“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
On the surface, Trump’s tweet appears to be a not-so-veiled threat against the former FBI director, whom the president fired this week because of Trump’s opposition to Comey’s investigation into the Russia scandal. This, in and of itself, is outrageously inappropriate and of dubious legality.
Indeed, the fact that the president is publicly warning a potential witness to remain quiet only adds to concerns about Trump possibly obstructing justice. Norm Eisen, the chief ethics lawyer in the Obama White House, characterized the president’s tweet this morning as a possible crime.
But then there’s that reference to “tapes.”
The word admittedly appears in quotes – and we know that the president hasn’t the foggiest idea how quotation marks work – so it’s possible that Trump wasn’t being literal. It’s also possible that Trump just revealed the existence of recordings he has of private conversations.
If such tapes exist, of course, they can be subpoenaed, either by Congress or by federal investigators. It was the revelations about Richard Nixon’s recordings at the height of the Watergate scandal that marked the beginning of the end of his presidency.