One day after the president fired FBI director James Comey, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters "countless members of the FBI" had contacted the White House to say they opposed Comey's leadership. According to special counsel Robert Mueller's report, Sanders told investigators that phrase was a "slip of the tongue" even though she said it multiple times.
Addressing her "slip of the tongue" on "CBS This Morning" Friday, Sanders stood by the sentiment behind her claim.
"Look, I've acknowledged that the word 'countless' was a slip of the tongue. But it's no secret that a number of FBI, both current and former, agreed with the president's decision. Let's not forget that James Comey was a disgraced leaker who authorized spying into the Trump campaign," Sanders said. "He brought a tremendous amount of politicization to the FBI and undermined the own agency he was supposed to be in charge of and leading. It was one of the best decisions the president ever made to get rid of him."
Mueller's report also said that Sanders recalled a similar statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey were "made 'in the heat of the moment'" and "not founded on anything."
Addressing that portion of Mueller's report, Sanders again stood by the sentiment of her words, "Actually those were Mueller's words that they weren't founded on anything. What I said was that it was in the 'heat of the moment' … meaning it was not a scripted thing. It was something that I said, which is why that one word has become a big deal. But the big takeaway here is that the sentiment is 100 percent accurate."
Mueller's investigation notes several instances where President Trump pressured his top aides to lie or mislead. Sanders was asked whether Mr. Trump had ever asked her to lie.
"In the course of your time at the White House, has the president ever asked you to say something that you knew not to be true?" "CBS This Morning" co-host John Dickerson said.
"The president isn't asking people to break the law, isn't asking them to do anything that is dishonest," Sanders replied. "If the president wants to fire somebody, he does. You've seen him do it before. This isn't a president who is afraid to go against the system, he's not a president that's afraid to step out and speak out. And if he has a problem with someone or something he's gonna state that."
"That's not the question, Sarah," "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Anthony Mason said.
"I answered it on the front end," Sanders said.
"So you're saying the president has never asked you to say anything you knew not to be true," Dickerson asked. "Correct," Sanders replied.
"And he's also never asked me to break the law. And when the president wants to do something and make a decision he does it. He's not somebody who sits around and ponders. I think that you guys have seen that day in and day out. One minute you're running stories that the staff can't control him. The next minute, everyone's saying 'Thank God the staff could control him.' You don't get to have it both ways."