WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is leaving her job after less than a year and returning to her position as first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff, according to a report from CNN published on Tuesday. The New York Times subsequently reported that Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for President Trump’s 2020 campaign, would replace Grisham in the press secretary post, which is traditionally the most visible public face of the White House.
Grisham, Trump’s third press secretary, has not held a briefing with the White House press corps since taking the job late last June. Her absence behind the podium has been a dramatic transformation of the press secretary’s role.
Grisham, McEnany and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Grisham’s reported departure comes after mounting speculation that new White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was eager to make a change at the top of the White House press shop. On April 3, Axios reported Meadows had “privately discussed” replacing Grisham with either McEnany or Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah. The Times report said Grisham had “clashed” with Meadows and that Farah, who did not respond to a request for comment, would be joining the press shop along with McEnany.
McEnany rose to prominence during the 2016 campaign when CNN began featuring her regularly as it sought to add voices supportive of Trump’s upstart candidacy to its roster of more traditional pundits. She eventually became a contributor at the network and left in August 2017 to become national spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. McEnany joined Trump’s reelection campaign early last year.
Meadows officially became Trump’s chief of staff at the start of April after transitioning from his role as a North Carolina congressman. His appointment was first announced last month, and, at the time, sources indicated to Yahoo News that Trump’s relationship with his prior chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, had become strained. Meadows, who was one of the president’s closest allies in Congress, did not respond to requests for comment.
The changes in the office of the chief of staff, which is one of the most powerful positions in the White House, and in press operations, are part of record turnover in the Trump administration. With McEnany’s appointment, Trump will have had more press secretaries in less than four years than President Barack Obama had in eight.
This shift also comes amid pronounced changes in Trump’s approach to the media during the coronavirus pandemic. Grisham’s predecessor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, cut down the number of press briefings she held with the White House press corps. Briefings with the press secretary were a near-daily affair in prior administrations and were traditionally one of the primary ways the White House presented itself before the public each day. Grisham cemented that change and never held a formal televised briefing during her months on the job.
Though the press briefings ceased under Grisham, Trump has often taken questions from the press in informal settings such as on the White House lawn before departures on his helicopter. The president has directly engaged with reporters more than his predecessors, and the White House has argued that this is more transparent than briefings with the press secretary.
However, in late February, as the COVID-19 crisis mounted, Trump stepped behind the podium in the White House press briefing room for a news conference with his coronavirus task force. In the weeks since, these task force briefings have become a near-daily affair that, at times, last more than two hours. The rise of the coronavirus briefings has essentially left Trump playing the role of his own press secretary. It remains to be seen whether changes in his press shop will result in another new approach.
This post was updated at 11:49 a.m. to include Kayleigh McEnany’s reported appointment.
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