President Donald Trump did not record his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey, he tweeted on Thursday, ending weeks of speculation kickstarted by the President himself.
“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” Trump tweeted.
The statement ended speculation about whether the President recorded conversations in the Oval Office. Comey, who Trump fired last month, said he had hoped there were recordings of their conversations.
Trump tweeted on May 12, in response to a New York Times report about Comey’s dinner with Trump, that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Trump and his top aides have played coy for weeks about the possibility of White House tapes, treating their possible existence like a game show reveal.
But the tweet had serious repercussions for the President: The fired FBI director testified earlier this month that Trump’s message caused him to leak the bombshell content of a memo to the media through a professor at Columbia University.
White House officials had been unable to confirm the existence of a recording device for weeks. Trump said earlier this month that reporters would be disappointed by the answer.
The most infamous White House recording system existed during President Richard Nixon’s administration. The tapes, produced between 1971 and 1973, helped doom the Nixon administration, leading to the president’s resignation over the Watergate scandal.
The tapes — and the 18-minute gap that existed in the recordings — led to the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974, which makes tapes like Nixon’s presidential records that must be persevered.