WASHINGTON, D.C. — Deputy White House chief of staff Katie Walsh rocketed to the top and is now — at just 32 years old — the woman who holds down the fort in the White House. Alongside other strong women on President Donald J. Trump’s team, like director of strategic communications, Hope Hicks, or counselor to the president, KellyAnne Conway, Walsh is instrumental in making the White House function.
She keeps the president’s schedule and merges the intertwining, ambitious work that the triumvirate underneath President Trump — White House chief of staff Reince Priebus; White House chief strategist and former Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon; and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser to the president — are doing to maximize potential inside the building.
“As you know, we’ve got a lot of senior folks in the White House who have a great ability to help push the president’s agenda and message and that’s Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, KellyAnne Conway, and others, but there is a logistical piece of that that has to get implemented and so I try and help with that,” Walsh said in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Wednesday evening:
So I try and do what I can to make sure the right hand is talking to the left hand and everyone knows what everyone is doing, and there is a cohesive operation or effort to make sure, whatever we’re doing, that nothing happens in a silo if you will. So even if Reince is with the president working on something, and Jared is working on an issue related to trade, and Steve is working on an issue related to immigration or something, we try and make sure everyone is still on the same page and working together and moving together as fast as we can.
Walsh’s job is making sure that the key items President Trump and his inner team want to handle get on the schedule and that his time — and the time of the key people around him — is used to the fullest extent possible. She’s a core part of the latest iteration of a Trump machine, streamlining the potential of the president and his inner circle.
“I think the schedule is never a sexy thing to talk about but at the end of the day the most valuable time we have is the president’s time,” Walsh told Breitbart News:
And so we’re committed to moving his agenda forward, and we need to make sure we are using his time in the most strategic way possible. And so I think I serve as a funnel from some other senior staff. So when folks are saying, “we want to push this message” or “we’d like to get these folks in to meet with the president to work on this issue,” it’s my job to take those things, put them in some kind of organizational order, and take them to Steve and Reince and say “these are our recommendations, how would you like to move forward?” Obviously, it’s a ton of conversations at senior levels with senior staff, but at the end of the day those three gentlemen [Kushner, Bannon, and Priebus] are going to make the decisions, so they need to be given context and details and a full understanding and picture of what’s going on so they can make decisions.
Walsh, who served as the chief of staff of the Republican National Committee under Priebus in the 2016 cycle and previously as the finance director at the RNC said her time at the party committee — and specifically operating with a metrics-focused, results-driven systematic process based on scientific exact modeling — prepared her for the job in the White House.
“I think one of the reasons Reince looked at me to be a possible candidate for his chief of staff is because as finance director, finance is always metrics,” Walsh said:
Every 30 days, I would know if I was succeeding or failing. So many other departments in a political committee don’t have those metrics, and we have not forced them, other than on an election day, to provide metrics of what they were working towards in the 22 months leading up to an election of whether we’re doing what we needed to do. So we took a major focus of that.
Every single thing that was brought to my desk was “how did this improve the voter file?” I saw my mission as really to learn as much as I could about every single voter so that we could use our voter score system to deliver to the candidate and to President Trump an accurate appearance of the electorate at any given point — and where they felt on messaging. We worked really, really hard to acquire as much data as we could, whether that be consumer data, whether that be through outreach needed over the last couple cycles online, on the ground, on the phone, et cetera.
So, when President Trump — candidate Trump at the time — became the nominee, we sat down and said, “we have the best voter file out there, we have more information than anybody else and we’re committed to making sure that we take everything we have and making sure that you can use every single piece of it to hone your message and help decide where to go travel.” That takes a lot of kind of structural organization to coordinate political, digital, data, et cetera, to make sure every decision we make gets back on the voter file. To make sure every time someone emails, someone clicks on the donate page, every time we knock on the door, it’s all got to go back in that file.
So I think, similar to what I did at the RNC in trying to get teamwork together towards one goal, I think that’s something I try and really do here. There are a lot of folks that have a lot of really good priorities that are all in line with the president’s agenda, but at the end of the day, we all need to be on the same page and all working toward the same goal at the same time or it’s hard to get something done.
Bannon, who left Breitbart News in August to serve as CEO of the Trump campaign, sings Walsh’s praises.
“Katie was an integral part of our campaign post convention,” Bannon said in an emailed statement. “She was in New York day in and day out working hand and glove with the campaign to execute a GOTV effort on our behalf unlike anything our Party has ever seen. Her partnership was invaluable. Every day since election day Katie has worked tirelessly to help enact the President’s agenda. She is essential in ensuring things get done.”
Walsh said the president is working at an extraordinarily high energy pace and that she’s most impressed after getting to know him more that he can broach a wide array of issues with almost anyone.
“I’ve never worked for someone with his energy level… I will say that working for Reince was a training program for this because Reince’s energy level is astronomically high as well, but one of the amazing things I’ve noticed about President Trump, as I’ve spent some time with him and gotten to know him a little bit better, is just his breadth of knowledge on a whole array of issues,” Walsh said. “He can talk to a coal miner from West Virginia, he can talk to a manufacturer in Michigan at a car plant, he can talk to someone at Boeing about a jetliner. He’s just got a huge, huge, huge range of knowledge on these issues. I’m always amazed at how engaged he is on these issues. He isn’t a president that just sits back and lets his staff do all the legwork for him.” She added, “He works as hard as anyone as I’ve ever seen in public office, even down to minutia and details, to ensure he’s doing everything he promised to the American people.”
