I think Sarah Sanders is a terrific press secretary. In her press briefing today, she handled the White House press corps with her usual aplomb. The White House emphasized President Trump’s efforts toward a bipartisan tax reform bill, but James Comey also came up, repeatedly:
Q [by New York Times reporter] Is the President aware that Steve Bannon described firing James Comey as the biggest mistake in modern political history?
MS. SANDERS: Whether he is or not, I think that everybody knows exactly where the President stands on that issue. The President is proud of the decision that he made. The President was 100 percent right in firing James Comey. He knew at the time that it could be bad for him politically but he also knew and felt he had an obligation to do what was right, and do what was right for the American people and certainly the men and women at the FBI.
I think there is no secret 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 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. He politicized an investigation by signaling he would exonerate Hillary Clinton before he ever interviewed her or other key witnesses.
He is very happy with the decision he made, and I think he has been fully vindicated by a lot of those new things and knowing that it was the right one.
Hard-hitting, to say the least. A bit later another reporter followed up:
Q You said that the actions of James Comey could have been illegal. You, the other day, referred to potential false testimony. The DOJ is not commenting, but I would put to you, would the President encourage the DOJ to prosecute Comey?
MS. SANDERS: That’s not the President’s role. That’s the job of the Department of Justice, and something they should certainly look at.
The White House thinks that Jeff Sessions should be considering a criminal prosecution of James Comey. That’s news.
Q Is that something you’d like to see?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not sure about that specifically, but I think if there’s ever a moment where we feel someone has broken the law, particularly if they’re the head of the FBI, I think that’s something that certainly should be looked at.
A few minutes later, a further exchange:
Q Thank you, Sarah. Yesterday, when you were talking about James Comey, you mentioned that he gave false testimony. I didn’t hear you say that again today. Do you still stand by that?
MS. SANDERS: I did say that actually today.
Q You did say —
MS. SANDERS: Yeah.
Actually, she hadn’t said it, but in that answer she stood by the allegation. Is it possible that a criminal prosecution of James Comey is in store? It seems highly unlikely, but perhaps Comey won’t sleep well tonight. If so, his unrest is well deserved.
There was much more of interest in today’s press briefing, including this question and answer about Hillary Clinton’s book:
Q And also, will the President be reading Hillary Clinton’s book? (Laughter.) And what does he think about the excerpts that have gotten out so far?
MS. SANDERS: Whether or not he’s going to read Hillary Clinton’s book, I am not sure. But I would think that he’s pretty well-versed on “what happened.” And I think it’s pretty clear to all of America. I think it’s sad that after Hillary Clinton ran one of the most negative campaigns in history and lost, the last chapter of her public life is going to be now defined by propping up book sales with false and reckless attacks. And I think that that’s a sad way for her to continue this work.
That was an appropriately charitable evaluation from, in my view, a very able press secretary.