The White House Chief of Staff position is the successor to the earlier role of the President's private secretary. The role was formalized as the Assistant to the President in 1946 and acquired its current title in 1961. The current official title is Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff.
The Chief of Staff is a political appointee of the President who does not require Senate confirmation, and who serves at the pleasure of the President. While not a legally required role, all presidents since Harry Truman have appointed chiefs of staff.
In the administration of Donald Trump, the current acting Chief of Staff is Mick Mulvaney, who succeeded John Kelly on January 2, 2019, who himself had replaced Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff on July 31, 2017. On December 8, 2018, President Trump announced that Kelly would be stepping down from his post by the end of the year. On December 14, Trump announced on Twitter that OMB director Mick Mulvaney would become the new acting Chief of Staff.
|White House Chief of Staff|
|Executive Office of the President|
White House Office
|Reports to||President of the United States|
|Formation||1946 (Assistant to the President)|
1961 (White House Chief of Staff)
|First holder||John R. Steelman|
The duties of the White House chief of staff vary greatly from one administration to another and, in fact, there is no legal requirement that the president even fill the position. However, since at least 1979, all presidents have found the need for a chief of staff, who typically oversees the actions of the White House staff, manages the president's schedule, and decides who is allowed to meet with the president. Because of these duties, the chief of staff has at various times been labeled "The Gatekeeper."
Originally, the duties now performed by the chief of staff belonged to the president's private secretary and were fulfilled by crucial confidants and advisers such as George B. Cortelyou, Joseph Tumulty, and Louis McHenry Howe to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt, respectively. The private secretary served as the president's de facto chief aide in a role that combined personal and professional assignments of highly delicate and demanding natures, requiring great skill and discretion. The job of gatekeeper and overseeing the president's schedule was separately delegated to the appointments secretary, as with FDR's aide Edwin "Pa" Watson.
From 1933 to 1939, as he greatly expanded the scope of the federal government's policies and powers in response to the Great Depression, Roosevelt relied on his "Brain Trust" of top advisers. Although working directly for the president, they were often appointed to vacant positions in agencies and departments, whence they drew their salaries since the White House lacked statutory or budgetary authority to create new staff positions. It was not until 1939, during Franklin D. Roosevelt's second term in office, that the foundations of the modern White House staff were created using a formal structure. Roosevelt was able to get Congress to approve the creation of the Executive Office of the President, which would report directly to the president. During World War II, Roosevelt created the position of "Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief" for his principal military adviser, Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy.
In 1946, in response to the rapid growth of the U.S. government's executive branch, the position of "Assistant to the President of the United States" was established. Charged with the affairs of the White House, it was the immediate predecessor to the modern chief of staff. It was in 1953, under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that the president's preeminent assistant was designated the "White House Chief of Staff".
Assistant to the president became a rank generally shared by the chief of staff with such senior aides as deputy chiefs of staff, the White House counsel, the White House press secretary, and others. This new system did not catch on immediately. Democrats Kennedy and Johnson still relied on their appointments secretaries instead, and it was not until the Nixon administration that the chief of staff took over maintenance of the President's schedule. This concentration of power in the Nixon and Ford White House (whose last chief of staff was Dick Cheney) led presidential candidate Jimmy Carter to campaign in 1976 with the promise that he would not appoint a chief of staff. And indeed, for the first two and a half years of his presidency, he appointed no one to the post.
The average tenure for a White House chief of staff is a little more than 18 months. The inaugural chief of staff, John R. Steelman, under Harry S. Truman, was also the last to be a president's only chief of staff, not counting Kenneth O'Donnell during John F. Kennedy's 34 months in office. (Andrew Card and Denis McDonough each served at least one entire presidential term of office under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively). Steelman also holds the record for longest-serving chief of staff (six years).
Most White House chiefs of staff are former politicians, and many continue their political careers in other senior roles. Lyndon Johnson's chief of staff W. Marvin Watson became the Postmaster General later in LBJ's term. Richard Nixon's Chief of Staff Alexander Haig, a career U.S. Army officer with his capstone military position being CINCUSEUCOM/SACEUR, later became Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. Cheney later became a Congressman for Wyoming, Secretary of Defense under George H. W. Bush and vice president in the George W. Bush administration. Donald Rumsfeld was another chief of staff for Ford and subsequently served as Secretary of Defense both in the Ford administration and decades later, also in the George W. Bush administration. Rahm Emanuel left the House of Representatives to become Barack Obama's chief of staff and subsequently became Mayor of Chicago. Jack Lew, President Obama's fourth chief of staff, was later appointed Secretary of the Treasury.
