By Veronica Stracqualursi, Betsy Klein and Gabby Orr, CNN
Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Thursday that more than a dozen of her former Trump administration colleagues plan to meet next week to try and stop former President Donald Trump as he continues to “manipulate people and divide our country.”
“Next week, a group of former Trump staff are going to come together, administration officials are going to come together and we’re going to talk about how we can formally do some things to try and stop him and also, the extremism, that that kind of violence, rhetoric that has been talked about and continues to divide our country,” Grisham told CNN’s John Berman and Brianna Keilar in an interview on “New Day.”
Grisham, who was also chief of staff to former first lady Melania Trump, declined to reveal who will be joining her in the efforts, but said there would be “about 15” of her former colleagues, including some who worked inside the White House. Some of the officials, she said, were junior to her, while others were senior. A few of the officials had “informal chats,” did outreach to others, and conducted “some Zooms, some conference calls,” culminating in the partially in-person formal meeting next week, according to Grisham.
Several people involved in the effort who spoke to CNN said the group currently includes between 15 to 20 individuals who served in the Trump administration, but have since soured on the former President, and who believe his indisputable control of the Republican Party is negatively impacting the country.
Among those invited to participate in the meeting were former senior officials like Chris Krebs, who had directed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency inside the Department of Homeland Security, and former top White House aides like John Bolton, whom Trump ousted from his role as national security adviser in September 2019.
Bolton spokeswoman Sarah Tinsley confirmed her planned attendance to CNN. A representative for Krebs declined to comment.
Others who plan to participate include former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who has accused Trump of having “perverted” the GOP; Miles Taylor, a former top DHS official who penned an anonymous essay during Trump’s tenure in which he claimed to be working to restrain the President from within his administration; and Olivia Troye, a former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.
Grisham said she is personally hoping to “travel the country and talk to people who are believers like I once was” and “explain who (Trump) really is,” also calling the former President a “master manipulator.”
“I’m hoping that people will talk to somebody like me or some of these other people who really did believe in Trump and understand you can be proud of his policies, you can still be behind a lot of the America First policies that he implemented, which I am, but it doesn’t have to be him. It just doesn’t have to be this man who has caused such chaos and destruction in the country,” she told CNN.
She said that the group of former Trump officials will discuss “what are the most effective tactics in order to carry that message,” adding that she’s “really hoping for a good fight in 2022.”
The group is also expected to include certain individuals who “perhaps have not been as overtly public about their criticism (of Trump) to date,” according to a person familiar with the group, who did not wish to reveal the identities of those participants at this time.
In an interview with CNN, Troye said there are “many” ex-Trump officials “who remain very concerned and want to come together to figure out how we are going to counter Trump and Trumpism going into this next election and the election after that.”
Grisham speaks with January 6 committee
Grisham met Wednesday on Capitol Hill with the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. On January 6, she was Melania Trump’s chief of staff at the time, but resigned from her role that day, effectively immediately, as a result of the insurrection, becoming one of the first Trump officials to do so.
Grisham told CNN on Thursday that she spent about an hour with the select committee on Wednesday, “answered every question they asked of me, and I will continue to cooperate with them.”
She confirmed that the committee was interested in what was happening inside the White House as the insurrection was unfolding at the US Capitol on January 6.
“Planning things that were happening outside, conversations that were had broadly. Those were some of the things we talked about,” she said, adding that the committee also sought “any details I had with timelines and conversations that were happening, and intentions beforehand and during, what was going on.”
Asked if she shared new information that committee did not know, Grisham replied, “There were a couple of things that they didn’t know. There were things that I was able to confirm. And I think there were things that I was able to kind of help put together like a puzzle.” She declined to go into further detail.
She said that she did not know who specifically spoke with Trump on January 6 to try to get him to stop the violence, except that Melania Trump did not try and plead with her husband.
“All I know about that day is he was in the dining room, gleefully watching on his TV, as he often did. ‘Look at all of the people fighting for me,’ hitting rewind, watching it again. That’s what I know,” Grisham said.
This story has been updated with additional information Thursday.
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CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.