Tuesday 24 April 2018

'I did not record conversations with ex-FBI director' - Trump

US president has 'no idea' if any tapes of meetings exist

Former FBI chief James Comey. Photo: AP
Former FBI chief James Comey. Photo: AP

Nick Allen

US President Donald Trump has admitted he did not record conversations with James Comey, the man he sacked as FBI director, and has no "tapes" of their encounters.

The president's announcement came six weeks after suggesting he may have made tapes of a private dinner at the White House and a series of phone calls between the two men.

Mr Comey has maintained that the president asked for a pledge of loyalty from him at the dinner and directed him to drop an FBI investigation into former White House national security adviser Michel Flynn.

Mr Trump, who strongly disputed that version, said in a tweet last month that "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"

However, yesterday Mr Trump said the tapes did not exist.

He said: "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are 'tapes' or recordings of my conversations with James Comey.

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP
US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP

"But I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."

Mr Trump fired Mr Comey, who was leading an investigation into whether there were contacts between the president's campaign and Russian officials, on May 9.

In a subsequent 'New York Times' report associates of Mr Comey recounted his version of the dinner at the White House in January.

They claimed Mr Comey had declined to make a pledge of loyalty and instead offered to be "honest".

It was also claimed that Mr Trump told Mr Comey he "hoped" the FBI director could "let go" of the Flynn investigation.

At a congressional hearing Mr Comey said he hoped the president had recorded their conversations because it would back up his account. Mr Comey said: "Lordy, I hope there are tapes."

More weight may now be given to the contemporaneous notes of the conversations made by Mr Comey.

The president's latest comments also indicated his belief that he might be under some sort of surveillance in the White House. He said he had "no idea" if other entities were recording conversations there.

The most infamous recording system used in the White House was that of president Richard Nixon. The tapes led to his downfall in the Watergate scandal.

Under a post-Watergate law, the Presidential Records Act, recordings made by presidents belong to the people and can eventually be made public, and destroying them would be a crime.

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and friend of the president, said: "I think he was, in his way, instinctively trying to rattle Comey. He's not a professional politician. He doesn't come back and think about Nixon and Watergate. His instinct is 'I'll out-bluff you'."

White House spokesman Sarah Sanders said the president had made his announcement this week because the House Intelligence Committee had asked the White House to hand over any tapes relating to Mr Comey by today.

The US Secret Service had said it had no audio copies or transcripts of any tapes recorded within Mr Trump's White House, according to a freedom of information request submitted by 'The Wall Street Journal'.

That did not exclude the possibility that recordings were created by another entity. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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