Trump denies taping Comey, but doesn’t rule out that someone else did

Is the White House bugged?

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrive for the “American Leadership in Emerging Technology” event in the East Room of the White House on Thursday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On Thursday, President Trump claimed he does not possess and did not make tapes of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, but didn’t rule out the possibility that “electronic surveillance” had picked up their talks.

With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea…

 — @realDonaldTrump

whether there are “tapes” or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.

 — @realDonaldTrump

Trump first suggested tapes of his conversations with Comey exist in a tweet he posted days after he decided to fire the former FBI director amid an active FBI investigation into his campaign.

James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

 — @realdonaldtrump

Since then, White House officials have repeatedly refused to answer questions about whether Comey tapes exist. During a June 9 news conference, Trump responded to a question about whether tapes exist by telling reporters, “I’ll tell you about that over a very short period of time.”

Trump’s tweets on Thursday came shortly after Bloomberg, citing “a person familiar with the matter,” reported that Trump “doesn’t have recordings of his conversations” with Comey.

“Trump raised the possibility of tapes in a strategic fashion to ensure that Comey told the truth, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity,” Bloomberg reported.

Trump, in other words, misled the American people in an effort to intimidate his former FBI director, who is a witness in the criminal investigation of Trump for obstruction of justice. But in his testimony, Comey actually expressed hope that tapes of his conversations with Trump do exist, telling senators, “I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

The fact there are no tapes shows that @realDonaldTrump was making stuff up to try to intimidate a witness. #ThursdayThoughts https://t.co/W5IwPO5sMT

 — @tedlieu

Comey testified that during private conversations at the White House, Trump asked him to pledge personal loyalty and to quash an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s lies about his communications with Russia. Trump reacted to Comey’s testimony by accusing the former FBI director of lying under oath.

Trump’s reference to “electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information” is a callback to the scandal he and his Republican allies in Congress tried to manufacture about intelligence reports detailing his advisers’ communications with Russian officials. That “scandal” was rooted in another reckless tweetstorm in which Trump accused President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower.

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

 — @realDonaldTrump

Trump’s accusation was quickly and thoroughly debunked. In April, numerous media outlets, citing both Republican and Democratic congressional sources, reported that intelligence reports pertaining to the communications of Trump’s advisers with foreign agents were “normal and appropriate” and contained “no evidence of wrongdoing.” That didn’t stop Trump, however — in a subsequent interview, he continued to claim, without evidence, that what the Obama administration did was “horrible.”

When Trump alluded to possible “electronic surveillance” of his private talks with Comey, it wasn’t the first time he expressed extreme paranoia about the intelligence community on Thursday. Earlier in the day, he accused the intelligence community of conspiring with Democrats to manufacture evidence that Russia interfered in the presidential election on his behalf.

During a briefing with reporters shortly after Trump posted his tweets, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to expand on Trump’s comments, saying, “I think the president’s statement via Twitter today is extremely clear. I don’t have anything to add beyond the statement.”


Trump denies taping Comey, but doesn’t rule out that someone else did was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Trump accuses Democrats of making up evidence of Russian interference

His tweetstorm is the clearest evidence yet he simply rejects the consensus view of current and former officials.

President Trump arrives on stage to speak at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

In a Thursday morning tweetstorm, President Trump accused Democrats of manufacturing evidence that Russia interfered in the presidential election on his behalf.

By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn’t they stop them?

 — @realDonaldTrump

Why did Democratic National Committee turn down the DHS offer to protect against hacks (long prior to election). It’s all a big Dem HOAX!

 — @realDonaldTrump

Why did the DNC REFUSE to turn over its Server to the FBI, and still hasn’t? It’s all a big Dem scam and excuse for losing the election!

 — @realDonaldTrump

Since becoming president in January, Trump has repeatedly insisted on Twitter that the “phony Russia story” is “fake news.” His view of the matter contradicts the US intelligence community’s joint assessment, the sworn testimony of a number of current and former intelligence officials, and recent news reports based on a leaked National Security Agency document detailing Russian hackers’ efforts to penetrate state-level voting systems.

During a White House briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to answer a question about if President Trump believes that Russia actually interfered in the 2016 election.

