WASHINGTON — Regrets? Sarah Sanders has but few — and none when it comes to the ever-dwindling number of formal press briefings held during her tenure as press secretary.
“No, I don’t” have any regrets, Sanders responded on Thursday afternoon, the 94th day since the last formal White House briefing was held on March 11.
“I still contend that we are the most accessible White House,” she said, adding that it’s “far more important for me to have played a role in facilitating direct contact with the President of the United States and the American people.”
Sanders didn’t apologize for making herself less available from the briefing room; she occasionally stops to speak with reporters during informal “stakeouts” that have become de rigueur outside the West Wing.
Seated at her desk in the West Wing, in front of a bulletin board dotted with her children’s artwork, Sanders — in an impromptu exit interview — reflected on her time as the top press aide to a president who acts as his own press secretary.
Asked if she would have done anything differently, Sanders responded: “Certainly, there are things. I mean, I’ll spend some time thinking about what those are.”
Sanders said she told President Donald Trump about her decision to depart the White House on Thursday morning, describing him as supportive and understanding. She said she wanted to leave to spend more time with her family and young children, ages 7, 5 and 4.
“No, it’s not like I just woke up and realized I had kids, but I wanted to have the opportunity to spend some more time with them, particularly over the summer,” she said.
And she also indicated the 2020 election timeline played a part in her decision: “I feel like it’s important for the president to be able to put somebody in place as he moves into the campaign season.”
Sanders said she had no plan to play any official role in the Trump campaign, and repeatedly dodged questions on whether she’d run for governor of Arkansas: “I don’t know. I’ve learned a long time ago never to rule anything out.”
Sanders is the longest-tenured press secretary in the Trump administration, serving more than 70 times as many days as Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted about a week-and-a-half in the role.
She has not spoken with the president about her successor or any transition period, Sanders said, though she plans to travel back to Arkansas later this summer.
Sanders, who has been with the president since his campaign, is among his closest aides and confidantes, often sitting at the table with Cabinet secretaries and other dignitaries.
But her time at the White House has been marked by controversy, and her relationship with the press has been a fraught one. In addition to the dwindling formal press briefings, she admitted, according to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, to lying to the press from the White House podium.
At the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, she was excoriated and mocked by comedian Michelle Wolf. And at the height of the Trump administration’s family separation scandal, Sanders was asked by the owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, to leave — a move that reverberated through Washington as Democrats defended the owner and Republicans defended Sanders.
In her office Thursday, Sanders seemed contemplative: “Even the hard days are special.”