Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway is striking back at critics who say she admitted in an interview Monday morning that former FBI Director James Comey swung the 2016 election in favor of President Donald Trump, insisting she was being sarcastic in her remark to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos Monday morning.
"I rolled my eyes and said 'Really, this guy swung an election?' It was sarcastic," Conway told The Daily Beast, minutes after the interview on "Good Morning America," which Stephanopoulos also hosts.
"This guy swung an election?" Conway told Stephanopoulos, according to an ABC clip from the interview. "He thought the wrong person would win. . . .
"He gave a free political commercial telling people to go out there and vote against the president and his interests. I think he struggled to answer basic questions, and he looked a little shaky."
The comment, on its face, appeared to undercut Trump's statements that his Democratic challenger, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lost because she was a bad candidate, not because there was any outside interference.
However, as Twitter started to light up about what had seemed to be an admission from the White House about Comey, Conway spoke with The Daily Beast and tweeted a rebuttal.
She also shared a link to ABC's initial story, which had the headline "Kellyanne Conway Slams Comey: 'This Guy Swung an Election.'"
"This misleading headline should include an eye roll and question mark. Point I made on 3 shows is that we are supposed to believe THIS guy swung an election?" Conway tweeted, sharing a link to ABC's story.
ABC has changed its headline since, to read "Kellyanne Conway slams Comey: He always diverts 'the spotlight to him.'"
Meanwhile, Conway on Monday painted Comey to Stephanopoulos as a publicity hound while calling his criticisms of President Donald Trump's appearance "gutter" and saying he appeared "shaky."
"I spoke with the president before the interview and the president reminded me that Jim Comey said publicly that he felt nervous before he met the president, admitted that to you," Conway told Stephanopoulos Monday morning on "Good Morning America," which he hosts.
"What we don't understand is why, if you're going to meet the president of the United States, the president-elect, you're not saying 'my ticker list is I've got to tell him about the Russian interference, I must tell him about the investigations that are ongoing,'" Conway said.
Instead, in his book "A Higher Loyalty," Comey took time to talk about the size of the president's hands and the length of his necktie, Conway said, and "that's gutter."
"The fact that Mr. Comey admitted to you that he allowed polling and politics to influence his decision is it much why Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, in a scathing memo on May 9 and others, other former attorneys general had called for Mr. Comey to step aside because they felt like he can no longer hold up the values of the FBI," Conway said.
She also complained Comey said he felt like he was saving the country, but "why did he wait for an interview with you, not under oath and selling a book not under oath?"
Stephanopoulos reminded Conway that Comey answered many of those questions under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee," but she responded they "had to correct his testimony" over confidential emails found on the computer of Anthony Weiner, who was married to Hillary Clinton's chief aide, Huma Abedin.
"I think what really strikes people last night is when you have a private audience with the president, you should use that time to discuss major law enforcement, counterterrorism issues of the day," Conway said. "Instead, it sounds like he's taking notes for a future book."
Stephanopoulos, though, stopped Conway, pointing out to her that on Feb. 14, 2017, Comey did give Trump a counterintelligence briefing, and it was Trump who asked him to remain behind.
Comey said that was when Trump asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, which Trump has denied.
But Comey did not call Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Vice President Mike Pence back into the meeting, Conway said, because he "loves to be within the proximity of power and having dinner alone with the president," she said. "If he hadn't he should have invited someone or asked who else was going to be there. He loved being alone in the Oval Office and wanted a piece of it and loved being in the proximity of power – until he got fired and then wrote a book."
Conway said she does believe Trump is aware of some of the excerpts of the interview, and his reaction is the same as it was when he saw parts of Comey's book.
"The president is very confounded that this person is always able to divert the spotlight to him – whether it's the July 5 press conference, it's the Oct. 28 announcement about the Hillary Clinton investigation being re-opened – he has a very deft way of making things about him," she said. "He had 25,000 rank and file men and women who are honorable, but had those who were against this president and were for Hillary Clinton, and he let that cloud his judgment."
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