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Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Since starting her job on July 1, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has given zero briefings and amassed a five-month-plus streak of appearing exclusively in pro-Trump media outlets like Fox News. It wasn’t until the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on December 18 that Grisham finally gave on-camera interviews to any mainstream media outlets.

Media Matters previously documented Grisham’s Fox-centered media strategy, which was noted by The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. Grisham told Wemple that she also went on One America News Network and Sinclair Broadcasting, two other pro-Trump media outlets. But once Trump made history on December 18 by becoming the third U.S. president to be impeached, Grisham finally caved and gave interviews to CBS This Morning and ABC’s Good Morning America the following day. 

Grisham told CBS This Morning that the Trump impeachment “is going to go down in history as one that was done on partisan political lines” and that Trump “continues to work while all this is going on,” unlike the Democrats. When anchor Gayle King pressed Grisham on the “false narrative” that impeachment is about Trump voters, the press secretary claimed, “It really is about the American people because they’re trying to take a president down ever since the 2016 election, and they’re trying to stop him from winning in 2020.”

Grisham similarly told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “this has been a very partisan impeachment and history’s just not going to look kindly on the Democrats” because “Americans don’t want to see impeachment.” Grisham even defended Trump’s suggestion that deceased Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) might be in hell, saying Trump is a “counterpuncher” and that “he was just riffing on some of the things that had been happening the past few days.” Grisham also confirmed that she is still not going to do any press briefings for the foreseeable future, unless “the president decides that a briefing is a good idea.” 

Here are the rest of the press secretary’s media appearances since November 1, when we last catalogued them:

After months almost entirely on Fox, Grisham mildly shook things up on November 1 with a two-part “exclusive” interview on One America News Network, the less-popular and less-impactful of the two pro-Trump cable news channels. In part one, the OAN reporter had no pushback on Grisham calling the media “truly fake news a lot of the time,” simply saying that “one of the narratives in the media” is that Trump shouldn’t take credit for killing the leader of ISIS. Grisham took the opportunity to brag about Trump’s fight against ISIS, which also turned into an attack on the press. Part two of the interview pivoted to discussion on impeachment, and Grisham yet again complained that “the way the Dems have set this up, we’re guilty and have to prove our innocence” and that the “transcript” of his call with the Ukrainian president clears Trump of any wrongdoing.

Rather than press Grisham on her obvious misdirection, the OAN reporter suggested that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should “just shut this down by holding a vote in a day” since Senate Republicans will likely vote to save Trump. 

On November 2, Grisham went on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox show to falsely attack House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) as an “admitted liar,” and falsely suggest that Democrats are pushing impeachment to deny Trump credit for the economy and attempt “a redo” of 2016 election.

Grisham returned to Fox on November 5, appearing on Lou Dobbs Tonight to once again falsely assert that Trump “did nothing wrong” and transcripts of diplomat Kurt Volker’s closed-door testimony were “actually … good for the president.” She also complained that “instead of funding our military or passing a budget or, you know, passing USMCA or doing all kinds of other things, this is what the Democrats have been doing.”

On November 7, Grisham appeared on “straight news” show The Story, where anchor Martha MacCallum asked her marginally more difficult questions than Fox opinion hosts ask. But Grisham still effortlessly parlayed them into her standard defense, saying that “the president did nothing wrong” and that media reports about criminality in the president’s orbit are “just more palace intrigue. It’s unfortunate that the media continues just try to find palace intrigue when there’s a lot of other things that they could be covering.”

The following morning, Grisham returned to Mornings with Maria Bartiromo to field friendly questions from the pro-Trump anchor on a small number of issues, including China tariffs. Most of Grisham’s appearance was once again focused on claiming the Democrats should support Trump’s policy initiatives because “the president did nothing wrong” and arguing that the impeachment inquiry is a “sham.”

Bartiromo agreed, later adding that Trump’s desired North American trade deal would create “175,000 jobs, … so you do make a good point in terms of people’s lives are on the line” with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement “up in the air.” The interview ended with Bartiromo and Grisham both complaining that first lady Melania Trump doesn’t get enough credit from “the liberal media.”

Grisham next appeared on Fox’s “media criticism” show, MediaBuzz, on November 10. Although host Howard Kurtz asked a few somewhat challenging questions, he allowed Grisham to respond with her usual spin without any pushback. Grisham even said it was “concerning” that the whistleblower “purports to want to help the country, but won’t talk to anybody but the Dems.” Ironically, Grisham appeared exclusively in pro-Trump media for over another month after making this comment. 

Grisham made her first appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight on November 13, where she criticized State Department employees for “actively working against a president, especially a president who’s doing so well for the country.” She also once again dishonestly claimed that the impeachment inquiry is happening because people unhappy about the 2016 election want to prevent Trump from winning in 2020.

Grisham joined Sean Hannity on his Fox show on November 15, yet again claiming that the impeachment inquiry is an attempt to reverse the 2016 election, that Trump “is being so transparent in this process because he did absolutely nothing wrong,” and that Democrats started saying “bribery” because “quid pro quo” did not poll well — all standard Fox narratives against impeachment. She also misleadingly compared Trump’s termination of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch to normal staff overturn between presidents, even though Trump dismissed Yovanovitch years into his presidency and seemingly for his personal gain, furthering his Ukraine scheme.

