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Raj Shah
  Profile Interview - Raj Shah  CSPAN  April 20, 2018 9:34pm-10:02pm EDT

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white house principal deputy white house press secretary raj shah as part of our profile interview series with trump administration officials. in this half-hour interview, he talks about his life growing up in connecticut, his interest in politics, and what it is like working for the president. the principals deputy white house press secretary. we are seeing you behind the podium on occasion. for that? prepare mr. shah: we have a preparation process i used to oversee the previous role for that? mr. shah: here. -- oversee in a previous role here. our staff have to produce our answers, and we will have a briefing prep session with the person that goes behind the podium. usually that is sarah. &a before things get
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revisited one more time, and prepare the book the individual gets sent out with. usually it is her, so it is her voice. when i do it, i am reflected in the talking points and answers we have. >> our most of the questions you anticipate usually asked? mr. shah: most of the questions we anticipate are not asked. do anticipate most of the questions. we create a big universe of potential questions, and we get a lot of viewpoints in terms of do anticipate most of the questions. we create asession, have you tht that way?r coming at it from a different angle. time you have done time you ha, or watched sarah sanders do it,
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what has been the toughest question you have had to answer? mr. shah: there are routine questions we are not at liberty to answer, or because the information is classified or confidential, or the information is not satisfying to the reporters asking questions. when you are not able to put the becomes abed, that difficult issue to navigate. >> how often do you get input from the president, or questions you might have for him? mr. shah: if you are doing the press briefing, you should run specific questions by him. it is as needed, so to speak. the press officials will interact with the president more when we are traveling, actually. >> what is this job like for you? mr. shah: it is interesting. i find it surreal to see yourself on television. is it unusual. -- it is unusual.
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i have spent my career behind the scenes, so this is a different role. i have never done a live television interview until last september. it has been fun. interesting. it has been very engaging. >> let's talk about your career -- born in connecticut. what did your parents do? mr. shah: interesting. it has been very engaging. my mother was a dentist. she is in retirement. my father was an engineer by training, and later became an owner of a chain of retail stores in connecticut, near new jersey as well. -- they came here from india, and very much lived the american dream. raised myself and my sister, who now lives in north carolina, with a lot of high hopes and opportunities. mr. shah: where in indiamr. shah: is your family from
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originally? mr. shah: my father's brother still live in india. his sister moved to houston, lived there a few years, then moved to india. my father's side of the live in. his sister moved to lives therey has a lot that, my mother's side mostly lives in the united states. >> do they see on the news or in the web? >> the press in india covers me extensively. it is a little bizarre. my grandmother in india has seen coverage of me in the news over there in mumbai. >> you are a big deal for the american indian population, right? mr. shah: i think so. there is enough coverage in the indian-american press. the press in india, local newspapers -- the national newspapers out of delhi and mumbai have covered my career
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movement. it is a little unusual, but all press is good press i guess. >> will be like in high school, and what did you do? like in highyou school, and what did you do? mr. shah: i never anticipated a career in public politics. wereof my family members all.political at i was there, and 9/11 happened my senior year of high school. i could not understand why human beings would do something so barbaric, so terrible. it got me reading the news, hanging attention anyway -- pay ing attention in a way i had not before. interest ina real
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public policy issues, and took a wh interest in public policy issues, and took a whole different track in what i was doing with my life. >> why cornell university? i was thinking about becoming i was thinking about becoming premed at the time. that did not last very long --that was like freshman bio class. it was the best school i could get into. >> what did you study? mr. shah: i ended up becoming a governmentmr. shah:of political. >> was there a book that really influenced you growing major, tt up? mr. shah: that is a good question. i would say a lot of influences. "thething from reading looming tower" from david from after 9/11 -to stuff about constitutional law. there is a collection of dissenting opinions -- i am
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forgetting the name, it could literally be "scalia dissents" in a wide range of supreme court cases. his view became to be what is known as the originalist jurisprudence view today. it was not very popular when he wrote them. i thought reading it, this guy makes a lot of sense. >> do you remember the first time coming to washington dc? mr. shah: i came here as a child. my parents took me to look at the museums and national monuments, that sort of thing. i could not tell you exactly -- i was very young. >> you came back into thousand five as an intern in the bush white house. what was that like? a. shah: i worked in scheduling office that did vetti
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research onon people the president would shake hands with when he went to x, y, -- local businessman, donor, and it sparked a career in opposition research. >> explain what that is. mr. shah: opposition research, in many ways, political communications is information driven and fact driven. you don't make the case, this person will vote to raise your taxes, you will say this person voted to raise taxes 327 times, for example. the person who gets you the number 327 is your industry of opposition researchers, going through quotes, clips, old interviews, trying to find information to build the case
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the communications team will take to build either a positive case on behalf of the candidate, or what i was trained to do was the negative the commm will take to bu case against the opponents. you came to this on the cusp of where we are today with social media, youtube and facebook and others. how has that changed the job you do in opposition research? >mr. shah: is a very different businessmr. shah: and a different piece of politics than used to exist. there are two ways to look at it. first, from a technical perspective, the amount of information that exists that you need to review is exponentially larger. video clips exist. what they call tracking footage -- volunteers sometimes have a video camera at events, and you
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see what is useful and not useful. everything in multimedia. all these new mediums exist. it creates a new volume that requires more stuffing, more organization to go through. the other piece is people get their news a much different ways than they used to. this is the first twitter presidency, right? news, cable television does not has todayeach that it so long ago. there are so many fractious sources of information. you have to provide content. you have to feed the beast and provide information not only on a daily or hourly basis, but sometimes minute by minute. if somebody says something that is inaccurate, the only way to get in edgewise is to tweet immediatel, because 24 hours later we are talking about something else. >> the daily briefing -- is that
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still relevant, or is it a relevant of the past? mr. shah: that is a good question. i think the daily televised brief, in the way it is presented today, has certain deficiencies. a lot of times, because it is on camera, you have reporters acting out, so to speak, making themselves part of the news story. also because it is on camera, we modulate modulate or disclose what we are saying in different ways. it is a little bit of theater that goes on there. i have spoken to predecessors. i have talked to folks prior to the cable news age -- it was a different environment.
