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Image: Anita Dunn.
Anita Dunn.Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images file

White House begins the search for fresh communications team

Longtime Biden adviser Anita Dunn is interviewing candidates to replace departing top communications members.

By and

The White House is considering a major overhaul of its press and communications shop in the coming weeks, a staff shakeup that’s aimed at putting a new team in place to drive President Joe Biden’s message into November’s midterm elections and in the months after voters decide whether his party retains control of Congress, according to multiple people familiar with the effort. 

The effort to revamp the White House press operation comes as Biden has expressed frustration that his message isn’t breaking through to Americans and his approval ratings continue to hit new lows, while his aides prepare for him to seek re-election.

One of Biden’s top advisers, Anita Dunn, has begun interviewing candidates to be the next White House communications director, the first step in the overhaul, these people said.

Dunn, who returned to the White House in May, is overseeing the broader plans to restructure the entire press office, which recently has seen significant turnover, people familiar with the effort said. 

Among those under consideration to be communications director are Liz Allen, currently Assistant Secretary of State for Global Public Affairs; Kate Berner, currently Deputy Communications Director, and Elizabeth Alexander, Communications Director for First Lady Jill Biden. 

Two sources familiar with the process said the search has prioritized candidates who have a previously existing relationship with Biden, though one source said that preference does not preclude additional possible contenders. 

Bedingfield, who has been Biden’s communications director as vice president, in his 2020 campaign and since the start of the administration, steps down Friday. Hers is the latest in a string of departures from the White House’s message shop in recent months that have included Biden’s first press secretary, Jen Psaki, Deputy Communications Director Pili Tobar, the White House’s rapid response director and two other assistant press secretaries. 

Dunn is also evaluating candidates to serve as the principal deputy press secretary, a position that’s been vacant since Karine Jean-Pierre was promoted to replace Psaki.

Additional staffing departures and changes are possible as part of the broader re-evaluation of the press operation as the White House considers a future after the midterms in which they may confront a new, Republican majority in Congress. A source said that existing staff could see their portfolios shift as the administration is potentially focused less on legislating and more on confronting investigations from a new GOP majority. Biden’s own political future and the possibility of a 2024 reelection campaign are also factoring in to the plans.

A source close to the process said potential candidates for the communications director job are being asked to weigh in on a broader reshuffle. But, the source said, Bedingfield’s replacement would not necessarily have sign-off on additional press and communications office hires.