President Donald Trump offered a curious defense for publishing a tweet last month that suggested the existence of secret “tapes” of his private conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. On Thursday, the same day he admitted there were no tapes, he told Fox & Friends that he issued the false threat in order to influence Comey’s testimony in the hearings on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“When he found out that there may be tapes out there, whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, I think his story may have changed,” Trump said in an interview that aired Friday morning. “You’ll have to take a look at that, because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events.”
“That was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in his hearings,” Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt said.
“Well, it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that,” Trump responded.
.@POTUS on why he wanted former FBI Dir. James Comey to believe there were tapes of their conversations pic.twitter.com/pCuibM5Z6k
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) June 23, 2017
Trump’s admission on Thursday that he never made or possessed any such recordings appeared to acknowledge that he purposely misled the public. Some legal experts, including the former ethics czar under the Obama administration, have since likened Trump’s stunt to intimidating a witness.
This lie increases Trump's legal exposure for obstruction and witness intimidation–more evidence of corrupt intent @Susan_Hennessey https://t.co/qBx7e58XEl
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) June 22, 2017
It was Trump’s firing of Comey that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russia’s interference in the election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Mueller’s probe is said to have recently been expanded to include an examination of whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice by sacking Comey.
In the same Fox & Friends interview Thursday, Trump hinted at his annoyance regarding Mueller and Comey’s close relationship, calling their friendship “very bothersome.” He declined to say whether Mueller should consider recusing himself from the special probe.