If you think White House press secretary Sean Spicer looks out of his depth behind a lectern, just watch him amid a cluster of bushes. That’s what Post reporter Jenna Johnson did last night, as Spicer and his fellow press office workers struggled to beat back the negative reaction to President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey. A hardened TV watcher, Trump was reportedly dismayed at the cable-news consensus as the night wore on.
And so Spicer was needed. After doing an interview on Fox Business, he convened with his staff “behind a tall hedge,” as Johnson reported. Then he emerged to take some questions, but with the stipulation that the cameras be turned off. So he stood around in the darkness, trying to defend the president without much in the way of facts. He had to backtrack on his response to a question about whether Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who wrote a well-circulated letter criticizing Comey’s performance, was directed to do so by the president. “It was all him,” Spicer initially responded, before settling on: “No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision.”
And then he stood behind Rosenstein himself. “Spicer would put forth Rosenstein’s résumé: a prosecutor with more than 30 years of experience who served as a U.S. attorney during the Obama administration and was overwhelmingly confirmed for his new position as deputy attorney general by Congress,” writes Johnson.
To think of it: Just hours before, Spicer had criticized another longtime Justice Department employee with very similar credentials. Sally Yates, like Rosenstein, had started at the Justice Department in the late 1980s. Yates, like Rosenstein, had worked her way up to become a U.S. attorney. Yates, like Rosenstein, served in that capacity in the Obama administration. (Rosenstein’s tenure as U.S. attorney in Maryland started under President George W. Bush.)
Yet Yates was smeared as a politically motivated hack by Spicer yesterday in the White House briefing room — perhaps because she disagreed with the White House over its travel ban.
News and hypocrisy both ride the same express train in this White House.