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Who is Jen Psaki, Joe Biden's White House press secretary pick

A veteran Democratic communications specialist, Ms Psaki served in the Obama administration

Former White House Communications Director Jen Psaki will serve in Joe Biden's administration. AFP
Former White House Communications Director Jen Psaki will serve in Joe Biden's administration. AFP

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled an all-female senior White House communications team on Sunday, with veteran Democratic communications specialist Jen Psaki tapped to become his press secretary in January.

Ms Psaki is a known quantity within Democratic circles, having worked for former president Barack Obama as far back as the 2008 election. After starting as his travelling press secretary in the 2008 campaign, she ultimately went on to become the White House communications director from 2015 to 2017.

During Mr Obama’s first term, Ms Psaki started as the deputy press secretary then went on to become the deputy communications director. During that time, she worked closely with members of Mr Obama’s economic team, serving as their go-between with the news media as they tackled the fallout from the 2008 global financial meltdown and the Great Recession.

However, she briefly left the Obama administration in 2011 to become senior vice president of the public relations firm Global Strategy Group. She remained there for less than a year, only to return as the press secretary for Mr Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Ms Psakis’s work during Mr Obama’s first term was largely dominated by domestic issues such as the economic stimulus, the auto industry bailout and regulation of the financial industry. But she focused on promoting the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda for much of his second term as the State Department spokeswoman under former secretary of state John Kerry.

During that time, she had to address myriad international crises, such as Russia’s occupation of Ukraine and the civil war in Syria.

Under the Donald Trump administration, Ms Psaki became a political commentator with CNN and accepted a role as vice president for communications and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. She joined Mr Biden’s transition team after the 2020 election and currently oversees his confirmations team.

Her appointment as White House press secretary will mark her highest-profile role yet, but Ms Psaki has steadily built up her credentials for the demanding job over her entire career – even before she worked for Mr Obama.

Originally from Connecticut, Ms Psaki began working in political communications for Iowa Democrats shortly after graduating from William & Mary. During that time, she worked for the successful re-election campaigns of former senator Tom Harkin and former governor Tom Vilsack.

She also served as the deputy press secretary for Mr Kerry’s failed 2004 presidential campaign. Afterwards, she worked on Capitol Hill as the communications director for former congressman Joe Crowley and as regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Updated: December 1, 2020 12:55 AM

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