US President Donald Trump has warned ousted FBI director James Comey against talking to the press, taking to Twitter to hint there may be recorded conversations between the two which the White House would use to counter any account Comey gives to media.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press,” the president posted.
It followed a series of other early-morning postings by the president in which he railed against inaccurate news coverage and threatened to cancel future press briefings as the White House battles against the fallout of Comey’s dismissal.
The blunt threat comes as Trump critics accuse the president of attempting to impede the FBI’s investigations into Trump’s ties to Russia and whether his campaign colluded with Russian authorities during the 2016 presidential race.
The question whether Russia also interfered in the US presidential election is the subject of a congressional investigation in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Those investigations are joined by parallel probes by the FBI and the Department of Justice.
It is not immediately clear, however, if the White House has any recorded conversations between Trump and Comey.
The White House would not comment on whether it had recorded conversations between the FBI and the president, nor did it comment on whether conversations within the oval office were being recorded.
The White House did say it was not aware of any recorded conversations between Comey and Trump when the two had dinner together in January.
That dinner is the subject of a New York Times article published this week in which Comey claims to several associates Trump asked for his loyalty.
Such a request could have potentially undermined the freedom of the FBI in pursuing its investigations. Comey, according to the NYT, refused the president, telling him instead he could count on his honesty.
Trump disputes the NYT’s reporting and has said he never asked for Comey’s allegiance. He also took to Twitter to accuse Democrats of fabricating reports his campaign worked with Russia to influence the election.
“Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election,” Trump posted.
In March, Comey told the House Intelligence Committee the FBI was investigating Moscow’s role in the election. He also confirmed it was investigating whether the Trump campaign worked with Russian officials. It was the first time the former FBI director publically acknowledged the FBI was looking into the matter.
Trump claims Comey confirmed with him on three separate occasions that he was not the subject of an FBI investigation.
In an exclusive interview with NBC this week, President Trump spoke at length about his decision to fire Comey in which he admitted he had thought about the FBI’s investigation.
“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story it’s an excuse … When I did this now, I said I probably, maybe, will confuse people”, Trump said to NBC’s Lester Holt. “Maybe I’ll lengthen the time of the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people. [Comey] is the wrong man for [FBI Director].”
It’s a revelation that has further intensified Democratic critiques of Trump and prompted some American media to claim Trump had admitted to deliberately obstructing justice – an impeachable offence.
Richard Durbin, the second highest ranked Senate Democrat, called the president “dangerous” on MSNBC and said his credibility has been “destroyed” by how Trump has handled the investigations into Russia.
Durbin added the president “may be obstructing justice in terms of the investigation”.