Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on "Good Morning America" today he was unaware that President Donald Trump had been talking about firing former FBI Director James Comey days before doing so in May.
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Spicer, who was press secretary for the first six months of Trump’s presidency, had initially said Trump decided to fire Comey based on the recommendation of U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
But Trump later said in an interview with NBC News that he had decided to fire Comey "regardless" of what Rosenstein recommended.
Spicer went with the information he had at the time, he told “GMA” today.
"I think as far as the firing of James Comey, it's been pretty clear the president has the authority to fire anyone within the federal government that he sees fit isn't doing the duty that is appropriate for that job. So, I don't think there's any question about his ability to fire Jim Comey or anyone else in the federal government," Spicer said.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn in March to try to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Justice Department’s probe into whether there was collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia to influence the 2016 election.
Spicer said he was unaware at the time of the president’s request.
“I think it's no secret, the president's made it very clear that he didn't feel as though Attorney General Sessions needed to recuse himself from this matter,” Spicer said today. “And that he wanted a robust defense of something that he doesn't think that he's been wrongly accused of.”
There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and no wrongdoing by Trump, Spicer told “GMA.”
“There is an investigation. I'm not going to get in the way of it but as far as I know and from what I saw, no, there was nothing that was ever done that I think was inappropriate or illegal,” Spicer said.
Spicer also commented on Michael Wolff’s new book -- “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” -- which is out today and contains allegations that Trump never wanted to be president and that several of his advisers questioned Trump’s intelligence.
One of Trump’s lawyer sent the author and the publisher a cease-and- desist letter Thursday.
When asked whether Trump was wrong in trying to prevent the book from publication, Spicer argued that the president has a right to defend himself.
“There's a difference between defamation and reporting. And I think in some of these cases where you’re making wild accusations about the president and his family, he absolutely has a right to defend himself,” Spicer said.
Spicer added, “I’ll leave it up to the president’s lawyers to figure out what the legal recourse is. But at the end of the day, the First Amendment is a two-way street.”
Spicer, who was a source in Wolff’s book, said some of the quotes and anecdotes are true, but the context in which they’re given is not.
“One of the problems that we’re seeing with this book -- and it’s not just Trump staffers and White House officials pushing back -- but you’re seeing a lot of mainstream media members as well calling into question the sourcing, the sloppiness of how he attributes stuff, even the author’s origin note at the beginning of the book notes that in many cases he took anecdotes and rephrased them,” Spicer said.
The White House has called the book “tabloid gossip, full of false and fraudulent claims.”