When it was announced that Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday evening, nearly everyone in America was taken off guard. This includes, apparently, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who eyewitnesses claim spent several minutes hiding in some White House bushes in an attempt to evade the press and their nagging questions. No, this isn’t a story out of The Onion, but reportedly what actually happened in the hours following Trump’s bombshell announcement that Comey’s position at the FBI was no more.
As the Washington Post reports, the decidedly bizarre situation involving Sean Spicer and some bushes (or a “tall hedge”) played out immediately after Trump’s media mouthpiece concluded a short interview with Fox Business, which had taken place outside the White House late Tuesday. According to those present, getting back inside the White House and into his office presented Spicer with a bit of a thorny problem.
That’s because standing between Sean Spicer and escape was a gaggle of reporters waiting for answers to their James Comey questions. The issue? Reportedly, White House staff members hadn’t clearly communicated how questions about Comey’s dismissal would be answered. As the Huffington Post reports, almost immediately after news of Comey’s firing broke, comparisons between Trump and Nixon began swirling on Capitol Hill, with some lawmakers calling the decision to let Comey go amid the Trump/Russia investigation a “Constitutional crisis.” Apparently, Sean Spicer had wanted to send out a prepared emailed statement to the press to clear the air when news of the firing broke, but that statement never happened.
What’s more, various White House staffers (Sean Spicer included) appeared on cable news outlets in the wake of the Comey firing, and their overall message was considered “muddled” by many.
The situation reportedly proved to be almost unbearable for Sean Spicer, whose behavior following the Fox Business interview has been described as “erratic.” As such, following the interview, Spicer promptly vanished into the shadows of the White House lawn, hiding in the bushes along with members of his staff, in an effort to avoid more unanswerable media questions.
After remaining hidden in the bushes for at least several minutes, Sean Spicer sent executive press office assistant Janet Montesi to address the horde of reporters waiting to be told why, exactly, Trump had fired the FBI director so suddenly and seemingly without warning — in the midst of the Russia investigation.
Montesi then told the awaiting members of the media that Sean Spicer would be willing to answer a few of their pressing questions, provided that no cameras were rolling. Then, Spicer emerged from the bushes, asking that (in addition to no cameras) the surrounding lights be turned off, too.
“Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off. We’ll take care of this…. Can you just turn that light off?”
The members of the media in attendance quickly complied and an impromptu 10-minute press conference took place while the press secretary stood in the darkness, flanked by two bushes he’d hidden behind just moments before.
Over a dozen reporters proceeded to pepper Spicer with questions about the Comey firing, with the most frequently asked question having to do with why Trump had fired the FBI director.
During the exchange, Sean Spicer is said to have wavered between a good-natured mood and obvious frustration that the same question was being asked over and over again.
Over the course of the darkness-shrouded, 10-minute mini-interview, Sean Spicer said that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein began independently investigating James Comey almost immediately after his confirmation two weeks ago. According to Spicer, Donald Trump was unaware of the probe into the FBI director until he received a memo on Tuesday. Along with that memo, Sean Spicer claimed that Trump also received a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommending that James Comey be fired, which happened within hours.
After emerging from the bushes, Sean Spicer also confirmed reports that Comey learned about his own termination from the media.
According to Spicer, the decision to fire Comey wasn’t handed down from the White House, but from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, a fact the press secretary apparently wanted to make perfectly clear to those die-hard reporters who had waited him out as he unceremoniously hid in the White House bushes.
“It was all [Rosenstein]. That’s correct — I mean, I can’t, I guess I shouldn’t say that, thank you for the help on that one. No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision.”
Among the questions Spicer was asked, he answered many with an “I don’t know,” or referred the media to the Department of Justice. Included among those questions that Spicer dodged was one related to whether or not Trump had discussed Rosenstein’s findings with Rosenstein himself.
“No, I don’t believe, I don’t know how that sequence went — I don’t know.”
The press secretary also addressed his beliefs that there is no need for a special prosecutor with regard to the Trump/Russia situation.
“There is clearly at this point no evidence of a reason to do that. You have a system that’s working.”
After hiding in the bushes for several minutes and answering questions for precisely 10 more, Sean Spicer abruptly ended the impromptu press conference with an “Anyway, thank you, guys,” before abruptly walking away.
[Featured Image by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]