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Sean Spicer stood back in the shadows after Comey's firing

White House rewrite
White House rewrite 02:31

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer played a low-key role in one of the biggest moments of Donald Trump's presidency: his firing of FBI Director James Comey. 

On the chaotic night of Comey's dismissal, the White House's typically most visible official was elusive, or, at best, not front-and-center, to communicate what was happening within the executive branch. Spicer raised eyebrows for retreating from cameras near bushes Tuesday night after giving a brief interview with Fox Business. He soon addressed more reporters, but only on the condition that he do so with lights and cameras off, in the dark.  

Spicer first announced Comey's firing around 5:40 p.m. to any reporters who happened to be in the briefing room, before exiting with his staff into his office. He issued a brief, written statement to reporters confirming what he had just said in person -- Comey was indeed fired, not retiring or resigning -- and at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The White House press staff, according to the Washington Post, at first said Spicer might hold a briefing, then eventually said he would not comment further that night. 

Eventually, Spicer gave a brief interview to Fox Business' Lou Dobbs, before regrouping with his staff out of camera range near bushes and hedges outside the White House. Guests on TV shows often prepare for interviews on a stone pathway obscured by bushes near a camera booth. 

But once he emerged, Spicer refused to be interviewed on camera, telling reporters to turn off the lights, and answering many questions with, "I don't know." After 10 minutes, he ended the interview and made his way back inside the White House. 

The White House also dispatched other aides to brief the press. Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conducted an interview with CBSN, on camera. In that interview, Sanders claimed Comey "lost the confidence" of "rank-and-file" FBI employees, a claim Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe contradicted in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday. 

But Spicer was -- if anything -- less visible in the days after Tuesday night's events, at a time when the press and public are demanding information the most. 

The White House said Spicer is on Naval Reserve duty at the Pentagon and has left daily briefings this week in the hands of White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Spicer has also been relatively silent on social media. Since tweeting out his statement on Comey's firing Tuesday night, he has only tweeted twice — once announcing that Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit the White House, and once linking to an op-ed on the benefits of trade for America's farmers. 

CBS News' Steve Chaggaris and Jacqueline Alemany contributed to this report. 

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