Powell in April 2012
|Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy|
March 15, 2017
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Senior Counselor to the President for Economic Initiatives|
January 20, 2017
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs|
July 11, 2005 – June 7, 2007
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Patricia Harrison|
|Succeeded by||Goli Ameri|
June 12, 1973
|Education||University of Texas, Austin (BA)|
Dina Habib Powell (Dina Habib Coptic: Ⲇⲓⲛⲁ Ϩⲁⲃⲓⲃ, Arabic: دينا حبيب) (born June 12, 1973) non-profit executive, philanthropist, and U.S. policymaker. She is the current U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy to President Donald Trump. She is is an Egyptian-American and Coptic-American. She had an influential role in determining the first year of the administration's foreign policy, especially in regard to Middle East policy. She is also an Assistant to the President and Senior Counselor for Economic Initiatives, a position that she continued in after her security appointment and that she spends about 20 percent of her time on. It has been announced that she plans to leave the administration in early 2018.
Prior to accepting these White House positions, Powell was a managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs and president of their non-profit subsidiary, the Goldman Sachs Foundation. In that capacity she ran the foundation's 10,000 Women program. Before that, she served in the George W. Bush administration as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Deputy Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, and an Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel.
Dina Habib was born in Cairo, Egypt to a middle-class, Coptic Christian family. Her father was a captain in the Egyptian Army, and her mother had attended American University in Cairo. As both wanted the best for their daughters, Dina Habib at the age of four or thereabouts (accounts vary slightly) came to the United States with her parents and her younger sister. Dina knew no English.
The Habib family settled in Dallas, Texas, where they had relatives among the Coptic community there; the parents ran a convenience store. Her father also worked at times as a bus driver and in real estate, while her mother sometimes endeavored as a social worker. A third daughter was born once the family was in America.
While Dina quickly learned English at school, her family insisted that she be raised with Egyptian culture and language as well. As a result, she is fluent in Arabic. Of her parents' actions, she later said, "I so desperately wanted a turkey and cheese sandwich with potato chips, and instead I always got grape leaves and hummus and falafel, not even in a cool brown paper bag. And now, of course, I appreciate so much that I did." Each of the family members born abroad became a naturalized citizen of the United States. She attended the prep school for girls Ursuline Academy of Dallas, from which she graduated in 1991.
She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, more specifically the University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts, where she enrolled in the Liberal Arts Plan I honors program, studying a mixture of humanities, sociology, political science, and criminology. She performed community service both as part of her program and her membership in the Delta Delta Delta sorority.
Dina Habib helped pay for school by working as a legislative assistant for two Republican members of the Texas State Senate: O.H. "Ike" Harris and Jerry E. Patterson. With them, she worked on a number of policy matters, including juvenile justice reform. She had grown up in a family that strongly identified with the Republican Party and that had greatly admired Ronald Reagan. She adopted the same views, later recalling that "... when I started to work with Republicans I realised that I agree with the views of personal empowerment, of less government involvement, of having the ability to talk about things without the government necessarily being involved. And on the economic side I'm definitely a believer that people should spend more of their money and spend it the way they think so and invest it wisely."
For her honors thesis, she wrote about the value of mentoring on juvenile delinquents. She graduated from U. of Texas with honors with a bachelor's degree in Humanities from its College of Liberal Arts in 1995.
Habib had applied to, and been accepted by, a law school. However, in part due to her fluency in Arabic, she received an offer of a year-long internship with the U.S. Senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Much to the consternation of her parents, who wanted her to become an engineer, doctor, or lawyer, she deferred the school and accepted the internship, moving to Washington, D.C. in the process. This began a chain of political and governmental positions that would span a decade or more and she never came to the study of law. Hutchison later said of Powell, "She is extraordinary and she has gone so far since that first little internship because she is so graceful."
After the year-long internship concluded, she took a job with Dick Armey, the Republican Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. There she worked as a member of his leadership staff. This role lasted for four years. Armey later said, "We immediately recognized her brains and her ability, and then her charm, and finally, I think somebody noticed she was gorgeous, too." Armey's was one among a number of remarks that various government officials have made regarding not just her professional abilities but also her physical attractiveness.
After that, she took a job with the Republican National Committee where she was Director of Congressional Affairs and helped to find positions for Republicans in lobbying firms. As part of this role she became involved in the George W. Bush presidential campaign, 2000.
