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Biden campaign expected to add two new senior aides as it staffs up

<i>Susan Walsh/AP</i><br/>President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign is expected to soon fill out more senior roles.
Susan Walsh/AP
President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign is expected to soon fill out more senior roles.

By Arlette Saenz and Betsy Klein, CNN

(CNN) — President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign is expected to soon fill out more senior roles, sources familiar with the personnel moves told CNN, adding two veterans of his 2020 run to his 2024 effort – communicator TJ Ducklo and White House digital strategist Rob Flaherty.

Ducklo, the former White House spokesperson who resigned mere weeks into the Biden administration after threatening a reporter, is returning to the Biden orbit as senior adviser for communications for the 2024 campaign, a campaign official said.

Ducklo, who previously served as a national press secretary during Biden’s 2020 run, stepped down from his role as deputy press secretary at the White House in 2020 after reports emerged he had threatened a female reporter who asked about his relationship with another reporter.

Ducklo will start on the campaign in mid-July, the official said. He has served as the chief communication officer and a senior adviser for Nashville Mayor John Cooper for the last year. He worked on the city’s response following The Covenant School shooting and was in close touch with the White House, including helping to organize the Nashville rally attended by Vice President Kamala Harris to support the “Tennessee three” lawmakers, the campaign said.

While Ducklo has many fierce defenders within the Biden orbit, there are likely some who will be frustrated by the move.

Anita Dunn, one of the president’s most senior advisers who is deeply involved in 2024 strategy and coordinating with the campaign from the West Wing, has previously defended the decision on Ducklo’s expected campaign role.

“TJ made a mistake, took responsibility for it, and paid a price,” Dunn told Politico’s “West Wing Playbook” last month in a statement in her personal capacity. But that defense raised eyebrows for some outside the White House, with one former senior White House adviser calling it an “unforced error.”

Dunn’s allegiance to Ducklo, a former senior White House adviser recently told CNN, “leaves the president vulnerable and exposed to unnecessary criticism and charges of hypocrisy.” But a current White House aide fired back, saying, “The president has values. Taking responsibility when you have done wrong means a lot. So does forgiveness.”

Tara Palmeri, the reporter Ducklo threatened while she worked for Politico, recently called for his redemption, writing in Puck where she now works, “T.J. and I have spoken many times since. He’s kept me posted on how things are going in Nashville. And I truly believe that he’s coming back in a stronger way, more aware of the impact of his power.”

Ducklo declined to comment to CNN.

Flaherty, Biden’s director of digital strategy, is the latest aide to leave a White House role to shift toward the campaign. He is expected to take on a senior role in the reelection effort, sources familiar with the plans told CNN.

Flaherty is a top official focused on the White House’s use of digital media. The White House’s prioritization of the issue was signaled in a move earlier this year elevating Flaherty’s role to assistant to the president-level for the first time.

During his time at the White House, Flaherty developed Biden’s strategy on digital platforms in content both serious and light-hearted ways, and also engaged influencers to amplify the administration’s messaging. Those efforts included singer Olivia Rodrigo encouraging Covid-19 vaccination sign-ups for young people, as well as the case from Apple TV’s “Ted Lasso” promoting mental health in the briefing room.

Flaherty also built the White House’s first texting program and oversaw a shift to vertical-oriented video, a White House official said.

“So have grateful to have served with this team. No President has invested as much in connecting with Americans wherever they are as @POTUS has. I leave this chair knowing that the fight to vanquish malarkey will be in good hands long after I’m gone,” Flaherty said in a tweet Friday.

He previously led the Biden’s 2020 campaign’s digital outreach. Flaherty’s last day at the White House will be June 30.

Though Biden announced his candidacy in late April (with a vertical video shared to social media), his campaign has been slow to announce key personnel moves.

Campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez and deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks began their roles in May, former White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz is serving in a communications role, and the campaign announced the hiring of communications director Michael Tyler, a seasoned Democratic strategist who previously worked for Sen. Cory Booker’s 2020 campaign and the Democratic National Committee, on Thursday.

Elizabeth Alexander also took a temporary leave from her role as communications director for first lady Dr. Jill Biden in May to help the campaign build out its communications team.

The-CNN-Wire
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