As Chief of Staff, I don't think that's allowed," the president said.

The president also used Friday's announcement to express a fond farewell to senior adviser and former campaign manager David Plouffe, whose last day at the White House was Friday.

The choice of McDonough to succeed Jack Lew, who has been nominated to be treasury secretary, confirms a pattern of the president picking trusted, longtime advisers—and not outsiders—for key posts.

McDonough, 43, has been with Obama since the then-senator first came to Washington a decade ago. An aide, speaking to Yahoo News on the condition of anonymity prior to the announcement, emphasized that McDonough has “played a key role in all of the major national security decisions” in Obama’s first term, including the withdrawal from Iraq, the ongoing pullout from Afghanistan, and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“As a veteran of Capitol Hill, Denis understands the importance of reaching across the aisle to make progress for the American people—whether it’s on jobs and economy, health care or education, reducing the deficit or addressing climate change,” the aide said.

Among the other changes: Combative Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer will succeed Plouffe as senior adviser, while respected longtime Democratic communications pro Jennifer Palmieri will replace him. Obama has repeatedly listed poor public relations as one of the greatest failings of his first term.

The head of the Department of Justice’s national security division, Lisa Monaco, will move into the White House to replace John Brennan as Obama’s top homeland security and counterterrorism aide (pending Brennan’s confirmation to head the CIA).

Some additional changes:

- Rob Nabors will become assistant to the president and deputy White House chief of staff for policy.

- Tony Blinken will take over McDonough's job as deputy national security adviser.

- Danielle Gray will become assistant to the president and Cabinet secretary.

- Katy Kale will become assistant to the president for management and administration.

- Miguel Rodriguez will be assistant to the president and director of legislative affairs.

- David Simas will become assistant to the president and deputy senior adviser for communications and strategy.