WASHINGTON — The White House can’t get its story straight on why President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
Trump told NBC News on Thursday that he was going to fire Comey with or without Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo criticizing the director.
That statement contradicts at least 10 times Trump’s top aides and advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, tried to explain the how and the why the president decided to sack Comey.
Tuesday’s unceremonious move came amid the FBI’s probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and any connections the Trump campaign had to the hackers.
“I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump told NBC. “(Rosenstein) made a recommendation. … He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”
That was not the story Pence told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
“President Trump made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general,” Pence said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said her answers “went off that information that I had when I answered your question.”
At the time, she said, she “hadn’t had a chance” to ask the president directly, despite having numerous conversations with him.
Sanders also claimed the White House story had been “consistent,” despite the clear inconsistencies.
Several comments by White House staff and the vice president were contradicted by Trump’s interview Thursday.
Tuesday: 6:39 p.m. MDT
Presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway: “I think you’re looking at the wrong set of facts here. In other words, you’re going back to the campaign. This man is the President of the United States. He acted decisively today. He took the recommendation of his deputy attorney general who oversees the FBI director.”
Tuesday: 6:40 p.m.
Conway: “It makes complete sense because he has lost confidence in the FBI director and he took the recommendation of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to whom the FBI director reports to. The deputy attorney general has been on the job two short weeks. He went in there. He assessed the situation — and I would quote for you. He says it almost everyone agrees that the director, meaning Mr. Comey, made serious mistakes. It’s one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspective.”
Wednesday: 9:01 a.m.
Pence: “President Trump made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, to ask for the termination, to support the termination of the director of the FBI. It was simply the right decision. Now we go forward. We go forward with confidence.”
Wednesday: 9:03 a.m.
Pence: “The president took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and the security of the American people first by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI.”
Wednesday: 9:05 a.m.
Pence: “Let me be clear that the President’s decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI was based solely and exclusively on his commitment to the best interest of the American people and to ensuring that the FBI has the trust and confidence of the people of of this nation. … The deputy attorney general was confirmed just a few short weeks ago by the United States Senate when he brought the recommendation to the president that the director of the FBI should be removed.”
Wednesday: 9:07 a.m.
Pence: :He provided strong leadership … to act on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, and I think the American people welcome that and they know that as President Trump has done so many times before, the President is going to take the time necessary to find an individual of great experience and great integrity to lead the nation’s law enforcement agency at the FBI, and I look forward to being a part of that process.”
Wednesday: 9:09 a.m.
Pence: “He brought that recommendation to the president, and the attorney general concurred with that recommendation, and I personally am grateful that we have a president who is willing to provide the kind of decisive and strong leadership to take the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove an FBI director who had lost the confidence of the American people.”
Wednesday: 11:52 a.m.
Huckabee Sanders: :The president, over the last several months, lost confidence in Director Comey. The DOJ lost confidence in Director Comey. Bipartisan members of Congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in Director Comey. And 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.”
Wednesday: 11:53 a.m.
Huckabee Sanders: :He’d lost confidence in Director Comey. And, frankly, he’d been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected. But he did have a conversation with the deputy attorney general on Monday where they had come to him to express their concerns. The president asked that they put those concerns and their recommendation in writing, which is the letter that you guys have received.”
Wednesday: 11:58 a.m.
Question: Sarah, isn’t it true that the President had already decided to fire James Comey and he asked the Justice Department to put together the rationale for that firing?
Huckabee Sanders: No.
Question: Is it — when did he make the decision?
Huckabee Sanders: The final decision to move forward with it was yesterday. But I know that he’s been contemplating it for a while.