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Sarah Sanders is stepping down after serving as the public face of the White House during some of the administration’s most contentious chapters.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Sarah Sanders is stepping down as President Donald Trump’s press secretary after serving as the public face of the White House during some of the administration’s most contentious chapters.

Trump, who announced the news Thursday, described Sanders as a “warrior” and hinted that she might follow in her father’s foot steps and run for governor of Arkansas, her home state.

“She’s tough,” Trump said at an event at the White House. “But she’s good.”

Sanders worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign before she was elevated to press secretary in 2017. The president first announced her departure in a tweet.

“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,” he said, apparently referring to her work on his 2016 campaign – in addition to 2-1/2 years in the White House press office.  

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

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The daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders was the third woman to hold the role of White House press secretaryand the second person appointed to the job during Trump’s presidency, following Sean Spicer. Like other press secretaries, Sanders quickly became one of the most recognized names within the White House.

“It’s truly been something I will treasure forever,” Sanders said during a previously scheduled event on another topic. “I’ve loved every minute, even the hard minutes.”

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Sanders did not offer any comment about the president’s suggestion that she might for political office in her home state. Current Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, won a second term in 2018 and is term limited. The earliest Sanders could run for governor in Arkansas is 2022. 

“The most important job I’ll ever have is being a mom to my kids and it’s time for us to go home. Thank you Mr. President!” Sanders tweeted later.

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Her departure comes months after the long-awaited report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 election. While the report said there was “insufficient evidence” of any conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, it detailed steps by the president to undermine the investigation. The report did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice but it also did not exonerate him.

In the report, Mueller said Sanders admitted to making misleading statements to reporters when discussing Trump’s rationale for firing former FBI Director James Comey in 2017. At the time, Sanders told reporters that Comey wasfired because he’d lost the confidence of the president, the Department of Justice, members of both parties in Congress and “most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in Comey.”

‘Slip of the tongue’

A reporter challenged Sanders during that televised briefing. “Look,” Sanders chided the reporter, “we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.”

But Sanders told investigators that the comments were a “slip of the tongue” and said a similar claim during an interview was made “in the heat of the moment” and was not founded on anything. 



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A second member of the Trump administration was hounded at a restaurant in less than a week. This time it was Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Susana Victoria Perez has more.
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The incident was one of several throughout Sanders’ tenure that left some questioning her credibility. Sanders, who like past White House press secretaries had a combative relationship with reporters, drew attention for refusing to say whether she believes the press isthe “enemy of the people,” a line coined by Trump.

She also faced scrutiny last year when Trump’s lawyers acknowledged the president dictated a statement released by Donald Trump, Jr., about a controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower. Sanders months earlier explicitly denied that Trump dictated the statement.   

Sanders, among the longest-serving members of Trump’s inner circle, oversaw a steady decline in the daily press briefing, a forum for reporters to press the White House for answers and for the administration to pitch its message to networks and newspapers.  

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As she became one of the most well-known figures of the White House, her controversial role stretched into her personal life. Last year, Sanders was refused service and told to leave the Red Hen restaurant, a small eatery in Lexington, Va., due to her role in defending the president. The incident sparked protests in the small mountain town that led to the eatery temporarily closing.

She was also the butt of several sharp jokes by comedian Michelle Wolf at the 2018 White House Correspondents Association dinner. The association, which represents the White House press corps, later said in a statement that the barbs were “not in the spirit of the mission” of the organization. This year’s dinner featured a historian instead of a comedian, and White House aides did not attend.   

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Contributing: Baxter Bulletin

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