Biden Chief of Staff Steps Down, COVID Response Leader to Take Over Role

By Jeff Louderback
Jeff Louderback
Jeff Louderback
Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.
January 27, 2023Updated: January 27, 2023

White House chief of staff Ron Klain will step down from his role next week and be replaced by Jeff Zients, a former Obama administration official who spearheaded Biden’s coronavirus response team.

Klain announced the decision in a letter of resignation on Jan. 27. President Joe Biden confirmed the news in a statement.

Klain told White House officials that he will depart after Biden’s State of the Union address on Feb. 7.

The 61-year-old Indianapolis native became the White House chief of staff in January 2021. He served in that role for Al Gore and Biden when they were vice presidents.

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the U.S. economy at Steamfitters Local 602 in Springfield, Va., on Jan. 26, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

“I’ve known Ron Klain since he was a third-year law student. He came to work for me on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I knew the moment he started that he was a once-in-a-generation talent with a fierce and brilliant intellect. Just as important, he has a really big heart,” Biden wrote in a statement.

“During the last 36 years, Ron and I have been through some real battles together. And when you’re in the trenches with somebody for as long as I have been with Ron, you really get to know the person. You see what they’re made of,” Biden added.

Biden continued his praise of Klain, saying that he “knows how government works, how politics works, how Congress and the White House works. He assembled the most diverse and the most talented White House team in history and leaned on them to solve impossible challenges.”

The White House will host an official transition event to thank Klain and welcome Zients, Biden said.

Challenging Time

Klain is leaving at a challenging time for Biden, who is under investigation by a special counsel for his handling of classified documents after his tenure as vice president. Also, he and some members of his family are facing scrutiny from the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

Klain’s decision was reportedly made before Attorney General Merrick Garland assigned a special counsel to investigate Biden about the classified materials found at Biden’s private office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington and his residence in Wilmington, Delaware.

During the 2000 presidential election’s Florida vote recount, Klain helped guide Gore’s legal team.

He also directed the Ebola crisis response when Obama was president.

In his resignation letter, Klain highlighted what Biden has done in his first two years as president.

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White House chief of staff Ronald Klain in Washington on June 30, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

“The halfway point of your first term—with two successful years behind us, and key decisions on the next two years ahead—is the right time for this team to have fresh leadership,” he added.

“I have served longer than eight of the last nine Chiefs of Staff, and have given this job my all; now it is time for someone else to take it on.

“In the face of major challenges at home and abroad, your record has been indisputably historic.

“You passed the most significant economic recovery legislation since FDR; managed the largest land war in Europe since the Truman era; enacted the most sweeping infrastructure law since Eisenhower; named more judges in your first year than any president since JFK; passed the second-largest health care bill since LBJ; signed the most significant gun safety bill since Clinton; and enacted the largest climate change law in history,” Klain added.

“You did it all in the middle of the worst public health crisis since the Wilson era, with the smallest legislative majority of any newly elected Democratic president in a century.”

Klain also reminisced about becoming a Biden staff member three decades ago when Biden was a Delaware senator.

“For me, it has been quite a journey. Thirty-six years ago, on the day I returned from my honeymoon, I joined your Senate staff. Leaving and returning to your staff several times since, my work for you has defined my life, both personally and professionally,” Klain wrote.

jeff zients
Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response czar, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, on April 13, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

“In good times, you were the first to call when each of my children was born and decades later, the first to congratulate me when they got engaged,” Klain continued.

“In bad times, you were the first to console me when my father passed away years ago, and over the past two months, you have supported me in spending time away from the White House with my ailing mother.

“If you choose to run in 2024, I look forward to doing whatever I can to help your campaign, as I did for your 1988, 2008, and 2020 campaigns,” Klain added. “I will always be a Biden supporter and advocate in whatever I do next.”

Biden’s statement also confirmed the hiring of Zients to replace Klain.

Zients served as an adviser to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, ran his transition team, oversaw the Biden administration’s coronavirus response, and led the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

‘Smart, Steady Leadership’

A former acting director and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Zients was director of the National Economic Council under the Obama administration and also chaired Obama’s Management Advisory Board.

“When I was Vice President, I first got to know him at the beginning of the Obama-Biden Administration, working closely on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act implementation as Jeff was a leader at the Office of Management and Budget,” Biden said about Zients.

“He was later handed the daunting and complicated task of fixing, which he did successfully, helping get millions of Americans quality, affordable health insurance.”

Biden also noted that Zients “shares my focus on strengthening our economy to work for everyone.”

“When I ran for office, I promised to make government work for the American people. That’s what Jeff does,” Biden said. “A big task ahead is now implementing the laws we’ve gotten passed efficiently and fairly.

“I’m confident that Jeff will continue Ron’s example of smart, steady leadership, as we continue to work hard every day for the people we were sent here to serve,” Biden added.

Negative For Biden

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that he spoke with Zients in a phone conversation and that they agreed to have the “same close relationship with the White House Chief of Staff that I had with Ron.”

“He’s organized, focused, and deliberate, exactly the right person to lead the Biden administration and ensure the American people see and feel the benefits of these new laws,” Schumer said in a statement.

Some lawmakers, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), believe that Klain’s departure is a negative for Biden.

“I actually think the ‘Deep State’ has figured out that Joe Biden isn’t going to win the 2024 election against any Republican that’s nominated,” Gaetz said.

“I think he’s a professional operator and is getting out of the White House as they send somebody else in to tidy up the Biden presidency and put a bow on it and get ready for their next generation of leadership,” Gaetz said about Klain.

“So you know, I don’t particularly like when the Deep State chooses who gets to be the leader of our country.”