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Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway hires a chief of staff

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway talks to reporters outside the West Wing at the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 07, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump and one of the most visible figures in the administration, is expanding her operation inside the White House by hiring a veteran congressional staffer as her chief of staff.

Conway has recruited Renee Hudson, who has been serving as chief of staff to Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), to work for her in the West Wing as her chief of staff, according to two Republican officials. Conway confirmed the hiring in an email late Friday and said that Hudson plans to begin work next week.

By hiring a chief of staff of her own, Conway is asserting and perhaps growing her influence in the White House, where a coterie of top advisers have been competing for Trump’s ear and over the shape of his agenda.

Hudson has significant experience on Capitol Hill and deep connections in Republican politics. She previously served as chief of staff to Reps. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.).

Hudson is married to Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), who is a gregarious and well-liked member of the Republican conference and a trusted ally of Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and other party leaders.

Conway does not have a traditional portfolio of responsibility, but she advises the president on all matters and enjoys walk-in privileges to the Oval Office. A pollster by training, Conway specializes in communications and messaging strategy, but she also has responsibility for veterans’ issues as well as health-care matters such as opioid abuse.

How Kellyanne Conway's TV interviews dominate the news cycle (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Conway, who served as Trump’s campaign manager during the general election, is one of Trump’s fiercest defenders and has gained a celebrity following among his supporters. She also has been a magnet for controversy, most recently by promoting first daughter Ivanka Trump’s clothing line in a Fox News interview, which was widely seen by members of both parties as a violation of government ethics rules.

In Hudson, Conway gets an aide with experience in the political trenches — including in chaotic work environments. Her more than eight years in Souder’s House office ended after the Indiana Republican resigned because he was caught having an extramarital affair with a district staffer.

Souder’s 2010 resignation came on Hudson’s wedding day to Richard Hudson, who was then the chief of staff to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.).

Controversial comments from Kellyanne Conway that made headlines

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 23: Presidential Advisor Kellyanne Conway onstage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February, 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Robert Costa contributed to this report.