Spicer won’t say if Trump believes overwhelming evidence of Russian election interference

“I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing,” Spicer said. “Obviously we’ve been dealing with a lot of other issues today. I’d be glad to touch base.”

Within 24 hours of Spicer’s briefing, testimony in the House and Senate from former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Dr. Sam Liles, acting director of the Cyber Division of DHS, exposed the absurdity of the White House’s line. Johnson told House members there is no doubt Russian interference occurred and provided a timeline of what the DHS knew and when it knew it. Liles, meanwhile, told senators her department has evidence Russian hackers targeted election-related computer systems in 21 states.

It took less than a day for White House’s line about Russian interference to be exposed as a farce

Trump, however, apparently thinks current and former intelligence community officials are making the whole thing up in an effort to cover for Democrats.

Trump’s tweetstorm on Thursday is reminiscent of one he posted in early March, during which he recklessly accused President Obama of wiretapping him. It comes on the heels of Trump accusing former FBI Director James Comey of perjuring himself during Senate testimony. Comey told senators about Trump’s efforts to get him to pledge personal loyalty and to quash an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s lies about his communications with Russian officials.

Shortly after the Washington Post broke news last December about the CIA briefing US senators about their findings that Russian hackers meddled in the election on behalf of Trump, the then-president-elect released a statement slamming the intelligence community, describing them as “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

Around that same time, Trump used now-familiar talking points during a Time Magazine interview in which he said he didn’t accept the intelligence community’s conclusion.

“I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered,” Trump said. He reiterated that position during a Fox News Sunday interview days later, characterizing the CIA’s findings about Russian meddling as “just another excuse” Democrats are using to explain Clinton’s loss.

While Trump’s view on Russian interference is at odds with the US intelligence community, it’s in lockstep with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During an interview late last month, Putin told a French newspaper that allegations of Russian meddling are a “fiction” created by Democrats to cover for Clinton’s loss.

“They simply lost, and they must acknowledge it,” Putin said.


Trump accuses Democrats of making up evidence of Russian interference was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

It took less than a day for White House’s line about Russian interference to be exposed as a farce

Congressional testimony reenforced that Russian meddling in the election isn’t “fake news.”

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies to the House Intelligence Committee task force on on June 21 as part of the Russia investigation. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

During a White House briefing on Tuesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer elicited an incredulous response from reporters when he told them he and President Trump haven’t talked about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing,” Spicer said. “Obviously we’ve been dealing with a lot of other issues today. I’d be glad to touch base.”

Spicer wouldn’t even confirm if Trump accepts overwhelming evidence — including the US intelligence community’s joint assessment, the sworn testimony of a number of current and former intelligence officials, and recent news reports based on a leaked National Security Agency document — that Russia used cyberattacks and other methods to interfere in the election on his behalf.

Spicer won’t say if Trump believes overwhelming evidence of Russian election interference

Within 24 hours of Spicer’s briefing, testimony in the House and Senate highlighted the absurdity of the White House line.

In the House, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told members there is no doubt about Russian interference.

“In 2016 the Russian government, at the direction of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election — plain and simple. Now, the key question for the president and Congress is: What are we going to do to protect the American people and their democracy from this kind of thing in the future?” he said.

Ex-DHS Sec.: Russians, at the direction of Putin himself, cyberattacked the US to influence 2016 election. “That is a fact. Plain & simple.” https://t.co/ZayDreTnT3

 — @BraddJaffy

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Dr. Sam Liles, acting director of the Cyber Division of DHS, told members that her department has evidence Russian hackers targeted election-related computer systems in 21 states.

FLAG: DHS on Russian interference: “We have evidence of 21 states, election-related systems in 21 states, that were targeted.” https://t.co/CKuDrsazSh

 — @kylegriffin1

These aren’t necessarily shocking revelations. As Johnson detailed in his written testimony, DHS tried to sound the alarm about Russian hacking of state election systems as far back as last August, the month before the FBI launched its investigation into the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia.

A month later, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper publicly suggested for the first time that recent computer attacks carried out against the Democratic Party were perpetrated by Russians,” as the Wall Street Journal reported at the time. Clapper said earlier this month that the Trump-Russia scandal, in his estimation, makes Watergate pale in comparison.

