Stephanie Grisham, who has been a top aide to first lady Melania Trump, will be the next White House press secretary and communications director.
The first lady announced the move in a tweet a week after Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that she would leave the post. Friday will be Sanders’ last day.
The president “and I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country,” the first lady wrote, then suggested Grisham will play an unconventional role by “working for both sides of the @WhiteHouse.”
The West and East wings traditionally have had separate communications offices, though they do work closely together.
I am pleased to announce @StephGrisham45 will be the next @PressSec & Comms Director! She has been with us since 2015 – @potus & I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country. Excited to have Stephanie working for both sides of the @WhiteHouse. #BeBest— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) June 25, 2019
The timing of the announcement was curious. It came just minutes after news broke that John Sanders, acting head of the embattled U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, was stepping down amid new revelations of migrant children living in squalor under the agency’s watch.
That marked a fitting — almost — end to Huckabee Sanders’ run. It included numerous false and misleading statements, the end of daily White House press briefings that have been replaced by chaotic gaggles in a driveway near the West Wing, and deep ill will between the communications office and the press corps. Sanders recently told a group of reporters that she does not regret ending the daily briefings in the James A. Brady Briefing Room, and declined to say what was her toughest day on the job.
Grishman beat out several internal candidates, including J. Hogan Gidley, principal deputy press secretary, and Strategic Communications Director Mercedes Schlapp. Also in the running was former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who earlier this year withdrew her name as nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Another leading candidate was outgoing Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh, who in the past had been considered to become White House communications director.
In giving Grisham both jobs, Trump has finally replaced former Fox News executive Bill Shine, whom he pushed out as communications director in February.
Grisham has been with the Trumps since 2015, when she was a campaign staffer. She has mostly helped a limelight-shy first lady become more of a national and global figure. She has been a key part of the team that designed and then managed Melania Trump’s #BeBest children’s campaign.
Other candidates, like Sayegh, had played a more public role. He sometimes appeared on cable news networks, which Trump likes a handful of trusted and aggressive aides to do as voices defending him against critics on the small screen.
“If we were able to get Democrats to support it, we could have made this permanent. But they did not. They obstructed,” Sayegh told Fox Business in December 2017 of the Republican tax bill Trump signed into law that month. “And therefore, we’re at a position now we’re going to continue to fight and make all of these tax cuts permanent in the future.”
Sanders praised her replacement in a tweet posted minutes after the first lady’s post went live.
“[Grisham] will be an incredible asset to the President and the country. I’m sad to leave the WH, but so happy to leave our team in such great hands. Stephanie will do a phenomenal job,” the outgoing press secretary wrote. “Proud to have another mom and a great friend in this role.”