Sarah Huckabee Sanders said her false claim that 'countless' FBI agents thanked Trump for firing James Comey was made 'in the heat of the moment'
- White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said her false 2017 claim that "countless" FBI agents thanked President Donald Trump for firing James Comey was made "in the heat of the moment."
- The special counsel Robert Mueller's report said that in an interview with the special counsel's office, Sanders admitted the claim was "not founded on anything."
- In a Friday morning interview on "Good Morning America", Sanders said the comment was made "in the heat of the moment,' meaning that it wasn't a scripted talking point."
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In a Friday morning interview on "Good Morning America", White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said her false 2017 claim that "countless" FBI agents thanked President Donald Trump for firing FBI Director James Comey was made "in the heat of the moment."
The special counsel Robert Mueller's 448-page report on his nearly 2-year long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump's possible obstruction of justice of his probe was released to the public on Thursday.In it, Mueller's team detailed how they examined internal White House proceedings following Trump's May 2017 firing of Comey.
The report said that in an interview with the special counsel's office, Sanders admitted that her claim in a White House press briefing shortly after Comey's firing and repeated again in subsequent interviews that "countless FBI agents" had called the White House to thank Trump was "not founded on anything."
During the press briefing on May 11, 2018, Sanders said she had "heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision."
When a reporter pushed her on that claim, she responded, "Between like email, text messages, absolutely."
He asked her to provide a number of FBI employees, and Sanders said: "Look, we're not going to get into a numbers game. I mean, I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they're very happy with the president's decision."
But the Mueller report said Sanders explained her claim of "countless" FBI employees reaching out to the White House as a "slip of the tongue" in her conversation with the special counsel.
In her appearance on "GMA", Sanders told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that the "countless" part of her claim was an exaggeration, and really only a few agents had called to thank the president.
But Stephanopoulos pushed back, pointing out that the Mueller report said she had told the special counsel her claim wasn't based in any evidence whatsoever - not a few FBI employees thanking Trump.
"If you look at what's in quotations from me, it's that and it's that it was 'in the heat of the moment,' meaning that it wasn't a scripted talking point," Sanders said. "I'm sorry that I wasn't a robot like the Democrat Party."
Stephanopoulos further pointed out that, as the Mueller report noted, Sanders continued to say that "countless" FBI employees had thanked Trump in other instances, not just the press briefing where Sanders said she had spoken "in the heat of the moment."
"You repeated it on separate days, on separate occasions, and this was not the only instance the special counsel reported," Stephanopoulos said.
"That's not a 'slip of the tongue,' Sarah, that's a deliberate false statement," Stephanopoulos said after showing a clip of Sanders repeating the claim when a reporter questioned it the next day.