Melania Trump's defender Stephanie Grisham to replace Sanders as WH press secretary

Hunter Walker
White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Stephanie Grisham, who has been first lady Melania Trump’s spokesperson since March 2017, will be the next White House press secretary, replacing Sarah Sanders.

The first lady announced the decision in a tweet on Tuesday.

“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,” Melania Trump wrote.

The wording implied that Grisham will also continue to serve in her current role, but there was no immediate confirmation.

Stephanie Grisham, spokesperson for first lady Melania Trump, waits by a van after her arrival for a Donald Trump campaign rally in Orlando, Fla., on June 18, 2019. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Sanders’s last day is Friday. President Trump announced Sanders’s departure on June 13 and Yahoo News subsequently reported that Grisham was the leading contender to replace her. At the time, one source close to the president said Grisham’s role fighting negative coverage of the first lady made her the “best fit” for the press secretary role.

“She’s defended Melania and shown that she’s definitely up for the street-fighter aspect of this,” the source said of Grisham.

During her time heading Melania Trump’s communications operation, Grisham earned a reputation as the first lady’s “enforcer” by aggressively attacking critics. Last November, Grisham played a role in the removal of Mira Ricardel, a staffer who clashed with the first lady during a trip to Africa the prior month. Melania Trump came to believe that Ricardel was responsible for leaking negative stories about her office. Melania Trump and Grisham pushed for Ricardel’s ouster and when no action was taken, Grisham released a blistering statement to Yahoo News and other media outlets.

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that [Ricardel] no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Grisham said.

Ricardel was ousted soon afterward.

A former Trump campaign adviser said Grisham’s strong defense earned her “inside support” as the White House picked a replacement for Sanders.

“FLOTUS loves her,” the ex-adviser said, using the acronym for “first lady of the United States.” “She understands how to work with Trump and the media. She’s protected them.”

Stephanie Grisham, press secretary and communications director for first lady Melania Trump, looks on during a congressional picnic in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. (Photo: Chris Kleponis/Pool/Bloomberg)

Since taking over from Sean Spicer as press secretary in July 2017, Sanders has transformed the job, virtually ending the practice of regular public briefings that were a major responsibility of her predecessors. Multiple sources told Yahoo News the White House would likely continue this approach and that Sanders’s successor would be likely to take on the role of an aggressive defender pushing back against negative coverage in news stories and in regular appearances on television. Grisham did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.

Grisham, a single mother from Arizona, has been with Donald Trump since his campaign. After he took office, Grisham worked as a deputy press secretary under Spicer. She eventually moved her young son from Arizona to join her in Washington, D.C.

Grisham has strong relationships with many political reporters. During the 2016 election and Trump’s presidential transition, she did press advance work and spent extended periods of time with the reporters on the Trump beat. In a 2017 interview with a local Arizona news station, Grisham said she “essentially lived with” Trump’s press corps.

“We would wake up together in the same hotel, we would fly on the same airplane together, we would end up night together at the same hotel," Grisham said.