The Deputy White House Press Secretary says she’s in touch with ‘countless’ FBI officials. Really?

Sarah Huckabee Sanders previously served as an adviser to the Trump campaign — which is currently under FBI investigation.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

While attempting to explain President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey during the White House news conference on Wednesday, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump “and the rest of the FBI” had lost confidence in Comey.

A day later, Huckabee Sanders’ comment was directly contradicted by Andrew McCabe, acting FBI director, during his sworn testimony before a Senate panel.

McCabe said 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.

On Thursday, Huckabee Sanders was asked about the discrepancy between what she said and McCabe’s account. She didn’t back down from her claim.

“Well, I can speak to my own personal experience,” she said. “I’ve 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. I’m sure there are some people that are disappointed, but I’ve certainly heard from a large number of individuals and that’s just myself, and I don’t even know that many people in the FBI.”

A reporter followed up on Huckabee Sanders’ comments a bit later, asking her, “You said now today and I think you said again yesterday that you personally have talked to countless FBI officials, employees, since this happened — I mean, really?”

Huckabee Sanders replied in the affirmative.

“Between like email, text messages — absolutely.” When pressed on exactly how many she had heard from, she said, “We’re not going to get into a numbers game. I mean, I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said they are very happy with the president’s decision.”

But Huckabee Sanders’ admission that she’s been in touch with “countless” FBI officials is odd, given her previous role as a senior adviser in Trump’s campaign — the same campaign currently under FBI investigation for possible collusion with Russia.

The problem was noted by Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the Department of Homeland Security and a former member of the Homeland Security Adviser Committee during the Obama administration.

Huckabee Sanders wasn’t the only member of the Trump administration to confess to what seems to be inappropriate contact with the FBI on Thursday. During an interview with NBC, the president himself admitted to calling Comey and asking him if he was under FBI investigation.

“I actually asked him, yes,” Trump said. “I said, ‘If it’s possible, will you let me know, am I under investigation?’ He said, ‘You are not under investigation.’”

Though a call of that sort seems to be an obvious instance of tampering with an ongoing investigation, Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday there’s no problem because “several legal scholars” said so.

“We’ve talked to — again, several legal scholars have weighed in on this and said there was nothing wrong with the President asking that question,” she said, without naming names.

But during his testimony, McCabe said it is not standard practice for the FBI to inform people that they are not the target of an investigation. One unnamed FBI official the Wall Street Journal spoke with characterized the notion Comey would inform Trump he’s not under investigation as “literally farcical.”

UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, NBC reported that Trump “has abandoned the idea of President Trump visiting FBI headquarters after being told he would not be greeted warmly,” according to administration officials.

That development stands in tension with Huckabee Sanders’ assertion that “countless members of the FBI” are “grateful and thankful” that Trump fired Comey.