WASHINGTON — Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s loyal and sometimes combative communications director, will replace Sarah Huckabee Sanders as White House press secretary, the first lady announced on Tuesday.
She will also take on the added role of communications director, a job that has been vacant since the departure of Bill Shine in March, and will keep her role with Mrs. Trump.
While other names were initially floated for the job, the appointment of Ms. Grisham ensured that another loyalist would become the public face of an administration that has been defined by its pugilistic relationships with journalists.
Ms. Grisham joined the Trump presidential campaign in 2015 and is one of the last remaining aides from the campaign still serving in the White House. She became a trusted aide after the Trumps moved into the White House, known for defending Mrs. Trump and the Trump family, and for her ability to keep the East Wing relatively free of leaks.
Ms. Grisham will be President Trump’s third press secretary in less than three years.
His first press secretary, Sean Spicer, a former spokesman and strategist for the Republican National Committee, set the tone of the White House press operation in the opening days of the administration, when he stood behind the podium and declared that Mr. Trump’s inauguration drew “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” Mr. Spicer, who also filled both roles for a time, had hoped to last one year in the job, but quit after six months and one day.
Ms. Sanders took a different approach to the job, slowly phasing out the daily press briefing that Mr. Trump never liked, and functioning more as an inner circle adviser to the president. Mr. Trump saw her as a “warrior,” even calling her up to the microphone at his re-election kickoff rally in front of 20,000 people as a sign of his appreciation.
With Ms. Sanders’s departure, White House officials have been debating internally whether to revive the daily news briefing as Mr. Trump heads into the thick of election season. On the day Ms. Sanders announced her resignation, it had been 94 days since she held a briefing with the press, and some officials have argued it would be a powerful tool that would help elevate Mr. Trump above his Democratic opponent in the 2020 race.
Ms. Grisham, who has earned the president’s trust, is expected to institute real changes to an office that has been in flux for two-and-a-half years. In the White House, she has emerged as a ferocious defender of Mrs. Trump, writing op-eds criticizing the news media for the way it covers her.
Ms. Grisham has waded into public spats between the White House and former aides, or ex-wives. When Ivana Trump, the president’s first wife, referred to herself as first lady, Ms. Grisham took the unusual step of releasing a statement.
When Mira Ricardel, a former adviser on the National Security Council, ran afoul of the first lady, Ms. Grisham released another.
“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Ms. Grisham wrote.
When Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Mrs. Trump, publicly disputed the terms of her departure, Ms. Grisham hit back, saying “I’m not going to waste my time arguing the semantics.”
Ms. Grisham, 42, was born in Arizona and worked in Republican politics there before joining the Trump campaign. In 2013 she was charged with driving under the influence, speeding and driving with an invalid license. The charges were reduced in 2014 to reckless driving, according to court records.
Ms. Grisham was pulled over again in Arizona in December 2015 and charged with driving under the influence. She pleaded guilty, was fined and ordered into a treatment program, according to court records.
Ms. Grisham said Tuesday that she had completed what she described as a safety class and paid the fines, and that she disclosed the episodes to the White House before going to work there.