Joe Biden's West Wing office plans shows those in power
Joe Biden’s real inner circle: West Wing office plan shows who wields power in his administration and how his adviser sister Valerie doesn’t make the cut
- President Joe Biden has installed his longtime aides and campaign staff in power positions in the West Wing
- Notably missing is his sister Valerie Biden Owens, a longtime adviser
- She has no West Wing office
- Vice President Kamala Harris and Chief of Staff Ron Klain have large office suites
- West Wing office space is some of the most valuable real estate in the world
- Biden places emphasis on organization instead of chaos
- But many Biden staff are working from home because of COVID restrictions
Joe Biden has installed his longtime aides and campaign staff in power positions in the West Wing, keeping his allies close to him as he begins his presidency.
Notably missing is his sister Valerie Biden Owens, a longtime adviser to Biden who was campaign manager for his Senate races along with his 1988 and 2008 presidential bids. She was a senior adviser to his 2020 campaign.
But maps of the West Wing from Politico and CNN show no office location for the presidential sister. Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump, installed his daughter and son-in-law in posh West Wing offices.
In the White House, proximity is power. In the hallways a person can have a casual run-in with a superior or another person of influence – even the president himself – that change change policy or strategy.
West Wing office space is some of the most valuable real estate in the world. Staff compete for closet sized-spaces and cram into windowless rooms together, desks side by side, in order to be close to the president.
WHO IS REALLY IN THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
1) President Joe Biden. As president he has the Oval Office and the president’s private dining room just off it
2) Vice President Kamala Harris. The second-largest office goes to the VP but puts her relatively far away from the Oval
3) Chief of Staff Ron Klain. The third-largest office with a prime corner overlooking the Rose Garden goes to the most powerful official. Veteran D.C. staffer was Biden’s chief of staff as vice president, 2009-2011, and worked with him in the Senate
4) Counselor to the President Steve Ricchetti. Chairman of Biden’s campaign and Biden’s chief of staff for the second Obama term. Proximity to Biden shows his importance. His brother Jeff is one of D.C.’s most powerful lobbyists
5) Senior adviser Mike Donilon. He is physically the closest to the president and has been an aide on and off since 1981, making him Biden’s oldest friend in the White House. He came up with Biden’s campaign theme of ‘soul of the nation’
6) National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. One of the few from Hillary Clinton’s inner circle in the Biden White House, he was also an architect of the Iran nuclear deal at the State Department
7) Press secretary Jen Psaki. Psaki’s office is always held by the press secretary because of its proximity to the briefing room. Psaki was Obama’s communications director and a State Department press secretary in his administration
8) Communications director Kate Bedingfield. Bedingfield worked as Biden’s communications director from 2015 to 2017 and then was deputy campaign manager for his presidential run
9) Director of Oval Office Operations Annie Tomasini. Has to keep meetings on time and have the right people in the Oval Office with Biden. Was his traveling chief of staff during campaign and one of the few aides allowed in his house
10) Personal aide to the president Stephen Goepfert. Biden’s ‘body man,’ who should be near his side at all times. Worked in the Obama White House dealing with correspondence and was an aide to Biden’s office until 2017.
11) White House Counsel Dana Remus. Key legal adviser to the president. She was a deputy White House counsel under Obama and then worked for the Obama Foundation before being Biden’s campaign general counsel
12) Director of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond. Former Louisiana congressman and Biden ally whose job is to make alliances which Biden can use to press lawmakers to get behind his legislation
12) COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients. A counselor to the president, he is the most powerful COVID figure. Veteran management consultant worked in the Obama White House and after leaving it was on Facebook’s board
14) Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed. Biden’s chief of staff from 201 to 2013 and a long-term Democratic aide who worked in the Clinton White House where he became an ally of Biden, working on the now-notorious 1994 Crime Bill
15) Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Jen O’Malley Dillon. Became Biden’s campaign manager in April after overseeing Beto O’Rourke’s failed run. Newest member of his inner circle
Some names on the West Wing office roster are obvious.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Chief of Staff Ron Klain both have large office suites down the hall from the Oval Office. Harris also has a large office suite in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across the driveway from the West Wing where the ceremonial office of the vice president is located.
Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti, longtime Biden advisers serving as advisers in the administration, have the small power offices just steps from the Oval Office. Jared Kushner controlled that space in the Trump White House.
Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Bruce Reed, who serve as deputy chiefs of staff, also sit in the narrow alcoves with close access to the Oval.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has a large corner office.
In a different corner are the press offices where press secretary Jen Psaki, the public face of the administration, has a large office. In the adjoining offices are communications director Kate Bedingfield and adviser Anita Dunn.
Simply getting space in the West Wing, no matter how cramped or small, is a sign of status and reflects the president’s agenda.
Valerie Biden Owens, a longtime adviser to Joe Biden who was campaign manager for his Senate races along with his 1988 and 2008 presidential bids, has no West Wing office space – she is seen with her brother in October on the campaign trail
President Joe Biden’s West Wing is quieter than most as most aides work from home due to COVID and those in the White House, including the president, wear face masks
Valerie Biden with Joe Biden in 2019 – the two siblings are close but, unlike President Trump, Biden did not install any family members in his West Wing
Jeff Zients, the COVID response coordinator, has an office on the second floor, highlighting the administration’s work on the pandemic. Ivanka Trump sat on the second floor while her father was president.
Cedric Richmond, Biden’s director of the office of public engagement, is also on the second floor.
‘In the West Wing, I get off the elevator and turn right,’ he told Politico’s Playbook last week about where his office is located. ‘The offices, they don’t have any numbers anything else,’ he noted, joking he may be getting hazed by colleagues.
Unlike President Donald Trump, where the West Wing was dominated by the competing power centers of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, former counselor Steve Bannon and whoever occupied the chief of staff’s office, Biden runs a more traditional White House.
The emphasis is on organization instead of chaos.
There will be no Oval Office drop ins during the Biden presidency, like there were in the Trump-era. Instead Klain and Annie Tomasini, the director of Oval Office Operations who sits right outside the Oval, will keep a tight rein on who receives presidential access.
But the COVID pandemic has affected West Wing operations. Instead of the hustle and bustle of staff speed walking through hallways – as seen on NBC’s West Wing and in other political television shows and movies – the Biden White House is quieter.
And that’s because a majority of White House staff are working from home due the coronavirus pandemic, which has changed presidential operations and left many desks empty.
The senior staff meeting, for example, takes place each morning around 7:30 or 8 am via video chat.
Staff and media must be tested for COVID before entering White House and wear a wrist band – the green ones are seen above on reporters – to show they are negative
Tape is being placed at events to make sure participants stay six feet apart; tape can be seen below Dr. Anthony Fauci’s feet above when he joined President Biden and Vice President Harris at the White House last week
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Vice President Kamala Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin join President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Monday where they wore face masks and observed social distancing
Change is normal when a new administration takes over but the Biden White House looks different from its predecessors in ways large and small.
Some of the changes are minor – the televisions now are mainly tuned into CNN and MSNBC instead of Fox News.
Others are larger and many due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Much of the work being done in the White House is being done virtually via conference calls, video meetings, and email.
Many staff have at least been to the White House – they needed to stop in order to pickup their government-issue computers, cell phones, and hard pass – but then returned to their work from home status.
Top-level staff and those essential to national security are in the building but many mid and lower tier aides are at home, a marked change from the Trump era.
Plexiglass barriers have been mounted on desks of those working in the West Wing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Additionally, staff and the president alike wear face masks. Oval Office photo ops, which were jam-packed events in the Trump era, look sparse under the new president.
When Biden signed Monday’s order allowing openly transgender people to serve in the military, he only had three others with him – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, Harris, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. All wore face masks and used social distancing.
COVID testing is also mandatory for staff and media. The testing center is outside the White House complex and a person needs a wrist band confirming a negative result before going through the security gate to enter 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Psaki said during her first press briefing last week that all staff entering the complex will be required to undergo a COVID test, wear an N95 mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
‘The President has asked us to also be models to the American people, and that’s vitally important to us as well,’ she said.
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