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First lady's spokeswoman will replace Sarah Sanders as White House press secretary

Sarah Sanders to step down

Stephanie Grisham, who has served as first lady Melania Trump's spokeswoman for over two years, will replace Sarah Sanders as White House press secretary and communications director. Grisham was considered the front-runner to fill the spot.

It was the first lady — not President Trump — who announced the news.

"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. #BeBest," Mrs. Trump tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.

Grisham has become a close and trusted adviser to the first lady and the first family during her time at the White House, and before. The first lady and the Trump family appreciate her loyalty and discretion. Grisham has also impressed the president and first lady with the way she runs the first lady's communications operation — it's viewed as a tight ship with few leaks.

She is also one of the few remaining holdovers among the top White House officials from the 2016 campaign and has the approval of other members of the Trump family, as well.

Sanders' final day is Friday. Grisham will be accompanying the president on his G20 trip to Japan this week. Grisham will also continue to help out the first lady's office during the transition — quite a lengthy list of responsibilities for just one person.

Sanders would not comment on what plans Grisham may or may not have for press briefings.

Stephanie Grisham, spokesperson for first lady Melania Trump, arrives for campaign rally in Orlando
Stephanie Grisham, spokesperson for first lady Melania Trump, arrives for a campaign rally with President Trump in Orlando, Florida, on June 18, 2019. Reuters

A former senior White House official called Grisham "the ultimate Trump loyalist."

"She's been with him from the very beginning. She's proven her chops with the First Lady's Office, which has avoided the missteps that often plagued the West Wing press staff. She's tough as nails. The press respects her. And most importantly, Trump trusts her," the official told CBS News.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Grisham has not only the trust of the president and first lady, but has a particular ability to understand the needs of the press. 

"I think Stephanie obviously has the trust and the respect of the president and first lady and that's critical in this position," Spicer said, adding that's important in any White House, but "I think in this particular White House it's even more so because of the importance of communication." The lack of leaks in the first lady's office, Spicer agreed, earns that trust and is key. And loyalty, Spicer noted, is important to any president, but particularly this one. 

Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, who was interested in the position, quickly tweeted his support for Grisham.

"Amazing announcement! So proud and blessed to have my good friend @StephGrisham45 working with our team. She is a rockstar and perfect to fill Sarah's shoes!" Gidley wrote.

A former White House official said they have been very vocal that merging the two roles — press secretary and communications director — is not smart.

"Her being triple-hatted I hope is short-lived," the former official said.

Mr. Trump announced Sanders would be vacating her position via tweet earlier this month. He is encouraging her to make a bid for governor in 2022 — a move Sanders hasn't ruled out. She's moving back to Arkansas at the end of the week. 

"After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas," Mr. Trump wrote Thursday afternoon. "She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job! I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas - she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!"