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Resisting Nixon Comparison, Trump Provokes Tempest Over Secret White House Tapes

Republican senators say they want the probably nonexistent recordings of the president's conversations with James Comey.

Fox NewsFox NewsPresident Trump's recent tweet warning former FBI Director James Comey that their conversations may have been recorded was widely described as a "threat" or even a form of "blackmail," but that is not the way I read it. "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Trump said. To me that sounded like Trump was suggesting Comey should not try to misrepresent what either of them said, since there might be an audio record to contradict him.

That is the explanation Trump himself offered in a Fox News interview that aired on Saturday. Trump told Jeanine Pirro he "won't talk about" whether the hypothetical recordings to which he referred actually exist. "All I want is for Comey to be honest," he said, "and I hope he will be and I'm sure he will be—I hope." In particular, Trump was annoyed by reports from unnamed associates of Comey who say the president, during a January dinner at the White House, demanded a promise of loyalty that the FBI director refused to give. Trump told Pirro that never happened, although "I don't think it would be a bad question to ask."

It might seem strange that Trump, who after firing Comey was likened over and over again to Richard Nixon (a comparison his defenders deem absurd), would invite continued criticism in that vein by talking about surreptitiously recorded White House tapes. And if I had to say which of the two participants in these conversations would be more likely to lie about them, it surely would not be Comey. But from Trump's perspective, the tweet makes perfect sense, since it creates the appearance that he is confident he did not say anything embarrassing and might make Comey think twice about "leaking to the press."

Meanwhile, two Republican senators say the recordings, if they exist, should be turned over to Congress. On NBC's Meet the Press yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the dinner conversation between Trump and Comey might shed light on the president's motivation for firing him—in particular, whether Trump was trying to impede the FBI's investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election, including the Trump campaign's possible involvement.

"Did the president ever say anything to the director of the FBI that would be construed as trying to impede the investigation?" Graham asked. "I think it's time to call the [former] FBI director before the country and [have him] explain what happened at that dinner and, if there are any tapes, they have to be turned over. You can't be cute about tapes. If there are any tapes of this conversation, they need to be turned over. I doubt if there are. But we need to clear the air."

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) agrees. "If, in fact, there are such recordings," Lee said on Fox News Sunday yesterday. "I think those recordings will be subpoenaed, and I think they will probably have to turn them over." Lee alluded to Nixon and Watergate. "There have been instances in the past in which other presidents have made recordings of conversations that have taken place at the White House," he noted. "It doesn't always turn out well. It's not necessarily the best idea."

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  • JWatts||

    ...General Cheeto ...

    Is that the nick name making it's way through the school grounds?

  • Radioactive||

    sort of like "DanO the HomO"?

  • nova3930||

    IMO he's just a Lvl 100 troll and $#!^ stirring machine. I don't think he realizes he's a troll and concurrently I don't think a lot of people realize they're being trolled. They're all too old to be steeped in the internets....

  • loveconstitution1789||

    When will the media never learn?

    Focus on this nonsense while Congress and President Trump are doing something today. What they are doing, nobody knows because this is the news that the media has selected for us unwashed masses to discuss today.

    Maybe Congress and Trump are preparing to roll back more Obama EOs and general bureaucracy nonsense or the Senate is rewriting the House healthcare bill like Reid did to avoid a supermajority Senate vote. This while the media is getting checkmated in X'nth' chess...again.

  • Agammamon||

    We already know he's a crook. So was the guy before him. And the guy before him, and the guy before him, and the guy before him, and the guy before him, and the guy before him, and the guy before him, and the guy before him, and the guy before him, and the guy before him, and the guy before him.

  • Tony||

    Hm, leaving no room for nuance or distinction among crooks, thus letting the worst of them get away with the most.

  • Agammamon||

    Tony, if we did nuance then your favorite president would be in jail right now.

  • damikesc||

    Meanwhile, two Republican senators say the recordings, if they exist, should be turned over to Congress. On NBC's Meet the Press yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the dinner conversation between Trump and Comey might shed light on the president's motivation for firing him—in particular, whether Trump was trying to impede the FBI's investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election, including the Trump campaign's possible involvement.

