White House chief of staff Ron Klein, a powerful force at the center of Joe Biden’s first two years in office, is expected to step down within weeks of the president’s State of the Union address, according to several people familiar with his plans.

The sources said Cline’s exact timeline has yet to be determined, and he is expected to remain in the West Wing for a while to help with the transition period for his replacement, one of the people said. The State of the Union address is scheduled for February 7.

Kline’s departure comes at a difficult time for Biden, with a special counsel investigating his handling of classified information after serving as vice president and the president’s administration and family facing new scrutiny from the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. An official familiar with Klein’s plans said his decision to step down was not related to the investigation into classified documents found in Biden’s personal office and residence in Delaware, and the decision was made before the special counsel was announced.

Biden is undecided on his next White House chief of staff and is casting an even wider net for potential replacements, another official said. The president is known for his thoughtfulness in making important decisions, especially such important ones as the head of the administration, the official added.

Cline’s expected departure has been widely discussed in and around the White House in recent weeks, though those discussions — and speculation about who will replace Cline — have intensified in recent days. Those considerations coincided with the public release of the rediculous classified documents, and many people familiar with the situation said there was a delicate issue to avoid the false suggestion that Klein’s eventual departure might be somehow connected to that development.

The New York Times was the first to report on Klein’s expected departure.

According to a person familiar with the matter, who said people in the White House were keeping a close eye on tips about his intentions, Klein was mulling his way out of the November midterm elections. Cline has been known to email staff at all hours and even check gas prices in the middle of the night — a pace of work that many of his colleagues thought was unsustainable in the long run.

Klein himself has publicly – and more privately – noted the grueling and exhausting nature of the position. But his deep-seated presence in nearly every aspect of the West Wing, as well as his decades-long relationship with Biden, have led some White House officials to urge him to stay in the post for a long period of time.

Still, officials have been quietly weighing his potential replacements, including Steve Ricchetti, an adviser to the president and one of Biden’s closest advisers for years; Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; Labor Secretary Marty Walsh; Jeff Zients, a former Obama administration official who led Biden’s Covid-19 response operation; and Anita Dunn, senior adviser who directs the White House communications and messaging operation, among others.

Dunn has publicly said she has no desire to fill the role and has reiterated that sentiment privately, officials said, although a person familiar said Dunn has expressed interest in becoming the first female chief of staff.

Cline’s departure could precede other shifts in the West Wing as senior staff either move on to an expected re-election campaign or decide to leave the administration themselves after two years. A talent search process is underway, led by Zients, to identify potential replacements for key positions.

Central figure

After his departure, Klein will be one of the longest-serving chiefs of staff for a Democratic president in recent memory, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by people in the White House.

It is difficult to overestimate his active participation in all aspects of important decisions made during Biden’s first two years as president. In the first half of the administration, discussions large and small — everything from the political to the policy — bore not only Kline’s fingerprints but, more often than not, some level of his direct involvement. Over the past two years, when lawmakers, political allies and political supporters were asked who they had direct contact with in the West Wing on a particular issue, they often tended to say one word: “Ron.”

The veteran politician’s tenure has been marked by a number of key White House legislative accomplishments, as well as his penchant for tweeting his opinions on a variety of topics at all hours of the day.

Cline’s expected decision marks one of the first high-profile departures from an administration characterized by low turnover in its first two years.

Biden announced that Klein would take the top job on November 11, 2020, just days after the presidential election.

On Friday, Klein marked the second anniversary of Biden’s inauguration with a celebratory email to staff and a cake.

“Today — halfway through the terms of the President and Vice President — we celebrate not only WHAT was accomplished, but HOW it was accomplished: through teamwork, cooperation, mutual respect, and a lot of hard work. This team has done so many historic things, and done them in a historic way, as part of the most diverse and most talented staff in the White House,” Klein told White House aides in an email obtained by CNN.

Klein pointed to jobs and economic growth, pandemic stabilization, climate action, steps to fight racism and promote equality, and efforts to protect democracy in the U.S. and abroad as examples of success.

“I’m impressed with what this team has done and how you’ve done it. So I’m treating everyone to cake this afternoon to celebrate our success and all your hard work,” he said in an email.

Klein worked with Biden in the early 1990s as chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, while the Delaware Democrat was chairman of the committee. Two years later, Klein led President Bill Clinton’s team that helped secure the confirmation of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

He later became Vice President Al Gore’s second-term chief of staff, and when he left in 1999 amid a spat between Gore and Clinton allies, he returned to the Tennessee Democrat’s presidential campaign a year later and became his top recount adviser. of what eventually became George W. Bush’s 537-vote victory in Florida in 2000, handing the White House to the Republicans.

Klein then worked as a lobbyist and political consultant and participated in John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. He reprized his role as chief of staff to the vice president early in President Barack Obama’s administration, again working for Biden.

He left the White House in 2011 to help lead an investment firm, but returned in 2014 when Obama named him his Ebola response coordinator, a skill set he used to oversee the administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic when Biden took office.

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