White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany promised at her first press briefing Friday that she will “never lie” but she did mislead in an answer about fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“I will never lie to you. You have my word on that,” McEnany told reporters, vowing to hold more regular briefings.
While McEnany vowed not to lie, she appears to have misled reporters about a recently publicized handwritten note from Bill Priestap, the then-counterintelligence director at the FBI, who wrote asking about how agents should approach a critical interview with former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn is currently trying to withdraw his 2017 guilty plea for lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian official.
McEnany said the note says: “‘we need to get Flynn to lie’” and get him fired.
The note does not say “We need to get Flynn to lie,” but it asks what the goals of the interview are. Priestap wrote: “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”
“If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ & have them decide. Or, if he initially lies, then we present him [redacted] & he admits it, document for DOJ, & let them decide how to address it,” the note adds.
In 2017, Trump tweeted that he had to fire Flynn was because he “lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies.”
On Friday, the press secretary called the actions of the FBI a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
On Thursday, Trump had also piled on the FBI, saying: “What they tried to do to destroy him, and to hurt this presidency was perhaps in our country’s history, there is never been anything like it. An absolute disgrace.”
McEnany said that she plans to “continue” press briefings but stopped short of committing to holding them daily, saying that the timing of the briefings will be announced at a later time.
“As for the timing of the briefings, we do plan to do them,” McEnany said.
Until McEnany’s Friday afternoon appearance, there had not been a press briefing led by a White House press secretary in 417 days – an unprecedented break from the custom of administrations in the modern era. It marked the longest stretch without such a briefing during any presidential administration since televised briefings began.
In that more-than-a-year-long span, Trump has largely filled the space with informal exchanges with reporters, preferring to answer questions outside the White House before boarding Marine One.
But as his travel has dwindled during the pandemic, Trump pivoted to frequent formal briefings in the White House briefing room alongside members of White House Coronavirus Task Force.
But those near-daily appearances alongside advisers have slowed, especially this week, with Trump opting to answer questions from reporters in other parts of the White House.
The shift had been weeks in the making as advisers gently warned the President that the briefings were hurting, not helping him.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.