The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson has an interesting look at how the White House’s communications staff responded to word that FBI Director James Comey had been fired on Tuesday night. From the Post:
Spicer had wanted to drop the bombshell news in an emailed statement, but it was not transmitting quickly enough, so he ended up standing in the doorway of the press office around 5:40 p.m. and shouting a statement to reporters who happened to be nearby. He then vanished, with his staff locking the door leading to his office. The press staff said that Spicer might do a briefing, then announced that he definitely wouldn’t say anything more that night.
As commentary on Comey’s firing began intensifying on the Hill and in the press, Johnson writes that Spicer, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Kellyanne Conway made their way to TV camera crews. Initially, Sanders and Conway spoke to the press while Spicer, quite literally, hid in some bushes nearby:
After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes behind these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.
“Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,” he ordered. “We’ll take care of this. … Can you just turn that light off?”
Spicer got his wish and was soon standing in near darkness between two tall hedges, with more than a dozen reporters closely gathered around him.
According to Johnson, Spicer claimed to reporters that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had launched a probe of Comey completely independently and that Trump had been unaware of its existence until Tuesday. Spicer told reporters that he didn’t know whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been involved, whether Trump had spoken with Rosenstein about the findings in his memo about Comey, whether Rosenstein was involved in a larger probe of the FBI, or when Trump and Comey had last spoken. After 10 minutes, he left. “Spicer walked with his head down,” Johnson writes. “As he approached the door, aides warned reporters not to get too close. He then disappeared inside, enveloped by the warmly lit White House.”
Incidentally, Sanders will run Wednesday’s White House press briefing, not Spicer.
This post has been updated.