Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Were Dubbed the 'Interns' by White House Critics, Melania's Aide Says

A new excerpt of Stephanie Grisham's tell-all — dismissed by a Kushner source as "sad" — recalls what led up to President Trump's address to the nation early in the pandemic

Jared Kushner Ivanka Trump
From left: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty

A longtime aide in President Donald Trump's administration says one of her "biggest personal regrets" was her role in allowing Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump drive some of the administration's early response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stephanie Grisham, who served as Trump's press secretary and for years worked for former First Lady Melania Trump, writes in detail in her new tell-all about the day the president addressed the nation from the Oval Office on March 11, 2020.

The planning and execution of that speech, according to Grisham, was a "total clusterf---."

"An address to the nation is serious stuff, and whenever possible you need plenty of time to prepare properly — unless, of course, you were in the Trump White House, where everything was like a clown car on fire running at full speed into a warehouse full of fireworks," Grisham writes in her book, I'll Take Your Questions Now, which is out next week and was excerpted Friday in Politico.

(The book, like the other critical White House memoirs before it, has already been dismissed by the Trumps and some of Grisham's former co-workers who say she is re-casting events to benefit herself.)

Ivanka, 39, and Kushner, 40, both served in her father's administration as a senior advisers to the president. With Trump's support, they each had broad responsibilities. They also had plenty of critics. Grisham writes that "we had all come to call Jared and Ivanka 'the interns' because they represented in our minds obnoxious, entitled know-it-alls."

She writes that in a crowded meeting of the coronavirus task force that included the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and others, Ivanka repeatedly pushed for the televised address, which would take place that night.

Grisham viewed Ivanka's qualifications skeptically, she writes.

Stephanie Grisham
Stephanie Grisham. Alex Wong/Getty Images

"The women's rights / small-business / crisis communications / and now Covid expert, just kept repeating, 'There should be an address from the Oval,' " Grisham writes. "Finally, Ivanka turned to her most powerful ally besides her father. 'Jared, don't you agree?'"

Grisham writes that she asked for details about the contents of the proposed speech but didn't get specifics from Ivanka, Kushner or Hope Hicks, a former communications director who'd returned to the White House in 2020 as counselor to the president.

"One of my other biggest personal regrets is that I didn't have the courage to speak out against Jared, Ivanka and Hope about the potential dangers of addressing the nation without any Covid response strategy in place, and what a disservice it could be to the country and the president."

A spokeswoman for Ivanka did not comment on the latest from Grisham's book, but a Kushner source defended the Trump administration's response to the pandemic, telling PEOPLE: "The work speaks for itself. We have a vaccine, we have nobody that needed a ventilator that didn't have one."

The sourced also maintains that Kushner isn't paying attention to what Grisham has to say.

"It's sad that that's her takeaway from her time in service and that the best way she can think of trying to capitalize on her time in government is to write a book," the source said, adding of the book's release on Tuesday: "He's not focused on it. Ivanka's not focused on it."

Jared Kushner and <a href="https://people.com/tag/ivanka-trump" data-inlink="true">Ivanka Trump</a> attend a Ceremonial Welcome at Buckingham
Samir Hussein/WireImage.

In a follow-up meeting to sort out the details of the speech, Grisham writes in her book, Kushner "was calling all the shots" despite the presence of the vice president who also headed up the task force. "It was disrespectful, and I remember feeling both embarrassed and disgusted," Grisham writes.

Of the president's daughter, Grisham says, "Ivanka was also doing her 'my father' wants this and 'my father' thinks that routine, making it impossible for staff members to argue a contrary view."

That night, the president gave his address, telling the nation of plans to for a 30-day travel ban for non-Americans coming from much of Europe as well as emergency aid for those affected by the economic impact of the virus.

"The speech that night contained a number of misstatements and sloppy wording — some caused by the president stumbling over a few phrases — that sowed confusion," Grisham writes.

Donald Trump,Jared Kushner
President Donald Trump speaks to White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, left, in the Oval Office in Washington, Friday, April 21, 2017. With his tweets and his bravado, Trump is putting his mark on the presidency in his first 100 days in office. He's flouted conventions of the institution by holding on to his business, hiring family members as advisers and refusing to release his tax returns. He's tested conventional political wisdom by eschewing travel, church, transparency, discipline, consistency and decorum. But the presidency is also having an impact on Trump, prompting him, at times, to play the role of traditional president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Describing the fallout, Grisham says people who worked at federal agencies began to call and ask for clarifications or for corrections to the speech and reporters were lined up at her office as news outlets began to report its discrepancies.

"Of course, it was our problem, not Jared's or Ivanka's or Hope's," Grisham writes. "No, they were in the dining room off of the Oval Office, Trump's usual hangout, congratulating themselves and telling the president how awesome he was."

Scheduled for release Tuesday, Grisham's book contains equally colorful anecdotes and recollections of her time working for the first lady as press secretary (before she moved to the West Wing) and as her chief of staff beginning in April of 2020.

Grisham resigned from the administration on Jan. 6 hours after the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In previous statements, both the former president and first lady slammed Grisham's time as their aide and said she was motivated by selfishness.

A spokesperson for Mrs. Trump said: "The intent behind this book is obvious. It is an attempt to redeem herself after a poor performance as Press Secretary, failed personal relationships, and unprofessional behavior in the White House. Through mistruth and betrayal, she seeks to gain relevance and money at the expense of Mrs. Trump."

* With reporting by ADAM CARLSON

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