FILE PHOTO – White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
June 13, 2019
By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, a fierce loyalist of President Donald Trump who evolved into one of his closest advisers, will leave her job at the end of the month to return to her home state of Arkansas, Trump said on Thursday.
Sanders, who has worked with Trump since the early days of his unconventional run for office, is the latest in a long line of his senior advisers to leave.
Sanders, 36, who often compared the antics of the press corps to the behavior of her three youngsters, said she wanted to spend more time with her children.
“She’s a warrior,” said Trump, who announced her departure on Twitter shortly before calling Sanders on stage at an event at the White House. “We’ve been through a lot together, and she’s tough, but she’s good.”
Trump did not immediately name a replacement.
Sanders drew criticism for ending the long tradition of daily press briefings, with Trump preferring to take questions himself from reporters and command the White House stage, and relegate his staff to appearances on television to defend his policies.
Sanders’ last briefing was 94 days ago, but Trump answers questions from reporters on a near-daily basis, including two extended sessions with them on Wednesday.
Sanders’ relationship with the press corps became particularly strained a year ago after a comedian hired by the White House Correspondents’ Association for its annual dinner mocked her appearance and penchant for spinning the truth as Sanders sat nearby at the head table.
“She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye,” comedian Michelle Wolf said.
In the months afterward, she was asked to leave a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, because of her association with the Trump administration.
Sanders became a popular figure in her own right at Trump rallies, sought after for selfies by his supporters. In November, at his final rallies ahead of the congressional elections, Trump invited her on stage to speak briefly to the cheering crowds.
Sanders called the job “the honor of a lifetime.”
“I’ve loved every minute, even the hard minutes,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion. “I have three amazing kids and I’m going to spend a little more time with them.”
Sanders’ role developed into that of a senior adviser and confidante of the president, one who is regularly brought into senior-level meetings.
Speculation immediately turned to whether Sanders might run for governor of Arkansas, a position once held by her father, Mike Huckabee. She grew up working on his political campaigns.
“If we can get her to run for the governor of Arkansas, I think she’ll do very well,” Trump said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney)