WASHINGTON — President Trump promised to reveal “over a fairly short period of time” whether tapes of White House conversations with former FBI Director James Comey exist and pledged “100 percent” to testify under oath in the Russia investigation.
Shortly after Comey was fired in May, Trump tweeted, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
In his sworn testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, Comey declared that he’d be happy if there are any White House tapes of his meetings with Trump and said he’d approve of their release. “I’ve seen the tweet about tapes,” he said. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
“All I can do is hope,” Comey added later. “The president knows whether or not he tapes me. If he did, I’m not offended. Release the tapes.”
At a Rose Garden press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis this afternoon, Trump was asked why he felt vindicated by Comey’s testimony and if White House tapes exist.
“I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future,” Trump said of the recordings question.
“But in the meantime, no collusion, no obstruction. He’s a leaker. But we want to get back to running our great country. Jobs, trade deficits, we want them to disappear fast. North Korea, big problem. Middle East, a big problem. So that’s what I am focused on; that’s what I have been focused on,” Trump said, veering to his Electoral College victory before coming back to Comey. “But we were very, very happy and, frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just weren’t true.”
Trump was later pressed on Comey’s recollection of their February Oval Office meeting, in which Comey said Trump told him, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
“I didn’t say that,” Trump said today. “…And there’d be nothing wrong if I did say according to everybody that I’ve read today, but I did not say that.”
Trump also denied Comey’s retelling of a January White House dinner, during which the former FBI director said the president told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”
“I hardly know the man. I’m not going to say, ‘I want you to pledge allegiance.’ Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean think of it, I hardly know the man. It doesn’t make sense,” Trump told reporters. “No, I didn’t say that and I didn’t say the other.”
“So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that, you would be willing to talk to him?” ABC’s Jon Karl asked.
“I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you, Jon,” Trump replied.
“And you seem to be hinting that there are recordings of those conversations,” Karl added.
“I’m not hinting anything,” Trump responded. “I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time.”
When another reported asked if there were tapes, the president added, “Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.”
Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who are leading the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, announced today that they sent out two letters: first, to Comey “to request any notes or memoranda in his possession memorializing discussions Comey had with President Trump.”
“Second, the Committee wrote a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn, requesting that he inform the Committee whether any White House recordings or memoranda of Comey’s conversations with President Trump now exist or have in the past,” the committee announcement said. “To the extent they exist now, the Committee’s letter asks that copies of such materials be produced to the Committee by June 23.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who got to question Comey on Thursday as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN today that “at some point” he predicts special counsel Robert Mueller “would feel he has to depose the president.”
“I think that’s, ultimately, what will happen. Because, in the course of these investigations, particularly with special prosecutor Mueller, since part of this, as was indicated yesterday, goes to the rationale behind the firing of Mr. Comey and the rational of trying to deflect, if not stop, the investigation of General Flynn,” Reed said. “It involves, to some degree, the president.”
On White House recordings, the senator said either “there are tapes and they confirm what Mr. Comey said, there are no tapes and so the president is misleading in his statement, or there are tapes that refute Comey. If that was the case, I think those tapes would be public already.”