WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Thursday that his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, will be leaving the White House at the end of the month. Sanders served as the face of the Trump presidency since the departure of her predecessor, Sean Spicer, in mid-2017. Her tenure was notably lengthy in an administration that has seen record turmoil; in recent months, however, Sanders virtually eliminated the practice of holding regular public press briefings.
“After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas,” Trump wrote on Twitter, adding, “She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job! I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas - she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!”
Both Sanders and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about her departure. Sanders joined the president on stage at an event in the East Room promoting measures from the administration designed to increase job opportunities for former prison inmates. Trump praised Sanders as his “warrior.”
“She’s very popular. She’s very popular. She’s done an incredible job,” Trump said of Sanders. “We’ve been through a lot together and she’s tough. ... She’s tough and she’s good.”
Sanders, who said she would “try not to get emotional” because “crying can make us look weak” called her time as press secretary an “honor” and “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“It’s truly been something I will treasure forever. It’s one of the greatest jobs I could ever have,” Sanders said, adding, “I’ve loved it. I love the president.”
Sanders has held only two briefings in 2019 so far. Her last one came 95 days ago on March 11, the longest period without a White House press briefing in modern history.
Before stopping briefings altogether, Sanders had been holding them approximately once a month. In prior administrations and under Spicer, there were typically multiple White House briefings each week. Sanders’s briefings were also shorter than the public press conferences had been in the past.
Sanders’s departure has been rumored for about a year. According to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, “in recent weeks” Sanders has been having private conversations about running for governor in her home state of Arkansas. Sanders’s father, Mike Huckabee, served as governor of Arkansas from 1996 until 2007, and his daughter was one of his campaign advisers.
When he spoke alongside Sanders in the East Room, Trump said he was going to encourage the outgoing press secretary to run for governor.
“I think she’d do very well. I’m trying to get her to do that,” Trump said.
The reduction in White House briefings during Sanders’s tenure provoked criticism from advocates of press freedom and transparency. Sanders repeatedly argued that President Trump speaks to the press more often than his predecessors through nontraditional means, including Twitter and his frequent, impromptu comments at events in the West Wing and on the White House lawn before leaving on trips. In one September 2018 interview, Sanders suggested the briefing had become obsolete because Trump had new “ways to communicate with the American public.”
“I always think if you can hear directly from the president and the press has a chance to ask the president of the United States questions directly, that's infinitely better than talking to me,” Sanders said.
During her brief remarks at the White House on Thursday, Sanders said she planned to “spend a little more time” with her “three amazing kids.” However, Sanders hinted that she also was going to remain in the political realm.
“I’m going to continue to be one of the most outspoken and loyal supporters of the president and his agenda,” Sanders said.
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