By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Stephanie Grisham, communications director for first lady Melania Trump and a longtime aide to President Donald Trump, will succeed Sarah Sanders as White House press secretary, Mrs. Trump announced on Tuesday.
Melania Trump announced the development in a tweet to conclude the president’s search for a press secretary after Sanders decided to resign and go back home to Arkansas earlier this month.
Grisham, 42, a fixture in the Arizona Republican Party, was one of Trump’s first hires for his presidential campaign – as a press aide in 2015.
She served as a deputy press secretary in the White House when he took office in January 2017 and eventually moved over to the first lady’s operation, and she has been fiercely loyal to the Trumps.
A clue that the president was leaning toward Grisham for the job came when aides said she had been added to the White House team going with Trump to the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea, this week.
The fact that Mrs. Trump announced the appointment, instead of the president himself, showed that the first lady was willing to part with Grisham.
Grisham will have the dual role of press secretary and communications director. Sanders had essentially been doing both roles as well, without the communications director title.
Melania Trump’s tweet said: “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”
Grisham was viewed internally as the candidate with the best rapport with President Trump, a key requirement.
Trump told reporters he offered Grisham the job on Tuesday morning.
“I think she’s going to do a great job,” he said. “It’s a big job. It’s a very big job.”
With his tweets and multiple exchanges with reporters, Trump is in many ways his own press secretary and communications director, and Sanders’ role grew to being a senior adviser.
There have been some internal discussions about bringing back the daily press briefing but whether Trump would allow it remained unclear. He all but ended the practice and it has been more than three months since the last one.
The other top candidate had been Sanders’ principal deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley. The president said Gidley had recommended Grisham for the job, and that Gidley will be staying in his deputy role.
Tony Sayegh, a former Treasury Department spokesman, had been considered as well but was in the midst of a move home to New York. Former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert withdrew herself from consideration.
Michael Anton, former spokesman at the National Security Council, had also been under consideration.
Gidley tweeted his congratulations to Grisham.
“Amazing announcement! So proud and blessed to have my good friend @StephGrisham45 working with our team. She is a rockstar and perfect to fill Sarah’s shoes!” he said.
Sanders is contemplating a political future in Arkansas, considering a 2022 run for state governor, a position once held by her father, Republican Mike Huckabee.
The New York Times said Grisham in 2013 was charged with driving under the influence, speeding and driving with an invalid license, charges that were reduced in 2014.
The Times said Grisham was pulled over again in Arizona in December 2015 and charged with driving under the influence, and pleaded guilty, was fined and ordered into a treatment program.
Grisham told The Times she had completed what she described as a safety class and paid the fines, and that she disclosed the episodes to the White House before going to work there.