President Trump scolded his senior communications staff, telling them to "get on the same page" after the White House struggled to explain the circumstances surrounding his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, The New York Times reported.
In a Monday morning meeting, Trump lectured press secretary Sean Spicer, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and communications director Michael Dubke to unify the White House's communications strategy.
The meeting followed a series of inconsistencies and contradictions in the White House's narrative of Comey's abrupt termination.
In the wake of Comey's firing last Tuesday, the White House released a handful of documents, including memos from 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 and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, detailing the president's decision.
Among the documents was a letter from Trump notifying Comey of his termination and explaining that the president was acting on the recommendation of Sessions and Rosenstein, who cited the handling of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation MORE email probe.
Spicer and Sanders also sought to cast the decision as based on the case put together by the Justice Department.
But Trump himself flatly contradicted the White House's narrative in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt on Thursday, in which he asserted that the decision to fire Comey was his alone and that he would have fired him "regardless of the recommendation."
That same day, Sanders faced questions from reporters about whether the White House communications staff had been kept in the dark on the president's decision. The spokeswoman rejected that notion and insisted instead that the narrative emerging from the White House had been consistent.
But she also acknowledged that she had not yet spoken to Trump about the matter and briefed reporters with the information she had available.
"I think it’s pretty simple. I hadn’t had a chance to have the conversation directly with the president," Sanders said when asked about the inconsistencies in the White House's account of the firing. "I went off the information I had."
Trump appeared to defend the discrepancies in the statements issued by his communications staff on Friday, writing on Twitter that "it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at the podium with perfect accuracy."
Trump's lecture on Monday came amid swirling rumors of a looming shakeup of White House staffers, including Dubke and Spicer. According to the Times, the president reassured Spicer and others that their jobs were safe.
The president told other advisers, however, that a major reshuffling of his White House staff was necessary, the Times reported, but that he had not yet decided what such a shakeup would entail.