    Congress has absolutely zero rights to those tapes. Firing Comey was not remotely illegal. There was no interference from Russia in the election beyond what they do with every election. Trump's reason is not anything he needs to explain to Congress.

    Maybe the Senate should try actually do something for a change.

  • Agammamon||

    Congress - as the senior branch of the government and the one that exercises oversight authority over damn near every thing the executive does - is completely entitled to those recording (if they exist). They just need to figure out if they do and subpoena them.

    Firing Comey could quite possibly have been illegal - its not *always* illegal to fire the director of an agency, but when you do you better not be doing it with any possibility that you might be trying to 'obstruct justice' when you do it. Firing Comey could quite possibly be that obstruction - or it could simply be that Trump genuinely didn't feel Comey could lead the FBI like he said in his letter.

  • Jahgro||

    "Congress has absolutely zero rights to those tapes."

    Yeah, they actually do. Unless they are classified, we the people have rights to those tapes.

  • damikesc||

    Executive privilege. Presidents are not subservient to Congress. If not for the criminal acts that were known to have occurred with evidence of them being discussed and recorded, Nixon would have won that case.

  • Agammamon||

    Fuck Executive Privilege. It came into existence to cover up misconduct and has only ever been used to cover up misconduct.

    And yes, the Executive Branch is *functionally* subservient to the Legislative.

  • damikesc||

    It clearly is not. The Executive can decide how to enforce laws passed. Hardly subservient in any measure known.

  • Jerryskids||

    "All I want is for Comey to be honest," he said, "and I hope he will be and I'm sure he will be—I hope."

    Bullshit. Everybody knows - or should know - that one of Trump's own lawyers in a deposition admitted that they have a strict policy of never meeting one-on-one with Trump, there's always a second lawyer taking notes. Why? Because, the lawyer admitted, if there's not a witness to what was discussed and agreed upon, Trump has a bad habit of "misremembering" what was said. IOW - Trump lies like a rug if he gets a chance and everybody knows it if they've ever had any dealings with him. If Comey didn't know this or knew it but still agreed to a one-on-one meeting, he's an idiot and he deserved to get fired for that ignorance alone. Trump's "threat" is nothing more or less than a pre-emptive accusation that Comey's a liar and anything he says can't be trusted when it is in fact Trump that's well-known, hell, famous, liar - it's practically his trademark. Trump is the one scared there's a tape-recording of the conversations between him and Comey and his bluster that Comey is the worried one is just the false bravado of a con man.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Keep focusing on those tapes or whatever you lefties think is important.

    Comey is gone and the new FBI Director will reinvestigate Hillary and recommend indictment.

    The Senate is rewriting the House healthcare bill to avoid the supermajority vote requirement while you people are suddenly loving Comey.

  • BYODB||

    I wouldn't hold my breath on that Hillary investigation happening any time soon, or ever for that matter.

  • BYODB||


    To me that sounded like Trump was suggesting Comey should not try to misrepresent what either of them said, since there might be an audio record to contradict him.


    I'm pretty sure that anyone who doesn't have a big ol' case of TDS read it this way. The only reason it's being read as 'Nixon' is because people hate Trump so much that they've become caricature's of sane rational people.

  • Agammamon||

    "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Trump said. To me that sounded like Trump was suggesting Comey should not try to misrepresent what either of them said, since there might be an audio record to contradict him.

    Seriously people? Because to me that's pretty clearly Trump saying that *Comey* had better not have made any recordings - not a threat that Trump could reveal one Trump made.

  • Brian Whittle||

    There are no tapes, Trump was just typing the first thing that came into his attention span addled brain as per usual.

  • Brian Whittle||

    There are no tapes, Trump was just typing the first thing that came into his attention span addled brain as per usual.

  • Mark22||

    Note to US presidents: mentioning "president" and "tapes" in the same sentence is a bad idea in US politics, no matter the context.

    Note to the elderly: we haven't had "tapes" in a few decades.

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