Sarah Huckabee Sanders stepping down as White House press secretary

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whose tenure was marked by a breakdown in regular press briefings and questions about the administration's credibility, will leave her post at the end of the month, President Donald Trump announced Thursday.

Trump, calling Sanders forward at an unrelated event in the East Room, called her "strong, but with a great, great heart" and said he was encouraging her to run for governor as she returns home to Arkansas.

She has been one of Trump's closest and most trusted White House aides and one of the few remaining on staff who worked on his campaign.

Sanders said serving as press secretary had been "an honor of a lifetime."

"I couldn't be prouder to have had the opportunity to serve my country and particularly to work for this president," she said. "I loved every minute. Even the hard minutes."

Sanders added that she plans to spend more time with her three children, but will continue to be "the most outspoken and loyal supporters" of the president.

Trump first made the announcement Thursday on Twitter, saying she will leave her position at the end of June.

"After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas," Trump wrote. "She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job! I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas - she would be fantastic."

"Sarah, thank you for a job well done," the president added.

Sanders has served in the Trump administration since he took office in January 2017. She succeeded Sean Spicer, Trump's first press secretary, in July 2017 and was the third female to hold the position in history.

A replacement was not immediately named.

The daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders moved her young family to Washington to be part of the administration. She joined the Trump campaign not long after her father's second presidential bid -- which she managed -- fizzled out in the 2016 Iowa caucuses. She said she was drawn to Trump's message of economic populism and his outsider attitude.

Under Sanders' tenure, regular White House press briefings became a relic of the past. She has not held a formal briefing since March 11. Reporters often catch her on the White House driveway after she is interviewed by Fox News Channel or other TV news outlets.

Her credibility has also come under question.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report revealed that Sanders admitted to investigators that she had made an unfounded claim about "countless" FBI agents reaching out to express support for Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.