Tuesday 17 September 2019

Sanders to quit as White House press secretary amid talk of run for governor

Mr Trump hugs Sarah Sanders in the White House yesterday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mr Trump hugs Sarah Sanders in the White House yesterday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Darlene Superville

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, whose tenure was marked by a breakdown in regular press briefings and questions about the administration's credibility, will leave her post at the end of the month.

President Donald Trump paid tribute to Ms Sanders at a justice reform event last night. He called her "a warrior" and said he was encouraging her to run for governor as she returns home to Arkansas.

She is one of Mr Trump's closest and most trusted White House aides and one of the few remaining on staff who worked on his campaign.

Ms Sanders said serving as press secretary had been "the honour of a lifetime".

She pledged to remain "one of the most outspoken and loyal supporters of the president".

Speculation immediately turned to whether Ms Sanders might run for governor of Arkansas, a position once held by her father, Mike Huckabee.

"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," Mr Trump said on Twitter announcing her departure.

The combative Ms Sanders (36) has drawn fire from the White House Correspondents Association for limiting daily briefings, with Mr Trump preferring to take questions himself from reporters and command the White House stage.

The last briefing was 94 days ago, but Mr Trump answers questions from reporters on a near-daily basis, including two sessions last Wednesday.

Ms Sanders evolved into a senior adviser and confidante of the president.

She is regularly brought into senior-level meetings. Her credibility has also come under question.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report revealed that Ms Sanders admitted to investigators that she had made an unfounded claim about "countless" FBI agents reaching out to express support for Mr Trump's decision to fire FBI director James Comey in May 2017.

Ms Sanders succeeded Sean Spicer, Mr Trump's first press secretary, in mid-2017.

Meanwhile, a US government watchdog agency last night recommended Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Mr Trump, be fired for repeatedly violating US law with political comments while serving in the White House.

The White House immediately rejected the special counsel office's ruling and demanded that it withdraw its report.

A statement from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) cited Ms Conway's comments in television interviews and social media posts as violations of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law prohibiting executive branch employees from engaging in some political activities.

The president, vice president and certain other senior officials are exempted.

The OSC, which can make such recommendations but does not have the authority to enforce them, referred to disparaging comments Ms Conway made about Democratic presidential candidates.

"Given that Ms Conway is a repeat offender and has shown disregard for the law, OSC recommends that she be removed from federal service," the statement said.

Ms Conway (52) served as Mr Trump's campaign manager in 2016, becoming the first woman to head a winning presidential campaign, and is one of his most loyal aides and fiercest defenders.

Irish Independent

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