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Two Senior Aides to Leave the White House

WASHINGTON — Two more senior aides to President Trump announced on Tuesday that they were stepping down, the latest staff changes in a White House operation that has been whipsawed over the last two and a half years by the most turnover of any in modern times.

Johnny DeStefano, a counselor to the president, and Shahira Knight, the White House legislative affairs director, separately disclosed they would leave for new opportunities. Neither departure was a surprise, but they deprive Mr. Trump of two top lieutenants as he heads toward his re-election campaign.

Mr. DeStefano has been a key member of Mr. Trump’s circle since he took office, earning the president’s trust as he was handed more and more responsibility. By the end, Mr. DeStefano was in charge of the Offices of Presidential Personnel, Political Affairs and Public Liaison.

Ms. Knight took over as legislative director only 10 months ago, making her the president’s official envoy to Congress. But with gridlock already gripping Capitol Hill and the 2020 campaign likely to aggravate partisan divisions, she chose to leave as the prospects of major legislation dimmed.

Mr. Trump’s White House has been a subway turnstile of personnel coming and going since he first took office. As of Tuesday, before the latest announcements, turnover among the most senior positions had reached 68 percent, far more than any White House in the four decades studied by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution.

In the latest examples, there was none of the public drama often associated with Mr. Trump, who has used Twitter to push out aides who had fallen out of favor. Instead, Mr. DeStefano and Ms. Knight were able to announce their decisions on their own terms and the president then followed with words of praise on Twitter.

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Shahira Knight took the job of White House legislative affairs director only 10 months ago, making her the president’s official envoy to Congress.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

“Beyond grateful to @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS for the opportunity to serve in the best job I’ve ever had,” Mr. DeStefano wrote on Twitter, calling the job “the honor of a lifetime.”

Mr. Trump tweeted in response, “Johnny, we will miss you — you did a great job!”

Ms. Knight said in a statement distributed by the White House that it was “a great honor” to serve Mr. Trump. “I will always be grateful for the experience I have gained, and proud of the accomplishments I have helped achieve alongside a very talented White House team,” she said.

In the statement, and also on Twitter, Mr. Trump said she had done “a wonderful job” for him. “She was outstanding for us and for our country and will be a tremendous success in the private sector,” he said.

But the moves will give Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, more opportunity to shape the West Wing staff by bringing in more of his own people.

Ms. Knight, who was tapped by Mr. Mulvaney’s predecessor, John F. Kelly, informed Mr. Trump of her decision on Tuesday and will stay until mid-June, according to a person familiar with the events. She had said she wanted to stay for about a year.

Ms. Knight was well liked by Republicans on Capitol Hill and reassured them that the White House did not believe losing control of the House in last year’s midterm elections would be good for the president, an assertion made previously, much to the irritation of Republican lawmakers. She was at times overshadowed by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and others, like during the government shutdown this year.

But the person familiar with her plans said she understood the family dynamic in the White House and was not bothered by it. Instead, she looked ahead and saw fewer opportunities for successful legislation in the months to come.

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