While working at the RNC, Powell was spotted by Clay Johnson III, who would come to be in charge of hiring for the George W. Bush administration. The day after the election Johnson called Powell regarding the presidential transition, even though the result was mired in uncertainty. Once in office, Johnson took her on as a Deputy Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel. During the following year, Powell's parents visited a Marine One landing on the South Lawn of the White House; after Powell had the president introduce himself to them on the rope line, they were overwhelmed with emotion. Powell later said, "It affirmed for them the tough decision to leave everything they knew behind. In what other country could an immigrant family go from risking it all to one day having their daughter work for the president?"
Beginning in January 2003, Johnson moved up and elsewhere in the administration and Powell took on his position, thereby serving as the Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel, a senior staff member at the White House. In this role, she was responsible for assisting the President on the appointments of the cabinet, subcabinet and ambassadorial positions across the U.S. Government. She had a staff of 35 reporting to her and, especially once the second term of the Bush presidency began in January 2005, was part of hiring some 4,000 people. She participated in some of the recommendations process as well as processing the applications, and was part of the inner circle of knowledge regarding who would be hired along with Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and political mind Karl Rove. At age 29, she was the youngest person ever to hold this position. She praised the family-friendly practices of the Bush White House, as well as support from her husband, for giving her the chance to be a successful working mother.
The experience of her job confirmed her belief that the United States is a meritocracy. Some of the recommendations she made for the U.S. State Department put her in good stead with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (This led to a series of appointments in which Powell's foreign policy experience would be forged under Secretary Rice, as the following paragraphs describe.) U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez, a businessman whom Powell recruited for that Cabinet position, said: "In a nutshell, Dina Powell is probably one of the most talented people I've ever met in my life."
In March 2005, Powell was nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, an assignment that included becoming an ambassador of sorts to the Arabic-speaking world. News of the nomination landed on the front page of Al-Ahram and made her a celebrity in Egypt. Powell served in that position from July 11, 2005, through June 6, 2007. Powell was also designated by Secretary Rice to the office of Deputy Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. In addition, Powell led the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in whose responsibility fell the Fulbright Program and similar foreign endeavors. In her role, Powell traveled worldwide with Secretary Rice, but mostly focused on going to the Middle East.
During this period, Powell established several public-private partnerships between American corporations and foreign entities, including a U.S.-Lebanon partnership in the wake of the 2006 war there that sought to help rebuild the local economy. These may have been under the aegis of the Middle East Partnership Initiative. In addition she brought into being some cultural exchanges between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, including Iranian doctors coming west and a U.S. wrestling team going east. She was responsible for bringing in scholars from other nation-states as well. Powell worked to establish the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women's Mentoring Partnership, which connected up-and-coming female leaders with the community of Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summits. This was a joint venture between the State Department and Fortune magazine that would go on to be honored over the next decade.
In 2007, she left the White House and government service, saying "It's the right time for me and my family." She had been the highest-ranking Arab-American in the Bush administration. Secretary Rice said, "I'm really sorry to lose her. She is fantastic. She had so many ideas. There are people who have ideas but can't execute them. She really executed them." The Washington Post assayed that Dina Habib Powell had "played a critical role in the administration's efforts to bolster public diplomacy in the face of the wave of anti-Americanism that has swept the Arab world since the U.S. invasion of Iraq." Powell would later join the Advisory Council of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
Powell joined Goldman Sachs in 2007 as a managing director, having been hired by John F. W. Rogers, a longtime Goldman figure with experience with past Republican administrations. Rogers became her champion at the firm. Powell was then named partner in 2010, thus achieving one of the most highly sought-after prizes in American finance. Powell has conceded that she joined Goldman Sachs despite having no background in the subject of finance, but has said that her entire career has been guided by the notion of not planning a lot but rather "just taking that leap of faith."
Powell oversaw the firm's impact investing business and served as the president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation beginning in 2010. This was in addition to her responsibilities as global head of the Office of Corporate Engagement and a member of the Goldman Sachs Partnership Committee.
In her role as president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, Powell led one of the world’s largest corporate foundations with over $500 million in assets. Powell helped build and was responsible for all the Foundation’s initiatives supporting and developing entrepreneurs around the world, including 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses. 10,000 Women provides women entrepreneurs in developing countries with business education, access to capital and mentors. Under Powell, Goldman Sachs partnered with International Finance Corporation and Overseas Private Investment Corporation to raise 600 million dollars, to provide access to capital for more than 100,000 women worldwide. To realize this project, Powell worked closely with the State Department.
