'Threat about tapes was to keep Comey honest,' claims Trump
US President Donald Trump suggested he was just trying to keep fired FBI director James Comey honest with his cryptic tweet implying there might be recordings of their private conversations.
Mr Trump ended a month-long guessing game on Thursday by tweeting that he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with Mr Comey. In an interview that aired yesterday on Fox News, Mr Trump said: "When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it's governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed."
Asked if he was trying to keep Mr Comey honest, Mr Trump added: "It wasn't very stupid, I can tell you that. He was - he did admit that what I said was right."
The tapes saga began in May, just days after Mr Trump fired Mr Comey, who then was leading an investigation into Trump associates' ties to Russian officials. Mr Trump has disputed Mr Comey's version of a January dinner during which, according to Mr Comey, the president asked for a pledge of loyalty.
Mr Trump responded at that time, via Twitter, that Mr Comey "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
That initial Twitter missive triggered a series of consequences, each weightier than the last. Mr Comey has suggested that the tweet prompted him to ask an associate to release damaging information to the 'New York Times'.
The resulting news reports built pressure on a top Justice Department official to appoint an independent prosecutor to oversee the Russia investigation.
That special counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller, is now reportedly investigating Mr Trump's own actions in a probe that could dog his presidency for the foreseeable future.
The president in his Fox News interview seemed to try to undermine Mr Mueller's impartiality, saying he is "very, very good friends with Comey, which is bothersome".
Mr Trump also did not say exactly what he thought had changed about Mr Comey's story. The former FBI director has only offered his story publicly once, in testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, although his associates provided some details to the news media before that.
Mr Trump's tweets, old and new, left many perplexed about whether there was motive or strategy behind the whole affair.