860 minutes with…Stephanie Grisham
New York magazine|October 11 - 24, 2021
In Kansas with Donald Trump’s former press secretary, who does not believe she will be redeemed.
By Olivia Nuzzi

Stephanie Grisham saw the pickup outside and yelped, “That’s Larry!” She grabbed a package and raced out her door, down the steps of the porch, and through the gate of the white picket fence and leaned halfway into the truck’s passenger window. “I wanted you to have this,” she said.

Larry unwrapped the package to reveal a shimmering whiskey glass embossed in gold with the presidential seal. Grisham told him it had been engraved with the signature of the 45th president of the United States. “It’s one of the last ones,” she said. Larry’s eyes widened beneath the brim of his trump-embroidered baseball cap. “Wow,” he said. “Thank you.” Larry—“the meat guy”—is a local rancher who always comes bearing gifts. It was the first

Friday of October in Plainville, Kansas, and he’d stopped by with a printout of an article he thought Grisham might like about the importance of honoring the troops by standing for the national anthem. Grisham smiled and scanned the paper. “Thank you!” she said.

As he drove off, unease crept in. Grisham’s expression turned stricken. Larry did not yet know what she was about to do or what she had already done. He did not know he was speaking, in effect, to a Stephanie Grisham who no longer exists. “I feel like one of the most hated people in the country,” she told me. “The right hates me. They really hate me now. And the left is never going to come around. I have no illusions that people are going to be like, ‘Oh, you’re so brave.’” Grisham was worried, she said, that Larry would be “disappointed.” A few hours later, he returned with some filet mignon.

OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS, Donald Trump has moonlighted as literary muse, creating an entire publishing subgenre of tell-alls from staffers and hangers-on inspired to wield the mighty pen directly into his back: Team of Vipers, by Cliff Sims; Unhinged, by Omarosa Manigault Newman; The Room Where It Happened, by John Bolton; Disloyal, by Michael Cohen; A Warning, by Anonymous (later revealed to be Miles Taylor); and Tower of Lies, by Barbara Res. (This is a separate category from the neutral-to-positive memoirs churned out by Trump-adjacent politicos, a group that includes Sean Spicer, Chris Christie, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Nikki Haley, and Madeleine Westerhout.)

There have been so many tell-alls that Stephanie Grisham isn’t even the first Stephanie to write one. With the release of I’ll Take Your Questions Now on October 5, she’s the third, after Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend and adviser to Melania Trump. “Maybe I’ve become jaded,” one ex–senior White House official said. “But it’s like, Oh, another one?

And yet among these authors, Grisham— the former White House press secretary and chief of staff to the First Lady—represents the most serious breach. Although her book is a more casual affair than those by Bolton and Taylor, and less of a takedown than those by Manigault Newman and Cohen, Grisham spent more time working in a powerful position in close contact with the president and the First Family during his term in office than anyone who has made the decision to spill their guts to date.

She discloses how, at the G20 in Osaka, the president told Vladimir Putin he would be acting “a little tougher” on him “for the cameras, and after they leave, we’ll talk.” How Fiona Hill observed that Putin brought an attractive female translator to their meeting, likely as a means to distract the president (and it worked). How the president asked her then-boyfriend how she was in bed. How he ordered her to tell a political ally in Arizona to stop wearing sleeveless clothing because he thought her arms were unsightly. How he underwent a colonoscopy without anesthesia to prevent Mike Pence from being in charge for even an hour. How Jared and Ivanka were dubbed “the interns” by colleagues who thought they were entitled incompetents. How the president called Grisham from Air Force One to instruct her to defend the size of his anatomy after Stormy Daniels claimed he was penilely deficient. And on and on and on.

A second ex-official said the book had come up in recent conversations with the former president and First Lady. “Here’s the word I hear most: I don’t hear betrayal—I hear ungrateful,” this person said. “Those of us who worked with them both at the same time know the truth, which is that Mrs. Trump went above and beyond to help Stephanie personally and professionally.”

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