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Top Pelosi aide leaving for White House communications job

Ashley Etienne, left, will be leaving as deputy communications director to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), center. Pelosi's longtime communications director, Drew Hammill, is at right. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

A top spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a veteran of Democratic political battles with Republicans over Obama administration scandals is leaving to take a communications job at the White House.

Ashley Etienne, Pelosi's deputy communications director, has been named White House communications director for the Cabinet, according to White House and congressional aides. The position requires coordinating press operations and media outreach among the White House, federal agencies and departments and the people who run them, plus keeping tabs for the White House on any news stories or developments coming out of the departments that the administration might consider embarrassing or troublesome.

Etienne is uniquely positioned to take on the role, given her experiences as a top spokeswoman to Pelosi and previously with the Democratic staff on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That perch put her squarely in the middle of her party's fights with the panel's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), as he launched investigations into the Energy, Justice and State departments, the General Services Administration and other agencies.

While with the committee, Etienne steered the Democratic response to Issa's investigation into the September 2012 attacks at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, as well as the ATF's botched gun-running operation "Fast and Furious" that prompted the House to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress. She also helped draw attention to Issa's decision to deny a Democratic request to allow an abortion-rights activist to testify at a hearing on the issue. Within days, the witness, Sandra Fluke, was at the center of accusations by Democrats that Republicans were launching a "war on women." Fluke later traveled the country as a surrogate on Obama's 2012 reelection campaign and spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

More recently, Etienne has overseen communications strategy for Pelosi and House Democrats on immigration reform, raising the minimum wage and Pelosi's project to draw attention to women's economic issues, known as "When Women Succeed America Succeeds."

In a statement, Pelosi thanked Etienne for her "spectacular work" on behalf of House Democrats. "She’s been integral in the formulation and rollout of our women’s economic agenda, regional strategy on immigration reform, and many other critical initiatives. We wish her much success in this new role," she added.

Etienne will be succeeded in Pelosi's shop by Evangeline George, who currently serves as press secretary. George previously worked as communications director to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) during his 2012 campaign. "Evangeline has proved she has the savvy and determination to get the job done,” Pelosi said in her statement announcing the moves.

Drew Hammill remains as Pelosi's longtime communications director.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.



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