Goldman's 10,000 Small Businesses, which was co-chaired by Lloyd Blankfein, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, supports the growth and expansion of small business in the US and UK. When asked why he decided to participate, Warren Buffett said. "In a very, very nice way, [Powell] gets all the rest of us to work quite hard." Part of Goldman Sachs' rationale for these two publicized programs was to repair its image following the 2008 global financial crisis.
Earning a salary of $2 million as president of the foundation, Powell engendered some disapproving comments within the firm from those who thought the pay package too large given she was not an earner. However, her compensation was in line with those top people in other high-monied charities. For 2016 and the very beginning of 2017 she had $6.2 million in earnings from the firm. Her total assets by early 2017 were in the range of $6 million to $19 million.
Powell has both supporters and detractors from her time at the firm, with some regarding her as a quite capable leader in the areas she was involved in with others viewing her as "content lite" for her lack of financial knowledge. Said one of her former colleagues: "The most remarkable thing about Dina Powell is that she can manage up better than anybody I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I believe managing up is when you are able to get the people whom you work for to think you are unbelievably good and competent at what you do." A former Goldman partner said, "Her gift is that she’s incredibly politically astute. She is an incredible worker of people and relationships, and she is that type of person where, if you come into the room and Dina wants to make you feel like you’re important or whatever, you are going to feel it. She is very effective at that, and the exterior package is really well put together. So she plays the part extremely well...." Rogers has said in response to these chacterizations: "She wasn’t in the revenue-producing area of the firm, so maybe some people here were jealous of her accomplishments. But I’ll say I know a lot of other people apply standards to her that they never would apply to a man. That’s just a fact.”
Powell also led Goldman Sachs Gives, a donor-advised fund through which the firm's current and retired partners can recommend grants in support of communities around the world. Goldman Sachs Gives was established in 2007 and structured as a vehicle to consolidate Goldman Sachs partners’ charitable giving.
During her time at Goldman Sachs, Powell joined the boards of directors or trustees of the Harvard Business School's Social Enterprise Initiative, the American University in Cairo, the Center for Global Development, Vital Voices, and the Nightingale-Bamford School. Dina Habib Powell is listed as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Trilateral Commission.
Powell has worked productively with Democrats such as Obama administration advisors Valerie Jarrett and Gene Sperling. A number of other Democrats are on good terms with her as well. Publisher and progressive voice Arianna Huffington has spoken highly of Powell.
Powell had no relationship with the incoming President or his family until after the United States presidential election, 2016. Then, by Powell's account and some others, she got an out-of-nowhere call from Ivanka Trump, who was interested in the metrics by which the success of 10,000 Women had been judged. She thus became involved with the incoming administration's transition period, particularly with regard to the empowerment of women and girls and the potentialities of female entrepreneurship. By another accounting, the two may have been connected through hedge fund manager David McCormick. By a third account, cable television host Mika Brzezinski played the key role, taking Powell to Trump Tower and introducing her to both Ivanka and Ivanka's father, as part of what Brzezinski later said was an effort on her part to elevate the quality of people and ideas the incoming executive was coming in contact with. Regardless, Powell quickly became one of Ivanka's most trusted advisors; the New York Times called Powell the first daughter's "all-around guide in the administration."
Starting January 20, 2017, Powell began serving as Senior Advisor to the President for Entrepreneurship, Economic Growth and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so she became one of the few Bush administration officials to join this new administration. Powell relocated from New York City to Washington as part of taking this job. However, her family stayed in New York, and Powell resided in a series of hotels, reinforcing the notion that she enforthed that she would only join the administration for one year's time. As part of this change of path she became divested of her interest in Goldman Sachs. In the White House position she earns a salary of $179,700, the highest level wage in the White House.
In this governmental role, Powell led a joint American-Canadian program to advance the role of women in business, making reference to what was formally called the United States-Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. This efforting involved Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well. Another Powell involvement involved a listening session on the related topics of domestic and international human trafficking.
Powell was visible outside that scope of her role per se when she was part of a meeting between the chief executive and Saudi defense minister Mohammed bin Salman. She subsequently shared responsibility for overseeing a $200 billion worths amount of U.S.-Saudi deals. She continued to assist Ivanka, in particular in introducing her to the politically connected including some of the just defeated. Powell's network of contacts in the financial, corporate, and governmental worlds proved a valuable asset for the new administration and she assisted in a few of the early hires. Another such hire in late April 2017 was for a chief-of-staff for Ivanka, that being someone Powell knew from 10,000 Women. Powell commented regarding Ivanka's staff, "We’re all one team. We all work on these initiatives together."
