WASHINGTON – If you've been missing your daily dose of White House press secretary Sean Spicer, it's because President Donald Trump's chief spokesman has been serving the country in another way: He's been on Navy Reserve duty.
Spicer's commitment for monthly service occasionally pulls him away from his high-profile job as the public face of the Trump administration.
The obligation also kept Spicer away Wednesday, one of the most important days of Trump's presidency: the day after Trump fired James Comey as FBI director. Trump dismissed Comey on Tuesday, which was the last day this week that Spicer briefed the White House press corps.
Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has filled in during Spicer's absence, which renewed speculation that Trump was giving the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee a tryout with an eye toward possibly replacing Spicer with her.
A White House official denied that Spicer's job was in jeopardy, saying that using Sanders, 34, to cover Spicer's absence is part of a broader plan to give her some on-camera briefing experience because she is Spicer's chief deputy. The official requested anonymity to discuss internal White House planning.
Spicer was also on reserve duty last Thursday and Friday.
"Sean is actually on Navy Reserve duty, so you guys are stuck with me — today and tomorrow," Huckabee Sanders said as she opened Thursday's less formal, off-camera briefing, which is known as a "gaggle." ''So brace yourselves for a fun 24 hours."
Spicer's often combative question-and-answer sessions with the reporters who cover Trump have become must-see TV. Since taking over as press secretary, he has made a number of gaffes at the podium that ended up shining the media spotlight on him, instead of on Trump and his policies.
Spicer, 45, joined the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1999. He was expected back at the podium Friday.
Spicer, who holds the rank of commander, works out of the Pentagon as a public affairs specialist assigned to Capt. Greg Hicks, spokesman for Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Reservists commit to serving a minimum of one weekend a month plus two weeks a year, although flexible options permit service on weekdays, according to the Navy's website.
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