In a flood of angry tweets Friday morning, President Trump threatened to cancel press briefings as he continues to grapple with the fallout from his abrupt firing of FBI directory James Comey and the conflicting stories he and his aides have told about it.
"As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!" Trump said in a tweet that he followed up in a second missive: "Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???"
As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
...Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
In a striking reversal one day earlier, President Trump told NBC News that he planned to fire Comey even before meeting with top-ranking Justice Department officials and soliciting their recommendations on his performance.
"I was going to fire regardless of (their) recommendation," Trump said in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, calling Comey a "showboat" and "grandstander" who led the agency into turmoil.
He also specifically brought up the ongoing Russia investigation. "In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself – I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story," Trump told NBC. "It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won."
These reasons contradicted the White House's assertions — and even the widely-disseminated termination letter Trump sent Comey — that the dismissal was based on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who criticized Comey's handling of the email investigation into Hillary Clinton last year.
Trump's statements raised even more questions about his decision to fire the FBI director who was running an investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russians seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election.
That coverage of the Comey story prompted the Friday tweet storm from the president, who also continued to loudly deny that he or his team had anything to do with Russia's hacking Democrats during the 2016 election.
While Democrats continue to decry the timing of Comey's firing was a way to short-circuit the ongoing counterintelligence probe, Trump tweeted that is is all politics: "Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election."
Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Also Friday morning, Trump also took aim at the former FBI director himself: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
In his short letter to Comey, Trump made a specific point of mentioning that he "appreciated" how the FBI told him three times he was not personally under investigation over Russia. He later elaborated those conversations took place twice in phone calls and once at a private dinner with the FBI director.
FBI officials have questioned Trump's claims, and the agency' acting director, Andrew McCabe, on Thursday said such assurances about the scope of an ongoing counterintelligence investigation would not be "standard practice.''
In an earlier tweet, the president returned to one of his favorite subjects – the media. "The Fake Media is working overtime today!"
The Fake Media is working overtime today!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Trump has frequently attacked the press during his four months in office, from cracks about "fake media" to threats to change libel laws, but this appears to be the first time he has gone so far as to threaten to do away with briefings altogether. Briefly during the presidential transition, Trump aides had discussed moving press out of the briefing room.
News of firing took many White House officials by surprise, forcing them to scramble to provide explanations that proceeded to change in the hours and days after the news broke.
Typically, when presidents make decisions of this magnitude, there's a clear plan in place to communicate that decision to the press – and the American public. Comey is only the second director to be fired in the 82-year history of the FBI, and some journalists found it remarkable that there seemed to be such confusion at the White House among key aides.
The White House schedule for Friday lists a 1:30 p.m. ET briefing to be conducted by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.