Even after being appointed deputy national security advisor in March 2017, Powell still spends 20 percent of her time in this, her initial role.
In June 2017, Powell was a key advisor on a trip to Canada to iron out economic issues with that nation.
Powell was on the short list for White House Chief of Staff to replace Reince Priebus. In fact, it was Ivanka and her husband who were pushing for Powell to be so anointed. Reportedly the chief executive was happy with Powell's performance so far and considered the idea, but in July 2017 chose Homeland Security Secretary and former General John F. Kelly.
Making reference to the fallout from the neo-Nazi and white supremacist-led August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Powell was reportedly quite upset by the chief executive's rhetoric and performance. But she had no immediate plans to effectuate a departure; in the paraphrasing words of Politico, she and McMaster "told people it is too serious and dangerous a moment in the world for them to simply walk away." Meanwhile, she continued being part of the faction system in the White House in particular in relation to Bannonist economic policy. Her reportedly "tense" relationship with Bannon came to an end on August 18, when Bannon left.
On March 15, 2017, Powell was named to the post of Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, all the while retaining her economic position as well, although the NSC one was expected to be the most major in terms of time served. The impetus for this assignment came from the recently named national security advisor, H. R. McMaster, who himself was responding to people outside the administration suggesting her name. In this new role she was seen as a likely rival to the existing Deputy, former commentator K. T. McFarland. It was expected that her brief would focus on fostering inter-agency cooperation, but how her lack of a national security background, and the fact that her past administration experiences that revolved around the use of soft power would play out in a new administration dedicated to the use of hard power, was unclear.
Within the White House factional battles between the forces of Steve Bannon, which included the likes of Julia Hahn and Sebastian Gorka, against those of Jared Kushner, Powell was seen as aligned with the relative moderates, those being Kushner, Ivanka, and fellow Goldman Sachs figure Gary Cohn, with Cohn as well as Kushner being a faction leader. Bannon criticized the four as "Democrats" and "globalists", although Powell, at least, had solid bona fides as a Republican and was defended by several Republican senators as a principled conservative. Longtime Republican operative Charlie Black additionally said, “It’s important for people to understand Dina Powell worked for Dick Armey and George W. Bush. She’s no liberal.” Powell also had considerably more experience in government than the others in this group of four.
In April 2017 the New York Times labeled Powell a "rising star" in the national security establishment, an appellation echoed by Vogue magazine, while the Associated Press wrote that "Dina Powell has quietly established herself as a White House power." Additionally, the Washington Post wrote that "she is one of the most interesting figures in the new administration." In part this level of attention was because in that month, McMaster elevated the Deputy for Strategy position to a higher role within the NSC, meaning that Powell came to attend both the Principals Committee and National Security Council Deputies Committee. At the same time McMaster arranged for the imminent departure of McFarland. For her part, Powell assisted McMaster in his development of working relationships with various members of the Cabinet. € In addition, Powell attempted to guide McMaster on the best ways to have useful interchanges with the chief executive himself.
Powell was one of the key figures in securing the release of Egyptian aid worker Aya Hijazi. Regarding the May 2017 report of a Donald Trump revelation of classified information to Russia, which she was present in the room during, she stated: "This story is false."
She was among the top officials escorting the chief executive on his first foreign trip, which in May 2017 started with a two-day stay in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, she had been heavily involved in the planning for the Middle Eastern portion of the trip. She was involved in several negotiations with Middle Eastern parties, where she was sometimes the only woman at the table. She declined to follow Saudi customs and not only did not cover her hair but wore a dress that revealed her legs as well. She also ensured that one of the headliner speeches made reference to women's rights in Saudi Arabia. In all this, Powell's prior experience in government and her set of contacts in the Arab world played a key role in making the first part of the trip a successful venture, and she had done some of advance work prior to the trip. As one connected former official said, "A normal White House would have a larger cohort of experienced people, so Dina’s own experience means she’s more valuable — and more influential." A New York Times story characterized Powell as "a power inside the administration, reassuring worried outsiders."
