WASHINGTON — If President Trump did secretly record his private White House meetings, he didn’t enlist the Secret Service to help.
The agency responded to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Wall Street Journal for any tapes that may exist by saying they didn’t have any audio recordings or transcripts of any tapes.
That doesn’t mean that Trump didn’t record his guests himself, or enlist White House staff to do so. But it eliminates the possibility that he’d recreated a taping system used by Presidents Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy that was run by the Secret Service.
Trump issued a threat to former FBI Director James Comey in early May, warning that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
That tweet has prompted repeated demands from the congressional committees investigating any possible collusion between Trump’s team and Russia during the 2016 campaign, and the process by which he fired Comey, for him to hand over any tapes that exist.
And Comey himself said he hoped recordings of their conversations exist, to back up his own testimony that Trump demanded his loyalty and asked him to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Since his ominous tweet, Trump has repeatedly refused to confirm or deny whether those tapes exist. In a Friday event in the Rose Garden, Trump again refused to do so while promising to unveil whether or not he taped Comey “maybe sometime in the very near future.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer didn’t have any updates on Monday about when that answer may be coming.
Whether or not Trump made the tapes is a huge deal for his presidency. If he didn’t, he appears to have been threatening a former FBI director against talking about their private conversations. If he did make them and refuses to hand them over, that could be interpreted as obstruction of justice — an impeachable offense. If he did make the tapes and hands them over, he better hope they prove his version of the facts, and not Comey’s.