Don’s whoppers

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes write in Foreign Policy that there is now evidence demonstrating that Trump lied when he said the FBI rank and file had lost confidence in Comey.

The day after Comey’s dismissal, then-Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:

The president, over the last several months, lost confidence in Director Comey. The [Justice Department] lost confidence in Director Comey. Bipartisan members of Congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in Director Comey. And most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.

At the time, a reporter challenged Sanders’s claim, reading her a quote from a special agent in the FBI who asserted, “The vast majority of the bureau is in favor of Director Comey. This is a total shock. This is not supposed to happen. The real losers here are 20,000 front-line people in the organization because they lost the only guy working here in the past 15 years who actually cared about them.” Sanders replied, “Look, we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.”

The next day, Sanders doubled down by claiming that she had personally “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision.” Underscoring the apparent extent of dislike for Comey at the bureau, Sanders said, “I certainly heard from a large number of individuals — and that’s just myself — and I don’t even know that many people in the FBI.”

Trump also pushed the line that Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file, telling NBC’s Lester Holt that the FBI was in a state of turmoil. “You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil — less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that,” he said.

Typical Trump – what he claims he knows (but doesn’t) is what everybody knows, because he is all there is.

Even as the White House said these things, evidence to the contrary was pouring out of the bureau. After the firing, some FBI agents reportedly changed their social media profile pictures to images of Comey in a display of support typically shown to colleagues killed in the line of duty. Pictures later emerged from FBI Family Day of employees wearing T-shirts that read “#ComeyIsMyHomey.”

Less than 48 hours after Comey’s firing, FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe contradicted the White House’s claims in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” he said.

And now the Times has reported on data it acquired via a FOIA request that back all that up. His scores are high.

Of course, the survey could mask substantial pockets of discontent — those “countless” individuals Sanders claims spoke to her against Comey and in support of Trump’s actions. The rest of the data Ben requested in his FOIA will shed additional light on the matter.

But these numbers clearly indicate that it is worth asking the newly minted press secretary to revisit her statements from back in May. Can she be more specific on whom she spoke to and when? Might the White House now admit that the president formed a dramatically mistaken impression of the state of morale at the FBI under Comey’s leadership — or that the state of morale actually had nothing to do with his action against the director at all? And is the president prepared to go on the record to correct his attacks on Comey in light of the evidence they were false?

Or perhaps the answers are too obvious to even bother asking.


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