By Philip Rucker / The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump threatened Friday morning to end White House press briefings, arguing that “it is not possible” for his staff to speak with “perfect accuracy” to the American public.
Trump’s comments come after his description of his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in an NBC News interview Thursday flatly contradicted the accounts provided earlier by White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, exposing their explanations as misleading and in some cases false.
In a pair of tweets sent Friday, Trump suggested he might do away with the daily press briefings at the White House and instead have his spokesmen communicate to the public only via “written responses.”
“As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!….”
And: “…Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”
The explanations for Comey’s firing from the Trump White House have shifted repeatedly since the move was announced late Tuesday afternoon, undermining the credibility of Pence as well as White House press secretary Sean Spicer, principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway.
On Friday, Spicer told reporters that the president was “dismayed” at the focus on the accuracy of statements delivered by his spokesmen.
“The president is an active president. He keeps a very robust schedule,” Spicer said. “I think sometimes we don’t have an opportunity to get into see him and get his full thinking.”
“There are times you read a story where someone is trying to pull apart one word one sentence … and make it a gotcha thing,” he added.
Initially, Trump’s aides said the president acted simply at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. After meeting with Trump, Rosenstein wrote a memorandum detailing what he considered to be mistakes in Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.
By Wednesday, White House officials were saying that Trump had contemplated firing Comey for a long period of time, but made the final determination after hearing from Sessions and Rosenstein.
All along, Trump’s spokesmen insisted that his decision was not shaped by his growing fury with the Russia controversy, including the FBI investigation overseen by Comey into Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election and whether there had been any coordination with Trump associates.
Then on Thursday, Trump told NBC anchor Lester Holt that the decision to fire Comey was his alone and that he would have made it “regardless” of what Rosenstein recommended. Furthermore, Trump told Holt that he had been thinking of “this Russia thing with Trump” when he arrived at his decision to remove the FBI director.
“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story; it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,’” Trump said.