The big mystery of the last few weeks has finally been resolved.
…whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
Actually, there was never any big mystery about whether or not there were tapes. No one who has watched this president for any length of time thought that if he had tapes that exonerated himself and contracted Comey’s testimony he would have kept them secret.
What is significant about this admission (although nothing new for how Trump operates) is that he couldn’t simply say that there were no tapes. He had to harken back to a previous lie about being wiretapped by the Obama administration along with claims about unmasking and illegal leaks in order to distract from his suggestion that tapes might exist. In other words, it is yet another example of this president’s pattern of lie, distract and blame. I am reminded of how, when he finally admitted that Obama was an American citizen, he felt the need to lie about Hillary Clinton being the source of the birther claims.
In an interview with Fox and Friends, Trump repeated that lie, distract and blame pattern, suggesting that there has been “surveillance all over the place.” But then he said this in response to a question about why he implied there might be tapes in the first place:
But, when [Comey] found out 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. I mean, you’ll have to take a look at that because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events. And my story didn’t change. My story was always a straight story. My story was always the truth. But you’ll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed…
He did admit that what I said was right. And if you look further back, before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn’t admitting that, so, you’ll have to do a little investigative reporting to determine that.
It doesn’t take much “investigative reporting” to determine whether or not Comey’s story changed after Trump alluded to the possibility of tapes. It’s true that, under oath, the former FBI Director said that while he was still in charge of the investigation, Trump was not a target. That is what the president wanted to hear and has used repeatedly to claim that he is now vindicated.
Comey’s story didn’t change about that. He had simply never gone on record to say whether or not Trump had been under investigation. It is more likely that his firing by the president spurred him to recount their conversations about that for the first time.
But the suggestion that there were tapes did prompt Comey to take a significant step. According to what he told the Senate Intelligence Committee, the possibility that there were tapes of their conversations led him to leak a memo about his meeting with the Trump in which the president asked him to drop the Flynn investigation. Further, Comey said that he did so assuming that would prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor. He was right, that’s exactly what happened.
There are a couple of angles to take with this story. One of them is that if Trump had never suggested there were tapes, his conversation with Comey about the Flynn investigation might not be public knowledge.
The other angle is that Trump is basically claiming that he suggested there were tapes in order to get Comey to change his testimony—which is a damning admission on his part. His tweet about tapes came the day after the New York Times published the story about Trump’s dinner with Comey in which the president asked for loyalty from the FBI Director. Trump was mad and threw out the possibility that there were tapes in a fit of rage. It is very similar to the time when he tweeted that Obama had wiretapped him in a fit of rage about AG Sessions recusing himself from the Russia probe.
A couple of weeks ago Nancy Pelosi suggested that Donald Trump would “self-impeach.” I suspect that she was simply watching how all of this is unfolding. If the president hadn’t fired Comey, he might not be under investigation for obstruction of justice. If he hadn’t thrown out the possibility that there were tapes of his conversations with Comey, we might not know about his attempt to stop the Flynn investigation. And if he hadn’t felt the need to justify his lie about the possibility of tapes, we wouldn’t know that he did so to try to influence the testimony of a witness.
All of this is the result of Trump’s emotional instability and mental health issues. He is clearly unfit for office. As he increasingly feels the need to defend his own false version of reality, Trump is increasingly his own worst enemy.