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Stephanie Grisham leaving post as White House press secretary

Trump disputes report on hospital shortages

Washington — White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is leaving her post in the West Wing after less than a year on the job and will serve as first lady Melania Trump's chief of staff, the White House said Tuesday. 

"I am excited to welcome Stephanie back to the team in this new role," the first lady said in a statement. "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 will be replaced, according to an adviser to the White House, by Trump loyalist and Trump campaign national spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany.

Grisham, who was tapped to replace Sarah Sanders in June 2019, did not hold a single press briefing at the White House across her 10-month tenure as press secretary. But she appeared often on Fox News from the network's bureau in Washington, D.C., as opposed to from the north lawn of the White House, where many other administration officials go for television appearances.

Trump
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham listens as President Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday, November 8, 2019. Andrew Harnik / AP

CNN first reported Grisham's departure Tuesday morning. In the White House statement, Grisham said she continues "to be honored to serve both the president and first lady in the administration." She also hinted that she might have more than one replacement. Grisham technically combined the White House communications director and press secretary roles. 

"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," she said. She did not respond to various attempts for further comment.

Multiple sources had told CBS News that McEnany and Pentagon spokesperson Alyssa Farah and were the top contenders to replace Grisham. Farah previously held top communications roles for new chief of staff Mark Meadows and Vice President Mike Pence. She will join the White House as director of strategic communications, a senior White House official said.

Grisham's departure comes just days after Mark Meadows took over as chief of staff. Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina and one of the president's top allies on Capitol Hill, replaced Mick Mulvaney, who served in the role in an acting capacity for more than a year. Meadows brought with him from Capitol Hill Ben Williamson, who started this week as senior White House communications adviser and senior adviser to Meadows, the senior White House official said.

The staff shake-up caught some White House staffers, many of whom are working at home because of the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, by surprise. One staffer told CBS News they had simply "no idea" because has been holed up with his family at their home.  Another staffer found out from the East Wing press release sent Tuesday morning. 

Grisham had become increasingly marginalized during the coronavirus outbreak with Katie Miller, the vice president's spokesperson, taking a more prominent role. 

Grisham was one of the remaining holdovers in the White House who worked on Mr. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and became a trusted adviser to the first lady, serving as her communications director before she was tapped for her West Wing duties.

Her departure comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has roiled the nation as public health officials rush to limit the spread of the illness. Mr. Trump appears nearly daily on television to brief reporters on the federal government's response to the coronavirus. Grisham had been self-quarantining at her home after she came in contact with a member of a Brazilian delegation who tested positive for the coronavirus after a visit to at Mr. Trump's South Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. She tested negative for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Weijia Jiang contributed to this report.

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