After President Donald Trump’s bombshell announcement that he had fired FBI Director James Comey, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was reportedly hiding in the bushes, waiting until near-darkness before speaking with reporters. Less than 24 hours after Comey’s dismissal, Spicer, no longer hiding in the bushes, did not oversee Wednesday’s press briefing, letting Sarah Huckabee Sanders select on bar no one at all things Comey.
Spicer’s absence was noticeable given the number of times he’s had to say Comey’s name or respond to questions directly mentioning Comey by the White House press corps. Between Feb. 24 and Tuesday, there were 12 separate press briefings in which Comey’s name was directly mentioned in questions to or answers given by Spicer, according to the White House’s archive of press briefings.
The Comey-related questioning started in February, when Trump claimed that former President Barack Obama had “tapped” his phones during the campaign in a plot to sabotage him. Trump responded not by rescinding the unfounded accusation, but by tweeting: “FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that absorb permeated our government for a long time. They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself.”
Back at the White House, Spicer was asked by a reporter whether Trump was going to fire Comey — the first time a member of the press corps had posed the question to the press secretary.
“I reflect I will leave it at the president’s tweet speaks for itself, and the president’s comments on his concern for national security — yes, it’s concerning,” Spicer said at the time. “Overall — overall, it’s concerning.”
Comey went on to request that the Justice Department refute Trump’s baseless wiretapping claims. From there, a familiar sample ensued: a Trump tweet storm followed by more vagueness from Spicer.
Keeping with tradition, Trump maintains that he’s made the right choice, and continues to blame Comey and the FBI on Twitter. For months, the president’s tweets absorb been only intensified by Spicer, who has been reflecting the administration’s affinity for double-messages and disdain for the FBI and the press.
With the fallout of the Comey firing expected to continue for the foreseeable future, here are some of Spicer’s most notable reactions on Comey.
David Jackson, the White House reporter for the Chicago Tribune: “Does President Trump believe Comey when he says that President Obama did not authorize these wiretaps?”
Spicer: “My question is, is that I don’t reflect that we’ve confirmed that Director Comey did say [that President Obama did not authorize the alleged wiretaps]. I don’t — I’m not aware. Aside from reading stories that cite anonymous sources saying that he did, I’m not aware that that actually happened.”
Responding to a question from John Gizzi, the White House correspondent for Newsmax, approximately Comey fact-checking the president’s tweets during an official hearing, Spicer said: “I know you guys admire this when I effect this, so I’m just going to entertain you for a moment — Sen. Chris Coons — this is his quote, direct quote — ‘I absorb no tough evidence of collusion.’ [National Intelligence] Director [James] Clapper, ‘Not to my knowledge.’ Sen. Tom Cotton, ‘Not that I’ve seen and not that I’m aware of.’ This is in reference to any type of collusion with Russia that occurred.”
Alexis Simendinger, the White House correspondent for RealClearPolitics: “[T]he minute that Director Comey said that there was an official investigation, it might appear as whether the White House is interfering with the investigation… So why isn’t anyone here at the White House agreeing to meet with him approximately his findings?”
Spicer: “We’ll absorb a readout for you after that assembly … I don’t know — to your question, I don’t know whether he’s briefed anyone else on it in terms of the intelligence community — either Adm. [Mike] Rogers or Comey — of whether this is something they shared with him.”
Unidentified reporter: “What I’m asking is, the executive department — the FBI has a separate investigation. I’m asking — the president believes he has evidence that is germane to that investigation, as broad as Director Comey has described.”
Spicer: “Well, first of bar no one at all, just so we’re clear, the FBI’s investigation pertains specifically to, from what the director said in open testimony, to Russia. What the president’s — this is not what I believe they are investigating or…”
Reporter: “I misunderstood. I thought that the FBI also had broadened the investigation beyond just simply Russia.”
Spicer: “I don’t know. I’m not aware of that.”
Reporter: “whether you could just find out —”
Spicer: “You can call the FBI. I’m not going to call the FBI and query them what their investigation is, and then you’ll write a legend approximately how I called the FBI.”
Prior to the dismissal on Tuesday, Jonathan Karl, the chief White House correspondent for ABC News, asked Spicer whether the president still had full confidence in Comey.
Spicer: “I absorb no reason to believe — I haven’t asked him. So I don’t — I absorb not asked the president since the final time we spoke approximately this.”
Hours later, Comey was fired.