White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is leaving the job and will return to first lady Melania Trump’s office to work as her chief of staff.
Grisham was catapulted to the position last June after Sarah Huckabee Sanders left the White House; Grisham has not held a single press briefing in her time in the role.
Kayleigh McEnany, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, will succeed her, The New York Times reported.
Grisham’s ouster is one of the first major communications personnel shakeups under President Trump’s new chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and another change in an administration that has had almost constant staff turnover. Meadows wants McEnany to focus on defending the president on television, the Times reported.
When Trump took office in 2016, Grisham, a campaign aide, was appointed deputy press secretary working alongside short-lived press secretary Sean Spicer. She then became Melania Trump’s communications director and forged a reputation as a dogged defender of the first lady, putting out aggressive statements and defending her during controversial moments like the infamous “I really don’t care, do U?” jacket and a secretive kidney operation in April 2018.
Axios reported last week that Meadows had been quietly discussing replacing Grisham with McEnany or Pentagon spokesperson Alyssa Farah.
Grisham responded to Axios: “Sounds like more palace intrigue to me, but I’ve also been in quarantine. If true, how ironic that the press secretary would hear about being replaced in the press.”
However, on Tuesday, she confirmed the move, which was first reported by CNN. “I continue to be honored to serve both the President and first lady in the administration,” she said in a statement. “My replacements will be announced in the coming days and I will stay in the West Wing to help with a smooth transition for as long as needed.”
Mrs. Trump also issued a statement praising Grisham. “She has been a mainstay and true leader in the administration from even before day one, and I know she will excel as chief of staff,” she said.
Despite taking on the role of press secretary, Grisham kept her titles of Mrs. Trump’s communications director and also added that of White House communications director. She reportedly still spoke to the first lady every day.
She declined to reverse a decision made by Huckabee Sanders to stop holding daily press briefings and, while she often appeared on friendly news programs on Fox News, she had not briefed the White House press corps in nine months.
Grisham has not been a visible presence during the coronavirus pandemic, instead ceding much of the communications work to the team working for Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the coronavirus task force.
Farah will also reportedly join the White House press staff along with Meadows’ longtime congressional aide Ben Williamson.