Raj Shah, first Indian-American to be White House spokesperson, leaves
Shah stepped down earlier this month as principal deputy press secretary, a position that had made him deputy to Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, in which capacity he and held briefings for the White House media in her absence, speaking for President Donald Trump.Updated: Jan 16, 2019 00:15 IST
Raj Shah, the first Indian American to take the lectern in the White House media room as spokesperson, has left to join a lobbying firm, after months of speculation about his impending departure.
“I’m excited to join Brian, Jamie and the top-notch team to launch Ballard Media Group,” Shah said in a statement released Monday by the company, which also announced a new venture that he will chair with Jamie Rubin, a Clinton administration alumnus. It is called the Ballard Media Group, after Brian Ballard the president of the umbrella company, Ballard Partners.
Shah stepped down earlier this month as principal deputy press secretary, a position that had made him deputy to Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, in which capacity he and held briefings for the White House media in her absence, speaking for President Donald Trump.
He was the first Indian American ever appointed to the position and was also among a bunch of Indian American appointed by the president to senior positions in his administration. Nikki Haley became the first American of Indian descent to hold a cabinet position as ambassador to the United Nations. She left last December, Others who are still there include Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Seema Verma, who heads the medicaid and medicare sections at the department of health.
Among Shah’s more high-profile assignments was successfully shepherding the senate confirmation process of Brian Kavanaugh, the president’s nominee as a Supreme Court justice, last September.
Around that time, however, word was getting around of Shah’s departure. Reports had suggested Sanders was leaving as well, but she is still around.
Shah had also been singed by the president’s mercurial temperament, as had all other White House staffers at one stage or another. “I don’t speak to Raj,” the president told Bob Woodward about latter’s upcoming book then — in May — as to why the legendary Washington Post journalist had not interviewed him for the book. Woodward had said he made numerous requests through members of the president’s staff, and Shah was one of them.
But, unpredictable as ever, the president was effusive in his praise of Shah as well. “Deputy White House Press Secretary, Raj,” the president said introducing him at a White House Diwali event last November. “Good job. Raj has been with us for a long time, and what a great job he does.”
Shah exited the White House weeks later, in January.
Shah entered the Trump orbit in 2016 along with a group of Republican party officials led by Reince Priebus, who then went on to take senior positions in the administration. Priebus became the president’s first chief of staff, Sean Spicer became press secretary, and Katie Walsh was deputy chief of staff.
They have all left since, and so has Shah now.
First Published: Jan 15, 2019 23:39 IST