Washington (CNN)Nobody outside the White House knows if Donald Trump is actually recording private conversations, as he teased in a tweet.
These are the secret White House recordings you should be listening to
"James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" the President tweeted May 12 in a not-subtle warning to the deposed FBI Director.
This particular presidency being what it is, nobody's really sure if there's a new White House taping system or not. But for a president who was already dodging comparisons to Nixon for his firing of Comey -- Nixon fired the Watergate independent prosecutor Archibald Cox in a standoff over recordings in the White House -- teasing a taping system has spun the controversy in an entirely new and interesting direction.
We'll continue to track that. White House press secretary Sean Spicer wouldn't give any further information on it at Monday's press briefing.
NPR had a solid and relatively brief history of White House taping systems from FDR through Nixon, when presidents and their administrations wised up about the idea of recording their discussions.
Regardless, there is a rich history of taping both conversations at the White House and in the Oval Office and phone calls between presidents and all sorts of people. It summarily ended when Nixon left office, one step ahead of the impeachment vote.
There are troves of historically fascinating and politically enlightening tapes online. They range from matters of nuclear war and the very existence of humanity to very human displays of pique to how a president wears his pants.
We'll never hear these private moments from administrations between Nixon and Trump, because there were no recording systems. Trump's tweet suggests the possibility "tapes" could be making a comeback.
The good folks at the University of Virginia's Miller Center have almost a Grateful Dead-style guide to some of the better recordings and deeper tracks.
Recordings range from high quality taps of phone conversations to muddled multi-person discussions to the Truman tapes, which the Miller Center describes as unsearchable and "largely unintelligible."
But it's crystal clear on the phone line for the moment Richard Nixon learned about the Pentagon Papers, which had been published in The New York Times, from his National Security Advisor Alexander Haig.
Nixon clearly hadn't read the story when Haig explained it to him.
When the enormity of what was leaked sunk in, Nixon had a clear first thought.
"Now, I'd just start right at the top and fire some people. I mean, whoever, whatever department it came out of, I'd fire the top guy," he told Haig.
The Miller Center has isolated the moment when Kennedy called the White House doctor's office to order "one of those blue pills."
But if you really want to while away a few days, go to the site for George Washington University's National Security Archive and curl up with the full recordings of the internal White House deliberations about the Cuban Missile Crisis. There's fascinating stuff in there as Kennedy, often with his brother Robert, goes back and forth about how to deal with the Russian nuclear weapons being readied on Cuba. He's pushing back against his military leaders and worried himself about impeachment at points.
There's a lot of Nixon tapes around Watergate, obviously. Many recordings were played in open court. Hear those at the Nixon presidential library.
There's plenty of recorded history for Lyndon Johnson, too. Miller Center features his no-nonsense talk with Martin Luther King Jr., plotting the enactment of progressive policies after the assassination of Kennedy.
They've also isolated his call with Jacqueline Kennedy 10 days after the assassination, in which he repeatedly asks her to come visit him more because she gives him strength.
By far the strangest and most infamous White House recording is the one of Johnson talking to Haggar about how he'd like his pants made. Let's just say there is a lot of detail. GQ has animated that transcript and put it on YouTube.
Who knows how Trump talks to his tailor or what secrets would be picked up by a taping system, but audiophiles and historians can only hope the President ignores the lessons of his predecessors and hits "record."