By Jake Tapper
ABC News has confirmed that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs will step down from the podium in early February, another significant departure in a time of staff transition for the Obama Administration.
The news of his departure was first reported by the New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny, who interviewed the press secretary this morning.
Gibbs told the Times that his successor has not yet been decided, but will likely be announced within the next two weeks.
Two names in contention for the press secretary jobare deputy press secretary Bill Burton and Jay Carney, Vice President Biden’s communications director.
Gibbs said in the Times interview that he has no intention of setting up his own political consulting or lobbying shop but will serve as an outside political adviser to President Obama and his re-election campaign.
“Stepping back will take some adjusting,” Mr. Gibbs told the Times this morning. “But at the same time, I have a feeling that I will keep myself quite busy, not just with speaking, but continuing to help the president.”
The news of Gibbs departure from the White House does not come out of the blue – top Democrats had been saying this week that it was likely to happen fairly soon.
President Obama is, according to sources, happy with Gibbs’ work as press secretary. But Gibbs was eager to leave the podium and assume a more “senior counselor” role, a la David Axelrod, who is leaving to depart for Chicago in part to help with the president’s 2012 reelection campaign.
Throughout 2009 and 2010, the president’s three closest advisers were Axelrod, Gibbs, and then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. By next month, all three will be working outside of the White House.
Though Plouffe is a close adviser and member of the inner circle — as is White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — those three departures will necessitate a serious readjustment by the president. Mr. Obama is weighing several key staff changes, including who will replace Larry Summers’ as the director of the National Economic Council.
Gibbs will hold his first briefing of 2011 at the White House at 12:30pm today.
- Jake Tapper
UPDATE: President Obama issued a formal statement on Gibbs’ impending departure:
“For the last six years, Robert has been a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium for what this administration has been doing to move America forward. I think it’s natural for him to want to step back, reflect and retool. That brings up some challenges and opportunities for the White House – but it doesn’t change the important role that Robert will continue to play on our team.”