U.S. President Donald Trump warned ousted FBI director James Comey on Friday against talking to the media, suggesting there might be tapes of conversations between the two men that could contradict his account.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump said in a string of Twitter posts. In a report that added to critics’ charges that Trump has overstepped the norms of his office, the New York Times reported that the president asked Comey in January to pledge loyalty to him, a request that would undermine the standing of the FBI chief as an independent law enforcer.
On Twitter, Trump appeared to suggest that if Comey gave his version of contacts between them, the administration might produce tapes of conversations, although it was not clear if such tapes exist. The veiled threat added to the storm over Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday afternoon would not expand on or answer questions whether recording devices exist in the White House or whether Trump recorded conversations with Comey.
“The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer repeatedly said, rejecting the notion it was any kind of warning.
“I don’t think, that’s not a threat, he simply stated a fact. The tweet speaks for itself,” he said.
When asked if Trump requested loyalty from Comey in January, Spicer said: “No.”
“I think the president wants loyalty to this country and to the rule of law,” he said.
Adam Schiff, the top ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, in an official statement, called Trump’s suggestion that he may have taped Comey “staggering.”
“The president should immediately provide any such recordings to Congress or admit, once again, to have made a deliberately misleading — and this case threatening — statement,” said Schiff.
Russia probe in limbo
Critics have assailed Trump for dismissing the FBI chief at a time when the agency is investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump presidential campaign.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation probe and parallel congressional investigations have cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency since he took office on Jan. 20, threatening to overwhelm his policy priorities.
Democrats have accused Trump of trying to dent the FBI probe by firing Comey, and have called for a special counsel to investigate the Russia issue. The New York Times said Comey has told associates he declined to make a pledge of loyalty to Trump when the president requested it as the pair had dinner at the White House just seven days after his inauguration.
Comey instead told the Republican president he could count on his honesty, the Times said.
Trump says Comey had told him three times he was not under investigation in the Russia probe. He said in…