On November 16, Grisham went back on Justice with Judge Jeanine to defend Trump against accusations of witness intimidation by accusing Schiff of “intimidati[ng]” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and the media of “intimidati[ng]” counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway. Grisham hailed Trump’s witness intimidation as him shrewdly “going around the Dems, … and that’s what made them angry.” 

On November 20, Grisham made her third overall appearance as press secretary with Sinclair host Eric Bolling. Like in her Fox appearances, Grisham claimed that the impeachment inquiry “should be over” and that “someone who’s guilty of doing anything wrong wouldn’t have released a transcript.” Grisham also defended her conduct as press secretary, claiming that “a lot of the media are upset that maybe I’m not doing things the traditional way, talking to some of the networks they think I should be talking to. … I’m doing things a different way but I think that’s OK. The press are getting more than enough.” She also said she’s “going to start asking for a dollar” every time someone asks her when the press briefings are starting again. 

On November 22, Grisham made yet another appearance on Lou Dobbs Tonight to demand that Schiff testify about the intelligence community whistleblower. Grisham agreed with Dobbs that Trump has “the patience of Job” to put up with Schiff’s “parade of nonsense,” and she once again said that “to me, [the impeachment inquiry] should be over. I don’t understand how we’re continuing to talk about it.” Grisham ended her appearance with a petty attack on former national security adviser John Bolton’s mental acuity, suggesting he’s criticizing Trump now only to get speaking fees and book deals, and Dobbs agreed.

Grisham came back to Fox on December 5, appearing on Hannity to agree with the host’s absurd premise that media coverage of Melania Trump has “crossed lines we’ve never seen.” “That’s the tolerant left for you,” the press secretary replied, going on to falsely suggest that an impeachment witness attacked Trump’s teenage son and the media supported it. Hannity also tried to revive his feud with late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel, and Grisham offered to “join in” in Hannity’s next round of fighting with the co-host of the now-defunct The Man Show

Grisham appeared on Lou Dobbs Tonight again on December 6, to denounce impeachment as “a circus,” saying, “Maybe ‘circus’ is being generous.” She said that Trump had added 266,000 jobs in November, yet Democrats “clutch at anything they can to stop him from winning in 2020.” Grisham also bragged that “unemployment is down and the stock market is soaring” under Trump, yet Pelosi was still trying to impeach Trump over his Ukrainian scandal. Grisham and Dobbs also talked about unity in the Republican caucus and a rise in donations to the Republican Party. 

Grisham returned to MediaBuzz on December 8. Kurtz mostly asked Grisham softball questions about impeachment that teed up the press secretary’s rote Trump defense that “this is [Democrats] hating the president more than they love this country [and] doing everything they can to undo 2016, and now it’s very clear they’re fearing 2020.”

In another example, Kurtz asked her whether journalists are “taking sides on impeachment,” at which point Grisham accused journalists of “cheering for impeachment and reveling in it and enjoying it.” Grisham also once again complained there was “no due process” in the impeachment inquiry, even as she was claiming that the administration would not participate in a Senate trial which would allow the White House to defend itself. Kurtz and Grisham also covered the allegedly unfair media coverage of Melania Trump and an impeachment witness’s mention of Barron Trump’s name.

On December 10, Grisham talked to Fox anchor Harris Faulkner on Outnumbered Overtime to promote the Trump administration’s spin on the surveillance of former campaign adviser Carter Page. She suggested that U.S. Attorney John Durham’s report “will show more” alleged evidence of wrongdoing by former intelligence officials like former FBI Director James Comey. Grisham also speculated that the Democrats produced only two articles of impeachment because “perhaps Speaker Pelosi had to make a deal with her Dems” to build support for any articles. She also dismissed the two articles against Trump as “silly” and “the very lowest threshold you could have.”

Later that night, Grisham returned to Lou Dobbs Tonight, an emerging favorite of hers. Grisham and Dobbs did the same thing they do every time she’s on the show: accuse the Democrats of abusing their power, complain about an alleged lack of “due process,” and denounce impeachment as “absurd.” Grisham and Dobbs did discuss the House’s approval of Trump’s USMCA trade agreement, but Grisham complained about “the timing” of the vote alongside impeachment. Grisham also predicted that “a lot of people will be held accountable” in the FBI for their unfair investigation against Trump.

Grisham returned to arguably the president’s favorite show, Fox & Friends, on December 18, the morning of the impeachment vote. She told the hosts that “history is not going to look kindly on these Democrats” for impeaching Trump “for partisan political reasons.” Grisham also falsely claimed that Americans don’t care about impeachment because they “know that this president is working for them … [because] he is such a focused president.”

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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

Kevin Bacon, right, in "The Following"

The aftermath of the August 8, 2022 search of the Mar-a-Lago club, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, isn’t the first showdown between the FBI and a cult leader.

The Following, a 2013 Fox Pictures series, played out in similar fashion. Three seasons was enough for the producers and it’s been nine years since our introduction to Joe Carroll, English professor-novelist-serial killer, so there’s a spoiler risk -- but not enough to prevent the comparison.

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