Sarah Sanders decides to double down on the lie she admitted to Mueller

It makes a difference when you're not under oath.

CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is peddling a new explanation for a lie she told the American people. In at least three different interviews since the release of the redacted Mueller report Thursday, Sanders has attempted to stand by a claim that she had told the investigation — under oath — was utterly bogus.

The lie in question is Sanders’ claim that in May 2017, the White House had heard from “countless” members of the FBI who had lost confidence in James Comey, then-director of the agency. At the time, she claimed the loss of confidence was one of the primary reasons President Donald Trump had fired Comey. Trump himself had written in his letter terminating Comey that morale at the FBI was at an all-time low. But the Mueller investigation found no evidence to support any of those claims, and according to the report, “Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.”

But in new interviews with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and CBS This Morning, Sanders stood by the lie she had previously told. Using almost the exact same, clearly rehearsed language in each interview, Sanders insisted the original claim was true.

On Fox News Thursday evening, she said:

I acknowledge that I had a “slip of the tongue” when I used the word “countless,” but it’s not untrue… that a number of both current and former FBI agents agreed with the president. James Comey was a disgraced leaker who tried to politicize and undermine the very agency he was supposed to run.

To CBS Friday morning, she said:

Look, I’ve acknowledged that the word “countless” was a “slip of the tongue,” but it’s no secret that a number of FBI — both current and former — agreed with the president’s decision. Let’s not forget that James Comey was a disgraced leaker who authorized spying into the Trump campaign.

To ABC Friday morning, she said:

Actually, if you look at what I said, I said the “slip of the tongue” was in using the word “countless,” but there were a number of FBI — both former and current — that agreed with the president’s decision, and they’ve continued to speak out and say that, and send notice to the White House of that agreement with the president’s decision. James Comey was a disgraced leaker and used authorization to spy on the Trump campaign despite there was no evidence of collusion!

While it was perhaps surprising enough that Hannity would ask such a tough question in the first place, both Stephanopoulos and CBS’s John Dickerson pushed back on Sanders’ scripted double-down of the lie. Dickerson, for example, pressed Sanders as to whether Trump had ever asked her to say something that she knew to be false, and she claimed that he hadn’t.


Stephanopoulos went further, however, and called out yet another example of when Trump did blatantly lie to the public through Sanders, as identified in the redacted Mueller report. When Donald Trump, Jr.’s June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer first came to light, Sanders told the press that the president had not dictated the misleading statement his son gave about the nature of the meeting — even though he had. Trump, Jr.’s statement to the press maintained that the meeting with the Kremlin-connected lawyer was about Russian adoption policy, though he had actually agreed to the meeting because he believed he would receive damaging information Hillary Clinton.

Sanders again refused to acknowledge that she’d given a false statement, insisting instead that she had accurately conveyed that Trump had “weighed in” on the statement:

Sanders has previously told the press that she is “an honest person,” and that she hopes her legacy is that she was “transparent and honest” throughout the process of conveying the president’s message.