Chris Whipple, author of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, loosely describes the role of a White House chief of staff through his interview with former President Barack Obama: "During the last days of his presidency, Barack Obama observed: 'One of the things I've learned is that the big breakthroughs are typically the result of a lot of grunt work—just a whole lot of blocking and tackling.' Grunt work is what chiefs of staff do."
The responsibilities of the chief of staff are both managerial and advisory and can include the following:
These responsibilities extend to firing of staff members: in the case of Omarosa Manigault Newman, who published a tape she said was made in the Situation Room of her firing by Chief of Staff John Kelly, the Chief of Staff said that his decision for her departure was non-negotiable and that "the staff and everyone on the staff works for me and not the president."
Richard Nixon's first chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, garnered a reputation in Washington for the iron hand he wielded in the position—famously referring to himself as "the president's son-of-a-bitch", he was a rigid gatekeeper who would frequently meet with administration officials in place of the president, then report himself to Nixon on the officials' talking points. Journalist Bob Woodward, in his books All the President's Men and The Secret Man, wrote that many of his sources, including the famous Deep Throat, displayed a genuine fear of Haldeman.
|Chief of Staff||Term of office||Days||Party||President|
|December 12, 1946 – January 20, 1953||2,231||Democratic||Harry S. Truman|
|January 20, 1953 – October 7, 1958||2,086||Republican||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|October 7, 1958 – January 20, 1961||836||Republican|
|January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963||1,036||Democratic||John F. Kennedy|
|February 1, 1965 – April 26, 1968||1,180||Democratic||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|James R. Jones
|April 26, 1968 – January 20, 1969||269||Democratic|
|7||H. R. Haldeman
|January 20, 1969 – April 30, 1973||1,561||Republican||Richard Nixon|
|vacant||April 30, 1973 – May 4, 1973||4|
|May 4, 1973 – September 21, 1974||505||Republican|
|September 21, 1974 – November 20, 1975||425||Republican|
|November 20, 1975 – January 20, 1977||427||Republican|
|vacant||January 20, 1977 – July 18, 1979||909||Jimmy Carter|
|July 18, 1979 – June 11, 1980||329||Democratic|
|June 11, 1980 – January 20, 1981||223||Democratic|
|January 20, 1981 – February 4, 1985||1,476||Republican||Ronald Reagan|
|February 4, 1985 – February 27, 1987||753||Republican|
|February 27, 1987 – July 1, 1988||490||Republican|
|July 1, 1988 – January 20, 1989||203||Republican|
|January 20, 1989 – December 16, 1991||1,060||Republican||George H. W. Bush|
|December 16, 1991 – August 23, 1992||251||Republican|
|August 23, 1992 – January 20, 1993||150||Republican|
|January 20, 1993 – July 17, 1994||543||Democratic||Bill Clinton|
|July 17, 1994 – January 20, 1997||918||Democratic|
|January 20, 1997 – October 20, 1998||638||Democratic|
|October 20, 1998 – January 20, 2001||823||Democratic|
|January 20, 2001 – April 14, 2006||1,910||Republican||George W. Bush|
|April 14, 2006 – January 20, 2009||1,012||Republican|
|January 20, 2009 – October 1, 2010||619||Democratic||Barack Obama|
|October 1, 2010 – January 13, 2011||104||Democratic|
|January 13, 2011 – January 27, 2012||379||Democratic|
|January 27, 2012 – January 20, 2013||359||Democratic|
|January 20, 2013 – January 20, 2017||1,461||Democratic|
|January 20, 2017 – July 31, 2017||192||Republican||Donald Trump|
|32||John F. Kelly
|July 31, 2017 – January 1, 2019||519||Independent|
|January 2, 2019 – present||17||Republican|
Denis Richard McDonough (born December 2, 1969) was the 26th White House Chief of Staff, succeeding Jack Lew at the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's second term.Donald Regan
Donald Thomas "Don" Regan (December 21, 1918 – June 10, 2003) was the 66th United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1981 to 1985 and the White House Chief of Staff from 1985 to 1987 under Ronald Reagan. In the Reagan administration, he advocated "Reaganomics" and tax cuts as a means to create jobs and to stimulate production.
