Joseph Whitehouse Hagin has served in every Republican presidential administration beginning with Ronald Reagan’s. He worked closely with George H.W. Bush when the senior Bush was both vice president and president, and then served as deputy chief of staff for operations for George W. Bush and now, for Trump.
Hagin is widely described as discreet and even-keeled, a collegial but reserved workaholic Ohioan who assiduously avoids the spotlight. As early as the 2000 presidential race, Hagin was already regarded as something of a Washington wise man.
In the George W. Bush White House, Hagin worked closely with the president during some of that administration’s most sensitive, high-pressure moments, especially following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as he accompanied Bush to Ground Zero for the president’s famous bullhorn speech.
Hagin helped create the Department of Homeland Security and was tasked with preventing leaks of the project. He aided Bush’s covert missions to Iraq and facilitated the modernization of the Situation Room, managed the president’s schedule and chaired the White House Task Force on the Olympics for the 2002 winter games. With a background as a volunteer firefighter, Hagin is also known for having good rapport with security and military officials.
As attention turned toward presidential transition planning, Hagin’s name kept coming up to people such as Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming first chief of staff, who brought him into the transition effort, Priebus confirmed. Hagin joined in October of 2016, when the transition was still being chaired by Chris Christie, now the outgoing governor of New Jersey. As 2016 came to a close, Hagin was spotted at Trump Tower in New York, and in January, his position as deputy chief of staff for operations was confirmed.
While there are growing numbers of Bush alumni in the Trump administration now, there’s also no doubt that there remains deep mistrust between some in the two camps, symptomatic of the broader divisions in today’s Republican Party. George W. Bush, with whom Hagin has had a close relationship, recently excoriated Trumpism in a speech in New York, and neither President Bush voted for Trump.
One close Trump adviser said in June 2018 that Hagin is eyeing the job of deputy director of the CIA and plans to leave his White House post almost immediately after returning from the Singapore summit. The deputy director job at the CIA came open with the rise of Gina Haspel to the director’s position last month. The job does not require Senate confirmation, making it easy for Hagin to make a lateral move there.
Hagin, a former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, was brought into the Trump White House to add some gravitas and operational know-how when most Trump aides had little to no White House experience.
Trump named Hagin to the post the day of his inauguration in January 2017, and Hagin pledged to serve at least a year in the untested administration. Trump has come to trust Hagin’s operational capabilities, seeing him as a steady hand who can execute complicated tasks, such as arranging the logistics for the Singapore summit.