‘It was not an accident’: Obama defends firing Comey
The White House is defending Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, telling reporters that he was fired in a lawful way and that the FBI did not have to go through a political process to do so.
“I don’t know if it was an accident, I think it was a wise and rational decision to go forward with that,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.
Lynch fired Comey in a dramatic news conference on Thursday, after Comey publicly acknowledged that the bureau had reopened its investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
Comey said he was going to be “more forthcoming” with Congress about the Clinton email probe, which is under FBI review.
The White House has been careful to maintain that Lynch was acting on behalf of the president.
Sanders noted that Lynch and other White House officials had previously said Comey would not be fired, a claim that Trump has repeatedly dismissed as a political move.
But Sanders said the White House was now trying to show that Lynch’s firing was not a political one, pointing to comments from the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who both said Thursday that Comey’s firing did not come out of the blue.
“We understand the president’s frustrations with the situation, and I think the president was frustrated by the director’s handling of the investigation, but we’re now seeing that the president really wanted to have this investigation ended,” Sanders said.
The attorney general and Sessions have said that they were acting on the recommendation of the attorney general’s office, which was conducting its own probe into Clinton’s handling as secretary.
The Justice Department is not under the jurisdiction of the White Houses office, but the White Senate has said that Sessions and Lynch had recommended Comey be dismissed.
Sanders said the Trump administration had not taken a position on the matter and that Lynch had been acting on her own.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.