WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t make recordings of his Oval Office conversations with ousted FBI Director James Comey and has “no idea” if they exist, capping six weeks of intrigue that began with his warning about the prospect of tapes.
“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,” Trump posted on Twitter, “but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”
The president on May 12 had tweeted that Comey — whom Trump had fired three days earlier — “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ before he starts leaking to the press!”
At the heart of the issue is whether Trump asked Comey in a one-on-one Oval Office conversation to abandon an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey testified two weeks ago that Trump had expressed “hope” he would drop the Flynn probe.
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Trump’s private attorney, Marc Kasowitz, after Comey’s testimony said “The president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone.”
In the weeks after Trump’s warning, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed special prosecutor to probe Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller reportedly also is examining potential obstruction of justice by Trump.
Trump and his press officials until Thursday had refused to confirm or deny the existence of tapes.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say why it took the president 41 days to acknowledge whether he had tapes.
“You guys asked for an answer, he gave you one,” she told reporters.
Also Thursday, Trump asked via Twitter why the Democratic National Committee didn’t turn over its hacked email server to authorities, and called aspects of the Russia story a “big Dem scam” and “big Dem HOAX.”
Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testified Wednesday before a House panel that the DNC didn’t feel it needed the help of his agency after the cyberattack.
Huckabee Sanders said she believed that Trump saw as a hoax the attempts to “delegitimize his win” and his critical tweets were “less about the hack itself.”
Asked if the president believes Moscow directed attempts to meddle in last year’s election — as is the consensus of the intelligence community and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — she referred to Trump’s January news conference in Manhattan.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people,” he had said then, saying one cyberattack affecting him “was probably China.”