Josh Raffel, a senior communications official in the White House who has been a go-to crisis manager and worked closely with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, is leaving the administration, officials confirmed Tuesday.
Raffel’s departure within the next two months comes as Kushner is under increasing scrutiny for his inability to secure a complete FBI background check for his security clearance, and with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation intensifying.
While Raffel is probably unknown to much of the public, an Axios report characterized his departure as a significant loss: “One White House official told me that when there’s a crisis ‘we call Josh.’ The official said he didn’t envy Raffel because ‘he is always handling the worst stories.’”
The Raffel news came just one day after Joseph Yun, a top U.S. diplomat overseeing North Korea policy, announced his retirement.
And that news came three days after Elaine Duke, the deputy secretary of Homeland Security, announced her retirement.
And that news came the same day that we learned Sally Donnelly, a prominent adviser to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, is resigning.
And that news came four days after Reed Cordish, a senior aide to Jared Kushner, announced his departure from the White House.
And two days before that, George David Banks, a special assistant to the president for international energy and environmental policy on the National Economic Council, resigned because of reported difficulties with his security clearance.
The Onion recently ran a satirical piece with a headline that read, “White House Now Just Holding Continuous Going-Away Party For Departing Staffers.” It struck a chord for a reason.
And on that note, this seems like a good time to update the list of prominent Trump World departures:
Cabinet: HHS Secretary Tom Price
West Wing: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn, Director of Public Liaison George Sifakis, Office of Public Liaison Communications Director Omarosa Manigault, Staff Secretary Rob Porter, Deputy Assistant to the President Sean Cairncross, Chief Usher Angella Reid, Assistant to the President Reed Cordish, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Carroll (who’s leaving his post to become the “drug czar”)
White House Communications: Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, Communications Director #1 Mike Dubke, Communications Director #2 Anthony Scaramucci, Rapid Response Director Andy Hemming, Speechwriter David Sorensen, Senior Communications Official Josh Raffel
National Security team: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland, Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, Advisor to the National Security Council Monica Crowley, Director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Deputy Chief of Staff at the National Security Council Tera Dahl, Director Of Strategic Planning at the National Security Council Rich Higgins, NSC Middle East Advisor Derek Harvey, U.S. diplomat overseeing North Korea policy Joseph Yun, Senior Advisor to the Defense Secretary Sally Donnelly
The self-identified “nationalist” wing: Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon, National Security Aide Sebastian Gorka
Justice Department: Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, FBI Assistant Director Mike Kortan, Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section chief David Laufman, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, dozens of U.S. Attorneys
Office of the Vice President: Chief of Staff Josh Pitcock, Press Secretary Marc Lotter, Chief Counsel Mark Paoletta, Domestic Policy Director Daris Meeks
A cavalcade of others that includes CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, National Economic Council Deputy Director Jeremy Katz, Domestic Policy Council Deputy Director Paul Winfree; Director of Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub, Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Director William Bradford, Department of Homeland Security Faith-Based Director Jamie Johnson, Corporation for National and Community Service Chief of External Affairs Carl Higbie, Office of Drug Control Policy Deputy Chief of Staff Taylor Weyeneth, Trump legal team spokesperson Mark Corallo, EPA Office of Science and Technology Director Elizabeth Southerland, State Department Counselor Maliz Beams, State Department Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, Ambassador to Panama John Feeley, National Economic Council adviser George David Banks, Federal Railroad Administration’s acting chief Heath Hall, and Carl Icahn, who served as a special adviser to the president on regulatory reform.
As we discussed a while back, this does not include a variety of people the president nominated for prominent administrative posts – including some cabinet positions – who ultimately withdrew in the face of assorted controversies.
As for why, exactly, Trump World is such a volatile environment, Vox’s Ezra Klein had a good piece on this a couple of weeks ago, explaining, “Discussions with people who work in the Trump administration, or work closely with the Trump administration, make clear that the core of the staffing crisis is a management crisis. Working in this White House is a frustrating, dispiriting, and often surreal experience, and it exposes staffers to both legal and reputational risks.”