Kellyanne Conway once infamously said the White House has “alternative facts.” Apparently that also applies internally.
After the White House put out the word late Monday night and Conway said on TV Tuesday morning that national security adviser Michael Flynn's decision to resign was his own, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the complete opposite on Tuesday afternoon.
Here's what the White House was telling reporters Monday night:
I was told last night by a Sr WH official that Flynn made his own decision to resign & Trump was "hanging in there" with Flynn to buy time.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) February 14, 2017
And here's Conway's comment to the “Today” show: “The president is very loyal. He’s a very loyal person. And by nighttime, Mike Flynn had decided it was best to resign. He knew he became a lightning rod, and he made that decision.”
She added for emphasis: “And I spoke with the president this morning. He asked me to speak on his behalf and to reiterate that Mike Flynn had resigned.”
Okay. Got it. Flynn's decision. Trump loyal. Was going to stand by his man. Until Flynn decided to take one for the team.
Except. Here's what Spicer just said at the daily press briefing: “Whether or not [Flynn] actually misled the vice president was the issue, and that was ultimately what led to the president asking for and accepting the resignation of Gen. Flynn.”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 14, 2017
So in the morning, Conway says Trump told her to reinforce that this was Flynn's decision. And by early afternoon, Spicer says the opposite — that the president asked for Flynn's resignation.
This may seem like a small point. But it does matter. There was a reason Conway sought to argue that it was Flynn's decision: Because it makes Trump appear loyal and as if he didn't give into the pressure. And there's reason for Spicer to argue that it was Trump's call: It makes him look as if he's in charge of his administration.
But both of these things can't be true. It's one or the other. And the fact that we continue to get two diametrically opposed versions of events from White House officials on such a key detail means they're either completely bungling their messaging or cynically trying to have it both ways.
And it was actually the second time in less than 24 hours that the two had completely divergent messages. On Monday evening, Conway went on MSNBC and said Trump had "full confidence" in Flynn. But within minutes, Spicer said Trump was "evaluating the situation" -- the first real sign of his impending exit.