Washington moves of the week: Gaetz promotes former Democratic staffer while former Trump officials jump into 'America First' nonprofit

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz promoted a onetime Democratic aide after other staffers quit.
  • Prominent Trump alumni joined a nonprofit named after the former president’s “America First” agenda.
  • Tesla hired a former staffer for Sen. Richard Blumenthal as an advisor on autonomous vehicles.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Isabela Belchior raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill last year when she left the office of Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a Texas Democrat who helped prosecute the first impeachment case against former President Donald Trump, to work as a legislative counsel for Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Now, as Gaetz aides jump ship amid a federal sex-trafficking investigation into the Florida Republican, Belchior is rising up the ranks of the outspoken Trump ally’s congressional office.

Gaetz has promoted Belchior to the role of legislative director. The position was previously held by Devin Murphy, who stepped down shortly after the resignation of Gaetz’s communications director, Luke Ball, earlier this month.

In an email to other legislative directors, Murphy wrote, “It’s been real,” Axios reported. The email’s subject line: “Well … bye.”

Belchior did not respond to a request for comment. 

The churn in Gaetz’s office could complicate his vow to remain in Congress as he confronts not only Justice Department scrutiny but a House Ethics Committee investigation. Following the revelation of the Justice Department investigation, several Republicans gloated about the predicament facing a lawmaker that one former White House staff member described to Insider as “the meanest person in politics.” 

Here is Insider’s roundup of other notable moves in Washington for the week of April 11.

Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelliegence Committee, hired a new chief of staff this week.Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Capitol Hill

Jeff Lowenstein will become staff director of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He was previously chief of staff to Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat of California and the Intelligence panel chairman. 

Patrick Boland was hired as Schiff’s new chief of staff. He was previously communications director for the House Intelligence Committee. 

Isabela Belchior has been promoted to Legislative Director for Rep. Matt Gaetz after Devin Murphy resigned amid the Justice Department probe. 

Lauren Evette Williams will become the director for the House Oversight Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee. Previously she was a senior vice president at Burson Cohn and Wolfe.

Chris Mewett will join the office of Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat of Connecticut, to become his legislative director. He previously served as a national security adviser for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat of Rhode Island.

Christopher Day, a former chief investigator and senior counsel for Democrats on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, has joined the Commerce Department as a deputy assistant secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs.

Communications & media

Juliegrace Brufke joined the New York Post as a Washington reporter. She previously covered Congress for The Hill. 

Gabby Orr is now a reporter for CNN. She previously covered the White House for Politico.

Alexandra Botti will become a senior podcast producer for Axios. She previously worked as a producer for syndicated public radio news analysis program The Takeaway. 

Caitlin M. Kenney is joining Defense One as a staff reporter. She’s currently a Pentagon reporter for Stars and Stripes.

Brooke Rollins, the former director of Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, is leading a nonprofit aimed at promoting the former president’s “America First” agenda.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Politics

Brooke Rollins, the former director of the Domestic Policy Council in the Trump White House, has become the president and CEO of the America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization formed to promote the Trump agenda. 

Linda McMahon, who led the Small Business Administration under the Trump administration, is the chair of the America First Policy Institute’s board.

Brian Morgenstern, who served as a deputy press secretary for President Donald Trump from 2020 to 2021, is now a senior advisor for the America First Policy Institute.   

Larry Kudlow, who served as director of the National Economic Council, joined the America First Policy Institute as vice chair of its board and chair of its Center for American Prosperity. 

Jacob Leibenluft is the inaugural chief recovery officer of the Treasury Department‘s newly created Office of Recovery Programs. The new branch, which is designed “to support an equitable and swift recovery from the economic challenges precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” will focus on administering tax breaks and fiscal relief included in various stimulus packages dating back to the 2020 CARES Act. 

Audrey Lopez is now the Director of Hispanic Media at the White House. She previously was the media and communications director at The Raben Group.

Lis Smith, who served as a top advisor to now-Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg‘s presidential campaign, is launching an effort to support Andrew Yang in New York’s mayoral primary. Politico reports that she is in talks with potential donors and staff about forming a PAC to counter negative advertisements against the former Democratic presidential candidate.

Swati Mylavarapu, who served as Pete for America’s national investment chair, is now the chairwoman of Win the Era, the nonprofit organization started by former presidential candidate and now Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had his No. 2 sworn in this week, and former campaign aides made moves.STEFANI REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Transportation Department

Polly Trottenberg was sworn in Wednesday afternoon as deputy Transportation secretary to Buttigieg. She was previously transportation commissioner for New York City. 

Education Department

Levi Bohanan, a former policy entrepreneur at the Next100 progressive policy think tank, was appointed special assistant in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Amy Loyd, previously a vice president at Jobs for the Future, was appointed deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, where she will also serve as acting assistant secretary.

Rachel Bird Niebling was appointed deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs. She comes to the department from the Alliance for Excellent Education, where she was the director of policy development and federal government relations.

Alexander Prowda was appointed as a confidential assistant in the Office of Communications and Outreach after serving as a communications associate in Arizona with the Biden campaign and working on the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Jorge Santiago was appointed a confidential assistant in the Office of the Secretary/Office of the Deputy Secretary after working in operations for the Florida Democratic Party in coordination with the Biden for President campaign. He also previously worked on Buttigieg’s presidential primary campaign.

Nick Simmons was appointed senior advisor for School Reopening and Recovery in the Office of the Secretary. He most recently served as director of strategic initiatives for the State of Connecticut and policy advisor to Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat.

Rachel Thomas was appointed deputy assistant secretary for communications in the Office of Communications and Outreach, where she is also serving as acting assistant secretary. She previously served as Northeast communications director for Biden’s presidential campaign, and before that, as deputy communications director for Buttigieg and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke‘s Democratic presidential primary bids.

Serena Walker was appointed as a confidential assistant in the Office of Communications and Outreach after interning with the Biden-Harris campaign. 

Lobbying and advocacy

Jonathan Carter is joining Tesla as a policy advisor on autonomous vehicles and safety after serving in Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal‘s office. 

Charlyn Stanberry is vice president of government relations at the National Association of Broadcasters. She was previously chief of staff for Rep. Yvette Clark, a New York Democrat. 

Adam Raezler is now an associate lobbyist at The McKeon Group. He previously worked as vice president for politics at Ragnar Research Partners.

Leigh Ann Fairley has joined the National Association of Manufacturers as associate director of member relations. She was previously an account manager for Bloomberg Government.

Phoebe Ferraiolo is now public relations and digital communications manager at public affairs and lobbying firm Cogent Strategies. She previously served as deputy press secretary for Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine.

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