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Sarah Sanders Leaving White House


The White House is losing another high-profile staffer. This time it's press secretary Sarah Sanders. She talked for a short time at an event with President Trump yesterday.


SARAH SANDERS: It's one of the greatest jobs I could ever have. I've loved every minute, even the hard minutes.

KING: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is on the line.

Good morning, Tam.


KING: So Sarah Sanders is one of the original members of President Trump's team. And this is a White House that's really struggled with high staff turnover. How did she manage to last so long?

KEITH: Well, she came from the campaign, in fact. And she was both super loyal and came to accept that President Trump was the real press secretary of this administration. She publicly avoided contradicting him, even if that meant contradicting the truth. And there's one glaring example of that from shortly after then-FBI Director James Comey was fired.


SANDERS: Well, I can speak to my own personal experience. I've heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision.

KEITH: And even in that moment, reporters pushed back, but she insisted.



SANDERS: I mean, I...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I mean, really - I mean, so are we talking, like...

SANDERS: Between, like, email, text messages, absolutely...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: ...Like 50, 60, 70? I mean, like...

SANDERS: I'm not going to - look, we're going to get into a numbers game. I mean, I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they're very happy with the president's decision.

KEITH: So what we know now from the Mueller report is that simply wasn't true. She made up the countless numbers. She says it was a slip of the tongue. And another comment was just in the heat of the moment.

KING: As a result of all that, she lost a lot of credibility with the press. How would you describe how she did the job of press secretary?

KEITH: Well, she completely changed the job of press secretary. The press secretary used to come out into the White House press briefing room on a nearly daily basis and speak for the president of the United States and, by extension, for the U.S. government to the world, essentially - not just to the White House press corps.

Now that's President Trump, whether by tweet or by standing on the South Lawn with a helicopter behind him. Sarah Sanders has killed the daily White House press briefing. It went from being daily to being monthly. And it's been 95 days since there was a press briefing.

KING: Ninety-five days, wow.

KEITH: Yeah, so she's taken it to the driveway. She goes; she does Fox hits. She walks away from those cameras, and she is greeted by a throng of members of the White House press corps hungry for information that they just aren't getting.

KING: Tam, it's worth running through a list here. You've got an acting chief of staff, a vacant communications director position. You've got no press secretary. And the top economic adviser is leaving. So who is running the White House?

KEITH: Fewer and fewer people, and there are fewer people that are close to the president or are sort of originals that he trusts. Names that you have left are Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway and Dan Scavino, the social media director who helps the president with his tweets - and his family, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, and his daughter, Ivanka Trump.

KING: And as for Sarah Sanders, any idea who might replace her?

KEITH: No, no idea. I asked yesterday and did not get an answer on that. But one thing that we can be certain of - the daily press briefing, as it was known through multiple administrations, is over, at least for now.

KING: NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Tam, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.