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Sean Spicer book summary: The most important moments as White House press secretary reveals life working for Trump

Spicer helped spin, twist and reject the truth on behalf of Donald Trump – but now he has promised to reveal the reality of speaking for the president

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 24 July 2018 09:17 BST
Sean Spicer resigns: The White House Press Secretary's most memorable moments

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Donald Trump's mouthpiece is finally talking for himself.

Sean Spicer's book – The Briefing: Politics, The Press and The President – has just been published and offers and unprecedented look into the workings of the White House and its sometimes bizarre, often controversial relationship with the press.

And we will be reading the book live, just as it makes its way from the press itself.

It is the latest in a series of bombshell books detailing life inside Trump's White House. From Michael Wolff's incendiary Fire and Fury to James Comey's combative A Higher Loyalty, many of Mr Trump's foes and confidantes have attempted to peer inside the president's head and work out what is going on.

But Spicer's is the first major release from one of the president's allies. And what an ally he has been: Spicer was famous for defending Trump over and over, even when that meant outright lying or appearing to suggest the holocaust didn't happen.

Now the erstwhile press secretary and communications director will finally give his insight on working for Trump, and helping create the image of the president we have today.

Please allow a moment for the live blog to load.


Remember Sean Spicer? He quit as White House press secretary almost exactly a year ago – but a year is a long time in Trumpworld. It's almost possible to be nostalgic for that time in the early days of the Trump presidency.

But before you put on your rose-tinted glasses, remember that Spicer is most famously the man who helped create the idea of "alternative facts", telling what most people refer to as "lies" or at least falsehoods about everything from the size of Trump's inauguration crowd to the holocaust.

He helped create the vast Trumpian media machine that still rumbles on to this today: fiercely oppositional towards the media, but repeatedly engaging with it, he might be relatively long gone but traces remain all across the White House operation.

And now we're finally getting to hear the one question everyone really wants answered by Sean Spicer, truthfully: Why?

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 09:48

Just a quick catch up on the man himself: Spicer worked for the Republican National Committee for years before he joined Trump. He helped beef up the party's press operation, and was so successful he also took on a role as chief strategist.

In December 2016, soon before Trump's inauguration, he became press secretary and his communications director. It was an infamous time, and Spicer became unusually famous, including becoming the star of SNL skits.

And then it all fell apart, in July last year. Which, incidentally, is where our story starts...

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 09:51

Apparently having a picture of me reading the thing is a meme and a necessity now. But unfortunately this one is an ebook and I don't have a hard copy. So here's the best I can do:

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 10:00

So we begin. And in media res – right with Spicer's firing. (None of that Comey-esque childhood in which he learnt his principles stuff for Spicer – though as we know he probably doesn't have quite so many principles to have learnt.)

"The president wanted to see me," the book begins. And it continues just as ominously from there.

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 10:04

Being summoned to see Trump seems to be just as stressful an experience as you'd expect. "Typically, if you are called into the Oval Office, it isn’t for an 'attaboy'," writes Spicer.

This time around it certainly wasn't for an attaboy at all:

President Trump said, “Sean, we’re getting killed in the media. No matter what we do, we’re getting killed. I know it’s not your fault. I know you guys are trying. I think we need to change some things. We need to get some new people in here.”

Sarah and I nodded; we were understaffed and needed help.

“We need to get Anthony in here.”

“Anthony?” I thought.

Keith Schiller, Donald Trump’s long-time bodyguard, then director of Oval Office Operations, walked into the dining room. “Scaramucci,” he piped in.

As we know now, the arrival of Scaramucci sets the stage for the departure of Spicer. (It also sets the stage for the departure of The Mooch himself: he only ended up lasting ten days.)

Spicer says that Trump wanted Scaramucci for his toughness. Soon before he was appointed, he had been the subject of a CNN article – he complained, the organisation retracted the story and three journalists resigned.

He hoped that toughness would work in the White House, too: helping to fight the media and stop the leaks that it thrives on.

But Spicer isn't happy.

Given the intense demands of the job, I definitely could have used more help.

But Anthony Scaramucci?

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 10:09

Spicer is learning that The Mooch isn't just joining the team: he's going to help lead the team, as communications director, which is supposed to be Spicer's job. He decides he is going to resign.

He heads over to the Oval Office to see Trump. He's there, with that classic expression on his face: "which some mistake for hostility, but I knew it reflected intense concentration". And so is Scaramucci, being talked to and bigged up by the president.

So he won't be resigning just yet. "In my experience, you had to pick and choose your battles with Donald Trump. This was not a time to confront him."

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 10:15

(Here's one little aside: Donald Trump talks very fluently and fluidly in this book. For instance:

“Anthony, as I was telling the team yesterday, we need new blood,” the president said. “We’re getting killed in the press. We’ve got to do anything we can to get back on track.”

Does that sound like the Donald Trump we all know and probably don't love? It doesn't to me.)

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 10:17

Finally, Spicer is resigning. He heads to his office and prints out this letter:

Dear Mr. President,

It has been an honor to serve in your administration as White House press secretary.

After considerable reflection and discussion with my family, I have decided to pursue other opportunities. To ensure a smooth transition, I will work through the end of next month.

I will continue to support your efforts to strengthen the U.S. economy, create American jobs, and fight the evils of terrorism. Thank you for keeping our country safe, defending the foundation of our great democracy, and Making America Great Again.

He hands it to Trump, who initially rejects it. But eventually he is won around and takes Spicer's resignation, with a surprisingly amount of kindness.

"I thanked the president and calmly walked out of the Oval Office knowing that I had made one of the biggest decisions of my life," Spicer writes. "I have seen a lot of sides of Donald Trump—tough talking negotiator, political pitchman—but that day I saw another. He was caring, kind, and gracious."

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 10:19

With that resignation, we're back into the proper flow of things. And we start with the days leading up to the election. (That's also where the Michael Wolff book began, too.)

We begin with a survey of all the people who doubted Trump. There's shouts to: Nate Silver, the New York Times, Newsweek, Deadspin. The latter claimed that "Donald Trump is going to get his ass kicked", Spicer writes.

"On Tuesday, November 8, election day, I saw Donald Trump and he looked nothing like a man who was about to get kicked," Spicer writes. (A confusing sentence given it was his ass that was supposed to be kicked, but then I suppose Spicer evaluating the kickability of the president's ass would be a strange way to start a book.)

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 10:22

Spicer's account of the mood inside Trump's campaign on election night is entirely at odds with Michael Wolff's. In his book, Fire and Fury, he wrote that many of the team not only didn't expect Trump to win but probably didn't even want to.

Spicer says that Trump was "optimistic from the word go, but he grew more excited as one critical county after another swung his way"; as the result becomes clear, "Donald Trump’s trademark grin filled his face" and the team always thought they would win, he writes. 

Andrew Griffin24 July 2018 10:24

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