WASHINGTON – Sean Spicer finally had enough with the major media during the White House press briefing Tuesday, declaring, “The Washington Post should be ashamed of how they covered this story,” which he twice called “100 percent false.”
He was specifically referring to a story the Post published Tuesday morning that asserted, “The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”
In response to the first question at the daily briefing, which came from John Roberts of Fox News, Spicer said: “We have no problem with her testifying. Plain and simple. The report in the Washington Post is 100 percent false.”
“I hope she testifies, I look forward to it,” he later added. “To suggest in any way, shape or form that we stood in the way of that is 100 percent false.”
Spicer dismissed the topic by concluding: “We had no objection to her going forward. That’s it.”
But it wasn’t just that one article or the one issue that irked the spokesman. It was the way the media have been covering the entire story alleging Russian ties with the Trump team that had him visibly disgusted.
Spicer repeated for the umpteenth time that everyone who had been briefed, including Obama’s former intelligence chiefs, had found no evidence of collusion between the Russian government and the Trump transition team.
By the last exchange of the day, he had enough.
The press secretary let loose on reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks for continuing to push the narrative of a scandal in the Russia story.
She began by implying there must be fire where there’s smoke because, “There are investigations on Capitol Hill …”
He cut her off and sarcastically replied, “No, no – I get it. But you keep – I’ve said it from the day that I got here until whatever that there is no connection. You’ve got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection. But every single person …”
After she cut him off, he applied more sarcasm, noting, “I appreciate your agenda here, but the reality is …”
When she cut him off again to insist it wasn’t her agenda, Spicer unloaded both barrels, telling Ryan: “No, hold on. At some point, report the facts. ”
“The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion – Republican, Democrat.”
Noticing her pained expression, he continued, “So, I’m sorry that that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head. I appreciate it, but …”
After reiterating that not even Obama appointees had found any links between the Trump team and the Russians, Spicer admonished, “At some point, April, you’re going to have to take ‘no’ for an answer, with respect to whether or not there was collusion.”
Spicer wasn’t just irked by reporters trying to create and sustain the appearance of a Russia scandal.
He also was upset they were ignoring what appears to be a real and growing scandal, the revelation by House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., that he has seen information confirming the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team.
Spicer berated White House reporters on both Monday and Tuesday for focusing on substance when illegal leaks appeared damaging to the Trump administration, but ignoring substance and targeting the messenger rather than the message when legal leaks vindicated the White House.
On Tuesday, he called it “somewhat reckless” to refuse to draw the distinction between illegally leaking classified information to the press, and the chair of the intelligence committee having a consultation with a source in the intelligence community that is “that is 100 percent legal and appropriate.”
“[S]uddenly the obsession becomes about the process and not the substance,” noted Spicer.
As WND reported Tuesday, for weeks, reporters have demanded to know: Where is the evidence to back up President Trump’s claim that the Obama administration spied on him?
But now that Nunes has said he has evidence to confirm the spying, the media are in an uproar, demanding to know how he got such information.
Nunes said he got the information from sources in the intelligence community.
On Monday, NBC’s Hallie Jackson asked Spicer, “Why is this leak OK, but other leaks are not?”
Because, he replied while pointing out the obvious, the chairman of the intelligence committee is cleared to see classified material. Reporters are not.
That didn’t stop reporters who seemed to be bursting at the seams with questions once they detected the possible scent of a scandal.
New information had come to light over the weekend. Suddenly, reporters weren’t just demanding to know how Nunes got the intelligence information, but they were grilling Spicer about where he got it.
To recap, Nunes had announced last Wednesday, as WND reported, he had learned from intelligence sources that “on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.”
And details about those people “were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting” even though they had “little or no apparent foreign intelligence value.”
It was reported that on March 21, the day before Nunes made his announcement, he had come to the White House to meet a source and review dozens of intelligence reports on the Trump transition team acquired via government spying.
Reporters seemed to smell blood.
Why the White House?
Why did Nunes have to come to the White House to see the information?
The media antennae were all aflutter with the whiff of scandal.
Was the White House leaking the information? Was the White House guilty of what it had accused the Obama administration of doing?
Actually, Nunes had already explained earlier in the day, in an interview, why he had come to the White House to view the information.
The chairman told Bloomberg News, “We don’t have networked access to these kinds of reports in Congress,” and the White House was simply the most convenient secure location that had a computer connected to the system that housed the reports.
Nunes also said his source was an intelligence official and not a member of the White House staff.
But that didn’t stop reporters from trying to insinuate the White House may have been the source of the information, or that the administration and Nunes had somehow been tainted.
“Are you satisfied that you don’t have an inappropriate leak in the executive branch?” a reporter asked Spicer.
He said that was not a concern.
On Tuesday, Spicer was asked if Nunes should recuse himself from the investigation.
After explaining that it was up to the House of Representatives, and not for him, to decide, he added, “We’re not going to start commenting on that kind of stuff.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday that Nunes should not step down.
But a growing chorus of Democratic Party lawmakers has claimed Nunes somehow compromised himself by obtaining classified information on the White House grounds, despite his explanation.
Nunes had made it clear that the information he obtained, although circulated “widely through the executive branch,” was done so during the Obama administration, not the Trump administration, because the documents were from November, December and January.
Still, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member on the intelligence committee, along with a growing number of Democrats, are demanding Nunes recuse himself from leading the investigation.
Democrats are not pleased, to say the least, that Nunes has turned the focus of the investigation from whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to whether the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign, as the president has alleged.
And now that Nunes has said he has seen proof that the Obama administration did spy on the Trump team, Democrats appear particularly desperate to get rid of the chairman.
“I’m sure that the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I am quite effective at getting to the bottom of things,” he said Monday night on Fox News.
When asked if he should recuse himself, Nunes replied, “Why should I?”
The bad news for the Democrats may be just beginning.
President Trump is now asking the Intelligence committee to investigate lucrative Russian ties to Hillary and former President Bill Clinton.
A deal between a Russian state-owned energy company and a Canadian-owned mining company closely tied to the Clinton Foundation led to Russian control over one-fifth of U.S. uranium interests.
After then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved the deal, her husband, Bill, was paid $500,000 for giving a speech in Moscow.
President Trump also wants Congress to investigate business ties between Hillary campaign manager John Podesta and Russian business interests.