Beginning in June 2017, Powell involved U.S. efforts to free assorted American hostages held in countries overseas, particularly in agency of informing families. The following month she was one of those accompanying on the trip to Poland and Germany en toward the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit. By then she was coming under sustained attack by GotNews.com, owned by Charles C. Johnson, nativist blogger Mike Cernovich, and such ilks for being aligned with the McMaster "globalist" faction of the security council. At the same time she came in for highly positive media treatments in more mainstream outlets like Business Insider, with titles such as "How Goldman Sachs legend Dina Powell became Trump's national security star". An Axios report included her as part of an informal "Committee to Save America" from the chief executive.
She then went to the Middle East on the next Kushnerian peace process trip. This took place in late August 2017 and also made the involvement of envoy Jason Greenblatt. By this time the likes of Bannon and Gorka were gone from the White House while Powell was still an ascendant force there. The trip was viewed positively within the Administration, which continued to think that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was achievable. This was followed by a secret trip to the Middle East made by Kushner, Powell, and others. By November 2017 she was part of a "core four" drafting a plan for a comprehensive Middle East peace, along with Kushner, Greenblatt, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman. Given that the other three were Orthodox Jews with various ties to Israel, Powell's presence as a native-born Egyptian was especially important.
Throughout the turmoil in the administration as 2017 wore on, Powell was effective in keeping a low profile and maintaining the trust of the chief executive. She was mentioned as a possible replacement for Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley should that person replace the speculations-for-depating Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. That however did not manifest itself, once CIA Director Mike Pompeo became the apparent Tillerson replacement and Senator Tom Cotton the replacement for him.
A major accomplishment of Powell in December 2017 was completion of the administration's National Security Strategy document. She worked on it intensively with McMaster and senior NSC staffer Nadia Schadlow. In doing so they talked with numerous national security experts and stakeholders as well as gaining the buy-in of Cabinet-level officials.
On December 8, 2017, it was announced that Powell would be leaving the administration in early 2018, which will probably be January or early February of said year, subsequently elaborated to be after a delayed vice presidential trip to the Middle East had been initiated. In specificity, Powell would be returning to her life in New York, with a goal of spending more time with her family. She had also reportedly become worn out by the duties of the job and tired of the never-ending battles within the White House. The administration's set of never-ending controversies gave her pause as to the effects upon her career, with her reportedly asking friends "Am I f---ed?" and "When should I leave?" In addition, the above-mentioned possible path to the Ambassador to the UN position, which would permit her to work in New York, was no longer open.
White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders proclaimed Powell a "trusted advisor", said that Powell had only ever planned to stay for a year, and indicated that Powell would "continue to support the President's agenda and work on Middle East policy." The White House statement denoting her decision included considerable praise from her boss McMaster as well as from top in-law Kushner, and CNBC noted it was in contrast to the more terse official statements that accompanied many of the other administration departures.
Four administration officials indicated that the decision to leave really was hers. Several officials viewed her departure as a significant loss for the White House and one official said, "Without her, it really would have been worse." Obama administration veteran Jeremy Bash commented, “She’s been able to be a bridge between the foreign policy establishment and the administration, and she has been trusted by both sides.” Commentator Ed Kilgore wrote, "Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell is by all accounts a very bright woman. She has illustrated her savvy by getting out of the Trump White House on a high note, without a lot of enemies, while preserving her ability to influence the president from outside government." Vanity Fair noted Powell's continued skills in getting praiseworthy treatment in high-profile media outlets.
Powell married Richard C. Powell on January 10, 1998. A public relations professional, he became a managing director of the Washington-based Quinn Gillespie & Associates and now is employed by Teneo as the president of Teneo Strategy. Teneo is a firm founded by associates of the Clintons.
The couple has two daughters, born in 2002 and 2006. In 2007 the couple purchased a $3.85 million condominium apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, at The Metropolitan, Philip Johnson’s horizontal-striped high-rise.
She received the Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award, associated with the University of Texas, in 2006.
In 2007, Powell was presented with an American by Choice Award during a special naturalization ceremony performed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; the award recognizes outstanding achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens.
In 2017, she was the honored speaker for a State Department dinner in acknowledgment of the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women's Mentoring Partnership. At the same time Working Mother named her as one of the 50 Most Powerful Moms of 2017.
|Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs
Title last held byJohn Podesta
as Counselor to the President
|Senior Counselor to the President for Economic Initiatives
Served alongside: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway
|New office||Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy
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