Trump threatens ex-FBI head Comey with possible ‘tapes’ of conversations

President’s tweet suggests he had been secretly taping White House meetings, after the New York Times reported that he demanded ‘loyalty’ from Comey

‘As a very active president with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!’ Trump tweeted. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Donald Trump threatened former FBI director James Comey on Twitter on Friday morning.

Trump tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

The tweet, which if taken at face value would suggest Trump has been secretly taping White House meetings, came after the New York Times reported that he demanded “loyalty” from Comey in a private dinner held shortly after Trump took office.

At the White House press briefing on Friday afternoon, press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly refused to deny that Trump was taping visitors to the White House.

Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into alleged links between Trump aides and Russia during the 2016 election, was fired on Tuesday in a surprise announcement.

The White House initially claimed Comey was fired by recommendation of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who was dissatisfied with Comey’s handling of the Clinton email scandal. But Trump later said it was entirely his decision and said “this Russia thing” factored into it.

The White House’s constantly shifting story on Comey’s firing fueled controversy as administration officials who initially followed the Rosenstein line had to confront Trump’s statement in an interview with NBC.

“I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said. “My decision. I was going to fire Comey.”

The mention of tapes will only fuel further comparisons to Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Nixon infamously taped meetings in the Oval Office and recordings of those meetings led to his resignation from office.

Michael Beschloss, a leading presidential historian, said on Twitter on Friday: “Presidents are supposed to have stopped routinely taping visitors without their knowledge when Nixon’s taping system was revealed in 1973.”

Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said on Twitter: “Mr President, if there are ‘tapes’ relevant to the Comey firing, it’s because you made them and they should be provided to Congress.”

Two other leading House Democrats, Elijah Cummings of Maryland and John Conyers of Michigan, said in an open letter that the White House must hand over such tapes, should they in fact exist.

Trump’s sacking of Comey had already been likened to the “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973, when attorney general Elliot L Richardson and deputy attorney general William D Ruckelshaus resigned after refusing an order to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor leading the Watergate investigation.

Several Senate Democrats explicitly compared the firing of Comey to that event, comparisons that…

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