Ousted White House press secretary Sean Spicer caused a panic among Trump advisors, who "flipped out" over worries he may have admitted a violation of a federal court ruling, according to a new report in Politico. Reporters Annie Karni and Josh Gerstein report on outreach they received after an oral history was published by GQ Magazine on Tuesday.
"After the interview was published, four people who worked with Spicer on the campaign and at the RNC reached out to Politico to express surprise that he highlighted his presence on the fifth floor — which served as the nerve center of the campaign’s poll-monitoring operation and data war room that day — because party employees were given strict instructions prohibiting them from going there," Politico noted.
The "unfinished" fifth floor of Trump Tower was the "war room" according to Trump national field coordinator and battleground states director Matt Mowers, as recounted to GQ in the oral history.
"A group of us gathered on the fifth floor of Trump Tower in what could be described as basically an oversized utility room. Stepien's going through key counties, Florida in particular—Broward, Miami Dade, southern Florida. What's in, what's not. I would say that at least through 7:30, 8 o'clock, it was a very cautiously optimistic view," is the statement from Spicer that so alarmed the Trump team.
All four sources who reached out to Politico to dispute Spicer's account remembered seeing large signs reminding RNC staffers to keep out.
Sean Spicer was the communications director for the RNC.
“It was a sign you can’t miss,” recalled one source. “It was pretty glaring.”
At issue is concern that Spicer acknowledged conduct that the RNC worried was a violation of a US District Court order.
Judge Dickinson Debevoise, who died in 2015, presided over decades of litigation concerning racially targeted RNC voter suppression efforts.
The Republican National Committee signed a consent decree promising to discontinue their practices.
Politico acquired an RNC memo filed in the proceedings that was distributed in September 2016, which demonstrated the legal liability Republicans faced.
“There are severe consequences for any violation of the Consent Decree, one of which will be a renewal of its provisions for another eight years,” read the legal memo. “It is set to expire in 2017 (after nearly 4 decades) — but only if no violation occurs between now and then.”
The nature of Trump's speeches alleging voter fraud may bring even more scrutiny in the ongoing litigation.
“In August 2016, when I perceived that Mr. Trump was likely to emphasize voter fraud in his campaign, I started to put an even greater emphasis on training regarding the Consent Decree than in past cycles,” RNC chief counsel John Phillippe noted in a court declaration.
U.S. District Court Judge John Vazquez is now presiding over the case.
Thursday, the RNC argued the "consent decree" should be allowed to expire as planned on December 1st.
The RNC event produced a PowerPoint presentation warning against any mingling with Trump's campaign activities on election day.
“Separation between Victory and EDO [election day operations] — Caution is imperative," the PowerPoint cautioned.