WASHINGTON — 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 after Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced earlier this month 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,” wrote the first lady, who 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.
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 It included numerous false and misleading statements, the end of daily White House press briefings that have been replaced by chaotic gaggles in a driveway near the West Wing, and deep ill will between the communications office and the press corps.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 her toughest day on the job was.
Grisham 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 at one point had been considered for White House communications director.
In giving Grisham both jobs, President Donald Trump finally has 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 is credited with helping a limelight-shy first lady become more of a national and global figure. She also 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, defending the president against critics on the small screen.
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.”
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PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): Stephanie Grisham