Earlier in his life, he had studied at Harvard University before he served in the United States Marine Corps, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel. He then started to work for Merrill Lynch in 1946, serving as its chairman and CEO from 1971 to 1980.Jack Watson (presidential adviser)
Jack Hearn Watson Jr. (born October 24, 1938) is an American corporate strategist and political aide who served as White House Chief of Staff to President Jimmy Carter from 1980 to 1981.James Baker
James Addison Baker III (born April 28, 1930) is an American attorney and political figure. He served as White House Chief of Staff and United States Secretary of the Treasury under President Ronald Reagan, and as U.S. Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff under President George H. W. Bush.
Born in Houston, Baker attended The Hill School and Princeton University before serving in the United States Marine Corps. After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, he pursued a legal career. He became a close friend of George H. W. Bush and worked for Bush's unsuccessful 1970 campaign for the United States Senate. After the campaign, he served in various positions for President Richard Nixon. In 1975, he was appointed Undersecretary of Commerce for Gerald Ford. He served until May 1976, ran Ford's 1976 presidential campaign, and unsuccessfully sought election as the Attorney General of Texas.
Baker ran Bush's unsuccessful campaign for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, but made a favorable impression on the Republican nominee, Ronald Reagan. Reagan appointed Baker as his White House Chief of Staff, and Baker remained in that position until 1985, when he became the Secretary of the Treasury. As Treasury Secretary, he arranged the Plaza Accord and the Baker Plan. He resigned as Treasury Secretary to manage Bush's successful 1988 campaign for president. After the election, Bush appointed Baker to the position of Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, he helped oversee U.S. foreign policy during the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet Union, as well as during the Gulf War. After the Gulf War, Baker served another stint as White House Chief of Staff from 1992 to 1993.
Baker remained active in business and public affairs after Bush's defeat in the 1992 presidential election. He served as a United Nations envoy to Western Sahara and as a consultant to Enron. During the Florida recount following the 2000 Presidential election, he managed George W. Bush's legal team in the state. He served as the co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, which Congress formed to study Iraq and the Iraq War. He serves on the World Justice Project and the Climate Leadership Council. Baker is the namesake of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.Jeremy Bobb
Jeremy Bobb (born 1981) is an American actor who has appeared on stage, television and in feature films. He had a recurring role in CBS's 2013 drama Hostages as White House Chief of Staff Quintin Creasy and co-starred as Herman Barrow in the Cinemax TV series The Knick. In 2014, he played Stevie in the crime-drama film The Drop.He attended Otterbein University and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2003.John F. Kelly
John Francis Kelly (born May 11, 1950) is a retired U.S. Marine Corps general who served as the White House Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump from July 31, 2017 to January 2, 2019. He had previously served as Secretary of Homeland Security in the Trump administration.
