WASHINGTON, D.C.— White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah — the highest ranking Indian-American to serve in the West Wing—has indicated he plans to leave the administration soon, according to media reports and sources close to him.
Yahoo News first reported last month that two sources acquainted with Shahsaid he thought that his assistance in the administration’s hoped-for confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh “would allow him to end his White House tenure on a high note.”
The sources told Yahoo News, however, that the nomination process, which has been complicated by sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, triggering an FBI investigation, “may have put a damper on Shah’s departure plans.”
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Sources close to Shah confirmed to India Abroad that Shah had shared the opinion of several others in McGahn’s office that confirmation of Kavanaugh would be a “slam dunk.”
But now, the sources said, Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been in limbo till the completion of the FBI investigation. Sources said that if the confirmation gets torpedoed and the White House has to opt for a back-up plan into action, Shah would likely stay on till after the mid-term elections and perhaps even beyond.
Neither Shah nor the White House responded to e-mails from India Abroad asking whether Shah had informed Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders or the Chief of Staff John Kelly of his planned exit.
Sources told India Abroad that Shah, one of the most visible Indian-Americans in any administration in recent years, had been moved in July to White House Counsel Don McGahn’s office because of his opposition research skills and expertise that he had honed at the Republican National Committee targeting Hillary Clinton. Sources said his role was to help McGahn push Kavanaugh’s confirmation. News reports have also indicated McGahn’s departure could come sometime this fall.
The sources said that Shah’s plans to exit may have also been prompted the new set up with Communications Chief Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive.
Yahoo also reported recently thatwhile Shah reports directly to Sanders and has been serving as a spokesman for Kavanaugh, “the president himself has indicated he doesn’t have a strong personal relationship with his deputy press secretary.”
Citing one of the sources familiar with Shah’s plans, Yahoo News said his exit “calculus” included his assumption that Sanders is also planning to leave the White House soon.
Yahoo said Shah was aware he wouldn’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, noting that “press briefings have become scarce in recent months amid an increasingly tense relationship between the White House and its press corps.”
Yahoo News added that according to its source, “The allegations against Kavanaugh likely complicated Shah’s plans, 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.”
It said a third source had predicted“they expect Shah to leave the White House soon after the confirmation process is concluded.”
Both Yahoo and the sources that spoke to India Abroad, acknowledged that Shah has already lined up a new job to take up as soon as the Kavanaugh confirmation process is complete, with one telling India Abroad, “You bet it’s in political research with the proliferation of well-funded right-leaning conservative outfits.”
“He very well could be walking into the top job at one of these or starting his own with the tons of funding now readily available,” the source added.
But Yahoo News said according to a former White House staffer, still, “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.