Counselor to the President

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Counselor to the President
Blank man placeholder.svgJeffrey Zients official portrait.jpg
Steve Ricchetti and Jeffrey Zients

since January 20, 2021
Executive Office of the President
White House Office
AppointerJoe Biden
as President of the United States
FormationJanuary 20, 1969; 52 years ago (1969-01-20)
First holderArthur F. Burns
WebsiteThe White House

Counselor to the President is a title used by high-ranking political advisors to the president of the United States and senior members of the White House Office.

The current officeholders are Steve Ricchetti and Jeffrey Zients. The position should not be confused with the office of White House Counsel, who is the chief legal advisor to the president and the White House, which is also an appointed position.


The position was created during the administration of Richard Nixon, where it was assigned Cabinet rank. It remained a Cabinet-level position until 1993.[1]

During Nixon's presidency, no fewer than eight individuals held the position, with there sometimes being two or three concurrent incumbents.

During the presidency of Gerald Ford, the post was shared by longtime communications advisor Robert T. Hartmann and national security aide John O. Marsh, with former United States Secretary of Commerce Rogers Morton briefly joining them as a domestic policy advisor in early 1976.

The position was vacant during the Jimmy Carter administration, as Carter initially left many senior White House positions unfilled (such as White House Chief of Staff) and preferred a smaller corps of advisers.[2]

Edwin Meese held the position during the first term of President Ronald Reagan, and was highly influential inside the White House. Meese, Chief of Staff James Baker and Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver were nicknamed "the Troika" and considered the most influential advisors to the president.[3] Meese became United States attorney general during Reagan's second term as president and the position was left vacant.

The position was left vacant in the first three years of President George H.W. Bush's term. In 1992, it was filled by Clayton Yeutter following his resignation as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

During the Bill Clinton administration, the post became much more focused on communications. Two of Clinton's counselors, David Gergen and Paul Begala, later became CNN political analysts.

During the administration of George W. Bush, the position oversaw the communications, media affairs, speechwriting, and press offices.[4]

Under the Obama administration, the position was initially abolished and the duties of the office transferred to three senior advisors: David Axelrod,[5][6] Pete Rouse,[6][7] and Valerie Jarrett,[8] who also held the title Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison.[6] On January 6, 2011, President Obama appointed Rouse as counselor to the president where he was responsible for assisting the president and chief of staff with the day-to-day management of White House staff operations.[9][10] John Podesta was the last person to hold the position before he left to join the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign of 2016 as chairman.[11]

Soon after the 2016 election, President-elect Donald Trump announced his intention to name his campaign manager during the general election, Kellyanne Conway, to the position[12] and his campaign CEO Steve Bannon as a senior counselor and chief strategist.[13] With equivalent standing to the chief of staff and a portfolio that hewed closely to the pre-Clinton iteration of the position, Bannon was named to the Principals Committee of the National Security Council in a January 2017 executive order that also removed the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the committee.[14] Following vociferous public opposition to the decision, Trump removed Bannon from the council in April 2017.[15]

After Bannon's departure from the White House in August 2017, Johnny DeStefano was given the title[16] in February 2018, with responsibility for overseeing the offices of presidential personnel, political affairs, and public liaison.

In February 2020, it was announced that former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks would return to the White House Office in the role.[17]

List of counselors to the president[edit]

