Sarah Sanders Admitted She Lied to Media About Firing of FBI Director James Comey: Mueller Report

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted she lied to the media about President Donald Trump's highly controversial decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in 2017, according to special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

"Sanders told this Office [of the special counsel] that her reference to hearing from 'countless members of the FBI' was a 'slip of the tongue,'" investigators wrote in the document, which was released with significant redactions by Attorney General William Barr on Thursday.

"She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made 'in the heat of the moment' that was not founded on anything," it continued.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls on reporters during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, on August 15, 2018. Sanders admitted she lied about President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in 2017, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sanders told the press following Comey's firing in May 2017 that "countless" FBI agents had lost confidence in his leadership. Critics quickly raised concerns that Trump's decision to fire Comey was an attempt to obstruct justice and hinder the investigation into his campaign's alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Comey "was not doing a good job," Trump said at the time. "Very simply, he was not doing a good job."

Later, in an interview with NBC News, the president specifically said the ongoing investigation into his campaign led to his decision to fire Comey. "And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won," the president said.

Trump's decision to fire Comey was one of ten events Mueller's team investigated and considered when looking into the possibility that the president had obstructed justice by interfering in the investigation. Ultimately, Mueller's report opted not to draw a conclusion on these obstruction allegations. However, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently determined that they believed the president's actions did not amount to a crime.

"After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense," Barr reiterated in a press conference Thursday ahead of the redacted report's public release.

Attorney General William Barr takes questions about the release of the redacted version of the Mueller report at the Department of Justice, in Washington, D.C., on April 18. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Many Democrats have criticized Barr's decision to rule out the possibility that the president obstructed justice. Following Thursday's press conference and the Mueller report's release, Democratic lawmakers quickly called out the attorney general for acting in a manner they viewed as partisan.

"We cannot take Attorney General Barr's word for it. We must read the full Mueller report, and the underlying evidence," House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler of New York wrote on Twitter.

Senator Kamala Harris of California, who is also seeking her party's nomination to take on Trump in 2020, accused Barr of "acting more like Trump's defense attorney than the nation's Attorney General. His press conference was a stunt, filled with political spin and propaganda," she wrote in a tweet.

Even some at traditionally conservative media outlets questioned Barr's actions. Fox News host Chris Wallace voiced a sentiment similar to Harris' on Thursday morning when he stated the "attorney general seemed to be almost acting as the counselor for the defense, or the counselor for the president, rather than the attorney general; talking about his motives, talking about his anger, his feeling that this was unfair and he was being—there were leaks."