The day after acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe contradicted a number of the Trump administration’s talking points about James Comey’s firing during sworn testimony, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to confirm whether Trump has confidence in McCabe.
“I have not asked him about the deputy,” Spicer said during his news conference on Friday. “I’ve not asked him — generally I don’t go through the list of government employees and ask him, so I have not asked him specifically about that.”
On Thursday, McCabe told senators that at the time of his firing, Comey enjoyed “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”
“The majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey,” he added.
That contradicted a Trump administration talking point pushed Wednesday by Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who told reporters Trump “and the rest of the FBI” had lost confidence in Comey.
Asked about McCabe’s testimony on Thursday, Huckabee Sanders didn’t back down, saying she’s “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision and I think that we may have to agree to disagree.”
McCabe contradicted the administration on other points as well. He characterized the ongoing probe into the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia as “highly significant.” The day before, Huckabee Sanders called it “probably one of the smallest things that they’ve got going on their plate.” McCabe also said it is not standard practice for the FBI to inform people that they are not the target of an investigation. Trump has claimed, without evidence, that Comey told him on three separate occasions he is not under investigation.
Spicer’s comments about the president’s confidence or lack thereof in McCabe came amid a swirl of reports that Comey’s refusal to pledge personal loyalty to Trump played a large role in his firing. McCabe, during his testimony, indicated his goal is to do “the right thing,” which he characterized as “protecting the American people, and upholding the Constitution.”
During an interview with Fox News that was recorded on Friday, Trump denied ever asking Comey to pledge his loyalty, but argued it wouldn’t have been inappropriate for him to do so.
“I don’t think it’s inappropriate,” Trump said. “I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important—you know, I mean, it depends on how you define loyalty.”
One of the names the White House has floated as a possible Comey replacement is a former Trump campaign official. On Saturday, Trump said he may nominate a new FBI director as soon as this coming week.
White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway has indicated the president isn’t particularly worried about the appearance that Trump’s decision to fire Comey was an attempt to remove a check on his power and quell the escalating investigation into his campaign.
“You want to question the timing of when the president fires, when he hires. It’s inappropriate,” Conway said during an appearance on CNN on Wednesday. “He’ll do it when he wants to, just like he fired FBI Director Comey.”