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Analysis | President Trump just decimated the White House’s entire Comey narrative

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 5/11/2017 Aaron Blake

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporterst the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. © REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporterst the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. I wrote earlier Wednesday that the White House's explanations for firing James Comey were crumbling. Well, President Trump just exploded them.

In one fell swoop, Trump totally contradicted his three top spokespeople and offered a polar-opposite version of events than they have this week.

After they had spent the past 45 hours emphasizing that this was a decision Trump arrived at after receiving a memo and recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Trump just blurted out that he was going to fire Comey all along. Basically, he admitted the memo was a ruse and a political ploy.

Here's what Trump told NBC News's Lester Holt (emphasis mine):

HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation?

TRUMP: What I did is, I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not …

HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room.

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There's no good time to do it, by the way.

HOLT: Because in your letter, you said, 'I accepted their recommendation.' So you had already made the decision.

TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.

But that's not what White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this week — not by a long shot.

Here's Jenna Johnson's reporting from the scene Tuesday night (with my emphasis added):

As Spicer tells it, Rosenstein was confirmed about two weeks ago and independently took on this issue so the president was not aware of the probe until he received a memo from Rosenstein on Tuesday, along with a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommending that Comey be fired. The president then swiftly decided to follow the recommendation, notifying the FBI via email around 5 p.m. and in a letter delivered to the FBI by the president's longtime bodyguard. At the same time, the president personally called congressional leaders to let them know his decision. Comey learned the news from media reports.

“It was all him,” Spicer said of Rosenstein, as a reporter repeated his answer back to him. “That's correct — I mean, I can't, I guess I shouldn't say that, thank you for the help on that one. No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision.”

And here's deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday morning in an interview on MSNBC's “Morning Joe”:

MARK HALPERIN: Sarah, you've suggested in response to David's questions that the deputy attorney general wrote this report on his own without orders from the White House. That's correct, right?

SANDERS: That's my understanding, yes.

HALPERIN: Okay. So once the report is written, when was it transmitted to the White House? And why was there urgency to act on it without an explanation directly from the president and without a replacement lined up? Why, once the report is written, why was there an urgency to act on it from the president's point of view?

SANDERS: Look, I think when you receive a report that is so clear and a recommendation by someone like the deputy attorney general, you have no choice but to act.

And here's White House counselor Kellyanne Conway in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night:

CONWAY: This man is the president of the United States.  He acted decisively today. He took the recommendation of his deputy attorney general, who oversees the FBI director.

COOPER:  That makes no sense.

CONWAY:  It does make sense, Anderson.

COOPER:  He said one thing as a candidate and now he's concerned as president?

CONWAY: t makes complete sense, because he has lost confidence in the FBI director and he took the recommendation of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to whom the FBI director reports to. The deputy attorney general has been on the job two short weeks. He went in there.

CONWAY: At the same time, he is taking the recommendation of his deputy attorney general and the attorney general of the United States that it is time for fresh leadership and to restore integrity at the FBI. This is what leaders do. They take decisive action based on the information they’re provided. That's what President Trump did today.

But if the decision had already been made, that's a highly misleading talking point to keep repeating. And the decision clearly had nothing to do with Rosenstein, at all.

It's clear that the White House wanted to use Rosenstein's credibility, built up over three decades in law enforcement, to make this decision look apolitical — like it wasn't just the president unilaterally firing the guy who was investigating his 2016 campaign.

Then the truth came out.

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