By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a White House communications shakeup, press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced plans to leave on Tuesday and administration officials said she was expected to be replaced by a spokeswoman for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, Kayleigh McEnany.
The shuffle, in which Grisham will become first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff, is seen as a sign of the internal influence of new White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who took over barely a week ago.
Grisham, who held both the positions of communications director and chief spokesperson for Trump, is returning to familiar territory as the first lady’s top aide, having previously served as her communications director.
Trump plans to have separate people for the communications and press secretary jobs, according to the officials, a return to a format that many past administrations have used.
The positions have less relevance in the Trump White House, since the president sets the news agenda each day with tweets and frequent encounters with the news media. He has been holding a daily news conference to discuss the coronavirus pandemic since mid-March.
McEnany, 31, a Trump loyalist, is expected to be announced as press secretary. She is well-liked by Trump as a fighter for him on cable news shows.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah, a former spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence and a former Meadows aide, is expected to be named director of strategic communications, the officials said.
Long-time Meadows aide Ben Williamson is expected to be a senior adviser for communications. Current deputy press secretaries Hogan Gidley and Judd Deere are expected to remain in their roles.
Grisham took over from Sarah Sanders as press secretary last June, the third person to hold the role in Trump’s high-turnover White House. Sean Spicer was Trump’s first press secretary.
At Trump’s direction, she did not hold press briefings but did make multiple appearances on Fox News Channel programs.
Going to the first lady’s office will keep the Trump loyalist in close proximity. She worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“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,” Melania Trump said in a statement.
Grisham takes over from Lindsay Reynolds, who resigned earlier this week to spend time with her family. Grisham begins her new role immediately.
“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,” Grisham said in a statement.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Tom Brown)