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Cockburn

Oh fo’ Shah! Did Deputy Communications Director Raj leak Kelly Sadler’s McCain remark?

29 May 2018

11:46 PM

29 May 2018

11:46 PM

The media pack may have moved on, yet questions still linger as to who exactly was behind the leak of White House staffer Kelly Sadler’s remark about Senator John McCain.

For those unfamiliar (or who have simply run out of room in their brains for media outrages), Sadler made a nasty comment during a closed-door communications team meeting about John McCain’s poor health after he came out against the president’s nomination of Gina Haspel for CIA director.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” she said. The press proceeded to have a field day about what was an off-colored jab made privately in frustration.

Sadler ended up calling the McCains to apologise. But the White House was more concerned with finding who the dastardly leaker was.


Sadler’s job was never in jeopardy (the history between McCain and Trump is no secret) but the incident was yet another example of how staffers within the administration constantly undermine one another.

The leaker has yet to be named, but Cockburn has spoken to an insider connected to the White House who placed the blame on Deputy Communications Director Raj Shah. And a separate White House staffer confirmed the allegation.

“It was/is widely suspected among all staff & those of us in contact with staff [that Shah was behind the leak],” the individual told Cockburn.

According to the source, Shah’s apparent motivation for the disclosure had nothing to do with policy or the fact that he was offended. He simply wished to ingratiate himself with the press corps.

“Raj’s motivations aren’t even totally ideological,” the individual told Cockburn, referring to the fact Shah was no fan of Trump before he became president. “Basically, he’s trading information to journalists so that he can get softballs (directly from a contact, or by extended favour) and appear to manage WH PR well when he stands in Sanders’ role, both to protect and advance his own tenure in the job, and to set himself up after his time in the WH if he is let go, or he finds a TV role or Trump isn’t re-elected,” he added.

Nasty. As Axios Jonathan Swan noted on May 25th, finger pointing by White House staff members should be taken with a grain of salt. When someone blames another for a leak, that can easily interpreted as “I don’t like this person.”

Whatever the validity of this particular accusation, it gives further proof that things are not all right in Trump’s communications department.

When lower staffers are trying to take out their supervisors, as Sadler herself did towards Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp in a meeting last week, there is clearly tension distracting the team from their job: to get the president’s message out.


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