P. 69 – 74
Trump, not liking the press condemning him for firing Comey, tries to pin the responsibility on others. Meanwhile, Sarah Sanders attempts to vindicate Trump and condemn Comey to the press, but she had told the Special Counsel’s Office later that certain things she had said were not true. Trump then goes on an interview with Lester Holt to say that he was going to fire Comey regardless of a recommendation.
“The President told his communications team he was unhappy with the press coverage of Comey’s termination and ordered them to go out and defend him. The President also called Chris Christie and, according to Christie, said he was getting ‘killed’ in the press over Comey’s termination. The President asked what he should do. Christie asked, ‘Did you fire [Comey] because of what Rod wrote in the memo?’, and the President responded, ‘Yes.’ Christie said that the President should ‘get Rod out there’ and have him defend the decision. The President told Christie that this was a ‘good idea’ and said he was going to call Rosenstein right away.”
“That night, the White House Press Office called the Department of Justice and said the White House wanted to put out a statement saying that it was Rosenstein’s idea to fire Comey. Rosenstein told other DOJ officials that he would not participate in putting out a ‘false story.’ The President then called Rosenstein directly and said he was watching Fox News, that the coverage had been great, and that he wanted Rosenstein to do a press conference. Rosenstein responded that this was not a good idea because if the press asked him, he would tell the truth that Comey’s firing was not his idea. Sessions also informed the White House Counsel’s Office that evening that Rosenstein was upset that his memorandum was being portrayed as the reason for Comey’s termination.”
“In an unplanned press conference late in the evening of May 9, 2017, Spicer told reporters, ‘It was all [Rosenstein]. No one from the White House. It was a DOJ decision.’ ”
“In the afternoon of May 10, 2017, deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders spoke to the President about his decision to fire Comey and then spoke to reporters in a televised press conference. Sanders told reporters that the President, the Department of Justice, and bipartisan members of Congress had lost confidence in Comey, ‘[a]nd most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director. Accordingly, the President accepted the recommendation of his Deputy Attorney General to remove James Comey from his position.’ In response to questions from reporters, Sanders said that Rosenstein decided ‘on his own’ to review Comey’s performance and that Rosenstein decided ‘on his own’ to come to the President on Monday, May 8 to express his concerns about Comey. When a reporter indicated that the ‘vast majority’ of FBI agents supported Comey, Sanders said , ‘Look, we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.’ Following the press conference, Sanders spoke to the President, who told her she did a good job and did not point out any inaccuracies in her comments. Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from ‘countless members of the FBI’ was a ‘slip of the tongue.’ She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything.”
“Also on May 10, 2017 , Sessions and Rosenstein each spoke to McGahn and expressed concern that the White House was creating a narrative that Rosenstein had initiated the decision to fire Comey. The White House Counsel’s Office agreed that it was factually wrong to say that the Department of Justice had initiated Comey ‘s termination, and McGahn asked attorneys in the White House Counsel’s Office to work with the press office to correct the narrative.”
“The next day, on May 11, 2017, the President participated in an interview with Lester Holt. The President told White House Counsel’s Office attorneys in advance of the interview that the communications team could not get the story right, so he was going on Lester Holt to say what really happened. During the interview, the President stated that he had made the decision to fire Comey before the President met with Rosenstein and Sessions. The President told Holt, ‘I was going to fire regardless of recommendation…’ “