White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders will leave her post at the end of the month, president Donald Trump announced Thursday.
The president first announced her departure via Twitter then spoke of her in glowing terms at an unrelated event at the White House. He described Sanders as “a magnificent person” and who has done “an incredible job”.
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 Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), 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 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.”
Sanders promised that she would continue to be “one of the most outspoken and loyal supporters of the president and his agenda” – raising the prospect that she could follow her predecessor, Sean Spicer, into becoming a political pundit on channels such as Fox News. “I know he’s going to have an incredible six more years,” she added.
Sanders provided stability after Spicer’s series of wayward gaffes and, unlike other Trump officials, stayed in his good graces with her unswerving, often ostentatious shows of loyalty. In January she told the Christian TV network CBN that “God wanted Donald Trump to become president”.
Sanders amplified Trump’s attacks on the media, sometimes clashing with CNN correspondent Jim Acosta in the briefing room, and notoriously made false claims on behalf of the president, deepening questions about the administration’s credibility.
Sanders becomes the latest in a long list of White House departures; Trump has presided over a record turnover of staff. He has not yet announced a successor.
At the press conference on Thursday, Trump summoned Sanders to join him at podium. The 36-year-old beamed as the president said: “She’s going to be leaving the service of her country and she’s going to be going – I guess you could say private sector… She comes from a great state, Arkansas, that was a state that I won by a lot, so I like it.”
The president added: “If we can get her to run for the governor of Arkansas, I think she’ll do very well. I’m trying to get her to do that… She’s a very special person, a very, very fine woman, she has been so great, she has such heart, she’s strong but with great, great heart, and I want to thank you for an outstanding job.”
Trump kissed Sanders on the head amid applause. She took the podium, visibly resisting tears, and said: “This has been the honour of a lifetime, the opportunity of a lifetime.
She said she had “loved every minute, even in the hard minutes, I’ve loved it.
“I love the president. I love the team that I’ve had the opportunity to work for. The president is surrounded by some of the most incredible and most talented people you could ever imagine and it’s truly the most special experience. The only one I can think of that might top it just a little bit is the fact that I’m a mom. I have three amazing kids and I’m going to spend a little more time with them.”