Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump is 'proud' he fired James Comey, prosecution should be 'looked at'
At Tuesday's White House press briefing, reporters asked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if President Trump was aware that former chief strategist Stephen Bannon had called his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey one of the worst mistakes in modern political history. "The president is proud of the decision that he made," she said. "The president was 100 percent right in firing James Comey. He knew at the time that it could be bad for him politically, but he also knew and felt he had an obligation to do what was right." She added later that Comey's "actions were improper, and likely could have been illegal."
But when asked if Trump would encourage prosecuting Comey, Sanders said that's not the president's job. "That's the job of the Department of Justice, and something they should certainly look at," she said. "If there's ever a moment where we feel someone's broken the law, particularly if they're the head of the FBI, I think that's something that certainly should be looked at."
— Polly Sigh (@dcpoll) September 12, 2017
Sanders did not say what laws she think Comey likely could have broken, though Trump has accused Comey of leaking classified information for having a friend pass unclassified notes to The New York Times. Bannon called Comey's firing a mistake in large part because it led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whom Trump has also reportedly mulled firing. In the West Wing, aides are seriously worried about Mueller's investigation, report Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan at Axios, but nobody thinks ousting Mueller would be wise. The damage would be as horrendous as "firing the pope," one Trump associate told Axios. Peter Weber
President Trump might order the Justice Department to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading an investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and any ties to the Trump campaign, longtime Trump friend Christopher Ruddy told PBS NewsHour on Monday. Other Trump allies, like Newt Gingrich, have switched from praising Mueller's integrity and honesty to questioning whether he can be impartial.
Ruddy, chief executive of the conservative Newsmax Media and a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, said that Trump understood from last week's bombshell testimony from former FBI Director James Comey that Trump wasn't personally alleged to have committed any crime. That makes Mueller's investigation "highly unusual" and "politically driven," he argued.
PBS' Judy Woodruff asked Ruddy, who said he spoke with Trump on Friday, if Trump is "prepared to let the special counsel pursue his investigation," and Ruddy shrugged. "Well, I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel," he said. "I think he's weighing that option; I think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on televisions recently. I think it would be a very significant mistake, even though I don't think there's a justification" for a special counsel, and he suggested that Mueller is compromised because his law firm represented some members of the Trump family and Trump had interviewed Muller for the FBI director position before he was appointed special prosecutor.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that while Ruddy was at the White House on Monday, he had not met with Trump there and doesn't speak for the White House. "Chris Ruddy speaks for himself," Spicer said. "With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment." Ruddy was likely referring to lawyer Jay Sekulow's comments on ABC News Sunday that he wouldn't speculate on Trump firing Mueller but he also "can't imagine the issue is going to arise."
Ruddy confirmed to The Washington Post that he believes Trump is considering firing Mueller, and a senior White House official told The New York Times that Trump had interviewed Mueller for FBI director the day before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had chosen him as special counsel. Trump has the authority to order Rosenstein to lift Justice Department rules protecting Mueller's independence and then fire him, though doing so would incur a political cost. Peter Weber
Preet Bharara says as with Comey, Trump tried to 'cultivate' an uncomfortable, inappropriate relationship
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said on Sunday that he still does not know why President Trump fired him in March, after originally promising to keep him on as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, but that watching the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey last week "felt a little bit like deja vu." Bharara told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that after getting zero calls from former President Barack Obama in seven years, Trump met with him once and called him three times after the election, "ostensibly just to shoot the breeze," and the third time — after the inauguration, and two days before Trump fired him — Bharara said he did not return Trump's call, because it would have been inappropriate.
"I was in discussions with my own folks, and in reporting the phone call to the chief of staff to the attorney general, I said it appeared to be that he was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship," Bharara said. "I'm not the FBI director, but I was the chief federal law enforcement officer in Manhattan with jurisdiction over a lot of things including, you know, business interests and other things in New York."
— GeorgeStephanopoulos (@GStephanopoulos) June 11, 2017
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump's personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, called Bharara a "resistance Democrat" on Twitter and said that after refusing to take Trump's third call "he deserved to be fired." Bharara, who aggressively prosecuted Democratic politicians as much as or more than Republicans, tweeted back that the Justice Department agreed with his decision to not accept a direct phone call from the president. But as for being fired, "you know, it doesn't bother me," he told Stephanopoulos on Sunday. "I'm living a great good life, and very happily." You can watch the entire interview below. Peter Weber