As Trump left the room following his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, a CNN camera caught him having a brief exchange with Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) about a memo Republicans have been hyping that purportedly discusses FBI misconduct related to the bureau’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
“Let’s release the memo,” Duncan is heard saying to the president.
“Oh yeah, don’t worry. 100 percent. Can you imagine?” Trump replies.
There’s just one problem — Trump hasn’t actually read the memo yet. During an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday morning, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged as much.
“Not that I’m aware of — I know he hadn’t as of last night, prior to and immediately after the State of the Union,” Sanders said, asked if Trump has read the memo.
“So obviously, before he goes promising 100 percent, he should read this, because he may be getting set up by the memo if it doesn’t deliver what’s promised by people on the right,” Cuomo replied.
A short time after Sanders’ interview wrapped up on CNN, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley went on Fox News and spun the hot mic video by saying that Trump’s “100 percent” comment just reflected the president’s committing to transparency.
“Well he’s a 100 percent for transparency 100 percent of the time,” Gidley said.
Trump has reasons for supporting the memo’s release that go beyond concerns over alleged law enforcement misconduct. On Tuesday evening, the Washington Post reported that Trump “has told close advisers recently that the memo could provide him with grounds for either firing or forcing [Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein] to leave, according to one person familiar with his remarks.”
The Post report indicates that Trump is planning to allow the memo to be publicly released in the days to come, despite Justice Department concerns that it “could jeopardize classified information,” inaccurately describes the DOJ’s “investigative practices,” and could set a dangerous precedent.
Rosenstein is the only U.S. official with the authority to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the investigation into the Trump campaign. Multiple outlets reported that last week that Trump tried to fire Mueller in June of last year — the month after he fired FBI James Comey, who oversaw the Russia investigation before Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein.
Rosenstein or whoever replaces him as deputy attorney general will also ultimately make the decision about whether or not Mueller’s investigatory findings will be made public.