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Kellyanne Conway Cites Family Reasons As She Prepares To Leave White House

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

On the third day of Trump's presidency, his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, went on TV and coined a new phrase. She was explaining why Trump's press secretary lied about the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You're saying it's a falsehood. And they're giving - Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains that there's...

CHUCK TODD: Wait a minute - alternative facts?

KELLY: It was a term that would follow Conway during her time at the White House where she was one of the fiercest defenders of the president and his agenda. Now she is leaving. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now to talk about this.

Hey, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So Kellyanne Conway issued the statement last night, says she is leaving to spend more time with her family, which usually in Washington is code for some other reason. What is actually happening here?

LIASSON: You're right. Usually, it is code. But in this case, Kellyanne Conway seems to be the rare public official for whom stepping aside for family reasons is the real reason. She and her husband have very different views on the Trump presidency. They have four teenage children. And in her statement, she said they deserved less drama and more mama. So in all of the unprecedented things that have happened in the Trump White House, the soap opera of Conway and her family tensions really has been one of the most extraordinary.

KELLY: Right. I mean, I can think of a few marriages in Washington that have been high profile that have been controversial because couples came down on very different sides of the political fence. What made the Conway's marriage the subject of just so much fascination, so much speculation?

LIASSON: Well, they're both conservative Republicans. They're not even on opposite sides of the fence, except for about Donald Trump. Kellyanne was a Republican pollster who became the first female campaign manager to win a presidential campaign. George Conway is a lawyer. He has impeccable conservative credentials. He helped develop the case that ultimately led to Bill Clinton's impeachment. But then he became one of the most vehement opponents to Trump. He wrote articles and tweets about Trump's mental state and his fitness for office. He helped lead The Lincoln Project, which is a group of anti-Trump Republicans raising money for really brutal ads trying to convince Republicans in battleground states not to vote for Trump. But last night, he also said he would withdraw, certainly from Twitter, also from The Lincoln Project, he's also going to take a break to devote more time to family matters. And, you know, sometimes Kellyanne had expressed her frustration with her husband publicly, saying that he was disrespectful to her for criticizing Trump. And Trump has often disparaged George Conway, sometimes calling him a total loser. But - and here's what's significant - Trump never soured on Kellyanne Conway. She was one of the rare people in the White House who was there all the way from the 2016 campaign and who never seemed to stray from his good graces.

KELLY: Although one of the latest twists in this, Mara, is that one of the Conways' kids, their teenage daughter, became part of this very public battle.

LIASSON: Yes. We usually don't discuss minor children of public officials, but the Conways' daughter, Claudia, who's 15 years old, began posting left-wing anti-Trump clips on TikTok and Twitter this spring. On Saturday, she tweeted that she planned to emancipate herself legally from her parents. She said she'd suffered, quote, "years of childhood trauma and abuse." Then on Sunday, she said she too would be taking a break from social media and tweeted, quote, "no hate to my parents please."

KELLY: NPR's Mara Liasson updating us there on the imminent departure from the White House of Kellyanne Conway.

Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.