WASHINGTON — One of the White House’s most visible staffers has his eye on the exit door. Raj Shah, a deputy press secretary who has stepped behind the podium for numerous daily briefings, has told multiple people he plans to leave the West Wing following the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Shah has been leading the communications efforts in support of the confirmation process since Kavanaugh’s nomination in July. Two sources familiar with Shah’s thinking said he thought that helping to shepherd the successful confirmation would allow him to end his White House tenure on a high note.
The now contentious nomination may have put a damper on Shah’s departure plans.
The Trump administration initially expected Kavanaugh to be quickly and easily confirmed; however, the judge’s prospects have become more doubtful following a pair of allegations he sexually assaulted women during high school and college. Kavanaugh has denied the accusations.
Donald Trump’s White House has seen high turnover and there are frequent rumors of imminent exits that haven’t always panned out. This isn’t the first time there has been widespread speculation surrounding Shah.
Back in June, CBS News reported both Shah and press secretary Sarah Sanders were set to leave the West Wing. At the time, CBS said Shah had not “settled on an exact date” for his exit. Now his plans appear to have become far more concrete.
The White House did not immediately respond to an email from Yahoo News.
While Shah reports directly to Sanders and has had a high-profile role conducting briefings and serving as a spokesperson for Kavanaugh, the president himself has indicated he doesn’t have a strong personal relationship with his deputy press secretary.
Earlier this month as legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward was set to publish his book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” the newspaper published a recording of a phone conversation the reporter had with the president in August. On that call, Trump claimed he was not told the book was being written and would have liked to participate. Woodward said he spent months reaching out to White House aides, including Shah, to request an interview with the president.
“Raj, I hardly have … I don’t speak to Raj,” Trump said.
One of the sources familiar with Shah’s plans said his exit “calculus” included his assumption that Sanders is also planning to leave the White House soon. The source said that Shah knows he won’t be in line for the press secretary job when Sanders leaves and wouldn’t be interested in the position if he was offered it. Press briefings have become scarce in recent months amid an increasingly tense relationship between the White House and its press corps.
The allegations against Kavanaugh likely complicated Shah’s plans, the source said, because rather than ending on the high note as he had hoped, the deputy press secretary will be associated with a controversial Supreme Court nominee. However, a separate source said that in spite of the turbulence, Shah has assured the White House he remains confident Kavanaugh will be confirmed and is proud of the work he has done for the judge. The third source also said they expect Shah to leave the White House soon after the confirmation process is concluded.
According to one well-placed Republican operative, rumors are running rampant that Shah has already lined up a new job. A former White House staffer separately told Yahoo News they heard Shah has a new gig ready as soon as Kavanaugh’s process is complete.
Still, the former staffer said the Kavanaugh drama makes Shah’s transition to the private sector messier than he would have liked.
“I can’t imagine this is the exit he wanted,” the ex-staffer said.
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