Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who fiercely defended President Donald Trump as White House press secretary and presided over the end of the daily news briefing, will leave her post at the end of the month, the President announced Thursday.
Sanders’s departure caps off a tumultuous, two-year run as Trump’s top spokeswoman, marked by tensions with the press corps and questions about the White House’s credibility. During that time, however, Sanders became one of Trump’s closest aides as well as one of the few remaining people from his 2016 campaign, The Hill reported.
“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. 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!” Trump tweeted.
In his announcement made on Twitter, Trump praised Sanders as a “very special person with extraordinary talents” who could one day run for governor of her home state of Arkansas, where he said she will return after departing the White House.
Trump called Sanders on stage at a White House event minutes after tweeting out the news to laud her as a “warrior” who did an “outstanding job.” “If we could get her to run for governor of Arkansas, I think she’ll do very well. I’m trying to get her to do that,” Trump said at the event, which promoted the hiring of former inmates.
Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, grew emotional when she said she would be able to spend more time with her three children. She called the job “the honor of a lifetime” and “one of the greatest jobs I could ever have.”
“I’m going to continue to be one of the most outspoken and loyal supporters of the president and his agenda and I know he’s going to have an incredible six more years and get a whole lot more done,” she said.
Trump did not name a replacement for Sanders, who succeeded Sean Spicer as press secretary at the White House in July 2017. Before that, she served as Spicer’s top deputy in the press office since Trump’s inauguration as well as a surrogate for his 2016 campaign.
Sanders told a small group of reporters afterward that she informed Trump earlier on Thursday of her plans to leave, but said she did not discuss possible replacements. Asked if she will run for governor, she said, “I don’t know. I learned a long time ago never to rule anything out.”
Her successor will be entering the job at a critical juncture, with the 2020 campaign heating up and the responsibilities of the White House press secretary seemingly diminished under a President who views himself as his own best spokesperson.
Sanders broke with decades of tradition by essentially ending daily sessions with reporters from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. She held just eight briefings in the past 300 days, according to a count compiled by CNN, with the most recent coming 94 days ago.
Members of the news media were left to try and get answers from the President himself, who prefers to take questions during Oval Office meetings and on the South Lawn before departing the White House, or by stopping Sanders on the driveway outside the West Wing after her cable news appearances for abbreviated question-and-answer sessions.
Asked if she regrets the lack of briefings, a decision Trump reportedly recommended she make, Sanders replied, “no, I don’t.”
Credibility questions have long surrounded the President and those around him, including Sanders.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report said Sanders admitted to federal investigators that she misled reporters when she claimed during a May 2017 briefing that “countless” FBI agents had reached to voice their support for Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as the bureau’s director.
Sanders later called her remark a “slip of the tongue” but insisted that her argument that FBI employees supported Comey’s ouster was “not untrue.”
The press secretary became known for her vociferous defenses of the President and his policies, however controversial, The Hill adds.
When asked during a June 2018 briefing about then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions citation of the Bible in defense of the administration’s child separation policy, Sanders told reporters that “it is very biblical to enforce the law.”
She told the Christian Broadcasting Network earlier this year that God “wanted Donald Trump to become president” and that “he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.”