In the past, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has made excuses for false statements. On Monday, she tried something new — telling incredulous reporters that she is not the right person to answer questions about one of her own untrue assertions.
During a televised media briefing, journalists pressed Sanders about her insistence in August that President Trump “certainly didn't dictate” a misleading statement to the New York Times on behalf of his son Donald Trump Jr. In a January letter to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, published for the first time over the weekend by the Times, the president's private legal team conceded that Trump had, in fact, dictated the statement.
“What's the reason for that discrepancy?” the Hill's Jordan Fabian asked Sanders.
“This is from a letter from the outside counsel, and I'd direct you to them to answer that question,” Sanders replied.
That. Doesn't. Make. Sense.
Sanders delivered wrong information last summer, and she — not the president's outside legal team — is best positioned to explain why. Yet Sanders insisted over and over Monday that she is the wrong person to answer questions about what she said.
“Do you retract that?” the New York Times's Peter Baker asked at one point, referring to Sanders's false denial.
“Once again, this is a reference back to a letter from the outside counsel,” Sanders said. “I can't answer, and I would direct you to them.”
Baker asked what formed the basis of Sanders's denial. “Once again, I'm not going to get into a back-and-forth, and I would encourage you to reach out to the outside counsel,” Sanders said.
The most possible basis is, of course, bad information supplied to Sanders by Trump himself. Last month, Sanders essentially blamed the president for one of her other false statements.
“We give the very best information that we have at the time,” she told reporters after her previous assertion that “there was no knowledge of any payments from the president” to porn star Stormy Daniels was contradicted by Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani's admission that the president did, in fact, reimburse another attorney, Michael Cohen, for the payment to Daniels.
Sanders has offered variations of the “best information” explanation on other occasions, too, such as when the White House could not get its story straight last year on the firing of James B. Comey as FBI director or on the status of a background check on Rob Porter, who resigned as staff secretary in February amid accusations of domestic violence.
Perhaps Trump objected to Sanders's suggestions that he could have been the cause of misinformation. In any case, Sanders made no such implication Monday, opting instead to make the illogical contention that the president's personal lawyers — who do not represent her — are the ones who should answer for what she said last summer.
“How can we believe what you're saying from the podium if his lawyers are saying it's entirely inaccurate?” The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey asked Sanders.
“Once again, I can't comment on a letter from the president's outside counsel, and I'd direct you to them to answer it,” she said.