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Intown pool report #9 - expanded pool briefing
Dan Freedman • Hearst Newspapers
February 24, 2017: 04:37 PM

Expanded pool briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer in his office this afternoon. First, Sean said there was nothing out of the ordinary about an expanded pool no-camera briefing, and that he had discussed with reporters (WHCA) the idea of different formats, not just doing same briefing every day. They put it on schedule yesterday that today would be gaggle. Also, the President delivered a speech today at CPAC, was on camera a long time.

``I wanted to make sure that the president's message carried,'' he said.

Much of the afternoon reiterated the morning gaggle: Recitation of the tick-tock on the FBI assistant director Andrew McCabe asking for five minutes with Reince Preibus after an unrelated meeting Feb. 15 to tell him that the morning's NYT story on FBI investigating multiple Trump campaign figures over contacts with Russia was `BS.' FBI declined to make statement of its own to that effect, but FBI Director James Comey himself gave his blessing to Preibus or anyone else at the White House saying they'd been assured by senior intelligence officials that there was nothing to the story.

The gaggle this morning was ``an opportunity to push back on what happened and why it happened,'' he said.

Discussion then consumed with hair-splitting and some metaphysics, with Sean trying to delineate the difference between the media's use of unnamed sources and White House officials using `background' to speak more expansively.

Spicer noted that at the morning gaggle, reporters had obtained permission to use some of his quotes on the record. ``There's a big difference between making serious allegations, us coming back on the record, and reporters saying `well, we have five sources, that are unnamed, that say contrary to that.' I think there's a point at which there's an obligation if you're going to make a very serious allegation, and we're willing to push back on the record, that there be somebody at the very least who's willing to push back on this and say they'll put their name attached to it.''

After being informed of the FBI's view of the story, ``had we not done anything and just sat there, it would have been irresponsible and frankly malpractice to say `yes, I was informed and we didn't do anything.'''

On the question of improper contact with the FBI, Sean said there's ``a guidance memo (in which there is) literally a carve out that specifically addresses how to handle public affairs matters.''

Sean was asked about the possibility that the leak came from within the FBI. ``I think that's concerning,'' he said.

``This is troubling, when the FBI or anyone in the intelligence world or frankly anyone in government entrusted with classified intelligence information and national security information is sharing that information widely, yeah, that's a big problem.''

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