May 10, 2017 - Politics & Policy

Inside the WH scramble to defend Trump on Comey

Evan Vucci / AP

Sources at the White House described scenes of confusion in the hours following news of Trump firing Comey. Internally, at least at a fairly senior level, people were scrambling to figure out what happened.

The firing was done in such haste that his own comms shop couldn't catch up, and the vast majority of White House staff learned about it on TV when the news broke, per White House sources. There was a meeting in Spicer's office with about 20 staffers after they announced the news, which happened as Chuck Schumer was on TV giving his response to the news of the firing.

  • Democrats were on message within minutes: special prosecutor, constitutional crisis, Nixonian. Republicans did not have a coherent response.
  • This left Trump exposed in a way that horrified his officials, and the White House response was so weak that Trump took to Twitter as his own crisis communications manager.
  • From a White House official: "it's insane. The whole thing is just insane."
  • The big takeaway: how exposed White House officials and Trump confidants felt. They didn't have the information, the preparation, the tools, to defend the President.

The big questions: Where were the surrogates who could defend Trump's decision? Jason Miller and Kellyanne Conway were "one-man flak jackets," per multiple people, but where were the law enforcement and AG surrogates?

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