On Wednesday, the White House officially announced that Ivanka Trump, the eldest daughter of President Donald Trump, will be heading to PyeongChang to lead the U.S. delegation during the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics. But she'll reportedly have a somewhat strange member of the Trump administration traveling alongside her ― you might wonder, why is Sarah Huckabee Sanders going to the Olympics? How exactly did a press secretary get in on this globetrotting trip?
It's worth noting that this won't be the first time Sanders has crossed the Pacific on official state business. Last year, she joined the traveling party for the president's trip to Asia, visiting Japan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and of course South Korea, the same country where she'll be attending the closing ceremony of the Olympics.
According to The Hill on Wednesday, Sanders was described as a trusted adviser by the White House, and that might account for why she's making the trip ― she's been nothing if not publicly loyal to Trump and the administration, after all. Also, the White House reportedly discussed the matter during a press call on Wednesday, with an official stating that Sanders would be going to cheer on the women of the U.S. Olympic team.
"And also Sarah's going as a female to help cheer on all of the female athletes and highlight the women's sports and success our female athletes have had at this year's Olympic games," the official said, according to the Daily Mail.
Sanders reportedly departed for South Korea on Thursday, and will be back in the nation's capital at some point next week. The 2018 Winter Olympics have nearly come to an end; the closing ceremony will be taking place late on Sunday, Feb. 25, in South Korea, which means it will be early in the morning on Sunday in the U.S. The American flag will reportedly be carried by Jessie Diggins, while Ivanka will be leading the delegation.
It's fair to say that Ivanka's involvement in the closing ceremony has stirred up some controversy and criticism, with many people on social media criticizing her selection. It remains to be seen how well she navigates the political aspects of the trip, as Vice President Mike Pence generated a lot of politically charged headlines when he led the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremony.
While Sanders is gone, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah is picking up the slack stateside. He was behind the podium at the White House press briefing room on Thursday, answering questions regarding the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and potential reforms to American gun laws.
Sanders is not the only Trump administration press secretary to tag along on presidential trips abroad. Last year, former press secretary Sean Spicer famously joined the first international trip of the Trump presidency, stopping at a number of locations in the Middle East and Europe.
It was on that trip that he also suffered one of the most visible public snubs of his tenure in government, when he was deprived of a chance to meet Pope Francis. Spicer, a Catholic, was reportedly eager beyond belief for the meeting, but he was left out of the group that actually made the visit.
There's no reason to think Sanders will suffer any indignities like that during her time in PyeongChang, much less considering how little time she'll actually be spending there. The 2018 Winter Games have been going for a while, and unfortunately for Sanders, she's arriving late to take in most of the dramatic, high-profile events. As it stands now, the United States sits in fourth place in the Olympic medal count, trailing Norway, Canada, and Germany.