Kelly enlisted in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and then commissioned as an officer near the end of college. He rose through the ranks, eventually serving in his last military post from 2012 to 2016 as the four-star General leading United States Southern Command, the unified combatant command responsible for American military operations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.Kelly was selected as the first Secretary of Homeland Security in the Trump administration. Kelly earned a reputation for being an aggressive enforcer of immigration law. After six months, he was selected to replace Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff in an attempt to bring more stability to the White House. He is the first career military officer to serve in the position since Alexander Haig.John H. Sununu
John Henry Sununu (born July 2, 1939) is an American politician who served as the 75th Governor of New Hampshire (1983–89) and later White House Chief of Staff under President George H. W. Bush. He is the father of John E. Sununu, the former United States Senator from New Hampshire, and Christopher Sununu, the current governor of New Hampshire. Sununu was the chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party from 2009 to 2011.Joshua Bolten
Joshua Brewster Bolten (born August 16, 1954) is an American lawyer and political insider. Bolten served as the White House Chief of Staff to U.S. President George W. Bush, replacing Andrew Card on April 14, 2006.Kenneth Duberstein
Kenneth M. "Ken" Duberstein (born April 21, 1944) served as U.S. President Ronald Reagan's White House Chief of Staff from 1988 to 1989.Kristie Canegallo
Kristie Canegallo was the Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Implementation for U.S. President Barack Obama. Her responsibilities included the execution of major projects such as health care reform, education, and the war in Afghanistan.Previously, Canegallo served in the National Security Council from 2008 to 2012, in the Pentagon, and most recently as a senior advisor to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.A native of Springfield, Massachusetts, she holds an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a BA from Colgate University.As of 2018, Canegallo is the head of trust and safety at Google.Leo McGarry
Leo Thomas McGarry is a fictional character played by American actor John Spencer on the television serial drama The West Wing. The role earned Spencer the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2002. McGarry's character, the former United States Secretary of Labor, begins the series as the White House Chief of Staff. He is President Josiah Bartlet's best friend and a father figure to the Senior Staff, particularly White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman and Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn.Mick Mulvaney
John Michael Mulvaney (; born July 21, 1967) is an American politician of the Republican Party who is serving in President Donald Trump's cabinet as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), as well as acting White House Chief of Staff. Mulvaney also served as the acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from November 2017 to December 2018.
Mulvaney served in the South Carolina General Assembly from 2007 to 2011, first in the State House of Representatives and then the State Senate. He served as a U.S. House Representative from 2011 to 2017. He was nominated as OMB Director by President-elect Donald Trump in December 2016 and confirmed by Senate vote (51–49) on February 16, 2017.Mulvaney was known for his support for fiscal conservatism as a congressman. However, as OMB Director, he oversaw a dramatic expansion in the deficit. The deficit increases were a result of both spending increases and tax cuts, and were unusually high for a period of economic expansion.Oval Office Operations
Immediately outside the Oval Office, Oval Office Operations staff manage the President's personal schedule, private engagements and immediate access to meet with the President of the United States. Though it varies from administration to administration – and within each term – Oval Office Operations typically consists of:
Director of Oval Office Operations: Jordan Karem
Personal Secretary to the President: Madeleine Westerhout
Personal Aide to the President: VacantThe last Director of Oval Office Operations during the Trump Administration was Keith Schiller, who departed on September 20, 2017, reportedly after White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told him he needed permission to speak to the president and to provide written reports of those conversations. On June 6, 2018, Jordan Karem was appointed as the next Director of Oval Office Operations. On November 26, 2018, Karem announced he would be leaving this position.Pete Rouse
Peter Mikami Rouse (born April 15, 1946) is an American political consultant who served as interim White House Chief of Staff to U.S. President Barack Obama. Rouse has spent years on Capitol Hill, becoming known as the "101st senator" during his tenure as Chief of Staff to Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle.
When Daschle lost his seat in 2004, Rouse was persuaded to stay in Congress as Chief of Staff to then-freshman Senator Barack Obama. Rouse followed Obama to the White House as a senior advisor in 2008 and became interim Chief of Staff there for several months following the departure of Rahm Emanuel in October 2010, and subsequent appointment of William M. Daley the following January. Rouse remained with the White House until late 2013 as Counselor to the President.Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Israel Emanuel (; born November 29, 1959) is an American politician, who is the 44th and current mayor of Chicago. A member of the Democratic Party, Emanuel was elected in 2011, and reelected on April 7, 2015.
Born in Chicago, Emanuel is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Northwestern University. Working early in his career in Democratic politics, Emanuel was appointed as director of the finance committee for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. In 1993, he joined the Clinton administration, where he served as the assistant to the president for political affairs and as the senior advisor to the president for policy and strategy before resigning, in 1998. Beginning a career in finance, Emanuel worked at the investment bank Wasserstein Perella & Co. from 1998 for 2½ years, and served on the board of directors of Freddie Mac.
In 2002, Emanuel ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives vacated by Rod Blagojevich, who resigned to become governor of Illinois. Emanuel won the first of three terms representing Illinois's 5th congressional district, a seat he held from 2003 to 2009. During his tenure in the House, Emanuel held two Democratic leadership positions, serving as the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2005 to 2007, and as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, from 2007 to 2009. After the 2008 presidential election, President Barack Obama appointed Emanuel to serve as White House chief of staff.
