With his first legislative victory finally under his belt, Donald Trump can finally get back to the raison d’etre of his presidency: trying to convince a skeptical American public that accusations that he colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election are a hoax.
That’s what White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted to do in an appearance on home-team news outlet FOX News Thursday.
Speaking with morning anchor Bill Hemmer, Huckabee Sanders repeated the greatest hits of team Trump’s talking points on Russia and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, only this time she added a new twist.
Responding to the rumors circulating around Washington and the media over the last week – that President Trump intended to fire Robert Mueller after congress leaves on its winter recess Friday – Huckabee Sanders repeated the president’s previous denials.
“We have no intentions of firing Bob Mueller,” Sanders told Hemmer. “We are continuing to work closely and cooperate with him. We look forward to seeing this hoax wrap up very soon.”
While that answer stuck closely to the script, it did not answer the question that was asked.
Hemmer wanted her to comment specifically to a new line of attack launched by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) Wednesday.
Sen. Paul is demanding an investigation into the Obama Administration for “colluding” to steal the election from Donald Trump.
“Time to investigate high ranking Obama government officials who might have colluded to prevent the election of @realDonaldTrump,” Sen. Paul’s tweeted Wednesday, adding “This could be WORSE than Watergate!”
Rand Paul repeated that demand in his own FOX News interview the hour before Huckabee Sanders’s appearance, and after Hemmer prompted her with video of Senator Paul’s statement, Sanders was unambiguous with her agreement: “It’s something that certainly should be looked at,” she said before returning to the hoax script.
Hemmer, not satisfied with her flippant answer and immediate turn to the talking points, pressed her further.
“Senator Paul suggested that the intelligence community – or some withint the community – conspired to prevent Donald Trump from winning last November. Does President Trump agree with that statement?” he asked.
Still, she was coy.
“I haven’t asked him directly about Senator Paul’s statement,” she answered, “but I think that the senator, if he feels that there is something to be looked at, then ABSOLUTELY we should be looking at that.”
Clearly the coordination on display is no coincidence, with Senator Paul appearing on FOX News to parrot his tweet, followed by Huckabee Sanders’ appearing to comment on it an hour later.
Likewise, Huckabee Sanders’ comments were carefully calibrated to validate the merits of Senator Paul’s opinion on the matter, while also avoiding the appearance that the White House is calling for an investigation into President Trump’s predecessor.
With special counsel Robert Mueller closing in on his inner circle, President Trump knows everything he says, or is said on his behalf, is being scrutinized and will be used against him if he attempts to subvert the investigation.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ orchestrated appearance in the court of public opinion today, therefore, is telling as much by what she didn’t say as by what she did.
You can watch the entire interview below.