Don’t be surprised by news of an upcoming change in the White House Press Department after the news revealed today by New York Magazine.
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New York‘s investigative work uncovered previously undisclosed private messages that White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah sent to Republican colleagues when he worked for the Republican National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Shah arrived back at the RNC after a brief stint working at America Rising LLC, Jeb Bush’s political action committee, so he can’t be considered one of the President’s early supporters, and the messages he sent more than indicate that he was actively rooting against Trump’s candidacy.
One series of messages dates back to December of 2015 when Shah sent an email from his personal account to senior RNC researcher Andrew Hemming. The email contained a transcript of a 2008 Trump interview on CNN where he compliments then President-elect Barack Obama and calls his selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State “a great appointment.”
Shah asks Hemming if he can get footage of the interview while making sure that any reply the researcher sent would be outside of the RNC email servers. Three days later, the footage turned up in an anti-Trump ad produced by the Jeb Bush campaign.
Ten months later, after Trump defeated Bush and all the other Republican challengers for the presidential nomination, Shah sent another email to Hemming discussing the release of the infamous Access Holywood “pussy-grabbing” video footage.
“I’m kinda enjoying this, some justice. I honestly don’t think it’s the worst thing he’s done but he somehow got passes for the other acts,’ Shah wrote.
“Trump is a deplorable,” he added, in case his sentiments weren’t already clear.
Shah was brought into the White House from the RNC by its former Chairman Reince Priebus, long since fired and replaced by General John Kelly as Trump’s Chief of Staff.
Reaction to the news of the heretofore hidden correspondence was revealing, to say the least:
“Holy shit,” a source who advised Trump said, “plenty of people in the West Wing hate him right now. You hear them say things like, I’m serving the country. That’s code for, I hate the fucker.”
The same advisor said that during the campaign:
“We all thought he was a moron. He’s by no means a stupid guy, but he was such a pain in the ass and stubborn.”
While Shah declined to comment to New York Magazine on the story, a spokesperson for the White House said that he had told “his superiors in the administration” about the messages previously. Communications Director Hope Hicks issued the following statement in response to the story:
Raj Shah is a talented operative and skilled communicator. We have always known about his previous roles and are so pleased he is using his unparalleled capabilities to advance the agenda of President Trump, whom he has tremendous respect for. Perhaps if the leakers trying to undermine him were as talented and smart as Raj, they would be here fighting for the American people every day, rather than trying desperately to remain relevant by spreading information that Raj himself shared many months ago. Raj’s skills as a press secretary are only surpassed by his stellar character.
…And, one might add, his impeccable ability to grasp someone’s character at first impression.
It remains to be seen if Shah can retain the confidence of our insecure President after he hears directly about his past comments. The turmoil that has rocked the administration’s communications team, already on their second press secretary and third communications director in just one year, has been unprecedented, with one source close to the White House saying that the turnover in that area can be explained fairly simply:
“When every other department has stabilized, everyone wonders why the communications and press teams continue to be dysfunctional. It’s because it’s filled with people who loathe the president or simply lack the competence needed to present a coherent strategy.”
It’s difficult to blame them for the first of those reasons anyway.