White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs will step down in a few weeks, Politics Daily has confirmed, but he will remain active as a member of President Obama's inner circle as the 2012 re-election campaign ramps up.
Gibbs, 39, plans to hop on the paid speaking circuit, giving him a chance to make more money; he said at the Wednesday briefing -- an unusually long 75 minute session where his departure next month was a major subject -- that he has no plans to write a book in "the near future."
At the briefing, Gibbs looked ahead. "What I'm going to do next is step back a little bit, recharge some. We've been going at this pace for at least four years. I will have an opportunity I hope to give some speeches. I will continue to provide advice and counsel to this building and to this president. And I look forward to continuing to do that."
Gibbs gave the scoop about his long-rumored departure to the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny. "Stepping back will take some adjusting," Gibbs said in an interview Wednesday morning. "But at the same time, I have a feeling that I will keep myself quite busy, not just with speaking, but continuing to help the president."
In the coming days the White House will be announcing a string of staff changes as part of a midterm shake-up, including whether Pete Rouse, the interim chief of staff, stays on the job or is replaced by William Daley, a former commerce secretary and brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Contrary to some reports, no others are under consideration for the post. Rahm Emanuel stepped down as chief of staff in November to run for mayor of Chicago.
On Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that she has tapped another Chicagoan --Tina Tchen -- as her new chief of staff.
Tchen is the White House deputy assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Engagement, and is executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
On Tuesday, Vice President Biden said that his chief of staff, Ron Klain,
will be leaving. No replacement yet has been named.
Gibbs started working for Obama when the latter was running for an Illinois Senate seat in 2004, hooking up with him through David Axelrod -- a senior White House adviser -- who was then a top strategist for Obama. Gibbs, with Rouse and Axelrod, were the architects behind Obama's quick rise from the Senate to the White House.
Obama told Zeleny on Wednesday that Gibbs "will continue to shape the dialogue politically for many years to come."
"We've been on this ride together since I won my Senate primary in 2004," Obama said. "He's had a six-year stretch now where basically he's been going 24/7 with relatively modest pay."
In a statement, Obama said, "For the last six years, Robert has been a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium for what this administration has been doing to move America forward. I think it's natural for him to want to step back, reflect and retool. That brings up some challenges and opportunities for the White House -- but it doesn't change the important role that Robert will continue to play on our team."
Gibbs' successor has been the subject of much speculation, with two names mentioned most often, Jay Carney, who is Biden's communications chief, and Bill Burton, a White House deputy press secretary.