Even for someone with a history of shocking Twitter tirades that flirt with the limits of legality, propriety, and decency, President Trump’s Friday morning tweet-storm aimed at sacked FBI Director James Comey were ominous and odious.
One in particular stood out:
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
Even though his press secretary, Sean Spicer, denied it in today’s press briefing, it’s clear to anyone with eyeballs that this is a not-at-all subtle threat directed squarely at Comey. It might even rise to the level of witness intimidation, which is a form of obstruction of justice – which, or course, is a crime.
But there’s another angle here beyond the threat. In this tweet, President Trump just hinted that he may have recorded conversations he’s had with Comey – and potentially many other people.
One reporter from Reuters tried to get to the bottom of it in today’s briefing, but Spicer would neither confirm nor deny that the President has recordings of conversations with Comey, or whether or not he has the capability to record conversations in the Oval Office or over his secure phone.
This was the exchange between Spicer and Reuters’ White House correspondent Jeff Mason:
MASON: Did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI director James Comey?
SPICER: I assume you’re referring to his tweet, and I’ve talked to the president, the president has nothing further to add on that.
MASON: Why did he say that? Why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?
SPICER: As I mentioned, the president has nothing further to add on that.
MASON: Are there recording devices in the Oval Office? Or in the residence?
SPICER: For the third time, there’s nothing further to add on that.
MASON: Does he think it’s appropriate to threaten someone like Mr. Comey not to speak?
SPICER: I don’t think that’s – that’s not a threat, he simply stated a fact. The tweet speaks for itself. I’m moving on.
Trump’s surrogates have been out in force in recent days writing and saying anything they can to diffuse and downplay the inevitable comparisons to President Richard Nixon that pundits and journalists can no longer avoid making.
And yet it appears now that the President might be engaged in the most iconically Nixonian tactic of them all.
You can see the video of the exchange below.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 12, 2017
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Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.