CNN —  

We’ve entered a new plane of reality where the question of who secretly recorded President Donald Trump doing what without his knowledge has become an overriding theme of his presidency.

Release of secret tapes almost derailed his presidential campaign. Trump’s obsession with the unfounded idea he was being wiretapped by former President Barack Obama, and his concern about rumors he was secretly videotaped by the Russians, now feed strangely into the development that he *actually* was secretly recorded by his lawyer and at least one aide.

And perhaps more incredible than the idea that heads of state would try to spy on each other is that the Trump era is indisputably a time in which a fix-it man dispatched to deal with alleged illicit affairs and a political staffer, both armed with iPhones, hit record while talking to their boss, who now happens to be the US President.

No wonder Trump wanted to be alone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’d actually have a legitimate concern his own staff might be surreptitiously recording him. Transcripts of his phone calls with other world leaders once leaked to the press and showed him admitting that Mexico would not pay for a border wall, despite what he said in public.

Michael Cohen and Omarosa Manigault Newman, in putting Trump on tape, were seeking proof not unlike the “Kompromat” Russian agents allegedly try to get over foreigners. It’s a strange inverse of the Nixon White House, where everything was recorded and subpoenaed and the gaps of recording helped bring the President down.

In Trump’s White House, personal cell phones have been banned in the West Wing since January and staffers either leave them in their cars or check them into lockers.

Cohen’s secret recording of the President, made before the election in 2016, was given to CNN by his attorney as Cohen faces possible legal issues about payments by a media company to a Playboy model and by himself to a porn star who were alleged to have affairs with Trump before he was President.

Manigault Newman’s secret recording emerged as part of her current book tour.

One of the more persistent paranoias Trump has put forth repeatedly on Twitter is that his phone calls were secretly recorded by former President Obama.

There’s never been any evidence for that charge, although it’s clear the FBI had ears on his campaign chairman for unrelated extracurricular activities with foreign governments.

When Trump said on Twitter there might be secret tapes of his conversations with James Comey, it seemed like a joke or a troll.

01:54 - Source: CNN
Trump on Omarosa: She's a 'low-life'

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump said on Twitter in May of 2017.

It still commanded days of media coverage until the White House was forced to admit there actually probably weren’t any tapes, and it also enabled Comey to bring the word “lordy” into common usage for a while.

“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey testified under oath.

And tapes there are. Tapes and tapes. Just not of Trump and Comey. It’s altogether unclear what else could spring from the secret archives of Cohen or Manigault Newman, who said she needed the insurance of secret recordings, despite the serious security implications.

01:08 - Source: CNN
Comey: 'Lordy, I hope there are tapes'

“This is a White House where everybody lies,” she told NBC News.

It’s certainly true there are often different versions of the same event. Like when Trump besmirched Haiti and countries in Africa, aggravating lawmakers and jeopardizing immigration legislation. It can be hard to know exactly what Trump said, especially without a tape to back it up.

That’s how Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin found himself giving press conferences and asking DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen under oath if Trump did in fact use the word “shithole” to refer to those countries.

And sometimes, even with a tape, Trump will raise questions, like when he denied that recordings of him impersonating his own publicist to talk himself up to reporters sounded like him.

There are tapes of the President boasting of assaulting women, which were not enough to derail his campaign.

Tom Arnold, who has long claimed there are tapes of Trump saying horrible things in outtakes of his time on “The Apprentice” and has enough material and innuendo about those tapes to create a mystery-style TV show “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes.” It premieres next month.

At this rate it should surprise no one if we hear some new secretly recorded tapes of the President before then.