Amid the fallout from FBI Director James Comey’s dismissal, White House Press Secretary Spicer fielded reporters’ mounting questions on Friday about disparate accounts emerging from the White House concerning Comey’s firing.
In doing so, he made some assertions from the podium that bear a second look — about the nature of the statements made by the White House about Comey’s firing; about Mr. Trump’s tweets and former DNI James Clapper’s past statements on collusion; and on whether the president asked for loyalty from Comey.
Did White House give reporters conflicting information about the firing of James Comey?
Spicer refused to acknowledge that the White House has given the public conflicting information about the firing of Comey.
Asked by Time Magazine’s Zeke Miller, “Why were the American people given incorrect information [the night Comey was fired],” Spicer responded, “I don’t necessarily believe that that’s true, Zeke. There was a decision-making process; the President explained it in the interview process.”
But over the last few days, the White House has offered several explanations for Comey’s firing. On Tuesday,that President Trump was acting on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who faulted Comey for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Mr. Trump also said in his termination letter to Comey that he had “accepted” the recommendation of Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire Comey. It’s worth noting that Rosenstein’s letter never directly called for Comey’s dismissal, although Sessions did when he forwarded Rosenstein’s letter to Mr. Trump.
In a meeting with reporters Tuesday night, Spicer put the burden of the firing squarely on Rosenstein. “It was all him [Rosenstein],” Spicer said. “That’s correct — I mean, I can’t, I guess I shouldn’t say that, thank you for the help on that one. No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision.”
But two days later, the president himself refuted this version of events. On Thursday night, Mr. Trump told NBC News’ Lester Holt that he “was going to fire” Comey “regardless of recommendation.”
“[Rosenstein] made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,” Mr. Trump said.
During his press briefing on Friday, Spicer insisted that Mr. Trump’s comments did not contradict what Spicer said Tuesday night. He also said that Rosenstein’s memo did, in fact, affect the president’s decision to fire Comey.
“This is ultimately going to be the president’s, always going to be the president’s decision,” Spicer said. “Everyone who serves at the pleasure of the president – it’s always going to be his decision to hire someone, fire someone, he made a decision in part based on the recommendation, and he’s now focused on making sure that we have a replacement at the FBI to ensure they have the proper leadership they need.”
The press has been told at various times that Comey’s…