Trump Shakes Up Press Team at WH 04/08 06:15
President Donald Trump shook up his communications team on Tuesday,
replacing his press secretary and adding new staffers as he grapples with the
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump shook up his communications team
on Tuesday, replacing his press secretary and adding new staffers as he
grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
Stephanie Grisham, who had held the titles of press secretary and White
House communications director since last June, is out after never holding a
formal press briefing. She will be rejoining the first lady's office in a new
role as Melania Trumps's chief of staff.
Kayleigh McEnany, a top Trump campaign spokeswoman, will take over as
Trump's fourth press secretary. Also heading to the White House: Pentagon
spokeswoman Alyssa Farah. She will lead strategic communications, according to
a senior administration official familiar with the moves who spoke on condition
of anonymity because the decisions had not been formally announced.
The shakeup comes as the president is facing the biggest crisis of his
administration, with the coronavirus spreading across the country. The virus
has killed more than 12,000 people in the U.S. and fundamentally transformed
American life while plunging the economy into what is expected to be a major
Grisham, who succeeded Sarah Sanders and Sean Spicer, was arguably the
nation's least visible press secretary in modern history, having never held a
press briefing during her nine months on the job. While she made occasional
appearances on the Fox News Channel, she preferred to tape her interviews in a
studio to avoid having to speak to reporters who gather on the White House
driveway to interview officials after they appear on TV via cameras set up
outside the executive mansion.
Her departure was not a surprise. Grisham had been largely sidelined since
the start of the pandemic, with the press team for Vice President Mike Pence,
the head of the coronavirus task force, taking the lead. In addition, Mark
Meadows, the president's new chief of staff, has been working to bring on his
own team, including senior adviser Ben Williamson.
The role of press secretary has been a particularly challenging one under
the media-obsessed Trump, who believes himself to be his best spokesman,
communications director and strategist, and demands absolute loyalty.
Over the last several weeks, Trump has revived the tradition of the daily
press briefing, personally taking the stage in the White House briefing room to
try to put a positive spin on the federal government's response to the pandemic.
Trump has a highly volatile relationship with the press, slamming
unflattering stories as "fake news" while closely following his coverage.
Briefings earlier in the administration often turned combative, especially
under Spicer. He began his tenure with a much-panned briefing in which he
claimed the president's inauguration crowds had been the largest ever, which
McEnany was already a regular defender of the president on television. Farah
has deep ties to the White House, having served as press secretary to Pence and
as Meadows' communications director.
Grisham's new role was announced Tuesday by Mrs. Trump. The first lady said
Lindsay Reynolds, her chief of staff for the past three years, had resigned to
spend more time with her family.
Grisham, who had said in a statement that she would remain in the West Wing
"to help with a smooth transition for as long as needed," tweeted her thanks to
Trump on Tuesday evening "for the honor of a lifetime."
Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush, said
Grisham's return to the East Wing shows her close ties to Mrs. Trump. McBride
recalled that it was the first lady, and not the president, who announced last
year that Grisham would become the White House press secretary.
"It will be an easy transition for Stephanie," McBride said. She added that
Grisham "knows how Mrs. Trump likes things done. They're clearly very close."
But Lis Power of the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America said
Trump was "replacing a White House press secretary who did little more than
appear on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, with a person who is
best known for her sycophantic pro-Trump media appearances."
"We should expect Kayleigh McEnany to follow the lead of her predecessors,"