Almost as soon as White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced her retirement, rumors began to swirl around who would fill her shoes, stonewalling journalists and holding increasingly infrequent press briefings on behalf of Donald Trump. Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley seemed a likely choice, but in Trumpworld anything goes, meaning names Kellyanne Conway and Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro were also floated as replacements. The Las Vegas Review-Journal started a betting pool, putting Gidley’s odds of replacing Sanders at 4 to 1, Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves’s at 7 to 1, and Conway’s at 20 to 1. (Pirro and Rudy Giuliani had longer odds, at 55 to 1 and 250 to 1, respectively.) But according to Axios, the new Sanders might come from the East Wing.
Per Jonathan Swan, Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s current spokeswoman, is near the top of the internal list to replace Sanders. “A number of influential people close to President Trump” reportedly want her in the job. She’s one of the few original campaign staffers remaining in the White House, and Trump himself both likes and trusts her, making her an ideal candidate for the position. Over the years, Grisham has been effective at running defense for the administration, from killing rumors of a Melania body double to throwing gossipy ex-staffers under the bus. (After NSC staffer Mira Ricardel bad-mouthed her East Wing staff, Grisham made her own feelings clear to reporters: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”)
Grisham insisted that there was nothing at all hypocritical about Melania launching an anti-cyberbullying campaign, reframing the push to encompass everything from the opioid epidemic to nutrition, in a bit of spin worthy of Sanders herself. “We really want people to stay away from saying it’s a cyberbullying campaign,” Grisham told Slate in an interview, adding to CNN, “We have focused on opioid abuse and addiction, healthy living, kindness and compassion, nutrition, and the importance of education. Today’s topic of social media and technology is no different.”
Then again, there’s a good chance that Trump won’t even bother to fill the position, given his recent track record. Since the departure of chief of staff John Kelly, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney has retained the title in an “acting” capacity. Per reports, that isn’t likely to change. Other seemingly crucial roles are still open too: there has been no White House communications director since Hope Hicks left to join Fox back in March. The Review-Journal places the odds of a sustained vacancy at 19 to 1, reflecting Trump’s belief that ultimately, he’s his own best spokesman.
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