US Press secretary commits astonishing gaffe.
US Press secretary commits astonishing gaffe.

Spicer could be out after debacle defending Trump

Embattled White House spokesman Sean Spicer may be getting less face time on TV following a shipwreck of a performance defending President Donald Trump's decision to fire FBI director James Comey, a new report said Wednesday.

A CNN reporter, citing sources, said high-level administration officials - including Trump himself - were evaluating whether to replace Spicer with his backup, deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"WH sources: Highest levels incl. POTUS evaluating Sanders subbing for Spicer in briefing room. Last night an 'embarrassment.. disaster,' reporter Jim Acosta tweeted.

Ms Sanders handled Wednesday's press briefing with aplomb, and will conduct briefings through the end of the week, the White House said.

The switch followed a disastrous impromptu news conference outside the White House Tuesday night in which Mr Spicer hid behind some bushes until TV cameramen turned out their lights and agreed not to take video of the briefing.

But even when he came out, Mr Spicer delivered a cringe-worthy performance, failing to offer a clear timetable or rationale for Mr Trump's abrupt decision to can Mr Comey.

"Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off!" Mr Spicer barked, according to an account in The Washington Post. "We'll take care of this. … Can you just turn that light off?"

Asked if Mr Trump or the Justice Department initiated memos critical of Mr Comey that were given to the president Tuesday, Mr Spicer waffled.

"That's correct - I mean, I can't, I guess I shouldn't say that, thank you for the help on that one. No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision."

Asked if Mr Trump discussed Mr Comey with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he again stammered and struggled to give an answer.

"No, I don't believe, I don't know how that sequence went - I don't know," he said.

Asked when the pair last spoke, he said: "Uh, I don't know. I don't know. There's some - I don't know. I don't know."

He then mercifully ended the Q&A after 10 minutes.

"Just another Tuesday at the White House," Ms Sanders later remarked to reporters.

On Wednesday, she dismissed the CNN report, telling The Post, "That's ridiculous. No changes here."