WASHINGTON — President Obama is considering White House insider Denis McDonough to serve as his chief of staff, but officials say the decision is caught up in deliberations about the makeup of his national-security team.
As one of the president’s deputy national-security advisers and a trusted aide, McDonough is an influential player in the White House foreign-policy apparatus. Obama recently named another deputy national-security adviser, John Brennan, as his choice to head the CIA.
Obama doesn’t want to shift McDonough until he has a “stable team” in his inner circle of foreign-policy advisers, said one senior Democrat who noted that McDonough and Brennan, who is the administration’s anti-terrorism expert, had played key roles.
But the clock is ticking. The chief-of-staff position will officially open up if the current occupant, Jack Lew, wins Senate confirmation as Treasury secretary.
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McDonough, who joined the Obama team during the 2008 campaign, is one of the most frequent visitors to the Oval Office, according to regular participants in the president’s meetings who, like other administration officials, requested anonymity to discuss internal talks.
McDonough, 43, is known at the White House for his devotion to Obama. Advisers say he is more familiar with the president’s views on foreign policy than anyone else in his circle.
McDonough led the process by which the president scaled back the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and helped plan the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
Most recently, he was charged with containing the political fallout over the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.
McDonough’s deep familiarity with the White House operation and the challenges the president faces in his second term may be the qualifications Obama most wants. His next chief of staff will have to manage a complicated matrix of foreign and domestic issues while keeping a constant eye on the series of fiscal cliffhangers ahead.
White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to discuss the president’s thinking on his choices for top posts in his second term, saying Obama is “considering a variety of personnel decisions carefully and will make announcements when he’s made the decision.”