Reporting done previously by The Daily Caller confirmed White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ claim that some FBI agents were indeed unhappy with former FBI Director James Comey’s leadership.
The Caller reported in October 2016 that FBI agents lost confidence in Comey after seeing how the bureau handled the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails. But since the release of the Mueller report, media outlets have pounced on Sanders for saying that FBI agents had issues with Comey.
USA Today reported Thursday the Mueller report notes that Sanders told reporters on May 10, 2017, that Comey had been terminated from his post because he had lost the confidence of President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice and members of both parties in Congress.
“We talk about it in the office and don’t know how Comey can keep going…”
“Most importantly, the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in Comey,” she said at the time. She went on to later say, “We’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.”
Sanders clarified her remarks to Mueller’s investigators, according to the report, which said, “Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from ‘countless members of the FBI’ was a ‘slip of the tongue.’”
“She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything,” it continued.
Sanders said Thursday on Fox News she should not have used the word “countless.”
“I acknowledge that I had a slip of the tongue when I used the word ‘countless,’ but it’s not untrue,” she said, adding that her point at the time was that “a number of both current and former FBI agents agreed with the president. James Comey was a disgraced leaker who tried to politicize and undermine the very agency he was supposed to run.”
The Caller received a transcript on Oct. 17, 2016, from an intermediary who spoke to two federal agents with the bureau who were frustrated by Comey’s leadership just weeks before the presidential election and months after he told reporters that Clinton would not be charged in her email probe.
“This is a textbook case where a grand jury should have convened but was not. That is appalling,” an FBI special agent who has worked public corruption and criminal cases said of the decision. “We talk about it in the office and don’t know how Comey can keep going.”
The Clinton email probe was the subject of a 500-page Inspector General report in 2018. The IG report backed up some of the criticism FBI agents previously told the Caller about the bureau and Comey’s handling of the probe.
“Comey was never an investigator or special agent. The special agents are trained investigators and they are insulted that Comey included them in ‘collective we’ statements in his testimony to imply that the SAs agreed that there was nothing there to prosecute,” said another special agent for the bureau, who worked counter-terrorism. “All the trained investigators agree that there is a lot to prosecute but he stood in the way.”
Media, nevertheless, questioned Sanders for her comments about FBI agents’ support for Comey at the time. CNN’s April Ryan called for Sanders to be fired over the remarks.
“Not only does she not have any credibility left, she lied,” Ryan said. “She outright lied and the people, the American people, can’t trust her. They can’t trust what’s said from the president’s mouthpiece, spokesperson, from the people’s house.”