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White House makes significant additions to press shop

Top political stories this week
Top political stories this week 04:36

The White House's press shop is making some big additions to its roster, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CBS News in an interview Thursday.

Steven Groves, who has been serving in the White House as assistant special counsel, is taking on the role of deputy press secretary handling issues related to the Department of Justice and legislative affairs. He will oversee the response to congressional investigations into the administration. Groves' arrival comes at a particularly important time for the White House, as Democrats plan to wield their new subpoena authority to investigate the president's finances and probe Cabinet members. The House Oversight and Reform Committee has already launched a probe into White House security clearances.

Before joining the White House, Groves served as chief of staff to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. He holds legal degrees from Georgetown University and Ohio Northern University.

Sanders said that she has also officially elevated Hogan Gidley to be her second in command as principal deputy press secretary. Gidley has been acting in that role since last year, when former principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah moved to coordinate White House media efforts during the nomination hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Shah left the White House earlier this year to start a media consulting group.

Judd Deere, who was formerly the White House director of media affairs, has also been promoted to White House deputy press secretary, where he will focus on topics that include energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and NASA. Deere also previously served as White House director of state communications.

Deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, the longest-serving deputy press secretary, will continue in her role. Walters' areas of coverage will expand to oversee financial areas, including trade and Wall Street. 

"We're going back to a good system where everyone has certain issues they cover," Sanders told CBS News.  "It is more structured."

Gidley has been close to Sanders for over a decade. He previously worked as communications director for the presidential bid of her father, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in 2016—a campaign that Sanders ran as the campaign manager. Gidley also worked for Huckabee as executive director of his political action committee- Huck PAC- in 2008.

"He is almost like another son, but I really don't need another one," Mike Huckabee, a father of three dault children, joked in a brief interview. Huckabee also told CBS his family is so close with Gidley that they once gave him a Labrador puppy that was sired by the Huckabee family hunting dog, Jet.

Gidley, an avid body builder and hunter, has been known to spar with members of the White House press corps since he first joined the West Wing as a deputy White House press secretary in October 2017.

Gidley called out Playboy White House reporter Brian Karem for saying on social media that President Trump "lied" when he claimed he was in the Oval Office during the shutdown. Karem, who is also a CNN analyst, tweeted a photo showing no U.S. Marine in front of the West Wing entrance, which is typical, but not mandatory protocol when the president is inside.

"I just looked into the Oval Office myself, and @POTUS was in fact sitting behind the Resolute Desk working," Hogan tweeted soon after. "So, now I'm just waiting for you and the rest of your ilk to either stop jumping to false conclusions, correct the record, or, here's a thought, call the press team to ask."

Gidley is well-liked by many of the top brass at the White House, according to a senior White House official—not only for his gregarious nature among White House staff, but for his ability to quip in effective, pithy soundbites in response to the president's critics.

"He is an absolutely health machine," Huckabee said. The former presidential candidate described the time his 2016 senior campaign aide, Chip Saltsman, dared Gidley to eat a corn dog at the iconic Iowa State fair. Gidley initially said no. But then Saltsman offered him a $100 bet.

"For that, he did it" Huckabee said.

Like Sanders, Gidley and Deere both have Arkansan roots. Deere is from Arkansas, and Gidley used to be a local television reporter in Little Rock.

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