WASHINGTON, May 15, 2018 — David Friedman, the United States’ Ambassador to Israel, personally selected controversial pastor Rev. Robert Jeffress to deliver a prayer at a ceremony marking the American embassy’s move to Jerusalem, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday.
“We would certainly not agree with the pastor’s remarks, some of his controversial remarks that he has made about various religious groups,” Nauert said during the State Department’s daily press briefing. “But he was chosen by Ambassador Friedman, who was certainly welcome to do so, and made that decision.”
Jeffress, an evangelical pastor who serves on President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board, has had a long history of making disparaging remarks about faiths other than his own.
During a 2008 sermon, he declared that adhering to Islam, Judaism and Hinduism — as well as membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church — will “lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell.”
He later added that the aforementioned “hell” would be “filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters he did not know how Jeffress came to speak at the opening of the Jerusalem embassy despite his past remarks about Judaism, but explained Jeffress’ presence by telling reporters that the pastor has “a strong relationship with many in the faith community” as well as members of the administration and members of Congress, but that his remarks were not representative of the president’s views.
Embassies have discretion as to guest speakers at public events
Nauert explained that American embassies have wide latitude as to speakers they might invite, citing the example of Dr. Arie Kruglanski, a University of Maryland scholar who spoke at the American embassy in Berlin last month despite her having made remarks critical of President Trump.
“Embassies certainly have their free will sometimes to make decisions about who they want to bring in as guest lecturers or people to lead a ceremony or some sort of a celebration,” she said, but denied that she was making a direct comparison.
“I’m just saying that embassies and people around the world bring in lots and lots of people who have various opinions,” Nauert said.
First Lady’s Spokesperson To Replace Sanders As White House Press Secretary, Comms Director
WASHINGTON, June 25, 2019 — Stephanie Grisham, a Trump administration veteran who has served as First Lady Melania Trump’s spokeswoman since 2017, will take Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ place as White House Press Secretary.
Mrs. Trump announced Grisham’s appointment in a tweet Tuesday.
“I am pleased to announce [Stephanie Grisham] will be the next [Press Secretary]” Mrs. Trump wrote, adding Grisham would also serve as White House Communications Director, a role last held by Trump confidante Hope Hicks.
Mrs. Trump added that Grisham be “working for both sides of the White House,” which means she will retain her current responsibilities as Communications Director for the Office of the First Lady.
Grisham is a veteran of Trump’s 2016 campaign who initially came to the White House as a deputy to then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer, but was quickly tapped to run Mrs. Trump’s communications operation.
Known for being fiercely protective of Mrs. Trump, Grisham played a key role in rolling out her signature “Be Best” anti-cyberbullying initiative.
Sarah Sanders Will Resign At Month’s End, Trump Says
Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ tenure as White House Press Secretary will come to a close at the end of this month, President Trump said in a tweet Thursday.
“After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas,” Trump tweeted.
“She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job!”
Trump added that he hoped Sanders would run for the governorship of Arkansas, a position once held by her father, Mike Huckabee.
Sanders is one of the few White House staffers who have served for the entirety of the Trump administration. She began her White House tenure as the Principal Deputy Press Secretary under Sean Spicer, but took over the top job in July of 2017 when Spicer resigned rather than report to Anthony Scaramucci, who’d been named White House Communications Director.
Scaramucci only lasted 11 days in the West Wing, but his decision to promote Sanders left a lasting impact on relations between the Trump administration and the press.
During her one year and 336 days as press secretary, the longstanding practice of holding a daily press briefing came to an end after months of contentious exchanges with reporters.
On the occasions when Sanders did brief the press, those sessions were frequently delayed until just before the President was due to speak at an event, giving her a reason to duck out of the room after as little as 20 minutes.
Her credibility as a reliable spokesperson took a hit after it was found that she’d lied about President Trump’s relationship with adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels.
The release of the Mueller Report did her reputation no favors, either, as it showed that she’d admitted to lying to the press in the wake of Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey.
Asked to say a few words during a White House event on job opportunities for people with criminal records, Sanders said working in the Trump administration has been an honor and “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“I could not be prouder to have the opportunity to serve my country and particularly to work for this president,” she said.
“I’ve loved every minute of it, even the hard minutes.”
The White House did not respond to a query as to who would replace Sanders, but it is widely expected that her job will pass to Hogan Gidley, her principal deputy and a fellow Arkansan.
Trump To Nominate Shanahan For Pentagon Boss After Five Months In ‘Acting’ Role
WASHINGTON, May 9, 2019 — Patrick Shanahan, the ex-Boeing VP who has led the Defense Department since late last year, may soon see his “acting” career come to an end.
Shanahan, 56, will soon be nominated for Senate confirmation as the 27th Secretary of Defense, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Thursday.
“Based upon his outstanding service to the Country and his demonstrated ability to lead, President Trump intends to nominate Patrick M. Shanahan to be the Secretary of Defense,” Sanders said in a statement.
“Acting Secretary Shanahan has proven over the last several months that he is beyond qualified to lead the Department of Defense, and he will continue to do an excellent job.”
Trump previously tapped the former Boeing executive to serve as Deputy Secretary of Defense under the 26th person to hold that position, retired Marine General James Mattis.
Shanahan was made Acting Secretary of Defense in December 2018, after Mattis resigned following President Trump’s decision to accede to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s request that he pull US troops out of Syria. Before joining the Defense Department, he spent 30 years at Boeing, rising to the position of senior vice president for supply chain and operations.