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Ex-Tucsonan resigns from White House over Capitol riot

Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff for Melania Trump and a former White House press secretary, resigned effective immediately Wednesday in the aftermath of the deadly and chaotic riot in which Trump supporters broke windows and smashed doors in the U.S. Capitol to halt the tally of electoral votes for Joe Biden.

Grisham handed in her resignation Wednesday evening, CNN reported, following a day of clashes in which a woman was fatally shot inside the Capitol building and Trumpist rioters invaded the chambers of the House and Senate, forcing members of both bodies, along with Vice President Mike Pence, to take shelter in safe rooms.

The hours-long riot, which Pence called “unprecedented violence and vandalism” and and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called a “failed insurrection,” interrupted the counting of electoral votes to formally complete the election of Biden, who will be sworn in as president on January 20. Lawmakers convened later in the night to again take up the process of acknowledging Biden’s election victory.

Grisham worked in the White House from the beginning of Trump’s term, and was named his press secretary and communications director in May 2019, replacing Sarah Huckabee Sanders. During her year-long tenure in that post, she never held a single on-camera briefing for reporters.

Grisham, a former flack for Republicans in Arizona who worked on Trump’s presidential campaign and then controversially was paid by taxpayers here while working on Trump’s transition team, had been appointed as the first lady’s top spokeswoman in March 2017.

Disagreements with Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, caused her to leave the West Wing in spring 2020 and return to the East Wing to work for the first lady’s office again.

In 2018, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel — an investigative agency unrelated to the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller — determined that Grisham violated the federal Hatch Act prohibition on government employees campaigning while using taxpayer resources. Grisham tweeted the Trump political slogan “#MAGA” (“Make America Great Again”) using her official account, and a warning letter was issued.

Grisham worked as the spokeswoman for the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature after a stint of several years as the public information officer for state Attorney General Tom Horne.

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Grishman was named “Best PR Person” at the state Capitol by the Arizona Capitol Times in 2015, when she demonstrated a sense of humor about her work with a video spoof.

The next year, she didn’t endear herself to reporters when she enforced then-House Speaker David Gowan’s attempt to block journalists from the floor of the Legislature if they didn’t submit to background checks. Gowan was targeting Hank Stephenson of the Cap Times, who investigated Gowan’s improper use of state vehicles as he campaigned for Congress. Gowan had to repay taxpayers $12,000 after Stephenson’s report.

Gowan’s move, billed as a “security measure,” was met with condemnation and mockery by the press, and he backed down several days later.

Grisham was involved in political scandals while working for Horne, who was accused of improperly coordinating with the head of the group Business Leaders of Arizona during his 2010 campaign. Those allegations were mooted when the Arizona Supreme Court found that his due process rights were violated by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk during the investigation.

During Horne’s 2014 re-election campaign, Grisham worked in his government office and as a campaign staffer — including doing political work while on the clock for taxpayers. Horne was fined $10,000 by the Clean Elections Commission over the violations in his losing bid, but another state probe into the issue was dropped after three years of investigation.

Prior to her series of government jobs, she was the spokeswoman for AAA Arizona, beginning in 2007.

Grisham was divorced from former husband Dan Marries, the KOLD Channel 13 anchor, in 2004. She then married Todd Grisham, a KOLD sportscaster who later became an announcer for Fox Sports and ESPN. They divorced in 2006.

Grisham began working for the Trump campaign in May 2016, after the Legislature adjourned.

After Trump’s election, Grisham first worked with the incoming president’s transition team, and then as a deputy press secretary. She was named a “special assistant to the president” and communications director for the first lady on March 27, 2017.

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