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it was a give-and-take where people got information. it is a tradition that has real value. it doesi exist for a reason. i think getting a presidential spokesman on a daily basis has value and it provides voice or perspective in a routinized way. people have been talking about changes. i think that is an appropriate conversation. >> if you were to change it, what would change moving ahead? mr. shah: that is a good question. i think i might have more discussions -- content driven discussions off-camera. instead of formalizing the process and being heavily scrutinized, and as a result not as free-flowing, instead have something less formal, more candid and straightforward.
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that type of setting could happen off-camera in some ways. i think that might be an mixing in withrth more frequency. i think and other times -- in other times, when there is not on,ole lot of news going the value of the press briefing is not high. the only time you can make news there is if you make a mistake. those are the things i would consider. right now the process that we have -- i think people are pretty aware of its strengths and weaknesses. >> if you watch cable news, there is a lot of coverage beyond the policy issues -- salacious details, "playboy" stars and playmates. what do you think? mr. shah: we are frustrated by
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the coverage. when we look at the president's record on issues we think the american people care about -- what is the president's policy doing to make it easier to get a job, to make it easier to provide opportunities for children, to make schools and communities safer, to protect us from foreign threats? we think his record is stellar. i have no bones about defending anything from a policy perspective this president has advocated for. that has not been a focus of the press. i don't think the public is concerned about every minute detail of controversy that discovered wall to wall on some of the outlets he mentioned. we don't get to pick and choose what folks cover. we think more focused on policy and -- focus on policy and
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things that would be beneficial to people's lives would be worth covering. >> based on that, how do you define fake news? mr. shah: i would say fake news, and the term can mean different things to different people -- i think it is not true, or so misleading it might as well not be true. sometimes you take three or four fax that are personally true, and then there is a headline extrapolates conclusions that have no bearing on reality. i have been in situations where i have been in the room for a conversation, extrapolates concs that and of the reporter said this conversation happened, we have four sources that were aware of it. i was sitting there, i know that is not the case.
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at the end of the day, i know what is going on in the white house better than any reporter will have an understanding of. what they choose to cover in print routinely is not what i see. not all the time. there are folks that get it right. do think the level of accuracy and fairness in coverage is not there. >> let's go back to your career. you interned here in 2005. then what did you do? mr. shah: i graduated college and got my first job at the rnc, the republican national committee. my job was to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and pull news clips at thenical officials
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rnc and elsewhere. i would do the news clipping service for the party organization at the time. at the rnc and elsewhere. >> you stayed at the rnc? mr. shah: i worked on campaigns, a few statewide elections. i did the last three presidential election cycles at the rnc i>> you stayedn their opposition research. >> opposition research. >> one bio said you worked for jeb bush. that is not the case? mr. shah: no, i have respect for him, but i did not work for him. >> how did that get out there? >> i don't know, but that could be a good example of fake news. >> you are one of the first to joined the administration. mr. shah: i was in a van with five attorneys and five national security council staffers. somewhere set up to staff the nfc. i was there to send press releases out.
