In an extraordinary series of tweets on Friday morning, President Donald Trump said fired FBI Director James Comey ‘better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations,’ as the President again assailed the news media over press coverage of his administration, and basically warned Comey not to leak details of the investigation, or their interactions.
The President’s tweets came a day after he upended the explanations of his press team on why he fired Comey from his post on Tuesday, telling NBC in an interview that investigations of possible links between his associates and the Russians were much on his mind.
“This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” the President said.
Overnight, there were stories in the New York Times about a dinner in late January at the White House, which involved only the President and the FBI Director; the Times reported that Mr. Trump pressed Comey for a ‘loyalty’ pledge.
Reaction from Democrats was immediate.
“This is very disturbing,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). “The President is now openly threatening the former FBI Director.”
“Seems like President Trump is taking cues from Nixon’s playbook,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
“Are there tapes, Donald Trump?” asked Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO). “If so, the American people deserve to hear them.”
“Mr. President, if there are “tapes” relevant to the Comey firing, it’s because you made them and they should be provided to Congress,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
The tweet about “tapes” immediately invoked memories of the Oval Office tapes that became a central part of the battle over President Richard Nixon, a taping system that was not known about until being uncovered by hearings on Watergate.
If there are indeed tapes of such conversations, Congress could try to subpoena those for any investigation.
As he did in his interview on Thursday with NBC, the President made clear on Friday morning that the questions about any ties between his campaign and Russia were much on his mind, as he continued to lash out at Democrats and the news media.
Mr. Trump also used Twitter to address discrepancies between his explanation for the firing of Comey, and that given to reporters earlier in the week by his press team at the White House, as he labeled the Russia probe a “witch hunt.”
“As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy,” the President said, raising the possibility of simply not having briefings for reporters in the future.
“Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy?”