Walsh is someone who, again at 32 years old in her position, skyrocketed to the top of Washington politics quickly — and someone who somewhat stumbled into it with a couple of lucky breaks after her rise from humble beginnings in America’s oft-forgotten-in-this-town Midwest.
“I am from St. Louis, Missouri, and my family was very active in state politics growing up, so it was kind of a natural interest of mine,” she told Breitbart News. “The first campaign I ever worked on I had interned on [John] Ashcroft’s 2000 Senate race, which I’m not sure if you remember was a rather interesting race at the end of the day. So following that — I was in high school when I did that — and then the next campaign I did was I worked on Matt Blunt’s ’04 gubernatorial in Missouri, and I ended taking a semester off school to be a field representative for him in St. Charles and St. Louis.”
She went to George Washington University here in D.C. for college, and when she graduated, she went to work for John Ashcroft’s firm.
“When I graduated from school at GW, I was working for General Ashcroft at the Ashcroft Group, which is a firm he started after he left the Attorney General’s office and the ’08 election was coming up and I actually went to go work for Fred Thompson,” Walsh told Breitbart News:
It was June of ’07 when the sort of “Draft Fred” run, and it was a great opportunity for me because I was 22, and one of the greats, David Ayers, who was Ashcroft’s campaign manager and chief of staff at DOJ gave me some great advice which is: “When you’re 22 years old, you don’t want to work on a big campaign. You want to work on a smaller campaign because you’ll get much better experience.” He was right. And so I went and worked on Sen. Thompson’s campaign and I started out as the assistant to the finance director, and I ended as a regional finance director doing events with the senator, and traveling around with him, and putting together a majority of a regional finance operation for him which was great.
Obviously, the Senator dropped out of the race, and I was going to go home and work for Matt’s reelect, and I actually got a call from the governor — the irony of this was it was the same day Fred dropped out — saying he was not going to run for reelection. So I decided I didn’t want to leave D.C. and called a couple mentors of mine and asked “what would you advise me to do?” And a couple folks opened some doors for me on the McCain campaign. McCain was looking like the presumptive nominee at the time and I became a regional finance director for McCain at 23 or 24 years old which was like a huge, huge opportunity for me.
Her boss from that campaign was hired by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) as finance director and brought Walsh on board as her deputy for the 2010 and 2012 cycles. “Obviously we fell short [of delivering the majority in 2010 and 2012], but we netted five seats,” Walsh said, adding that the senators produced in 2010 and 2012 have gone on to become some of the strongest Republicans in history.
“I consider it a great opportunity to work with what I consider one of the best recruiting classes we have had in a long time — that’s Roy Blunt, Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte, Marco Rubio, really some huge core talent in the Republican Party,” Walsh said. Other senators from that 2010 class include Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah and two years later produced Ted Cruz of Texas among others.
“It was a great opportunity to work with them and so following that I was actually going to open up, I was going to do some finance work and help Sen. Cornyn with his reelect, but Angela Meyers from the RNC called and said, “can you come meet with Reince about being his finance director?’” Walsh continued. “So I came in and met with Reince and got hired as his finance director and traveled around with him for two years, and as you know, he’s like a prolific fundraiser. So we spent a lot of time together and as the 2016 cycle approached he started talking to me about being his chief of staff. I will always be grateful to Reince because it is not a normal path to management from finance. There aren’t many women or finance folks that end up being in management of a committee.”
She said her time growing up in Missouri makes her a better person and keeps her grounded so she doesn’t get sucked into the swamp culture of Washington, D.C.
“Absolutely,” Walsh said when asked if being from outside politics in middle America helps her understand why Trump won and who sent him to the Oval Office.
“If you were in my office right now, you’d see pictures around of Missouri,” Walsh said:
I mean, I try and make sure that even though I’ve been in D.C. a little bit I don’t forget that we’re not working for the folks that live around here. We’re working for the folks that are in St. Louis, that are in Cincinnati, that are in Toledo, that have had a really hard time the last eight years. Their jobs have gone away. They wanted to send someone to Washington that wasn’t going to get bogged down in nonsense. I think they’ve gotten that in the last 30 days. The president has done exactly what he said he’s going to do.
I love walking around D.C. the little bit I’m out of the White House these days and people ask, “what do you think of the president so far?” And I say, “I think he’s done exactly what he told the American people he was going to do.” And so I think when you talk to people outside the beltway, people will tell you that.
While several long political and policy battles loom over the next several years in the White House, Walsh is confident that President Trump and his team will succeed in delivering on the promises he made to the American people in the 2016 campaign by the end of his term in the White House. She even said that reporters are privately singing the praises of the Trump White House.
“I think if we look back at the last 30 days, and we magnify that out to the next four years, I feel pretty good about getting a lot done,” Walsh said. “The president is going to use the support he has from the 306 electoral votes — he won states that have never been won before, and he’s not going to forget the fact that those voters are counting on him to deliver the things that you mentioned: to repeal and replace Obamacare, to build a wall and fix our immigration system, to reform and balance the budget. Those are big things, and quite frankly, it’s going to take cooperation from the hill as well.”
“So we’re working as fast as we can, and we’re working hand in glove with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to get things done,” Walsh continued. “Obviously, legislative calendars are never our friends in these situations. But, anecdotally, even from press inside the White House, they’ve said they’ve never seen this level of activity inside the White House. So what I can say is while we don’t control everything, the parts of this we do control — which is how engaged the president is, how he can use his influence, his megaphone, his support from the American people to push forward to make sure that we’re not wasting any time — we’re moving as fast as we can and we’re going to do that 24 hours a day.”