Donald Trump announced on Thursday that Sarah Sanders, his press secretary, will be leaving the post at the end of the month after a three-and-a-half-year tenure.
The US president thanked her for “a job well done” in a tweet, saying she “will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas”.
It is unclear what prompted Mrs Sanders to depart the role – she has been a fiercely loyal aide to Mr Trump and has been at the White House for longer than most of the president’s inner circle.
A replacement has not yet been announced, but the next press secretary will take on the role at a crucial period, just as Mr Trump’s re-election campaign is formally launched.
Mrs Sanders has come under fire for bringing an end to the traditional daily White House press briefings, holding them ever more sporadically in recent months. She has not held a briefing in three months.
….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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2019
Her credibility was also undermined after Robert Mueller’s report into potential Russian collusion revealed she had given baseless information to the press. She told investigators the comments were a “slip of the tongue”.
“She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that…a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything,” Mr Mueller’s report stated.
Mr Trump on Thursday urged her to run to become the governor of Arkansas, her home state, saying “She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job”.
The state’s current governor, Asa Hutchinson, was re-elected just last year so the post will not be open until 2023 unless Mr Hutchinson vacates the office early.
Mrs Sanders reportedly told her staff she was leaving about an hour before Mr Trump announced the news in a tweet.
Speaking at a White House event on Thursday, Mrs Sanders said she would continue to be an “outspoken and loyal” supporter for Mr Trump.
She described working for the President as “the honour of a lifetime”, saying “I’ve loved every minute, even the hard minutes”.
But she said she now plans on spending “a little more time” with her three children.
“In the meantime, I am going to continue to be one of the most outspoken and loyal supporters of the President and his agenda,” she said. “And I know he’s going to have an incredible six more years and get a whole lot more done.”
Mrs Sanders has experienced the negative aspects of being the public face of the Trump administration first-hand.
She was refused service at a restaurant last June, with the restaurant’s owner saying she felt she had to take a stand for “honesty” and “compassion”.
Mrs Sanders wrote on Twitter: “Her (the owner’s) actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”
She has also publicly addressed the heavy toll media scrutiny has on her private life.
In an emotional exchange with a CNN reporter, Mrs Sanders she was probably the first press secretary in history to require secret service protection, linking the measure to negative media coverage.
The White House spokeswoman said she had experienced attacks on her personal appearance – referencing remarks made by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents Association dinner last year.
Ms Sanders’ treatment at the event was widely condemned and Margaret Talev, head of the association, issued a statement distancing the dinner’s organisers from the comedian.
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