The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump threatens to cancel White House briefings because it is ‘not possible’ for his staff to speak with ‘perfect accuracy’

Since President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9, the explanations for the dismissal have been getting murkier. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump threatened Friday morning to end White House press briefings, arguing that “it is not possible” for his staff to speak with “perfect accuracy” to the American public.

In a subsequent interview, the president suggested that he would either move the briefings so that they are far less frequent and done by him, or not have them at all.

“Well, just don’t have them. Unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself, we don’t have them,” Trump told Fox News's Jeanine Pirro. “I think it’s a good idea.”

Trump's comments came after his description of his decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey in an NBC News interview Thursday flatly contradicted the accounts provided earlier by White House officials, including Vice President Pence, exposing their explanations as misleading and, in some cases, false.

Trump said he was thinking of Russia controversy when he decided to fire Comey

In a pair of tweets sent Friday, Trump suggested that he might do away with the daily press briefings at the White House and instead have his spokesmen communicate to the public only via “written responses.”

The explanations for Comey's firing from the Trump White House have shifted repeatedly since the move was announced late Tuesday afternoon, undermining the credibility of Pence as well as White House press secretary Sean Spicer, principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway.

On Friday, Spicer told reporters that the president was “dismayed” at the focus on the accuracy of statements delivered by his spokesmen.

“The president is an active president. He keeps a very robust schedule,” Spicer said. “I think sometimes we don’t have an opportunity to get in to see him and get his full thinking.”

“There are times you read a story where someone is trying to pull apart one word, one sentence … and make it a gotcha thing,” he added.

Trump praised Spicer and Sanders in the Fox News interview.

“Sarah Huckabee is a lovely young woman. You know Sean Spicer, he is a wonderful human being, he’s a nice man,” Trump said. “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 added. “I’m saying if they’re off just a little bit, just a little bit, it’s the big story.”

Initially, Trump's aides said the president fired Comey simply on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. After meeting with Trump, Rosenstein wrote a memorandum detailing what he considered to be mistakes in Comey's handling of the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state.

By Wednesday, White House officials were saying that Trump had contemplated firing Comey for some time but made the final determination after hearing from Sessions and Rosenstein.

Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey

All along, Trump's spokesmen insisted that his decision was not shaped in any way by his growing fury with the Russia controversy, including the FBI investigation overseen by Comey into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether there had been any coordination with Trump associates.

Then Thursday, Trump told NBC anchor Lester Holt that the decision to fire Comey was his alone and that he would have made it “regardless” of what Rosenstein recommended. Furthermore, Trump told Holt that he had been thinking of “this Russia thing” when he arrived at his decision to remove the FBI director.

“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story; it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'" Trump said.