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WASHINGTON -- A Stillwater native and graduate of Saint John's University is reportedly the top prospect to become White House chief of staff.

Denis McDonough, who currently serves as deputy national security adviser, is expected to be named to the position to replace Jack Lew, whom President Barack Obama has tapped to be U.S. Treasury secretary, according to reports.

McDonough, 43, is considered an expert on foreign policy. He served as a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama's 2008 campaign and held a similar position with former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

The White House dispatched McDonough to a mosque in Virginia last spring to reassure the Muslim community that the Obama administration would not stigmatize Muslims. The visit came in advance of a hearing by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., on the radicalization of Muslims in America.

"In the United States of America, we don't practice guilt by association," McDonough told the audience. "And let's remember that just as violence and extremism are not unique to any one faith, the responsibility to oppose ignorance and violence rests with us all."

In September, McDonough spoke on U.S. Policy and International Religious Freedom at a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. He is Catholic.

In addition to receiving a bachelor's degree in history and Spanish from Saint John's University, where he played safety on the football team, McDonough has a master's degrees from the Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

McDonough has become close to Obama since their introduction in 2007. As chief of staff, he would have control over the president's schedule, including who is allowed to meet with the president. For that reason, the White House chief of staff often has been dubbed "The Gatekeeper."

In another personnel matter, Obama is expected to appoint B. Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, as permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He has served as acting director since late 2011.

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