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Sean Spicer 'Could Be Fired As Press Secretary' After James Comey Sacking Debacle

Say it ain't so!

15/05/2017 08:32 BST | Updated 15/05/2017 15:08 BST

Another disastrous week for Donald Trump’s administration is fuelling rumours of a massive staff purge, with press secretary, Sean Spicer, reportedly in the firing line.

The news will come as a shock and perhaps even a disappointment to those who tune in to either his daily press briefings in the hope of witnessing his latest gaffe live or Melissa McCarthy’s now-legendary sketches on SNL.

The President’s frustrations came to a head last week with the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the probe into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia’s election meddling.

Fearful that his own team would leak the decision, Spicer and his deputy, Sarah Sanders, were left in the dark until an hour before it was publicly announced, the Associated Press reported. This led to a version of the bombshell sacking being relayed to the press that was later contradicted by Trump himself.

Trump has become increasingly distrustful of some White House staff since taking office and is increasingly reliant on a handful of family members and longtime aides for advice.

Trump’s decision to withhold information from his press team led to the surreal moment when Spicer “hid in the bushes” of the White House to avoid the press.

The Washington Post reported:

After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes behind these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.

“Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,” he ordered. “We’ll take care of this... Can you just turn that light off?”

Spicer got his wish and was soon standing in near darkness between two tall hedges, with more than a dozen reporters closely gathered around him. For 10 minutes, he responded to a flurry of questions, vacillating between light-hearted asides and clear frustration with getting the same questions over and over again.

One of the many memes the bush saga spawned.

Spicer was obviously slightly irked by this description and the Post later added the following correction:

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to more precisely describe White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location late Tuesday night in the minutes before he briefed reporters. Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not “in the bushes,” as the story originally stated.

Much of Trump’s ire has been focused on the communications team, all of whom were caught off guard by Comey’s ouster. He increasingly sees himself as the White House’s only effective spokesperson, according to multiple people who have spoken with him.

On Friday, in a series of angry tweets Trump’s frustrations were clear.

Two White House officials said some of Trump’s frustration centres on what he views as unfair coverage of his decisions and overly harsh criticism of press secretary Spicer, as well as deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders, who led much of the response to Comey’s firing, reports the Associated Press.

Aides said Trump does not believe his team gave contradictory stories about his decision to fire Comey, despite the fact that the White House’s explanation changed dramatically over a 48-hour period.

The White House initially said Trump was compelled to fire Comey by a critical memo from the deputy attorney general on the director’s handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email. Aides later said the president had been considering firing Comey for months, and Trump said he would have made the decision regardless of the Justice Department recommendation.

“The challenge they have is that the president sometimes moves so rapidly that they don’t get a team around that gets it organised,” said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Trump ally. “He’s a little bit like a quarterback that gets ahead of his offensive line.”

Trump is mulling expanding the communications team and has eyed hiring producers from Fox News, according to one White House official.

Previously Trump has defended Spicer and last month said: “I’m not firing Sean Spicer.

That guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.” 

Judd Legum, editor of Think Progress, offered his won interpretation of events.

For a White House accustomed to bouts of chaos, Trump’s handling of Comey’s firing could have serious and long-lasting implications. Already Trump’s decision appears to have emboldened the Senate intelligence committee investigating Russia’s election interference and the president’s associates, with lawmakers announcing a subpoena for former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Comey’s allies also quickly made clear they would defend him against attacks from Trump, including disputing the president’s assertion that Comey told Trump he was not personally under investigation.

Several people close to the president say his reliance on a small cadre of advisers as he mulled firing Comey reflects his broader distrust of many of his own staffers. He leans heavily on daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Hope Hicks, his trusted campaign spokeswoman and Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard. Schiller was among those Trump consulted about Comey and was tapped by the president to deliver a letter informing the director of his firing.

Trump confidants say Bannon has been marginalised on major decisions, including Comey’s firing, after clashing with Kushner. And while Trump praised chief of staff Reince Priebus after the House passed a health care bill last week, associates say the president has continued to raise occasional questions about Priebus’ leadership in the West Wing. Still, Priebus was among the tight circle of staffers Trump consulted about Comey’s firing.

Trump spent most of the week out of sight, a marked change from a typically jam-packed schedule that often includes multiple on-camera events per day. Even when aides moved ahead on an executive order creating a voter fraud commission - a presidential pet project that some advisers thought they had successfully shelved - Trump signed the directive in private.

More than a lack of momentum on major policy goals, Trump is said to be seething over the flood of leaks pouring out of the White House and into news reports. He’s viewed even senior advisers suspiciously, including Bannon and Priebus, when stories about internal White House drama land in the press.

A dozen White House officials and others close to Trump detailed the president’s decision-making and his mood on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations and deliberations.

After Trump decided to fire Comey, he was told by aides that Democrats would likely react positively to the news, given the role many believe Comey played in Clinton’s defeat last year. When the opposite occurred, Trump grew incensed - both at Democrats and his own communications staff for not quickly lining up more Republicans to defend him on television.

White House officials had hoped last week’s House vote would give the president a much-needed burst of momentum and infuse new energy into efforts to fully overhaul the “Obamacare” health law and pass a massive tax reform package. Aides were also eager for Trump’s first foreign trip, a high-stakes blitz through the Middle East and Europe.

But the blowback from Comey’s firing left the White House reeling once again. Trump’s visible anger and erratic tweets prompted a reporter to ask Spicer on Friday if the president was “out of control.”

“That’s, frankly, offensive,” Spicer replied.