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White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah will make his briefing debut at the podium tomorrow. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be on vacation. Both the vacation and Shah's debut have long been in the works.

Why it matters: Shah is one of the most highly regarded operatives in the White House Press shop. Chief of Staff John Kelly thinks highly of him, and he’s trusted by Sanders and communications director Hope Hicks.

The backdrop: Shah, who worked at the RNC during the campaign, had some unwanted publicity this week after NYMag's Olivia Nuzzi published private messages featuring Shah calling Trump a "deplorable" in October of 2016. Shah also referred to the release of the Access Hollywood tape as "some justice." It was notable how forcefully Hicks defended him to NYMag when that story broke this week:

"Raj Shah is a talented operative and skilled communicator. We have always known about his previous roles and are so pleased he is using his unparalleled capabilities to advance the agenda of President Trump, whom he has tremendous respect for. Perhaps if the leakers trying to undermine him were as talented and smart as Raj, they would be here fighting for the American people every day, rather than trying desperately to remain relevant by spreading information that Raj himself shared many months ago. Raj’s skills as a press secretary are only surpassed by his stellar character."
— Hope Hicks

Shah has been all over TV of late, including a combative appearance on CNN and numerous hits on Fox News and Fox Business. He joins Mercedes Schlapp and Hogan Gidley in the roster of Trump surrogates adding to the profiles of Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway.

Go deeper

Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) forced Senate clerks to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, which took nearly 11 hours and lasted until 2:05 a.m. Friday. The Senate then adjourned and is expected to reconvene at 9 a.m. to debate the bill before considering amendments.

1 hour ago - Health

Cuomo advisers reportedly altered July COVID-19 nursing homes report

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Seth Wenig/AFP via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's advisers successfully pushed state health officials to exclude certain data on the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths from a July report, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Why it matters: The changes resulted in a "significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population," the WSJ wrote.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.