The surprise announcement by President Trump that Sarah Sanders would be leaving her position as White House press secretary sparked a heated contest to succeed her.
Sanders said on Thursday she was stepping down at the end of the month as Trump’s press secretary after about two years in the job. She plans to return to her home state of Arkansas and contemplate a run for governor there in 2022.
Speaking to “Fox & Friends” on Friday, the president declined to name who he is considering to replace Sanders but said, “I have a lot of people that want it – a lot of great people – and sometimes you have so many that makes it more difficult.”
Trump has four leading candidates under consideration to replace Sanders, a Trump confidant said on Friday.
They are deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley, Stephanie Grisham, who is first lady Melania Trump’s communications director, former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert and outgoing Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh, the source said on condition of anonymity.
Sanders’s position is expected to be filled on an interim basis by Hogan Gidley, the deputy press secretary, according to two White House officials.
Hogan Gidley is close to Sanders, having previously worked on her father Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaigns. He is currently the principal deputy White House spokesman. He has been working for Trump since the early days of his 2016 presidential campaign.
Several sources put Melania Trump’s deputy chief of staff and communications director Stephanie Grisham high on the list of potential candidates, deeming her a strong contender. She is well-respected by the first couple and has impressed the president, according to the sources. Grisham was among the staff who worked on the president’s 2016 campaign.
Melania Trump would support Grisham leaving the East Wing, according to a White House official. Grisham “wouldn’t do anything without (Melania’s) consent,” the official said, adding that Grisham being on the list means “this is a move Melania supports.”
Heather Nauert, a former Fox News journalist, was the top State Department spokesman until she was nominated by Trump to serve as United Nations ambassador. She ended up withdrawing her name from consideration for the U.N. job earlier this year.
Tony Sayegh, the departing assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department who is leaving his post as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s chief spokesman. He is a former Fox News and Fox Business contributor and was credited with helping the administration’s media rollout of the president’s tax cut plan.
All of that is speculation until the president makes up his mind. Only one thing is definite. The next press secretary must be loyal. “Having the trust and a real relationship with the president,” Spicer explained, “is crucial.”
Several current and former senior administration officials say Trump is likely to select a woman for the press secretary post. Trump grew close to both Sanders and Hicks and will likely follow them as a model when making this particular hire.
White House officials are debating whether to restore the daily news briefing for its next press secretary. Sanders’s last briefing was 96 days ago, though she has held more informal press gaggles with members of the press since then.
The Times reported that some White House officials, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, say the next press secretary should hold at least a daily untelevised briefing, which could be used to help shape the White House message and help elevate Trump as he seeks reelection in 2020.
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