After weeks of being noncommittal regarding the existence of secret recordings of Trump’s conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey, Donald Trump finally admits that he has no “tapes.” He tweeted today, in two sequential tweets:
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.”
–@realDonaldTrump, 22 Jun 2017
Sooo…okay. That’s it? To be fair, Trump never actually said that he had “tapes”; he tweeted on May 12 that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” which, ironically, was the impetus for Comey to “leak” to the press.
Unlike most of Trump’s other, unfiltered tweets, this one was reviewed by his legal counsel before it was posted. You can kind of get a sense of that if you notice all the qualifications in the tweet:
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, which I take to mean, there might actually be recordings.
I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings, and you should mentally add but maybe someone else made tapes and still has them.
At this point, I don’t really think there are recordings, but Trump’s tweet, when you get around the legal acrobatics, sort of leaves it open that there might be. It’s a dumb non-statement statement and I guess is good enough to put an end to what the New York Times called “one of the capital’s least suspenseful mysteries.”
If recordings do exist, they likely are more damaging to Trump than to Comey. If you’ll remember, Comey said that during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he hoped that there were recordings because it would corroborate his testimony. So the existence of recordings would not be a good thing for Trump.
But Trump has worked himself into a legal catch-22 here because if there really aren’t any recordings, and it appears there may not be, that would mean that Trump was bluffing. And why bluff? It’s an intimidation tactic. Trump biographer Tim O’Brien, whom Trump tried to sue over his book TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald, has expressed that Trump had tried to use this tactic against him and had to admit, under oath, that he actually had not been taping conversations with O’Brien. This is bad for Trump because if Trump indeed has no recordings of conversations with Comey it gives the appearance that Trump was intentionally trying to intimidate Comey. Otherwise why would Trump even mention that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes'” out there? I think we are getting very close to obstruction of justice charges here.
As for why it took so long for Trump to spill the beans on whether recordings exist, I’m betting the White House was spending the past few weeks in what-the-fuck-do-we-do-now mode. But I’m still not quite convinced that there aren’t recordings.
I’m not sure exactly what I’m embarrassed about more: the fact that our President and the White House are so crooked, or the fact that they’re so bad at it.