Obama picks Denis McDonough as chief of staff

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WASHINGTON -- When it came time to select a new chief of staff, President Barack Obama didn't look very far.

The president announced Friday that he tapped Denis McDonough, one of his most loyal and trusted advisers, for the key job as he launches his second term.

McDonough, 43, has been serving as deputy national security adviser, helping to orchestrate the U.S. military drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan and the response to the fatal attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.

But more than the president's previous chiefs of staff -- Rahm Emanuel, William Daley and Jack Lew -- McDonough is an Obama loyalist who has been with him since he was a senator.

Friday in the East Room, Obama called McDonough a "great friend" who he has been counting on for nearly a decade.

In 2006, McDonough joined Obama's Senate staff and later worked on his campaign and transition. When he got to the White House, Obama named McDonough his chief foreign policy communications strategist, and later to the No. 2 job at the National Security Council.

The chief of staff job is one of the most critical in every White House. It serves as gatekeeper to the president and helps get his initiatives implemented. Obama plans an aggressive second-term agenda that includes curbing gun violence, overhauling immigration laws and combating global warming.

Obama has seen more turnover in the position than other recent presidents. George W. Bush had just two and Bill Clinton had four, both in eight years.

Emanuel, a former member of Congress, and Lew, a budget expert, had relationships on Capitol Hill, while Daley, a businessman who became commerce secretary, had strong ties to the business community.

McDonough will replace Lew, who Obama nominated as Treasury secretary. He has not been confirmed by the Senate yet.

Since restructuring his staff after several key vacancies at the start of his second term, Obama has been criticized for a less-than-diverse selection of mostly white men. McDonough's appointment could continue that criticism, though on Thursday Obama nominated a woman, former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, to be chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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