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Friday 23 February 2018

Trump threatens to cancel briefings for 'sake of accuracy'

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, as President Trump floats the idea of doing away with briefings. (AP)
White House press secretary Sean Spicer, as President Trump floats the idea of doing away with briefings. (AP)

President Donald Trump has lashed out in a series of tweets amid a firestorm over the firing of FBI director James Comey, defending the shifting narrative and timeline his administration has offered for the decision.

He questioned whether his administration should cancel all future press briefings and, instead, replace them with written responses to questions, "for the sake of accuracy".

The president's advisers said this week that Mr Trump fired Mr Comey on Tuesday in response to a recommendation by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Later, however, they said that President Trump had planned to fire Mr Comey regardless.

The president tweeted, "As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy."

He added, "Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future 'press briefings' and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???"

The decision to fire Mr Comey amid an ongoing FBI investigation into ties between the Russian government and members of President Trump's 2016 campaign has raised concerns that he was trying to undermine a probe that could threaten his presidency.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted the information she and her colleagues offered was consistent.

"It was a quick-moving process," she said.

"We took the information we had as best we have it and got it out to the American people as quickly as we could."

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that Mr Rosenstein drafted the memo raising concerns about Mr Comey on his own accord.

The next day, Ms Sanders said the president asked Mr Rosenstein to put his concerns in writing.

The White House also changed its narrative about whether the president had decided to fire Mr Comey based on the recommendations by Mr Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

At first, the administration said that Mr Rosenstein "made the recommendation, the president made a swift and decisive action and let Comey go".

Later, the president and his advisers said Mr Trump had planned to fire Mr Comey since taking office.

The White House also shifted its stance on whether Mr Comey's termination had anything to do with the Russia investigation, at first saying it was not linked.

Later, Ms Sanders said, "We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity."

"And we think that we've actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen," she added.

Earlier on Friday, President Trump reiterated his view that reports about collusion with the Russian government by members of his 2016 campaign are "fabricated".

The president tweeted, "Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election."

"The Fake Media is working overtime today!" he added.

The latest tweets are not the first time the administration has threatened to limit media access.

During the transition, Mr Trump's advisers floated the idea of moving the media from the White House to the nearby Executive Office Building to accommodate media interest.

But many interpreted it as a move to limit media access.

Jeff Mason, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, responded to the president's tweets, saying that the White House briefings and press conferences "conducted in full view of our republic's citizens, is clearly in line with the spirit of the First Amendment".

"Doing away with briefings would reduce accountability, transparency, and the opportunity for Americans to see that, in the US system, no political figure is above being questioned," he said.


Press Association

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