Sarah Sanders to leave White House

By Andrew Restuccia

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is stepping down at the end of the month, President Donald Trump announced on Thursday.

Trump said Sanders would be returning to her home state of Arkansas, adding that he hoped she would decide to run for governor.

“She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas — she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!”

Sanders’ father, Mike Huckabee, was governor of the state from 1996 to 2007.

Trump praised Sanders during a White House event on Thursday afternoon. “She’s a special person, a very very fine woman. She has been so great,” Trump said, calling her a “warrior.”

Sanders called being press secretary one of the best jobs of her life.

“I’m going to continue to be one of the most outspoken and loyal defenders of the president,” she said during the event.

“I have three amazing kids, and I’m going to spend a little more time with them,” she said.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Sanders was leaving on good terms with the president, adding that the White House’s press team got 45 minutes’ notice of her departure.

Sanders is one of the last remaining original members of Trump’s White House staff, and his second press secretary. The third female White House press secretary in U.S. history, Sanders has served in that role since the summer of 2017.

Sanders is the latest senior administration official to announce plans to leave the White House. Others recent departures include Shahira Knight, the White House legislative affairs director, and senior White House adviser Johnny DeStefano.

In recent months, Sanders has declined to hold formal briefings, instead opting to appear on Fox News and brief reporters in the White House driveway, a strategy that has prompted fierce criticism from journalists.

Her credibility has also come under fire from critics, especially in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The report revealed that Sanders acknowledged to investigators that there was no basis for her 2017 assertion that “countless” rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in James Comey, a claim she used to rationalize Trump’s decision to fire him as the bureau’s director.

Despite the rampant criticism, Sanders maintained cordial relationships with many White House reporters behind the scenes.

As other trusted advisers have departed the White House, Sanders has become one of Trump’s closest confidantes in the West Wing. She was often in the room for important meetings and regularly accompanied the president on foreign and domestic trips.

Pia Deshpande contributed to this report.