By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A slow-rolling staff shakeup is under way at the White House as President Joe Biden girds for battle in the November midterm elections, where he hopes to help his Democrats hang on to control of the U.S. Congress.
Cedric Richmond, a former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana who as the director of the White House office of Public Engagement has been a top adviser to Biden since the president's campaign for office, will depart to the private sector, a person briefed on the move said.
Richmond will also become a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, helping fundraise for the party and broadcasting its message, the person said.
Meanwhile, long-time Biden political and public relations adviser Anita Dunn is returning to the White House after departing last July to return to her communications firm, a second source briefed on the situation said.
At the same time, White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy plans to step down, as Reuters reported last week. And press secretary Jen Psaki is expected to depart in the weeks ahead, a move that may include several members of the White House press team as well, multiple administration sources say.
It is fairly standard for top White House officials to warn staff long before midterm and presidential elections that they should depart with plenty of lead time, or stay until the election is over. But it is unclear whether Biden's chief of staff Ron Klain has issued such a memo.
Many political analysts believe Republicans are poised to take control of the House and possibly the Senate as well this November, as voters weigh in on inflation that has soared to a 40-year high on Biden's watch, and progressive groups disappointed in Biden's progress on climate and social issues stay home from the polls.
Richmond will leave for a "new important role" at some point in the future, Psaki told reporters Monday, adding it was "something the president is excited about and has asked him to do." His departure was first reported by The New York Times.
Psaki's primary deputy press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, is considered a top contender to take over when Psaki leaves, multiple sources within the White House said.
On a West Coast swing last week, Biden predicted Democrats could win two more U.S. Senate seats in November's midterms, strengthening the party's majority to pass his agenda despite sagging approval ratings. [L2N2WJ2SQ]
(Reporting by Steve Holland; additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons and Stephen Coates)