Shaking up his foreign policy team, President Obama announced today that National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is resigning and will be replaced by UN Ambassador Susan Rice.
"Susan understands that there's no substitute for American leadership," the president said in a Rose Garden ceremony. "She is at once passionate and pragmatic. I think everybody understands Susan is a fierce champion for justice and human dignity, but she's also mindful that we have to exercise our power wisely and deliberately."
The president also announced that he is nominating National Security Council aide Samantha Power to succeed Rice as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The announcement marks a dramatic turnaround for Rice who just six months ago withdrew her name from consideration to be secretary of state amid a firestorm of criticism for her response to the deadly attack at the U.S. outpost in Benghazi.
The president has strongly defended Rice publicly and his decision to nominate her for a position in his inner circle is a clear rejection of GOP criticisms.
Rice will no longer be a member of the Cabinet, but she will work at the president's elbow every day, arguably a more influential position that reflects his continued confidence in her.
"Put simply, Susan exemplifies the finest tradition of American diplomacy and leadership," the president said.
"Susan was a trusted adviser during my first campaign for president. She helped to build my foreign policy team and lead our diplomacy at the United Nations in my first term. I am absolutely thrilled that she'll be back at my side leading my national security team in my second term," he said.
Republicans are already voicing their opposition to the president's decision. Sen. John McCain tweeted: "Obviously I disagree w/ POTUS appointment of Susan Rice as [National] Security Adviser, but I'll make every effort to work w/ her on [important] issues."
The position of national security adviser is not subject to Senate confirmation and Republicans will have no say in whether she assumes the role.
Donilon, who the president praised for his "exceptional experience and insights," will depart the administration in early July.
Power is a former Obama campaign aide and foreign policy advisor who began her career as a journalist and later won a Pulitzer Prize for her 2002 book "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide."
Power was forced to leave Obama's 2008 campaign after she described rival Hillary Clinton as a "monster" who would stop at nothing to defeat Obama. She later apologized.
"To those who care deeply about America's engagement and indispensable leadership in the world, you will find no stronger advocate for that cause than Samantha," Obama said.