Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said ousted FBI Director James Comey’s actions in the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server were “atrocities” that justified Comey’s abrupt firing.
During a daily press briefing Wednesday, Sanders specifically pointed to Comey’s decision, ahead of his July 5, 2016 press conference announcing that he would not recommend charges against Clinton, not to tell the Justice Department what he would say in the press conference.
“I think one of the big catalysts that we saw was last week, on Wednesday, Director Comey made a pretty startling revelation that he had essentially taken a stick of dynamite and thrown it into the Department of Justice,” Sanders said, “by going around the chain of command when he decided to take steps without talking to the attorney general or the deputy attorney general when holding a press conference and telling them that he would not let them know what he was going to say, and that is simply not allowed.”
Comey testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3 that, on July 5, “That was a hard call for me to make, to the call the attorney general that morning and say I’m about to do a press conference and I’m not going to tell you what I’m going to say. And I said to her, hope someday you’ll understand why I think I have to do this.”
Comey indeed faced criticism for his actions in that press conference, but the Trump White House never cited it as a valid critique of the ousted official until his firing.
One reporter later asked Sanders when it was that the President lost confidence in Comey, given that he had applauded Comey’s actions in the email investigation in October 2016 — and that the memo he cited to fire Comey criticized the same actions.
Sanders said being a candidate for president and actually serving in the office were “two very different things.” She also referenced the memo, written by the newly minted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“I think also having a letter like the one that he received and having that conversation that outlined the basic, just, atrocities in circumventing the chain of command in the Department of Justice,” she said. “Any person of legal mind and authority knows what a big deal that is, particularly in the Department of Justice, particularly for somebody like the deputy attorney general who has been part of the Justice Department for 30 years and is such a respected person. When he saw that, he had to speak up on that action, and I think that was the final catalyst.”