White House Press secretary Sean Spicer speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington,...
Pablo Martinez Monsivais

White House doesn’t deny Trump recording conversations

Donald Trump jolted the political world this morning, making a not-so-veiled threat towards former FBI Director James Comey via Twitter, saying Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Among other things, this raised the specter of previously unknown recordings of Trump’s conversations with Comey – and any number of other discussions the president has held in the White House.

To no one’s surprise, the White House press corps was eager to hear more about the topic Trump raised.
The White House did not deny on Friday that President Donald Trump taped meetings with his former FBI director – or that the president may be recording conversations in the Oval Office.

“The president has nothing further to add on that,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at the daily briefing when asked several times by reporters about the president’s tweet Friday morning referring to “tapes” of Comey.
No one should blame reporters for a lack of effort. Does Trump have recordings of Comey? “The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer said. Are there recording devices in the Oval Office? “The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer said. Are there recordings in the White House residence? “The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer said.

The beleaguered press secretary eventually said Trump’s tweet “speaks for itself” – which hardly seems sufficient, given that it prompted so many questions – and that he’s “moving on” from any questions on the matter.

Spicer may be disappointed to learn no one else seems to be moving on.
Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Conyers of the Judiciary and Government Oversight committees sent a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn on Friday requesting copies of all White House recordings related to the Comey matter.

The letter also sought “all documents, memoranda, analyses, emails, and other communications relating to the President decision to dismiss Director Comey.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, tweeted “Mr. President, if there are “tapes” relevant to the Comey firing, it’s because you made them and they should be provided to Congress.”
As we discussed this morning, if such recordings exist, of course, they can be subpoenaed, either by Congress or by federal investigators.

Whether Trump realizes this or not, he’s opened a can of worms that cannot be easily closed. Every foreign leader who visits the White House, for the remainder of this president’s term, will now have to wonder about secret recordings, which will limit the scope of all conversations. The same is true of every lawmaker, soldier, official, dignitary, staffer, and visitor.

A Washington Post report added, “The reason the White House is in a tough spot is because Trump has now threatened in a very public way to use these hypothetical recordings as a form of blackmail. The point of secretly recording people is that it’s supposed to be secret.”

Unless the president made this up – a distinct possibility – Trump just exposed his own secret in an impulsive and self-defeating moment.

Frankly, the one thing I find most surprising about this is that Spicer didn’t just lie, say that the president was joking, and deny that any recordings have taken place. The press secretary has denied reality on any number of occasions, but it seems in this case, he was worried about the implications of his answer.

Regardless, the questions are unlikely to go away anytime soon.