President Trump gave a straight answer on Thursday about whether he has recordings of his private conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey — No.
The question of the existence of tapes arose on May 12, when shortly after firing Comey, Trump tweeted that the former FBI director “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations.”
That tweet appeared to come in response to a New York Times article that said that during a private dinner at the White House, Trump asked Comey for “loyalty.”
Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he told the president he would be “honestly loyal” and that the conversation made him “uneasy.” He also said he orchestrated a leak of information from memos he wrote about his recollections of private conversations with the president to trigger the naming of a special counsel, which did follow.
At one point during his Senate testimony on June 8, Comey memorably said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
He added, “The president surely knows whether he taped me, and if he did, my feelings aren’t hurt. Release the entire — release all the tapes, I’m good with it.”
In the weeks since that May 12 tweet, Trump and his aides kept the mystery alive, refusing to say whether such recordings actually existed.
Trump was pressed on it by ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl and other reporters during a press conference on June 9.
Q: And you seem to be hinting that there are recordings of those conversations.
Trump: I’m not hinting anything. I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time.
Q: When is that?
Trump: Okay. Do you have a question here?
Q: When will you tell us about the recordings?
Trump: Over a fairly short period of time.
Q: Why not now? Are there tapes —
Trump: Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer. Don’t worry.
“I think the president’s statement via Twitter today is extremely clear,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday when pressed by reporters on why the president waited 41 days to clear up whether he had any recordings of Comey.
“You guys asked for an answer. He gave you one. He said he would have it to you by the end of this week, which he did. And beyond timing of that, I can’t really speak anything further,” Sanders said.
The House Intelligence Committee had requested that any tapes that might exist be turned over by the White House by Friday, so the president was up against a deadline to deliver an answer.
The president’s statement on Twitter went out just two hours after Senate Republicans released a nearly 150-page bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and reshape America’s health care system. [Copyright 2017 NPR]