White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has suggested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) should consider prosecuting former FBI Director James Comey. The Trump administration has accused Comey of lying under oath and leaking classified information, while the former bureau director has accused President Donald Trump of firing him because he would not pledge personal loyalty.
On Sept. 11, former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon ignited controversy when he described Trump's decision to dismiss Comey as a blunder. Bannon was asked if Comey's firing was the biggest mistake in political history during an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes."
"That probably would be too bombastic even for me, but maybe modern political history. ... I'll leave it at that," Bannon responded.
Later that day, Sanders was asked during a White House press conference to respond to Bannon's comments. The press secretary asserted that Trump stood by his decision and accused Comey of committing several crimes.
"Since his firing, we've learned new information about his conduct that only provided more justification for that firing, including giving false testimony, leaking privileged information to journalists, [and] he went outside the chain of command and politicized an investigation into a presidential candidate," Sanders said, according to CNBC.
On Sept. 12, Sanders was asked during another press conference whether her accusations against Comey meant that Trump wanted the DOJ to prosecute the former FBI director.
"That's not the president's role," Sanders said, according to Politico. "That's the job of the Department of Justice, and something they should certainly look at."
The White House press secretary added, "I think if there's ever a moment where we feel someone's broken the law, particularly if they're the head of the FBI, I think that's something that certainly should be looked at."
On May 9, Trump dismissed Comey from the FBI, initially asserting that the DOJ had recommended the director step down because of how he handled the federal investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. Trump later disclosed that he had personally decided to fire Comey.
On May 16, The New York Times obtained several memos Comey had written after his meetings with Trump. The memos alleged that Trump had asked Comey to drop a federal investigation into former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and that he pledge his personal loyalty.
The controversy following the memo prompted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to head the federal probe into Russia's role during the 2016 election. The Mueller investigation was also tasked with determining whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey.
On June 8, Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The former FBI director stood by the details in his memo and revealed that he had personally leaked their contents after Trump indicated on social media that he had recorded their conversations.
"Because it didn't dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation, might be on tape, my judgment was I needed to get that out into the public square and so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter ... because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel," Comey told the committee, according to Time.
Trump immediately took to social media to accuse Comey of leaking classified information by sending the memos to his friend, Professor Daniel Richman of Columbia Law School.
On July 10, Richman asserted that Comey had not broken any law by giving him the documents.
"No memos given to me had any classified markings," Richman told ABC News.