White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, insisting that he considered letter him go “since the day he had been elected.”
Trump expressed support for Comey last month, saying in an interview with Fox Business that he had “confidence” in him.
But Sanders said that there had been an “erosion of confidence” in the way that Comey had handled his job over a period of weeks and months. In October, during the presidential campaign, Trump actually praised Comey’s decision to go public with his decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“The president was wearing a different hat back then,” Sanders said. “He was a candidate.”
Sanders also said that Department of Justice officials came to Trump to express concerns about Comey, and the president asked for a memo. The result, she said, was the Tuesday memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in which he faulted Comey for Clinton’s investigations.
Sanders even referred to the way that Comey handled the investigation as “atrocities in circumventing the chain of command.”
She also took aim at Democrats who have sharply criticized Trump for firing Comey as he was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Sanders said that it was “startling” that Democrats were not “celebrating” Comey’s firing given their criticisms of him.
She also rejected calls for a special prosecutor to look into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying that they do not think it’s necessary. She did say that the FBI should complete their investigation, but that the administration was anxious to “put it behind us.”
Sanders suggested that Comey’s testimony before a Senate committee last week was a breaking point, when Comey said that he had no regrets over how he handled the Clinton investigation. Sanders said that what Comey did was to take “a stick of dynamite” and thrown it into the Justice Department chain of command.
All news networks carried her briefing, and ABC and NBC broke into regular programming to air her remarks.
She said that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was absent because he was on previously scheduled reserve duty and that he would be gone the rest of the week.