WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted that he did not record his conversations with then-FBI Director James Comey, putting to rest one of the biggest lingering mysteries surrounding the drama between the president and the FBI head he later dismissed.
Trump tweeted in May, shortly after he fired the FBI boss, that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’” of their conversations.
Media reports surfaced soon after Comey’s firing that revealed the existence of memos detailing conversations between the president and Comey. Trump and Comey spoke several times, both in person and on the phone.
The White House dodged questions about the tapes until after Trump’s tweet Thursday. At a White House briefing, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not offer an explanation as to why the president floated the existence of tapes or why he failed to address the allegations for more than a month.
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“I think the president's statement via Twitter is extremely clear. I don't have anything to add,” Sanders said.
She said the president did not regret the tweet that helped spark the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.
Comey testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month that the prospects of taped conversations between him and Trump spurred him to ask a confidant to alert the New York Times about the existence of the memos. The revelation provided more pressure on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to oversee the probe.
The former FBI head said Trump asked for his “loyalty” during a January dinner, and suggested he let the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “go.”
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey told Congress during his testimony.
In a press conference earlier this month, Trump denied both asking Comey for his loyalty and pushing for him to drop the Flynn investigation.
"I hardly know the man, I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance, under oath?" Trump said.
Trump's announcement comes just one day ahead of a House Intelligence Committee deadline for the White House to provide the panel with any recordings between Trump and Comey.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the committee, said Thursday that the tweets were insufficient.
"If the president didn’t make tapes or isn’t aware of tapes, then why did he hang the idea of tapes over James Comey’s head? Did he try to intimidate him, was he trying to discourage others from coming forward? There’s a lot that still remains to be answered here," Schiff said.
Schiff said the White House must officially respond to the committee by tomorrow’s deadline regarding whether they know of any recordings.
If they do not respond, Schiff says the next stop is to subpoena the White House, though he doesn’t expect that to happen. If the White House does respond and claims that they do not know about the existence of tapes, the committee will continue to ask all those they interview whether they know anything about the president’s recording habits.
"The president’s now denial is not a complete denial. He’s only saying he didn’t record the conversations and he doesn’t know whether there are recordings out there, so we’ll continue to explore this," Schiff said.