Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, spokesman leave her office

By John Bresnahan
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, spokesman leave her office

Saikat Chakrabarti, the controversial chief of staff to high-profile freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will be leaving her office to work for a non-profit focusing on the Green New Deal.

Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez's communications director, will also be leaving the congressional office. Trent will work on Ocasio-Cortez's 2020 reelection campaign, according to the New York Democrat.

The moves were first reported by the Intercept.

Chakrabarti will depart Ocasio-Cortez's office on Aug. 2, while no date has been announced for Trent's exit.

"Saikat has decided to leave the office to work with New Consensus to further develop plans for a Green New Deal. I am extraordinarily grateful for his service to advance a bold agenda and improve the lives of the people in NY-14," Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. "From his co-founding of Justice Democrats to his work on the campaign and in the official office, Saikat’s goal has always been to do whatever he can to help the larger progressive movement, and I look forward to continuing working with him to do just that.”

“With the Ocasio2020 campaign beginning to ramp up, I’ve asked Corbin to transition to the campaign full-time and he has agreed to do so," Ocasio-Cortez added. "I’m looking forward to growing the movement with him in Queens and the Bronx and across the country." 

Chakrabarti has emerged as a polarizing figure among House Democrats. A Harvard University graduate and Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Chakrabarti joined Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaign in 2015, overseeing technology operations.

In 2017, Chakrabarti co-founded Justice Democrats, a progressive political organization that recruited Ocasio-Cortez to run for office. Ocasio-Cortez went onto defeat incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and win a seat in Congress, a stunning upset that made her a political superstar.

But Chakrabarti has made statements that infuriated moderate Democrats and caused an uproar inside the House Democratic Caucus, where the tension between moderates and progressives often runs high.

“Instead of ‘fiscally conservative but socially liberal,’ let’s call the New Democrats and Blue Dog Caucus the ‘New Southern Democrats,’ ” Chakrabarti said in a tweet that he later deleted. “They certainly seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”

Chakrabarti also attacked Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), one of the first Native-American women to enter Congress, over her support for a homeland security funding bill. “I don’t believe Sharice is a racist person, but her votes are showing her to enable a racist system," Chakrabarti tweeted. That remark infuriated a number of Democrats, including party leaders.

Trent also worked on the Sanders campaign, and he was a co-director of the Justice Democrats before joining Ocasio-Cortez's staff.