Former White House press secretary and aide to the first lady Stephanie Grisham recalls in her January 6 committee interview that Melania Trump pushed back when it was suggested she invite Jill Biden to tea.
Indeed Ms Grisham noted that the former first lady’s stance was even out of character given her prior position to act independently of West Wing policy.
Ms Grisham was asked by the committee about a text message chain between her and Ms Trump in which she told the then-first lady to consider reaching out to invite Jill Biden for the traditional tea and tour of the White House as outgoing first ladies usually do, regardless of Donald Trump complaining about the election result.
She explained: “I was trying to gently say to her — because, again, so often she did things no matter — independent of her husband, and she did what she felt was right. So I was trying to gently say, maybe we reach out and do this anyway.”
Ms Grisham told the committee that Ms Trump replied: “We need to be on the same page with West Wing.”
This took the aide by surprise: “In my entire career in that White House, she never, ever, ever said that. It was always kind of an ‘F the West Wing’ attitude.”
Referring to the text messages she said: “And so that’s — you see l’m like, ‘I see. Ok,’ because I was flabbergasted. We had never gone along with the West Wing on anything.”
Ms Grisham goes further: “When I very first started my job with her, she said — I mean, she all but told me relinquish your ties with the West Wing, because of course I started out there. We’re going to do our own thing. We aren’t going to worry about them. We are going to do what I want, what I feel is right, and what they say doesn’t matter.”
However, she alleges that all changed in the two to three weeks before January 6. Ms Grisham recalls: “She started to say, like, something’s not right here and let’s listen to the West Wing. And she had started to, in my opinion, drink somebody’s Kool-Aid that perhaps this election was stolen.”
Later, recounting what was happening during the Capitol riot when Ms Trump was having White House carpets photographed, Ms Grisham told the panel that she asked the first lady if she wanted to tweet out a call for peaceful protest and no violence and received a simple “No” in response.
“She was up there with the carpet and I was watching violence take place at our Capitol, and she just literally said no to me with no explanation,” Ms Grisham said. “I just — I mean I kind of was like just f*** you.”
She added: “I was so, so disappointed in her. I was more disappointed in her than I had ever, ever been, because she had a chance to take a real leadership role. And I know for a fact she was amazing at influencing her husband sometimes with the kinds of things, you know.”
She further said she couldn’t believe the first lady was not immediately on the phone to the president telling him to make the video he eventually did telling the rioters to go home.
The former aide to the first lady also recalled an incident in which the White House’s chief usher Tim Harleth got in touch with the Biden team independently to provide them with blueprints of the executive mansion so they could prepare for the transition.
Word of the meeting got back to then-President Trump and chief of staff Mark Meadows via the Secret Service and they wanted him fired immediately.
Ms Trump, she told the committee, steeped in and said they were not going to fire him with just three weeks of the presidency left to go.
She indicates that this was consistent with a climate of believing that the administration and the fight to stay in office not being over yet and that Mr Harleth was seen as being “disloyal”.
In other parts of her testimony, Ms Grisham gave a blistering assessment of whether Mr Trump would have marched to the Capitol with his supporters if the Secret Service had given him permission to do so.
“That man was not going to march down the street with people,” she told Rep Liz Cheney. “I just know him. He’s afraid of people. He doesn’t want to do those things. And so he was just riling up a crowd that you could tell was already angry.”
She also told the panel that while President Trump revelled in the fact that the people at the Capitol were fighting for him, he also thought they looked “trashy”.
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