POLITICS

Obama Picks State Department's Jen Psaki To Lead White House Communications

02/19/2015 11:50 am ET | Updated Apr 21, 2015
NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has picked U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki to take over as White House communications director, bringing someone with whom he has a long history back into his inner circle as other long-time aides depart.

"Jen worked on both my campaigns, she's served in the White House and she's traveled the world as an advisor to Secretary (John) Kerry," Obama said in a statement.

"I fully trust Jen - and I am thrilled she's agreed to come back to the White House," he said.

Psaki will start in her new position on April 1 and replace Communications Director Jen Palmieri, officials said. Palmieri is expected to join former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's expected presidential campaign.

Psaki served as Obama's traveling press secretary during his 2008 presidential campaign and handled the economic portfolio as a deputy White House spokeswoman in the early years of his administration.

She later served as a deputy communications director before leaving the administration for a brief stint in the private sector.

After reprising her role as traveling spokeswoman for Obama's 2012 presidential campaign, this time riding on Air Force One, she became Kerry's spokeswoman at the State Department.

She was considered twice for the White House press secretary job, losing out to Jay Carney and Josh Earnest.

Psaki has a good rapport with the president and the press.

Her campaign roots will bring a jolt of Chicago history to the White House just as one of the last members of Obama's original campaign team, senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, leaves the White House. Other original inner circle members David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Robert Gibbs left the White House some time ago for the private sector.

"Given Psaki's long history with the president dating back to 2007, she was the obvious and first choice for this role," a White House official said. "She has a deep understanding of the president's record, his story and the reasons he ran for the presidency in the first place."

Psaki's challenge will be to keep the White House relevant in the national political conversation as the 2016 presidential campaign heats up and dominates U.S. news. (Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Lisa Lambert)

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