The White House is running an elaborate smear campaign on former FBI Director James Comey, and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders expects reporters to cooperate.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued marching orders to reporters Friday in response to the release of former FBI Director James Comey’s book, telling them they should join her in “putting him down.”
The angry rant from Sanders during the daily press briefing came as part of the White House’s coordinated campaign to smear and undermine Comey.
Trump kicked off the day attacking Comey, describing it as his “great honor” to fire him.
At the briefing, one reporter recited a long list of federal law enforcement officials Trump has attacked and undermined: “It’s his own attorney general, it’s his own deputy attorney general, it’s special counsel, it’s the FBI, it’s judges who make decisions that he doesn’t like … It’s not just people who’ve been proven to leak information.”
“The president hasn’t underminded (sic) them in any capacity,” Sanders said. “Just because he calls out things that he finds to be problematic or concerning. I think that he should do that.”
Sanders then pivoted to an attack on the reporters in the room, while at the same demanding that they join her smear campaign, as if they are supposed to be working together.
“You guys spend hours upon hours every single day praising Jim Comey, propping him up, giving him the biggest platform. We shouldn’t be praising him. We should be putting him down, we should be taking him off of air, instead of giving him minute after minute.”
Earlier in the briefing, Sanders read from a prewritten statement, characterizing Comey as a “liar and a leaker.”
Yet despite the anger and venom, the campaign isn’t working.
So far, Comey’s book, which won’t be released until next week, has reportedly sold close to 200,000 copies. Additionally, the publisher has set up an initial print run of 850,000 copies. That is over eight times as many as “Fire and Fury,” the last major book that Trump focused fire on.
Trump and his White House want free reign to go after Comey, while remaining unaccountable themselves. Sanders, on Trump’s behalf, has regularly tried to intimidate the media and dictate what they should and shouldn’t be covering.
The thrust of her demands has been that the press should be subservient to Trump, with the hopes that the public also falls in line.
Meanwhile scandals and investigations continue to consume Trump’s presidency, including scrutiny of his decision to fire Comey. Trump cannot control these events, no matter how hard he tries.