Counselor to the President Donald Rumsfeld confers with President Richard Nixon on the White House grounds.
President Ford and Counselor Robert Hartmann looking over paperwork concerning the selection of a new vice president, 1974
President Reagan holds an oval office staff meeting on his first full day in office. Front left, Counselor to the President Edwin Meese.
"The Troika". From left to right: White House Chief of Staff James Baker, Counselor to the President Ed Meese and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver at the White House, December 2, 1981.
Bill Clinton announces the appointment of David Gergen as Counselor to the President, 1993
Counselor to the President Karen Hughes and First Lady Laura Bush, June 28, 2002.
Counselor to the President Dan Bartlett delivering a briefing on President George W. Bush's State of the Union Message, February 3, 2005.
Counselor to the President Ed Gillespie (right) and Chief of Staff to the Vice President David Addington review a document, December 5, 2007.
Counselor to the President Pete Rouse, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Vice President Joe Biden talk with President Barack Obama, April 2, 2013.
Counselor to the President John Podesta meets with President Obama in the Oval Office, January 29, 2015.
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway talks to reporters and answers questions outside the West Wing entrance of the White House.
Counselor Term of office Party President
Arthur Burns Arthur F. Burns
January 20, 1969 –
November 5, 1969
Republican Richard Nixon
Pat Moynihan Pat Moynihan
November 5, 1969[18]
December 31, 1970[19]
Bryce Harlow Bryce Harlow
November 5, 1969[18]
December 9, 1970[20]
(with Moynihan)
Robert Finch Robert Finch
June 23, 1970[21]
December 15, 1972[22]
(with Moynihan and Harlow initially)
Donald Rumsfeld Donald Rumsfeld
December 11, 1970[23]
October 15, 1971[23]
(with Finch)
Anne Armstrong Anne Armstrong
January 19, 1973 –
December 18, 1974
Dean Burch Cabinet.jpg Dean Burch
March 8, 1974[24]
December 31, 1974[25]
(with Armstrong)
Kenneth Rush Kenneth Rush
May 29, 1974[26]
September 19, 1974[27]
(with Armstrong)
Robert T. Hartmann.png Robert T. Hartmann[28]
August 9, 1974 –
January 20, 1977
(with Armstrong initially)
Republican Gerald Ford
John O. Marsh John O. Marsh
August 9, 1974[29]
January 20, 1977[30]
(with Armstong initially)
RogersClarkBallardMorton.jpg Rogers Morton[31]
February 2, 1976 –
April 1, 1976
(with Hartmann and Marsh)
Vacant Jimmy Carter
Edwin Meese Edwin Meese
(born 1931)
January 20, 1981 –
February 25, 1985
Republican Ronald Reagan
George H.W. Bush
Clayton Yeutter Clayton Yeutter
February 1, 1992 –
January 20, 1993
Vacant Bill Clinton
David Gergen David Gergen
(born 1942)
May 29, 1993 –
June 10, 1994
Mack McLarty Mack McLarty
(born 1946)
July 17, 1994[32]
June 30, 1998[33]
(with Curry and Begala)
No image.svg Bill Curry
(born 1951)
February 21, 1995 –
January 20, 1997
(with McLarty)
Paul Begala Paul Begala
(born 1961)
August 17, 1997[34]
March 10, 1999
(with McLarty initially)
Ann Lewis (138) (13315485475).jpg Ann Lewis
(born 1937)
March 10, 1999 –
January 20, 2001
Karen Hughes Karen Hughes
(born 1956)
January 20, 2001 –
July 8, 2002
Republican George W. Bush
Dan Bartlett Dan Bartlett
(born 1971)
January 5, 2005 –
July 5, 2007
Ed Gillespie Ed Gillespie
(born 1961)
July 5, 2007 –
January 20, 2009
Vacant Barack Obama
Pete Rouse Pete Rouse
(born 1946)
January 13, 2011 –
January 1, 2014
JohnPodesta John Podesta
(born 1949)
January 1, 2014 –
February 13, 2015
Kellyanne Conway Kellyanne Conway
(born 1967)[35][36]
January 20, 2017 –
August 31, 2020[37]
Republican Donald Trump
Steve Bannon Steve Bannon
(born 1953)[35][36]
January 20, 2017 –
August 18, 2017[38]
(with Conway)
Johnny DeStefano Johnny DeStefano
(born 1979)
February 9, 2018 –
May 24, 2019[39][40]
(with Conway)
Hope Hicks Hope Hicks
(born 1988)
March 9, 2020[41] – January 12, 2021[42][43]
(with Conway initially, and Lyons)
No image.svg Derek Lyons May 20, 2020[44] – January 20, 2021[45]
(with Conway and Hicks, initially)
Steve Ricchetti January 20, 2021 – present
(with Zients)
Democratic Joe Biden
Jeffrey Zients Jeffrey Zients
(born 1966)
January 20, 2021 – present
(with Ricchetti)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Clayton Yeutter's Obituary". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ Walsh, Edward; article, Washington Post Staff Writer; Washington Post staff writer Robert G. Kaiser contributed to this (January 15, 1977). "Carter Names 12 Key Staff Aides". Retrieved January 24, 2018 – via
