“Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump told Lester Holt.
The president's statement contradicted Spicer's assertion from Tuesday night that Trump made the call based on a critical memo authored by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “It was all him,” Spicer had said of the decision, referring to Rosenstein.
Incredibly, Spicer returned to the White House briefing room Friday and told reporters that Trump “made a decision, in part based on the recommendation” — after Trump said a day earlier that he “was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”
Spicer seemed disconnected from the change Trump had made to the official White House explanation of his decision.
“Why did you come out with information that was later contradicted by the president two days later?” Time magazine's Zeke Miller asked during Friday's briefing. “Why were the American people given incorrect information night?”
“I don't necessarily believe that that's true, Zeke,” Spicer replied.
What? It is true. Or, if it's not, then Trump lied to NBC on Thursday. Surely Spicer doesn't want to give the impression that the president lied. His response made zero sense.
“What can the administration do better when it comes to communication?” Trey Yingst of One America News asked at another point during Friday's briefing. “Today the president tweeted out that he felt that from behind that podium, it's not always possible to present the information with perfect accuracy.”
“As many of you know, we get here early; we work pretty late,” Spicer answered. “We do what we can, but the president is an activist president. He keeps a very robust schedule, as many of you are very well aware and as you can tell by the activities of next week alone, and I think sometimes we don't have an opportunity to get in to see him, to get his full thinking.”
All of that makes sense. But if Trump's spokespeople haven't had an opportunity to “get his full thinking,” they ought to just say so, instead of providing false information to reporters. Spicer's deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said “no” when asked on Wednesday whether Trump had made his decision before commissioning the report on Comey. Like Spicer, she was wrong. Like Spicer, she later blamed the error on having not spoken to Trump.
Unlike Spicer, however, Sanders got in line with Trump when she said on Thursday that “he had already made that decision.” Spicer is still telling a story that does not match the president's.