Top White House official to leave West Wing to become drug czar

Presidents and the American economy
Presidential policies certainly play a role in the state of the US economy, but the chief occupant of the White House often gets credit when things are good and blame when they're bad. That's especially true during the first year, when the effect of any new policy is hard to measure. Here are the key economic indicators after one year in office for Presidents Carter through Trump. (Source: CNN)

White House deputy chief of staff Jim Carroll, who has served in that role for nearly three months, is expected to leave the White House to helm the Office of National Drug Control Policy, two sources with knowledge of the decision told CNN Friday.

Carroll, a White House lawyer who quietly became one of chief of staff John Kelly’s deputies late last year, is expected to be tapped to become the administration’s drug czar as early as Friday, two sources with knowledge of the decision told CNN. The White House’s first nominee to lead the office, Rep. Tom Marino, withdrew from consideration in October after a report detailed how legislation he sponsored helped make it easier for drug companies to distribute opioids across America.

Carroll was named late Friday afternoon as the drug policy office’s deputy director, where he will serve as the office’s acting director while awaiting confirmation. Carroll’s departure comes on the heels of the resignation of White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who cleared out his desk on Thursday after allegations of domestic abuse against him became public.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the President’s intent to nominate Carroll to the position later on Friday, saying the White House has “full confidence” in him.

“We have full confidence in Jim to lead ONDCP to make significant strides in combating the opioids crisis, reducing drug use, and coordinating US drug policy,” Sanders said in a statement. “Fighting the opioid crisis and drug addiction is a priority for this administration. We greatly appreciate Jim for his counsel and leadership during his tenure at the White House and look forward to the future contributions he will make in this new role.”

The White House has faced pointed questions about why Porter remained in his role for months after senior White House officials knew of the allegations made by his two ex-wives. Porter has denied the allegations.

Carroll’s departure, in quick succession with Porter’s, will leave a large hole to be filled in the senior ranks of the West Wing. Both Porter and Carroll were key to the orderly flow of paperwork and information to the President that has streamlined decision-making at the White House, which Kelly has worked to improve since he took over as chief of staff last summer.

The two sources with knowledge of the decision insisted that Carroll’s departure was in the works before Porter’s resignation earlier this week. One source said Carroll’s departure was sparked by Kelly’s dissatisfaction with his work.

Kelly handpicked Carroll from the White House counsel’s office to join his office after his principal deputy chief of staff, Kirstjen Nielsen, was tapped to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

After Nielsen was confirmed and with another deputy chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, expected to soon leave the White House, Carroll quickly took on the duties of a deputy chief — though he was never formally named to the position.

Carroll was widely expected to be officially named to the position of deputy chief of staff and perhaps even take over Nielsen’s role as principal deputy chief of staff.