Hope Hicks, the fourth communications director in the 14 months since President Trump's inauguration, announced her resignation this week. So the hunt is on for what Trump has to hope is "lucky number five" — and there are reports the person who could take over as communications director is Mercedes Schlapp, a former Fox News contributor currently working as the administration's senior adviser for strategic communications.
It's not the first White House job for Schlapp, either. She has spent a solid 20 years-plus in Washington, D.C. and worked as director of specialty media under President George W. Bush. Married to Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union, Schlapp is half of one of the Capitol's most influential Republican power couples.
Before her work in Trump's White House, Schlapp was a regular guest on a variety of Fox News programs. Her US News & World Report bio also lists her as a co-founder of Cove Strategies. According to its website, the outfit is a "boutique government and public relations firm providing expertise in public policy, communications and political strategy, fundraising, and advocacy campaigns for corporate and nonprofit clients." Her husband is also a co-founder, touting his role as an adviser to President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and a range of other high-ranking Republicans during the early 2000s.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports that the White House staff around her are deeply grateful for Schlapp's presence in the West Wing. Though she came on board just five months ago, Schlapp's previous experience during the Bush administration has apparently well-prepared her to step into a leading role in the communications department.
One anonymous White House official called Schlapp the "adult in the room," and another described her as a "godsend." According to the staffers who spoke with Diamond, Schlapp's style of leadership differs significantly from that of Hicks. According to an official, Hicks "just pulls back from the team" when the White House "goes into crisis mode." Schlapp, on the other hand, has been a more hands-on presence with communications staffers.
Part of the chaos roiling much of the West Wing appears to stem from the string of controversies they've had to confront. From media storms mobilized by a tweet from the president to recent revelations that Rob Porter, a top White House adviser, had been accused of domestic violence on multiple occasions (he has denied the allegations), the White House has often seemed to operate in constant crisis mode. According to several White House insiders, Schlapp has proven she can handle herself in that environment.
Both Schlapp and her husband have been some of the most outspoken supporters of Trump since he won the Republican primaries in 2016. The two met while they were both working in Bush's White House. In a profile of the couple for the Washington Post, Ben Terris quotes Schlapp as describing herself as "a fashionable Latina Miami girl." (Schlapp is of Cuban descent and cites her father's imprisonment in Cuba for political dissidence as a prime motivator of her own career in Washington.)
Despite Bush's growing reputation as a moderate, Schlapp's husband is anything but. A self-described "hard-line conservative," Matt Schlapp has been behind several extremely controversial decisions in his role as head of the American Conservative Union. That includes inviting Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at their annual CPAC gathering, as well as quasi-defending recent racist remarks made about former RNC chairman Michael Steele.
And after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced, revealing Trump in his own words bragging about grabbing women by their genitals, Matt Schlapp went on television and defended him. While the couple told Ferris they discussed the possibility of ditching Trump privately and at length, they eventually concluded it was better to stick with him than risk a Clinton presidency. One of their major concerns with doing so was the message it would send to their five daughters.
With Mercedes Schlapp now installed in the White House, there seems to be little possibility they'll change their mind. And given her resume and rapport within the White House, Schlapp might just be Trump's "lucky number five."