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Scoop: Josh Raffel leaving White House

Josh Raffel (R) with Jared Kushner (C) in New York City in 2013. Photo: Paul Bruinooge / Patrick McMullan / Getty Images

Senior communications official Josh Raffel is leaving the White House, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Raffel, a former Hollywood PR executive, was originally brought in early last year to run communications for the Office of American Innovation, but quickly became the point man internally for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Even though Raffel was a Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, White House staff (including some Trump originals) told me they were surprised how quickly they grew to like and trust him.

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.”

In the fall of 2017, Raffel was quietly promoted to deputy communications director and began taking a bigger role internally. Raffel oversaw communications for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, worked with Gary Cohn on a number of NEC issues, including tax reform, and also formed a close relationship with Michael Anton at the National Security Council.

Raffel was known to have high-level relationships at major print publications and the TV networks.

I’m told Raffel has been telling friends and colleagues including Jared and Ivanka over the past two months of his plans. He has told them he has to deal with family obligations back in New York and will return to the private sector.

Senior officials Jason Greenblatt, Ivanka Trump and Gary Cohn all sent quotes about Raffel for this story.

  • Greenblatt: “Josh was an integral part of our peace team and became a close friend. He guided all of us through the process of communicating serious and complex issues that impact people across the world.”
  • Ivanka: “Josh is honest, passionate and thoughtful. Whether it was offering strategic guidance on the communications for tax reform or a foreign trip, Josh's guidance was invaluable. The White House won’t be the same without him.”
  • Cohn: “Josh has been a trusted partner as we worked to enact the President’s economic agenda and passed historic tax reform. He is focused and thoughtful in our day-to-day operations and in driving a policy roll-out, and he will be missed.”

I’m told Raffel’s final day will be sometime over the next two months.

Jonathan Swan 4 hours ago
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Trump's two-front war

Photo: Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump is ending the week with a flop — nowhere close to the border wall funding he wanted in the DACA-less spending bill that congressional leaders released last evening. But he's fulfilling one of his most aggressive campaign promises with his anti-China trade action.

The big picture: Trump's expected announcement today of tariffs on Chinese imports is a big deal, and analysts fear it could provoke a trade war — and it comes as Trump has been battling his own party here at home over the government spending bill.

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The worst flu season in eight years

Note: Activity levels are based on outpatient visits in a state compared to the average number of visits that occur during weeks with little or no flu virus circulation; Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

This year's flu season caught many experts off guard with both its sustained prevalence and its virulence. At its peak, there was a higher level of flu-like illnesses reported than any other year during the past eight years. Watch in the visual as it hits its peak around Week 18.

Why it matters: Public health officials try to capture this data when developing the next year's vaccines. And, of course, they want to find better ways to prevent severe flu seasons. There's a "Strategic Plan" to develop a universal vaccine to protect against a wider range of influenza viruses, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios.