WASHINGTON, May 12, 2017 — It was 1939 and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was having a fake news problem. Angry at being misquoted in the pages of the New York Times, FDR installed a White House recording system to ensure that an accurate record of his remarks was preserved.
President John F. Kennedy updated the system after White House advisors who supported the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Castro’s Cuba, appeared on television claiming to have warned him against it.
President Nixon thought taping White House conversations would preserve accurate records of the debates that helped craft government policy. As a bonus, the system recorded a presidential conspiracy to cover up a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters then located in Washington’s Watergate complex.
An 18-and-a-half minute stretch of those recordings, believed to have contained the “smoking gun” of the conspiracy, was somehow erased.
Enter the 45th President of the United States.
President Donald Trump has told anyone who will listen that FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired on Tuesday, said on no less than three occasions that Trump was not the target of an investigation into alleged meddling in the recent presidential election by Russia.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump tweeted Friday.
Pressed by a reporter about the tweet, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “I’ve talked to the president and the president has nothing further to add on that.”
“Why did he say that? Why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?” asked the reporter.
“As I mentioned, the president has nothing further on that.”
“Are there recording devices in the Oval Office or in the residence?”
Spicer laughed. “As I’ve said for the third time, there is nothing further to add on that.”
The correspondent grew more insistent, his voice pitching upward. “Does he [Trump] think it’s appropriate to threaten somebody like Mr. Comey not to speak?”
“That’s not a threat,” replied Spicer, “He’s simply stated a fact. The tweet speaks for itself. I’m moving on.”
We can with some certainty tell the reporter, yes, Trump is recording his White House conversations.
Members of the U.S. intelligence community, which has intercepted cellphone and email communications on a vast scale, have been spying on Trump and his associates. They’ve fed information to members of the Obama administration, who have probably leaked it to the press.
Trump has just signaled to America’s deep state that two can play that game. And he will better the instruction.