The day after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, then-deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders stood at the podium in the White House briefing room and told reporters that the president had had “countless conversations” with members of the FBI who said morale at the bureau was low and they had lost confidence in Comey.
“He’s questioned Director Comey’s reason for needing to stay at the FBI,” Sanders said during the May 10, 2017, briefing. “He had countless conversations with members from within the FBI.”
But in her testimony to federal investigators probing whether Trump obstructed justice, Sanders admitted that she made it up.
According to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and the president’s interference in the investigation released Thursday, there was “no evidence” suggesting Trump had heard from FBI agents who had lost confidence in Comey before his firing, and “Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.”
Sanders, who became press secretary after Sean Spicer’s departure, was one of dozens of current and former White House officials to be interviewed by Mueller and his team. Trump submitted written answers to written questions but refused to sit down for an interview with the special counsel.
Mueller’s report concluded there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with collusion, but was undecided on obstruction. Attorney General William Barr decided not to pursue obstruction charges.
Trump’s firing of Comey — who had been overseeing the FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election — led to Mueller’s appointment.
According to Mueller’s report, President Trump “reacted negatively to the special counsel’s appointment” and “told advisors that it was the end of his presidency.”
When former Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed Trump that a special counsel had been appointed in the Russia probe, the president “slumped back in his chair” and said: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f***ed.”
Former White House aide Hope Hicks told the special counsel’s office that Trump was “extremely upset” and that she had only seen Trump like that one other time: when the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was released.
More coverage of the Mueller report from Yahoo News: