Almost nobody was aware Rudolph W. Giuliani was going to blow up the Stormy Daniels situation Wednesday night, and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Thursday this included her. “The first awareness I had was during the interview last night,” Sanders said of Giuliani's disclosure that President Trump had reimbursed Michael Cohen.
What was most notable was how Sanders basically blamed Trump for her own contradictory statements about Daniels.
Back in March, Sanders denied Trump knew about the payment and said it was based upon her own conversation with Trump. “I’ve had conversations with the president about this,” she said. “This case has already been won in arbitration, and there was no knowledge of any payments from the president, and he has denied all these allegations.”
Asked Thursday about these comments and the White House's general trustworthiness, Sanders did not even try to put a good face on it or square her comments with our newly discovered reality. Instead, she essentially suggested Trump has misled her.
“We give the very best information that we have at the time,” she said, later repeating a version of that phrase several times.
We have seen claims of ignorance from behind the White House press briefing room's podium before. That was the case in the aftermath of the botched explanations for FBI director James B. Comey's firing. Sanders also offered a version of this when her explanations of the Rob Porter fiasco fell apart.
“We’re giving you the best information that we’re going to have,” Sanders said then, echoing what she said Thursday. “Obviously the press team’s not going to be as read-in, maybe, as some other elements, at a given moment, on a variety of topics. But we relay the best and most accurate information that we have, and we get those from those individuals.”
The difference in this case, though, is it is not “those individuals” who provided the information; it was Trump. This was not Sanders blaming anonymous or indecipherable White House aides for the botched response; she clearly said in March she was relying upon a conversation she had had with Trump.
Really, that is the only person whose version of events matters, apart from Cohen, because they appear to be the only people who know what happened. So while Sanders has suggested she was dealing with bad information before, she is now suggesting she was dealing with bad information that was provided by the president. This is not a situation in which multiple people may have provided competing stories about what had happened. This was a situation in which one person, to whom Sanders clearly spoke, knew what happened, and he clearly did not give her the whole truth. Instead, he sent her out to offer an incomplete (and arguably probably false) denial about the Daniels situation.
That is a recipe for resentment and a loss of credibility. Sanders did not exactly take the blame all for herself.