Six hours after President Donald Trump implied that he could be taping phone calls with now-deposed FBI Director James Comey, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to rule that possibility out.
Stop. Go back and read that first sentence again. Ok. Moving on.
“The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer repeated again and again as he was blitzed with questions about the “tape” tweet. “The tweet speaks for itself.”
So, here’s what we know: The president of the United States made a not-so-subtle threat against the FBI director he fired to stay quiet because he might just have recorded the phone calls between the two of them. The White House press secretary, when given a chance to say definitively that no such recording happened, took a pass.
Now ask yourself this: If Trump wasn’t recording phone calls, why wouldn’t Spicer jump at the opportunity to clarify that as soon as humanly possible? After all, secretly recording phone calls in the White House has been off limits since Richard Nixon did so – to great personal damage – during his presidency.
Why, in a week in which Trump is already being compared to Nixon for his firing of Comey, would the White House not immediately swat the story down if it wasn’t true?
There are two possible answers to that question as far as I can tell:
- Trump refuses to acknowledge he got way over his skis in that tweet Friday morning
- Trump is recording his phone calls.
I genuinely don’t know which one is more likely at this point.
My natural tendency would be to assume that of course Trump isn’t recording phone calls because that would be incredibly cavalier and dangerous. But, this is Donald Trump we’re talking about. He built a reputation and a career on saying and doing things no one else would even consider saying or doing. And it got him elected president. So, why would he feel constrained once he was sitting in the Oval Office?
On the other hand, Trump is famous (infamous?) for never saying sorry or even looking backward. His stubbornness has caused him and his staff untold agita in his first 112 days in office. One example: Trump’s tweet that he was being wiretapped by President Obama during the 2016 campaign has been debunked by everyone in a position to know. And yet Trump stands by it – trying desperately to find a way out that doesn’t involve him admitting he made it up. (His latest tactic is to elide his allegation of wiretapping with the broader surveillance being conducted by the National Security Agency.)
Which is it then? I genuinely have no idea.
But no matter the reasons for Trump’s sort-of insinuation and Spicer’s refusal to knock down the idea, we now have real cause to wonder whether this president of the United States has a secret phone recording system up and running.
What a thing to contemplate.