The move will see the serving spokesman move to a senior strategic role within the administration, which is his preference, according to one senior official and three others familiar with the discussion.
These sources confirmed that Spicer had already been reaching out to candidates to be his successor. Spicer’s absence from daily press briefings over the past several weeks have been noted by journalists. Increasingly he has been replaced by his deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was hesitant to comment on reports of potential department overhaul.
“We have sought input from many people as we look to expand our communications operation. As he did in the beginning, Sean Spicer is managing both the communications and press office,” she said to the Associated Press.
The @WhiteHouse schedule is out for tomorrow.
No mention of when or who will do the press briefing.
— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) June 20, 2017
Spicer had served as trade secretary under former President George W. Bush and as communications director for the Republican National Committee before becoming the face of the Trump administration.
Spicer’s time as Trump’s press secretary has been fraught with gaffes and awkward engagements with reporters. His relationship with the media got off to a rocky start when he summoned journalists to the White House the day after Trump’s inauguration to accuse them of “deliberately false reporting” when news outlets compared Trump’s inauguration crowd to former president Barack Obama’s. Spicer insisted that Trump had, despite what the media claimed, produced “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration.”
In one comic incident, Spicer referred to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau as “Joe Trudeau” and, in another, hid near bushes outside the White House when reporters tried question him over former FBI Director James Comey‘s sudden firing. The press secretary was also mocked incorrectly for mismatching his shoes, for tweeting his Twitter password and for wearing suit jackets the public deemed a touch too big.
However, in perhaps his most infamous slip, he was forced to apologize after he falsely claimed that Adolf Hitler, who murdered millions of Jews using gas chambers during the Holocaust, did not use chemical weapons. Spicer had been criticizing Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad, whose army had launched chemical weapons attacks on a rebel-held town, which killed dozens of civilians.
It was because of these mishaps that Spicer was famously caricatured in a recurring Saturday Night Live skit performed by comedian and actor Melissa McCarthy.
Spicer’s struggle to construct the administration’s established position on any issue will likely continue for his predecessor, who will also have to reckon with the president’s Twitter outbursts that may, as he claims, circumvent the media, but have frequently circumvented the administration’s communication team. It’s a tough job working as a spokesperson for a man who believes he’s his own best spokesperson.
The Fake News Media hates when I use what has turned out to be my very powerful Social Media – over 100 million people! I can go around them
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017