Biden expected to pick Jeff Zients as chief of staff, succeeding Ron Klain, sources say

Biden expected to pick Jeff Zients as chief of staff, succeeding Ron Klain, sources say

President Joe Biden is expected to name Jeff Zients as his next White House chief of staff, replacing Ron Klain, who is set to resign in the coming weeks, according to several sources familiar with the matter.

No official announcement has been made. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The selection was first reported by the Washington Post.

Zients co-chaired the Biden presidential transition, served as the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator and most recently worked in the White House preparing for staff changes after the midterm elections.

Zients, whom Klain likes as a member of the President’s inner circle, is well-liked among the White House’s rank-and-file staff. As chief of staff, he would oversee a sprawling executive office.

“Everybody’s pretty excited about it. People like him [and] respect him,” one aide told ABC News.

A source familiar with the matter related to Zients’ work in the government’s pandemic response, particularly in vaccine distribution, and his deep economic and job experience. This source described Zients as a “master executor” at a time when the White House has big enforcement goals of its own.

The move also comes as the administration faces near-daily headlines about the president’s possible mishandling of classified materials — and a special counsel appointed to look into the matter — and a debt ceiling and spending fight simmering with House Republicans .

Klain, a longtime Biden confidant, served as chief of staff as the administration saw a series of legislative successes over its first two years, such as major COVID-19 relief, investments in infrastructure and climate change and more.

He is known as a vocal defender in the White House — on television and on social media — including when economic concerns rose last year due to record high gas prices and inflation.

“We’ve done a lot of work to bring the economy back … [a] tremendous progress in getting the economy moving again in 14 months,” Klain said on ABC’s “This Week” last April. “But there’s a lot of work left to do.”

Photo: White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients speaks during a press briefing at the White House, April 13, 2021, in Washington.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients speaks during a press briefing at the White House, April 13, 2021, in Washington.

Patrick Semansky/AP, FILE

Andy Slavitt, who worked closely with Zients on Biden’s response to COVID-19, said Zients would make a “great choice” for Biden because of his integrity and because “everyone trusts him.”

“He gets everyone’s opinions, but he does it in a way that pushes the ball down the field toward a decision,” Slavitt told ABC News. “More importantly, it wins the team. It defines the goal and gets everyone on the same page and makes everyone win.”

A long career in business, in politics

A 2021 ABC News profile of Zients described him as a well-connected multimillionaire businessman known in Washington circles for his “Mr. Fix-It” ability to navigate a thick bureaucracy.

“Great ideas change the world — but not by themselves,” Zients said in a 2018 commencement speech to business students at American University. “None of it matters unless you execute well, and executing well is really hard.”

Zients’ long corporate career — having previously worked in consulting and investing and sitting on the boards of Facebook and Sirius XM Radio — predates his time in politics, and some progressives in 2021 have cited concerns about Zients’ track record in business life. (The source also revealed that Zients is working with nonprofits like the Urban Alliance, which he and his wife founded.)

Under President Barack Obama, Zients was the first ever White House chief performance officer, director of the National Economic Council and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Former Secretary of Human Services and Health Sylvia M. Burwell, who worked with Zients during the debacle over the government’s Healthcare.gov launch, told ABC News in 2021 that “he’s the kind of guy who runs into the fire without drama.”

ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett contributed to this report.

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