  3. ^ "The Presidential Troika". April 19, 1981. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  4. ^ "Former Counselor to the President, Dan Bartlett's Biography". October 22, 2008. Retrieved November 14, 2016 – via National Archives.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved January 24, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 22, 2009. Retrieved April 21, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved January 22, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett". Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  9. ^ "Obama Picks William Daley As Chief Of Staff". NPR. January 6, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
  10. ^ "Daley's duties".
  11. ^ "Counselor to the President John Podesta". Archived from the original on October 1, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
  12. ^ "Trump Picks Kellyanne Conway to Serve as Counselor to the President". Politico. December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  13. ^ "Trump's Pick of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist Sparks Backlash". NBC News. November 14, 2016. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Appointments for the Executive Office of the President". February 9, 2018. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via National Archives.
  17. ^ Haberman, Maggie (February 13, 2020). "Hope Hicks to Return to the White House After a Nearly Two-Year Absence". The News York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  18. ^ a b [1] Archived October 23, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "White House Farewell". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  20. ^ "Harlow Resigns As Aide to Nixon; Will Return to Lobbyist Post". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  21. ^ "Finch and the Postwar Economy". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  22. ^ [2][dead link]
  23. ^ a b [3][dead link]
  24. ^ "Burch Under Senate Pressure to Step Up FCC Departure 3 Vacancies". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  25. ^ "Burch Resigning as White House Adviser Notes on People". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  26. ^ "Rush Sworn as Counselor to President on Economy". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  27. ^ "Kenneth Rush – People – Department History – Office of the Historian". Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  28. ^ Dennis Hevesi (April 19, 2008). "Robert Hartmann, 91, Dies; Wrote Ford's Noted Talk". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  29. ^ "Ford Bids Cabinet and Agency Heads Remain in Post Indefinite Stays". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  30. ^ "Ford Making Plans For Handing Over Controls to Carter". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 23, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  31. ^ "Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum".
  32. ^ NELSON, JACK (June 28, 1994). "Panetta Named Chief of Staff in Major White House Shake-Up : Presidency: Clinton's friend McLarty will step aside and become the counselor to the President. Gergen will move to State Dept. and Rivlin will be budget director in effort to add 'strength, vitality.'". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  33. ^ Broder, John M. (April 25, 1998). "President's Friend Is Leaving White House for Private Life". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  34. ^ "News Summary". The New York Times. August 17, 1997. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  35. ^ a b "Executive Office Of The President Annual Report To Congress On White House Office Personnel White House Office As Of: Friday, June 30, 2017" (PDF). p. 3 – via National Archives.
  36. ^ a b Senior Counselor
  37. ^ "Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls)".
  38. ^ "Bannon out as White House chief strategist". Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  39. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Appointments for the Executive Office of the President". February 9, 2018. Retrieved June 19, 2018 – via National Archives.
  40. ^ Dawsey, Josh; Sonmez, Felicia (May 21, 2019). "Long-serving Trump aide DeStefano to depart White House". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  41. ^ Cook, Nancy; McGraw, Meredith (April 27, 2020). "Trump looks to Hope Hicks as coronavirus crisis spills over". Politico. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  42. ^ "Hope Hicks to Return to the White House After a Nearly Two-Year Absence". The New York Times. February 13, 2020. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  43. ^ Brown, Pamela; Gangel, Jamie (January 13, 2021). "Top White House adviser Hicks no longer works at the White House, a previously planned departure". CNN. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  44. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Appointments for the Executive Office of the President". (Press release). February 9, 2020. Retrieved September 3, 2020 – via National Archives.
  45. ^ "Annual Report to Congress on White House Office Personnel" (PDF). June 26, 2020. Retrieved September 3, 2020 – via National Archives.