The suspicious circumstances of Sessions’ second meeting with the Russian ambassador

Russian interference in the 2016 election isn’t the first inconvenient fact the White House has refused to accept. Other examples include Trump’s rejection of mainstream climate science; his stubborn, evidence-free claims about voter fraud costing him the popular vote and President Obama wiretapping him; and his fear-mongering about rising crime rates that aren’t shown in crime data. Trump began his presidency by having Spicer insist, against all evidence, that the crowd attending his inauguration was the largest of all time.

During his testimony, Johnson raised the question of how federal and state officials will try to prevent meddling by in the future. They certainly can’t expect much help from Trump, who has repeatedly insisted on Twitter that the “phony Russia story” is “fake news.”


It took less than a day for White House’s line about Russian interference to be exposed as a farce was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Spicer won’t say if Trump believes overwhelming evidence of Russian election interference

He claims the two have never talked about it.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

During a White House briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to answer a question about if President Trump believes that Russia actually interfered in the 2016 election.

“I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing,” Spicer said. “Obviously we’ve been dealing with a lot of other issues today. I’d be glad to touch base.”

The reporter who asked Spicer the question — Trey Yingst of One America News — wasn’t satisfied with that response, and sought clarification.

“Generally speaking, I mean this conversation about Russian interference in our elections, there’s 16 intelligence agencies that say they did it,” Yingst said, referring to the Intelligence Community Assessment released in early January that found the Putin regime was behind an “influence campaign” meant to “undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

“The former FBI director said that without a doubt the Russians interfered,” Yingst added. “Does the president share those views?

Spicer reiterated that he doesn’t know.

“I have not sat down and asked him about his specific reaction to them, so I’d be glad to touch base and get back to you,” he said, before quickly moving on as another reporter could be heard trying to interject, “Didn’t [Trump] say it was fake news, Sean? Didn’t the president say that Russia was fake news?”

June 20, 2017 – Spicer still can’t say if Trump believes that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, despite U.S. intel saying they did https://t.co/VIwCZmfpuc

 — @BraddJaffy

In addition to the intelligence community’s assessment and former FBI director Comey’s remarks, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan have both publicly testified about Russia’s attempt to influence the election in Trump’s favor.

On June 5, The Intercept, citing a leaked National Security Agency document, broke news that “Russian hacking may have penetrated further into US voting systems than was previously understood.” A week later, Bloomberg expanded on The Intercept’s reporting in its own story about how “Russia’s cyberattack on the US electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.” On Monday, McClatchy DC detailed how “Russian operatives hacked into the Florida headquarters of VR Systems, Inc., the vendor that sold them digital products to manage voter registrations” in an attempt to sow chaos.

And yet, as the reporter during Tuesday’s briefing tried to note before Spicer moved on, Trump has repeatedly dismissed the Russian interference story as “fake news.”

It is the same Fake News Media that said there is “no path to victory for Trump” that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!

 — @realDonaldTrump

Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!

 — @realDonaldTrump

The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story – RUSSIA. Fake news!

 — @realDonaldTrump

While it’s hard to believe that Trump’s chief spokesperson hasn’t talked to the president about an adversarial power’s attempt to undermine US democracy, it isn’t the first time Spicer has used that line to dodge an uncomfortable question. Earlier this month, Spicer repeatedly refused to answer questions about whether Trump accepts mainstream climate science, telling reporters he had “not had the opportunity to have that discussion” with the president.

But the Trump administration’s disinterest in Russian interference goes beyond Spicer and Trump. During congressional testimony last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he hasn’t yet even received a classified briefing about Russian interference.

Former FBI agent details how Trump and Russia team up to weaponize fake news

There’s a reason why the Russian story is especially uncomfortable for the White House. During testimony before Congress in March, former FBI special agent Clint Watts explained how Russia and the Trump campaign teamed up to weaponize fake news.

“Part of the reason active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the Commander-in-Chief [Trump] has used Russian active measures at times, against his opponents,” Watts said, going on to cite two examples of when the Trump campaign touted fake news stories that originated on Russian websites.


Spicer won’t say if Trump believes overwhelming evidence of Russian election interference was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.