The White House communications director used to be fairly obscure to the public, a largely behind-the-scenes operator who ceded the roles of public face and headline machine to the press secretary.
No longer. Like so many other elements of the Trump administration, the comings and goings of the comms director have become a live-tweeted reality show, thanks to the drama that surrounded Anthony “of the Ten Days” Scaramucci and the glamorous former model Hope Hicks, who constantly drew comment despite never giving an on-camera interview. With Hicks having vacated the position as of Friday, speculation about her replacement is flying with the kind of scrutiny usually reserved for Trump’s hairstyle on a windy day.
So who will replace Hope Hicks?
“The Hill” reports there are five candidates for the position — Five contestants! Who will prevail? — including Mercedes Schlapp, the current director of strategic communications and the front runner; press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Jason Miller, a campaign aide who was offered the job during the transition but turned it down (he’d fathered an out-of-wedlock child with another Trump campaign staffer); former Trump transition comms director Bryan Lanza; and Tony Sayegh, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department.
The “Washington Post” throws Kellyanne Conway into the mix. “That Conway has not wound up in the press shop could be an indication that she just doesn’t want to be there,” the paper says. “Yet she is one of a shrinking number of veteran aides whom Trump trusts, and if the president said he needed her as communications director, could she say no?” She may not get the option: Last week, it was reported Conway’s husband, George, was retweeting scathingly critical stories about the president.
The “Post” also floats former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Heather Nauert, the current State Department spokesperson and a former Fox News anchor, among others.
The “New York Times” says that finding a replacement will be an unusually heavy lift, because Hicks was imbued with the power to read President Trump’s mind. “Her ability to anticipate what he wants and also execute can’t be replicated,” Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, told the “Times.” “At least not immediately.”
Plus: Who will bake cookies and circulate the memes? “She is also among the people the staff relied on to bolster flagging morale — one White House official described her departure as a mother leaving her children behind,” the “Times” reported. “To cut the tension in a chaotic workplace, Ms. Hicks baked cookies for aides on Valentine’s Day, swapped country music song recommendations and texted her colleagues funny video clips.”
When will Hope Hicks be replaced?
Trump is in no hurry to name a successor, reports Politico. “He’s his own comms director, so there’s not really a need,” a former administration official said.
But the consensus is that when and if the position is filled, it’s Schlapp who will replace Hope Hicks, because she’s “the most natural pick,” the “Post” says. “Schlapp is experienced; she was working in the George W. Bush White House press shop when Hicks was still in middle school. Schlapp is also versatile. Although she works mostly behind the scenes these days, the former Fox News Channel contributor is comfortable defending Trump on camera.”