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President Biden is hiring the former mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, to replace Cedric Richmond as one of his most senior aides just five months before a high stakes midterm election cycle.
The White House is also losing a key figure, as White House Counsel Dana Remus is departing the Biden administration. Stuart Delery, Assistant to the President and White House Counsel, will step into the role next month.
Remus has been lauded for helping to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to join the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bottoms, a CNN political commentator, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, and the former mayor of Atlanta from 2018 to 2022, will begin as director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in the coming weeks.
Bottoms wrote on Instagram that she was “#Honored.”
“Mayor Bottoms understands that democracy is about making government work for working families, for the people who are the backbone of this country. She led the city of Atlanta with strength through the pandemic, through a summer of protests and pain, and through the mass shooting that left Atlanta’s Asian American community in fear,” Biden said in a statement. “Keisha is bright, honorable, tough and has the integrity required to represent our Administration to the American public. Jill and I have known Keisha for a long time and look forward to working with her more closely.”
Reacting to the news, the Republican Conference in the House of Representatives tweeted, “No surprise Joe Biden just hired a MASSIVE defund the police supporter.”
Despite supporting calls from activists to defund the police and “reimagine” public safety in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd, as well as the Atlanta police killing of Rayshard Brooks, Bottoms changed her tune a year later.
In June 2021, The Atlanta Constitution Journal reported that Bottoms opposed calls from other city councilors to withhold $73 million in police funding and instead argued that a strong budget for the department and increased pay was crucial during a crime wave. Yet, Bottoms last June still blamed the crime wave on the state’s early COVID reopening overseen by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, not her city’s own soft-on-crime agenda.
According to the White House, its Office of Public Engagement “works at the local, state, and national levels to ensure community leaders, diverse perspectives, and new voices have the opportunity to inform the work of the President in an inclusive, transparent and responsible way.”
Bottoms’ hiring comes at a critical juncture between progressives and moderates in the Democratic Party, which risks losing control of one or both houses of Congress during this year’s midterm elections.
Richmond, a Black former U.S. congressman who represented Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district from 2011 to 2021, departed the White House last month to work for the Democratic National Committee.
Axios reported that in choosing Bottoms as his replacement, the White House aimed to fulfill its commitment to elevate leaders of color. Bottoms was previously on Biden’s shortlist for vice president, but he until he ultimately chose Kamala Harris.
Biden called Remus “an invaluable member of my senior staff for the past 3 years.”
“I wish her the best as she moves forward,” Biden said.
His administration declined to provide more details to Fox News about Remus’ departure. Julie Chavez Rodriguez will also be promoted to Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President while continue serving as the Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.