Nobody was shown to have wiretapped Donald Trump in his New York office during the presidential campaign.
Nobody turned up a shred of evidence that millions of illegal ballots kept him from winning the popular vote.
Nobody rigged the Republican primaries against him.
Nobody provided evidence that his predecessor wasn’t a citizen — or that he “saw” thousands of Muslims celebrate on 9/11.
So why pay heed when Trump hints darkly that former FBI director James Comey “better hope” there are no tape recordings of their past exchanges?
Congressional Democrats have a clear incentive to keep the issue alive, after being given a unique chance to see if the president secretly taped the FBI director or issued a public bluff.
Trump’s detractors would love to have recordings to subpoena. So, of course, they called on the president to release whatever he has — if it exists.
The lead-up is key.
First Trump fired Comey. Then he got angry when news reports pointed up the muddy mess of accounts that the White House was giving out. The Comey camp talked about a dinner where the president allegedly demanded loyalty.
That’s when Trump let fly his sulky threat.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump tweeted Friday.
Notice the quote marks around the word “tapes.” He also used quote marks March 4 around “wires tapped” when he suggested Obama spied on him.
In both instances, the purpose of the quotes is unclear. But the president seems to think they give him some kind of distance or deniability when it comes to backing up what he said.
As with the wiretap tweet, Trump’s White House staff didn’t seem to know what they were dealing with.
“The president has nothing further to add on that,” his spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday.
Then Trump went on Fox News, where he was asked if there were recorded conversations.
“That I can’t talk about. I won’t talk about it,” he said. “All I want is for Comey to be honest.”
Spicer stuck to the stonewalling on Monday.
Last time, Spicer elaborated on the wiretap claim 10 days after Trump issued it, saying the president “doesn’t really think President Obama went and tapped his phone personally.”
This is the Trump pattern, we are coming to learn.
Eavesdropping and recordings are a recurring issue for him.
He was famously caught on audio boasting of “grabbing” women.
Employees say he listened in on their phone calls at Mar-a-Lago during the mid-2000s.
And recordings of ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador caused a stir as well.
But the Democrats’ hopes of finding a trove of incriminating recordings with which to needle the president appear as dim as Trump’s chances of coming away from this episode looking like neither a faker nor a bluffer.