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the president's remarks at the inauguration and the like. it was very cool. my parents were on themy parentl national mall listening to the inaugural address. i was sitting at what was the upper press while people were told the television off of the wall. i was not sure who was getting it or receiving it, it was a bit of a commotion. it was exciting the first few days. >> if you were to do an was the upper oral history of the first 24 hours of being in this white house, seeing the transition of power, what stood out? mr. shah: it was amazing. it was an incredible thing. a few observations -- i don't know how important they are, but the building itself is old, it's
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traditional -- the architecture itself stood out to me. time in theent any west wing in the last eight years. i was getting lost walking around. the architecture to the west time in the westwing, in some ways it is ofe space. that is the way it is structured specially. it is old. this was built centuries old. i guess my quite centuries, but will -- not quite centuries, but well over 100 years. i don't think there is any other place in government, really in civilized society where you have such an important institution stood up, and it is basically emptied out overnight. not even overnight, but in a matter of minutes. i saw president obama's chief of staff leaving with a box. he hugged someone as i was
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walking and. i think that was the last political official in the obama administration. i was learning how to send press releases in the first few minutes, where everyone would sit. i think our transition operation handled a lot of the big questions, but a lot of the granular how do you get to work every day, how do you wave someone in through secret service -- all these details we had no visibility or understanding. that process was, given the gravity of what we were doing, the security placed around us, the logistical challenges we did not have insight into, and this was on a friday and weekend, where most government agencies were closed, it was a pretty herculean task to keep the lights on. i worked in research
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communications within the white wase, and within that helping the briefing process prep was helping the briefing process prep for sean spicer when he was press secretary. when sarah was promoted in the press secretary role, her previous role as deputy was empty. she thought i would fill it just well. in terms of handling the press, the content, understanding how to answer and deliver questions, i had a lot of experience. but the kind of on the record forward facing spokesperson role is something i hasn't done previously. -- i hadn't do previouslyne. >> were you nervous the first time you were behind the podium? mr. shah: i was. a hectic news cycle that day.
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there were many moving parts that made that a difficult news briefing. a hectic news cycle that day. for that to be the first briefing was a little challenging. [laughter] it was definitely nerve-racking. startou are up there and free-flowing start free-flowing with the back-and-forth, the q&a, you setle in. >> did you say sarah, thanks for taking the day off? mr. shah: she was at disneyland with her kids. she had probably the only other briefingart a news that i can recall that was tougher than mine because of the subject matter. she said, good luck, but you are not going to get a hold of sympathy from me. isyou said donald trump the first twitter presidency. is that something you check when you wake up and go to bed? mr. shah: whenever the president
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tweets, we are aware of it. he has the ability to drive news by speaking directly to the public via twitter. inis incredibly effective delivering his message at any given moment. it has never existed before for a president. it is his brand. in it will change the news cycle like that. >> does he tell you when he is going to tweet something? mr. shah: sometimes he will tell us and ask for opinions and feedback on specific topics. it depends. >> this is an often asked question by your friends, but what is the private donald trump like? mr. shah: very much like the public donald trump. this president ran and won iit n many ways because he is real, he is unvarnished, he tells people what he is thinking. sometimes you are invited into the decision-making process in
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some ways. he is candid, straightforward, and he is an outsider. immetimes you will hear h scoff at institutions in washington dc. you will hear issues the public about, because he has been raised on twitter and elsewhere. the publi donald about, becauses very much a reflection of the individual who was elected and talks with staff privately. >> based on what you know in working with him, finish this sentence -- president trump's view of the media is what? mr. shah: that's a tricky question. of, generally speaking, disappointment. i think sometimes you could say to stay. -- could say disdain. they have the ability to get it right more often than they do.
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you see a lot of things in the press and you are inclined to believe them. then you see the same writers write things about this white house. he knows way more about what is going on here than i do. i saw a totally different thing happen. it is not reflective of the experience that i have here and what i know. i would say it is one of disappointment in some instances, disdain. >> does he get angry? mr. shah: of course. tweets and it seems like is angry.y, he he will express frustration from time to time. it is pretty clear. i don't think the president hides how he is feeling about specific topics often. i think the public gets that and
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appreciates that. >> is angry. he will express frustration from time to time. it i know you are focused on this job, but any thoughts about what is next for raj shah? us in theno, all of press operation have our hands full with what is going on. i will figure out the future whenever it arrives. >> your day begins at what time and ends when? mr. shah: it never really ends until you fall asleep in bed after a phone call at midnight about whatever issue was percolating. i usually get into the office around 7:00, 7:30. >> what do your parents think about what you are doing? mr. shah: they think it is pretty cool. [laughter] it wasn't until i got this job that my mom did not want me to go to law school. she was adamant i needed to get a higher degree in something. extendedcalls from members of the family, friends
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-- i saw your son on tv -- i think they get a kick out of it. >> final question, when you have vacation time, how do you relax? mr. shah: i don't really relax. i kick back and watch sports. that is kind of my thing. i'm getting a little bit of the tournament in right now. thanks for your time. created79, c-span was as a public service by america's cable-television companies and we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, created as a public service d.c. and ard the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> rachel all