Trump Threatens Comey With Secretly Recorded “Tapes” of Their Conversations

Here’s your morning Impeachment Watch: The president of the United States, @realDonaldTrump, just publicly threatened to release secretly recorded tapes of his conversations with James Comey, the former FBI director he fired this week.

Trump’s attempt to intimidate Comey appeared to be in response to reports from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News that former director had let it be known, through associates, that the president had lied in the termination letter he had his bodyguard deliver to FBI headquarters on Tuesday. The letter included a bizarre aside in which Trump claimed that he was grateful to the director for assuring him, in three conversations, that the president himself was not under investigation. Trump’s claim, one associate of Comey’s told the Journal, “is literally farcical.”

Nonetheless, Trump repeated that claim in an interview with NBC News on Thursday, saying that he had first asked the director over dinner at the White House on January 27 if he was a subject of the federal investigation into possible collusion between his presidential campaign and the Russian government to undermine his rival, Hillary Clinton.

“I actually asked him, yes,” Trump said of his conversation with Comey, at a dinner requested by the president the day after the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, had informed the White House that the FBI had proof that the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

“I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know — am I under investigation?’” Trump recalled asking Comey. “He said, ‘You are not under investigation.’”

Moments later, Trump admitted that ending the federal investigation into his own campaign was central to his thinking when he made the final decision to fire the FBI director leading the probe.

“I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it,” Trump said, describing his thought process. “And in fact, 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 by the Democrats for having lost an election.’”

“It should be over with,” Trump added of the investigation — which, in fact, began months before he won the election. “In my opinion it should’ve been over a long time ago.”

Trump’s reference to the possible existence of recordings of his conversations with Comey — two of which, he says, took place on the phone — raised the immediate specter of a secret White House recording system, like that used by Trump’s political idol, Richard Nixon.

According to his biographer Tim O’Brien, however, during his long career as a fixture of New York gossip columns, Trump often made similar threats to reporters, hinting at hidden recording devices in his Trump Tower office, which simply did not exist.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump inaccurately claimed that James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, had exonerated him, and described the ongoing FBI investigation as a “witch hunt.”

The presidential Twitter meltdown was not going over well at the FBI, according to a former senior official there who told NBC News: “This threatens the independence of the FBI and goes against core American values.”

“This is not going to end well for this administration,” the former official predicted.

The post Trump Threatens Comey With Secretly Recorded “Tapes” of Their Conversations appeared first on The Intercept.

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