Dana Remus made legal history in the White House. Now it’s moving forward: NPR

White House Counselor Dana Remus, center, sits next to former Senator Doug Jones, D-Ala., Right, as they listen during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court candidate Ketanji Brown Jackson before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

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White House Counselor Dana Remus, center, sits next to former Senator Doug Jones, D-Ala., Right, as they listen during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court candidate Ketanji Brown Jackson before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

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Top White House attorney resigns after more than a year and a half in the role, NPR learned.

White House attorney Dana Remus made history by helping to confirm the first black woman for the United States Supreme Court. She has also set records for appointing dozens of lower court judges with diverse professional backgrounds, selecting public defenders and civil rights attorneys for lifelong appointments.

Current White House Deputy Adviser Stuart Delery will replace her, as part of a small reshuffle of White House staff as the country enters the final five months ahead of the Congressional midterm election. Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, at one point a contender to be Biden’s running mate, will become senior public engagement consultant, the White House announced Wednesday. Julie Chavez Rodriguez, director of the White House Intergovernmental Affairs Office, will be promoted to senior adviser while continuing her current duties.

Lance Bottoms is the best known of the group, having led a large city during the pandemic and racial justice protests after George Floyd’s killing, while also dealing with a mass shooting against Asian Americans and an attack. large-scale IT. Biden said she is “brilliant, honorable, tough and has the integrity required to represent our administration to the American public.”

Remus made diversity and the rule of law top priority

Reums worked with Biden for a while, serving as top advisor on his campaign and, later, as his chief attorney.

“I am immensely grateful for the service of Dana Remus, who has been an invaluable member of my senior staff for the past 3 years and has helped restore a culture of adhering to the rule of law,” Biden said in a statement on staff changes. .

Among his many duties: playing a key role behind the scenes in Biden’s decision not to enforce executive privilege on documents and testimony about the siege of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“Constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to protect, by Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself,” Remus wrote in a letter to the National Archives last year.

Associates said the job was a pressure cooker from the start. During the campaign, Remus launched a war room that included three former attorneys general and hundreds of volunteer lawyers preparing to fight in (and out of) court as former President Donald Trump contested the election.

“There were few people more important to making sure the president took office like Dana was,” said Jeff Zients, co-chair of Biden’s transition team and former advisor to the president.

“Many of the extraordinary threats to the electoral process that we had speculated about were emerging in real time before our eyes,” Don Verrilli, a member of the group, told NPR. “Dana went through the whole process with ease and made exactly the right judgments 100% of the time.”

Once in the White House, Remus made diversity a top priority. Nearly three-quarters of Biden’s candidates for the judiciary are women. Nearly one in three is black and nearly one in three has experience as a public defender.

That emphasis has also been carried over to the legal ranks in the White House attorney’s office. The founding team comprised a majority of women and people with a public interest background.

An administration official said his replacement, Delery, 53, is the first openly gay person to serve as White House legal counsel.

It is currently handling such high-profile issues as the administration’s pandemic response.

As Associate Attorney General, Stuart Delery speaks on the indictments of 14 owners and employees of the New England Compounding Center on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 in Boston.

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As Associate Attorney General, Stuart Delery speaks on the indictments of 14 owners and employees of the New England Compounding Center on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 in Boston.

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Previously, Delery worked in high-ranking positions in the Obama Justice Department, where he led efforts to implement the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on LGBTQ + rights in United States versus Windsor throughout the federal government. The human rights campaign called that effort “the largest rights bestowal of LGBTQ people in history.” Early in her career, Delery worked for Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Byron White. He and her husband have two children.

“My family is the most important thing in the world to me,” Delery told NPR in 2014. “One of the critical insights … of Windsor the Supreme Court’s decision was that same-sex married couples face the same joys and challenges as their opposite-sex married neighbors. “

Verrilli, who served as Attorney General during the Obama years, said he interacted with Delery during that era.

“He is known and appreciated by the President and the leaders of the White House,” said Verrilli. “He is a calm and constant presence. He has excellent judgment. And he is the consummate team player.”

Avoid self-promotion and focus on work

Remus, 46, prefers to work outside the spotlight. He has not accepted an interview for a story about his departure from government service.

But Ketanji Brown Jackson, the Supreme Court Justice who will start working on the next term, thought enough of Remus to express thanks “for the majestic leadership” after his confirmation in the Senate in April. Jackson will be the first black woman in the high court and the first person with public defense experience since Judge Thurgood Marshall.

In the short term, a White House official said Remus intends to spend more time with her husband and son.

Remus covered his career span last month in a keynote address at Drexel University’s law school.

“I joined a political campaign for the first time in my life when I was five months pregnant,” Remus told graduates. “I decided based on what felt right, what was exciting, what inspired me. And it worked. Looking back, I wish I could tell my younger self not to worry so much.”

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said he will miss Remus “immensely, as a great friend and colleague, but I know we are in very good hands with Stuart, who has played a key role in all the office work since the very beginning. day .”

Robert Bauer, a White House adviser during the Obama administration, said Remus and Delery’s approach of avoiding self-promotion and focusing on work could be a model for other aspiring lawyers.

“Go show you that there is another possible way in Washington: their performance,” Bauer said.