Sarah Sanders, the former White House press secretary who admitted to Robert Mueller that she lied to reporters, told the New York Times: “I don’t like being called a liar.”
At a White House briefing on 10 May 2017, Sanders told reporters “countless members of the FBI” had told her they had lost confidence in James Comey, the FBI director fired by Trump shortly before.
Mueller, the special counsel, was appointed in the aftermath of Comey’s firing to investigate Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow.
In the words of his report, released in April 2019: “Sanders told this office that her reference to hearing from ‘countless members of the FBI’ was a ‘slip of the tongue’.
“She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything.”
Sanders, Trump’s second press secretary, presided over the apparent death of the press briefing and left the White House in June this year. She is now home in Arkansas, where her father Mike Huckabee was governor, a post from which he mounted two runs for the Republican presidential nomination.
She told the Times: “There are two types of people who run for office. People that are called and people that just want to be a senator or governor. I feel like I’ve been called.”
Sanders seems to be targeting the governorship in 2022, when Asa Hutchinson’s time is up.
“It’s the role I’ve been pushed into,” Sanders said. “I wouldn’t want to do that if I wasn’t the right person to fit what the state needed at that time.”
Sanders also told the Times that at local events, she was “just excited to have people clap when I come up to a podium. It’s very different from what I’m used to.”
One voter in Hot Springs, Arkansas, told the Times: “The main thing I like about her is her honesty. She got a bad rap because people are offended that she does tell the truth. I’m 100% behind her.”
Sanders also discussed her treatment by the press, opponents of Trump (including those who famously asked her to leave a restaurant in Virginia) and a comedian at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
“I was attacked for everything, not just my performance,” Sanders said. “I was called a fat soccer mom, my kids were threatened, my life was threatened. It was a lot. I hate harping on it, but to be in the position I’m in and to have Secret Service, that’s not normal.”
After a pause, the Times said, Sanders added: “I don’t like being called a liar. The other stuff bothered me far less.”
Discussing Trump’s prospects for re-election, Sanders said she intended to help with the campaign, which, should Trump win or lose, would help her own ambitions: “If he wins, there’s a solid base and people will come in and be helpful. If he loses, people will be angry and they will want to rally around Trump people.”
The interview took place last Tuesday, the day of Lt Col Alexander Vindman’s testimony to the impeachment hearings. Sanders would not discuss the matter on record with a paper her former boss has targeted with consistent invective and abuse.
But the same day, she told Fox & Friends: “None of this matters. It’s a huge waste of time.”
Sanders also told the Times: “All I can say is thank God I’m back in Arkansas.”