Sanders: Justice Dept. ‘Should Certainly Look At’ Investigating James Comey

Carolyn Kaster/AP
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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that the Department of Justice “should certainly look at” investigating fired FBI Director James Comey.

The remark came during a press conference after Sanders was asked by the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman about Steve Bannon’s comment in a recent interview. Bannon said Trump firing Comey was the biggest mistake in modern political history.

“I think there is no secret,” Sanders said, reading from a prepared statement. “Comey by his own self-admission leaked privileged government information. Weeks before President Trump fired him, Comey testified that an FBI agent engaged in the same practice, they’d face serious repercussions. I think he set his own stage for himself on that front. His actions were improper and likely could have been illegal.”

“Comey leaked memos to the New York Times, your own outlet,” Sanders added to Haberman.

Trump has accused Comey of breaking the law before, after Comey admitted to indirectly leaking the content of his personal notes of encounters with the President to the media.

Sanders called the information “privileged” rather than “classified” on Tuesday, but said later that the Department of Justice should consider investigating Comey.

“You said that the actions of James Comey could have been illegal,” NBC’s Hallie Jackson said. “You, the other day, referred to potential false testimony. The DOJ is not commenting. But I would put it to you: Would the president encourage the DOJ to prosecute Comey?”

“That’s not the President’s role,” Sanders responded. “That’s the job of the Department of Justice and something they should certainly look at.”

“Is that something you would like to see?” Jackson pressed.

“I’m not sure about that specifically, but I think if there is ever a moment where we feel someone has broken the law, particularly if they are the head of the FBI, I think that’s something that certainly should be looked at,” Sanders said.

Later, Sanders denied she had said she wanted Comey investigated for leaking, saying “I’m not here to ever direct DOJ in the actions that they should take.”

On Monday, Sanders made the remarkable charge that “[s]ince the director’s firing, we’ve learned new information about his conduct that only provided further justification for that firing, including giving false testimony, leaking privileged information to journalists, he went outside of the chain of command, and politicized an investigation into a presidential candidate.”

She did not provide any evidence for the first charge, nor did she elaborate on it. It came up again Tuesday, though Sanders still provided no proof. 

“Yesterday when you were talking about James Comey, you mentioned that he gave false testimony. I didn’t hear you say that again today,” a reporter asked Sanders. “Do you still stand by that?”

“I did say that, actually, today, yeah,” Sanders replied. “And he did.” 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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