President Donald Trump has issued a stern threat to former FBI director James Comey, warning the man he fired as head of the law enforcement agency this week not to even think about leaking any information. But the act of sending the threat itself could lead to more problems for Trump, including suggestions that in doing so, Trump has committed a crime.
In a tweet on Friday morning, Trump alluded to conversations between the pair that may cause trouble for Comey should they have been recorded in any way.
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
It is not clear whether tapes of conversations between Trump and Comey actually exist or if this is more an instance of Trump grandstanding. The White House did not immediately respond to questions from the Washington Post about whether Trump had the conversations between the men recorded.
The fact that Trump used quotation marks around the word “tapes” suggests that there might be a record of their talks, the Post suggested, even if there were no audio or video recordings. Perhaps that could mean their conversations had been transcribed, but that’s merely speculation at this point.
For what it’s worth, Trump used the same quotes method when he accused former president Barack Obama of wiretapping his offices. He used the phrase “wires tapped,” which press secretary Sean Spicer later waved off as meaning broader surveillance covering the Trump campaign instead of Obama physically having the offices bugged. Any suggestions that Obama wiretapped Trump’s campaign offices have since proven to be unfounded.
2) At a time when he is being compared to Nixon, he implied he has Nixonion secret tapes pic.twitter.com/nqvaGkCGh6
— dcpetterson (@dcpetterson) May 12, 2017
4) He renounced executive privilege as regards communications with the former director of the FBI. pic.twitter.com/GqJ1zVrCCI
— dcpetterson (@dcpetterson) May 12, 2017
It’s possible that Trump sent the threat to Comey in the wake of a New York Times report that suggested Trump twice asked Comey for his loyalty, only to be rebuffed by the FBI director. The pair had a private dinner shortly after the inauguration, during which Trump made the requests, Comey apparently told some associates.
Trump stated in an interview with NBC News Thursday that he had spoken with Comey three times over whether he was the focus of an FBI investigation into Russian meddling with the presidential election. In his termination letter to Comey Tuesday, Trump said he appreciated Comey informing him three times that he was not under investigation — a fact which also might not be true.
Trump wouldn’t be the first president to tape conversations with others. Richard Nixon famously did so in the Oval Office, but the practice of presidents recording talks without the consent of all parties is supposed to have ended.
Presidents are supposed to have stopped routinely taping visitors without their knowledge when Nixon’s taping system was revealed in 1973.
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) May 12, 2017
There were some suggestions that the threat could be tantamount to a criminal act: witness intimidation.
this tweet another possible trump crime: 18 USC 1512, witness intimidation. comey witness 2trump's possible obstruction by demanding loyalty https://t.co/qCUT7AseoA
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) May 12, 2017
But it seems Trump has a history of alluding to fictitious recordings when he is under threat and wishes to distract the public from other matters, as Think Progress notes. The infamous “check out sex tape” tweet and hints at Obama wiretapping have come at times where Trump has felt pressure and wishes to divert attention away from something else, the publication suggested.
Trump sent Friday’s threat as part of a small rant about the press and the investigation into ties between his campaign and Russia. He claimed that the “Fake Media is working overtime today” in reporting on a “fabrication” that there was collusion between his campaign and Russia, again pointing to that as an excuse from Democrats for losing the presidential election. Trump added that “James Clapper […] and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt says there is no collusion.”
Trump also suggested that he may bring to an end the White House press briefings, hinting that he doesn’t completely trust his staff to convey his messaging accurately.
— CNN (@CNN) May 12, 2017
Trump’s threat to Comey comes at the tail end of after a tumultuous week in Washington for the administration. In addition to the shock firing of the FBI director that has turned Washington on its head over the last few days, the administration has also had to endure Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the election.
— The Hill (@thehill) May 12, 2017
Reports suggest that Trump’s reasons for firing Comey were not entirely accurate in his letter to the former FBI director and that recommendations from the attorney general and deputy attorney general were a smokescreen for the real causes: that Comey did not pledge loyalty to Trump, and that the FBI’s investigation into Trump campaign-Russia collusion was intensifying.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]