President Trump kept White House press secretary Sean Spicer in the dark ahead of his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey out of fear that his communications staff would leak the news, The New York Times reports.
Spicer and the rest of the White House communications team were told about the decision at the last possible moment, according to the report. Shortly after news broke of Comey's ouster, Spicer issued a statement on the matter.
The White House initially claimed in the statement that Trump "acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE" in firing Comey. Senior White House officials made similar comments.
But Trump himself appeared to challenge that account in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt on Thursday, in which he rejected the notion that he had based his decision on Rosenstein and Sessions' recommendations. Comey's termination, he said, was his decision alone.
"I was going to fire regardless of the recommendation,” Trump said. “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”
Trump's decision to fire Comey came amid a steady stream of leaks from the White House.
According to the Times, Trump is said to be considering a sweeping shakeup of his White House staff. Among those that could be on the chopping block are Spicer, chief of staff Reince Priebus and communications director Michael Dubke.
Trump himself appeared to undecided on Spicer's future in his administration in a Fox News interview on Friday. He called the press secretary a "wonderful human being" and a "nice man," but said Spicer "gets beat up" in his daily briefings.
"He’s getting beat up. No, he just gets beat up by these people and again you know they don’t show the 90 questions that they asked and answered properly," he said. "I’m saying if they’re off just a little bit, just a little bit, it’s the big story."