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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sarah Huckabee Sanders made her solo debut as the new White House press secretary on Wednesday, starting a new chapter at the podium with her signature combination of motherly scolding and practiced folksy charm.
Seeking a reset following months of contentious relations between reporters and President Donald Trump's press office, Sanders began on a personal note, noting her status as the first mother to hold the position and talking about how she hoped to be a role model for her daughter and kids across the country.
"We're looking to mix things up a little bit. From time to time, I'd like to give us all a little reminder of why we're here every day, which I imagine, for most of us, is because we love our country and want to make it better," she said, asking the press to "to indulge me, and let me tell you a little bit about what that means for me."
Sanders noted her status as the first mom to hold the job — a fact she said that "says less about me than it does about this president," whom she praised as a tough fighter and strong leader "who deeply loves this country."
"I'll always do my absolute best to truthfully answer your questions and deliver the president's message," she said, repeating a sentiment she voiced Friday when Sean Spicer announced that he was stepping down as press secretary after just six months on the job. The announcement came after Spicer had already largely handed over the daily briefings to Sanders, and after he insisted for weeks that the once must-see-TV events be taken off the air.
Sanders also read aloud a letter from a 9-year old named Dylan who'd written to Trump to tell the president that he was his "favorite president" and wondered why so many people seemed not to like him.
He asked the president about his age, the size of the White House and how much money he had. "Dylan, I'm not sure, but I know it's a lot," Sanders responded to the boy, who said that everybody calls him, "Pickle."
Sanders said she would be reading similar letters from the podium every so often "to remind us a little bit more often about some of the forgotten men, women and children that we're here to serve."
But the pleasantries were quickly plowed over as business returned to usual about six minutes into the 22-minute briefing as reporters peppered Sanders about the president's latest tweets and Sanders skirted questions.
At one point she threatened to end the briefing over a succession of questions about the president's surprise tweets Wednesday morning announcing that the U.S. would no longer "accept or allow" transgender individuals "to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." Sanders said that White House and military officials had yet to work out how and when they would implement the policy, including whether current serving members would be forced out of their jobs.
Sanders' reading of the Dylan letter recalled former President Barack Obama's tradition of reading a random selection of 10 letters every day from ordinary Americans. It is unclear whether Trump has implemented such a tradition.
Sanders' also offered a shout-out to her new boss, communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
"Now I know Anthony's probably a little bit disappointed that he's not up here today. But since he did some TV this morning he was able to go ahead and get his hair and makeup done, so I think he'll be OK," she said.
Scaramucci tweeted his approval: "@SHSanders45 killing it from the podium! Hair and make up is on me going forward as long as you don't take all my hairspray!"
This story corrects day of the president's tweets announcing policy change on transgender individuals in the U.S. military to Wednesday, not Tuesday.