In October 2010, Emanuel resigned as chief of staff to run as a candidate in Chicago's 2011 mayoral election. Because of questions over his eligibility to run for mayor, Emanuel's candidacy was initially rejected by the Illinois First District Appellate Court, though he was later found eligible to run in a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Illinois. Emanuel won with 55% of the vote over five other candidates in the non-partisan mayoral election, succeeding 22-year incumbent Richard M. Daley. Although Emanuel failed to obtain an absolute majority in the February 2015 mayoral election, he defeated Cook County board commissioner Jesús "Chuy" García in the subsequent run-off election in April.
In late 2015, Emanuel's approval rating plunged to "the low 20s" in response to a series of scandals, most directly the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, the city's subsequent attempts to withhold a video of the shooting, and the lack of an investigation into the matter. In early December 2015, the federal Justice Department announced an investigation into the operations of the Chicago Police Department, a move which Emanuel initially opposed. At one point, half of Chicagoans favored Emanuel's resignation, with highly critical evaluations of the mayor appearing in such sources as The New York Times and The New Yorker, and coming from such figures as the Reverend Al Sharpton.By July 2017, Emanuel was said to have raised $1.6 million towards a potential run for a third term in the 2019 election, and although his approval ratings had not recovered to 50%, he had made steady progress in recovering his political support. He initially announced in October 2017 he planned to run for a third term, but on September 4, 2018, Emanuel reversed this decision and stated he would not seek a third term due to personal obligations.Reince Priebus
Reinhold Richard "Reince" Priebus ( PREE-bəs; born March 18, 1972) is an American lawyer and politician who served as White House Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump from January 20, 2017, until July 31, 2017. He also served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) from 2011 to 2017.
Raised in Wisconsin, Priebus graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 1998. After working for the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Priebus was elected as the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party in 2007. In 2009, he became the general counsel for the Republican National Committee. He won the 2011 Republican National Committee chairmanship election and took office in January 2011. As chairman, Priebus was the public face of the party and frequently criticized the policies of President Barack Obama. He presided over the Republican Party during the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.
Priebus publicly criticized Trump during the early stages of the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, but he later called for party unity. He opposed efforts to deny Trump the nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention and supported his presidential campaign in the general election. Days after Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Trump announced that Priebus would serve as his first Chief of Staff. On July 28, 2017, President Trump announced that he would make Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly the chief of staff, after Priebus submitted his resignation on July 27. Priebus had the shortest tenure of any non-interim White House Chief of Staff in American history. Priebus' last day in the position was July 31 when Kelly was sworn in. Priebus drew controversy for his management style as chief of staff.Sherman Adams
Llewelyn Sherman Adams (January 8, 1899 – October 27, 1986) was an American politician, best known as White House Chief of Staff for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the culmination of an 18-year political career that also included a stint as Governor of New Hampshire. He lost his White House position in a scandal when he accepted an expensive vicuña coat.Situation Room
The Situation Room, officially known as the John F. Kennedy Conference Room, is a 5,525-square-foot (513.3 m2) conference room and intelligence management center in the basement of the West Wing of the White House. It is run by the National Security Council staff for the use of the President of the United States and his advisors (including the National Security Advisor, the Homeland Security Advisor and the White House Chief of Staff) to monitor and deal with crises at home and abroad and to conduct secure communications with outside (often overseas) persons. The Situation Room is equipped with secure, advanced communications equipment for the President to maintain command and control of U.S. forces around the world.White House Deputy Chief of Staff
The White House Deputy Chief of Staff is officially the top aide to the White House Chief of Staff, who is the senior aide to the President of the United States. The Deputy Chief of Staff usually has an office in the West Wing and is responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the White House bureaucracy, as well as such other duties as the Chief of Staff assigns to him or her. In some administrations, there are multiple deputy chiefs with different duties.
In the Trump administration, there are four current Deputy Chiefs of Staff:
Emma Doyle, Principal Deputy Chief of Staff
Chris Liddell, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination
Daniel Walsh, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations
Bill Shine, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and White House Director of CommunicationsSix Deputy Chiefs of Staff were subsequently promoted to become Chief of Staff: Dick Cheney, Ken Duberstein, Andrew Card, Erskine Bowles, John Podesta, and Joshua Bolten.