Joe Biden names powerful White House personnel, legislative chiefs

November 20, 2020 

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday announced his picks for powerful White House positions including personnel director and director of legislative affairs.

Cathy Russell, a chief of staff to Biden's wife, Jill Biden, while he was vice president, will be White House personnel director -- an immensely influential role that vets appointments across the federal bureaucracy.

Louisa Terrell, head of public affairs and deputy general counsel for consulting giant McKinsey & Company, will serve as the White House's liaison to Capitol Hill, which may involve delicate talks with a GOP-held Senate, pending the results of two Georgia runoffs.

Terrell previously worked in the White House legislative office under President Barack Obama, and from 2011 to 2013 was Facebook's public policy director.

Russell and Terrell will work under incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain, a longtime Biden associate who filled the same role for Biden while he was vice president.

Other recently announced senior staff picks -- Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond and Steve Ricchetti to be Biden advisers -- infuriated the left flank of the Democratic Party, which backed Biden with the hope that he would make good on his pledge to be the "most progressive" president in history.

Russell is married to a former Obama White House national security adviser, Tom Donilon, and her brother-in-law Mike Donilon will be a senior adviser to Biden, a role currently held in the Trump administration by first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Barack Obama, Cathy Russell

Barack Obama, Cathy Russell

Cathy Russell with Barack Obama

AP

FILE: President-Elect Joe Biden Selects Ron Klain As White House Chief Of Staff

FILE: President-Elect Joe Biden Selects Ron Klain As White House Chief Of Staff

President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly chosen Ronald Klain as his White House chief of staff.

Getty Images

Louisa Terrell

Louisa Terrell

Louisa Terrell

AP

Biden Staff

Biden Staff

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond

AP

Mike Donilon

Mike Donilon

Michael C. Donilon

AP


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During the Trump administration, factions vied for control of the White House personnel office, with some of Trump's grassroots supporters initially claiming that Trump's populist allies were being passed over for establishment Republicans, hindering implementation of his agenda.

The White House legislative affairs position fluctuates in influence depending on the composition of top West Wing staff. Most recent talks with Congress have been led by Trump's White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, a former congressman, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Biden also announced Friday that Carlos Elizondo will be White House social secretary and that Mala Adiga will be policy director for the incoming first lady.

Biden will take office Jan. 20. Trump's campaign is seeking to reverse narrow losses to Biden with recounts and litigation in swing states Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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