Updated: 2:34 p.m. ET
President Trump suggested on Twitter Friday morning there might be recordings of his private conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired earlier this week, in an apparent attempt to caution Comey against “leaking to the press.”
At the White House briefing in the afternoon, press secretary Sean Spicer refused multiple times to confirm or deny whether or not there was a secret recording device in the Oval Office.
“I’ve talked to the president, and the president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer said, adding his oft-used statement that “the tweet speaks for itself.”
Asked whether the White House has a recording of Comey’s conversations with the president, Spicer said, “I am not aware of that.”
Trump seemed to be responding to news stories coming out since the Tuesday firing, which have contradicted the White House’s version of the events surrounding Comey’s dismissal.
In fact, in an NBC News interview this week, Trump himself said he was going to fire Comey regardless of the Justice Department’s recommendation, even though White House staff and even Vice President Pence had pointed to the recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier in the week.
Multiple outlets have reported that Trump asked Comey for his loyalty at a private dinner in January but that the then-FBI director “declined to make that pledge,” The New York Times reported.
Spicer denied that Trump had asked Comey to pledge his loyalty during that dinner.
On MSNBC Friday afternoon, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Andrea Mitchell that Comey told him he was having dinner at the White House that evening, and that he was “uneasy” over the invitation from Trump.
It’s unclear whether the “tapes” Trump alluded to in his tweet would be audio or video recordings, or whether they exist at all. As The Washington Post pointed out, the president used a similar construction in his wiretapping accusations against former President Barack Obama.
Soon after Trump’s tweets, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., requested that White House Counsel Donald McGahn turn over any recordings of the president’s conversations with Comey to the House Oversight Committee. Krishnamoorthi also asked for any recording of Trump’s Wednesday meeting with Russian officials, and “any conversations regarding the hiring or firing” former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“These White House tapes could accelerate current investigations as previous tapes have aided past inquiries,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., also issued a blistering statement on Trump’s tweets, calling on the president to “immediately provide any such recordings to Congress or admit, once again, to have made a deliberately misleading — and in this case threatening — statement.”
In his Friday morning tweetstorm, the president also suggested that his administration could do away with briefings for the press, and instead give out written statements.
Trump added that “as a very active president with lots of things happening,” it’s impossible for him to stay in such close communication with his staff that the briefings would be completely accurate.
Spicer also didn’t knock down that assertion, saying that the president was dismayed over the press’s attempts to “parse every little word and make it more of a game of ‘gotcha.'”
Schiff took issue with that as well. “Finally, and with respect to the President’s suggestion that as a very busy person, he doesn’t have time to ensure that his spokespeople are accurately portraying his actions — it is difficult to know how to respond — except to say, being truthful with the American people is a core responsibility of the job,” Schiff said. “If he did not want to willingly undertake even the minimal requirements of the Presidency, it would have been far better for him to have considered that before he chose to run for the highest office in the land.”
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