Trump: ‘I did not make and do not have’ Comey tapes

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVE BOYER

Pres­i­dent Trump said Thurs­day he didn’t make any tape record­ings of his con­ver­sa­tions with James B. Comey, af­ter rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity last month that he might have tapes that would dis­credit the fired FBI di­rec­tor.

It turned out to be a pres­i­den­tial bluff. But Mr. Trump didn’t rule out that some­one else could have lis­tened to their Oval Of­fice con­ver­sa­tions with­out his knowl­edge.

“With all of the re­cently re­ported elec­tronic sur­veil­lance, in­ter­cepts, un­mask­ing and il­le­gal leak­ing of in­for­ma­tion, I have no idea … whether there are ‘tapes’ or record­ings of my con­ver­sa­tions with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such record­ings,” he tweeted.

The pres­i­dent’s ac­knowl­edg­ment, af­ter weeks of the White House duck­ing ques­tions about the ex­is­tence of tapes, ap­peared to put to rest spec­u­la­tion that Mr. Trump him­self had prompted with a post on Twit­ter shortly af­ter he fired Mr. Comey. He had ques­tioned Mr. Comey’s truth­ful­ness af­ter the for­mer FBI di­rec­tor accused the pres­i­dent of de­mand­ing his loy­alty and of lean­ing on him to “let go” of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Michael Flynn.

“James Comey bet­ter hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our con­ver­sa­tions be­fore he starts leak­ing to the press!” Mr. Trump wrote on May 12.

Asked by law­mak­ers at a Se­nate hear­ing this month about the pres­i­dent’s warn­ing, Mr. Comey said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

As is of­ten the case with the pres­i­dent’s tweets, White House aides would not elab­o­rate on Mr. Trump’s tweets on Thurs­day.

“The pres­i­dent’s state­ment via Twit­ter is ex­tremely clear,” said deputy press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders. “I don’t have any­thing to add to the state­ment.”

She did say that she doesn’t be­lieve Mr. Trump had been try­ing to in­tim­i­date Mr. Comey, nor did she think the pres­i­dent was con­cerned that the White House might be un­der sur­veil­lance. She said the pres­i­dent was keep­ing his prom­ise to give an an­swer by the end of this week on whether tapes ex­isted.

Con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors also had set a dead­line of Fri­day for the White House to turn over any tapes. The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee had asked for in­for­ma­tion about whether record­ings ex­isted as part of its probe into Rus­sian med­dling in the elec­tion.

The pres­i­dent is said to have been amused at all the spec­u­la­tion caused by his orig­i­nal tweet on May 12 about the pos­si­bil­ity of tapes. Asked by The Wash­ing­ton Times at a June 9 press con­fer­ence whether tapes ex­isted, Mr. Trump replied coyly, “I’ll tell you about that maybe some­time in the near fu­ture.”

He added at the time, “You’re go­ing to be very dis­ap­pointed when you hear the an­swer. Don’t worry.”

At the White House daily press brief­ing Thurs­day, a re­porter noted that Mr. Trump had al­lowed spec­u­la­tion about tapes to go on for 41 days, and asked Ms. San­ders, “Why the game? What was he do­ing?”

“I don’t know there was a game,” Mrs. San­ders replied. “He’s an­swered the ques­tion. He said by the end of this week and he’s done that.”

For­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, a Trump ally, said he thinks the pres­i­dent was es­sen­tially play­ing a psy­cho­log­i­cal game with Mr. Comey by sug­gest­ing there might be record­ings of their con­ver­sa­tions.

“I think he was, in his way, in­stinc­tively try­ing to rat­tle Comey,” Mr. Gin­grich told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “He’s not a pro­fes­sional politi­cian. He doesn’t come back and think about Nixon and Water­gate. His in­stinct is: ‘I’ll out­bluff you.’”

But the bluff may have caused the pres­i­dent more headaches.

Mr. Comey told the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that, af­ter he read Mr. Trump’s May 12 tweet about the pos­si­bil­ity of tapes, he de­ter­mined to leak to the me­dia through a friend memos he’d writ­ten about his con­ver­sa­tions with the pres­i­dent. Those memos, which out­lined Mr. Comey’s as­ser­tion that the pres­i­dent had pres­sured him to back off of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, helped to prompt the ap­point­ment of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller to in­ves­ti­gate Mr. Comey’s fir­ing and the pos­si­ble col­lu­sion of Mr. Flynn and other Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials with Russia’s med­dling in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Asked by an NBC re­porter whether Mr. Trump re­grets that his orig­i­nal tweet about tapes may have led to Mr. Mueller in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pres­i­dent for ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, Ms. San­ders replied, “I don’t think so.”

“I cer­tainly think that the pres­i­dent would hope that the for­mer di­rec­tor would tell the truth,” Ms. San­ders said of the orig­i­nal tweet. “But I think that it was more about rais­ing the ques­tion of doubt in gen­eral.”

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