President Trump on Friday morning issued a cryptic threat to fired FBI Director James Comey amid a storm of media leaks contradicting the White House.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump tweeted.
A number of reports emerged late Thursday revealing current and former FBI officials dispute Trump’s account of a meeting he had with Comey earlier this year.
Trump in an NBC interview on Thursday said Comey had requested a dinner with him, during which Trump asked whether Comey wanted to stay on as the FBI head.
The president also said Comey told him three times — twice over the phone and once at their dinner meeting — that he was not the subject of any FBI investigations.
But that claim has been met with raised eyebrows in Washington. Bureau officials, speaking to the press, have contradicted Trump’s claims on several points.
Officials told NBC that the White House requested the dinner meeting, not Comey. A former senior official said that Comey would never have told the president he was not under investigation.
“Two people who have heard his account of the dinner” told The New York Times that Trump asked Comey to pledge his political loyalty at the dinner but was rebuffed by Comey, who promised honesty but not loyalty.
The differing in accounts comes as the White House has offered shifting explanations for Trump’s decision to fire Comey.
Although officials originally claimed that the dismissal was based on Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Trump himself has linked the decision to the bureau’s probe into Russian meddling in the election.
“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,” he told NBC News in an interview that aired Thursday.
Part of that investigation includes examining whether any Trump campaign officials coordinated with Russia to help influence the election. Comey in public testimony declined to comment on whether the president was a subject of the probe.
Reports have suggested that the maverick director’s refusal to pledge his loyalty to the president was a factor in his abrupt departure.
The startling threat fueled already-simmering comparisons to President Richard Nixon, who famously refused a subpoena to turn over secretly recorded audio tapes of his Oval Office conversations — ultimately constituting an article of impeachment against him.
The president’s decision to lash out at his former director also comes as the White House has faced fierce scrutiny for the manner in which Trump delivered his pink slip. The president had a manila envelope delivered to Comey’s office in Washington — when the director was in California, speaking to bureau employees. He reportedly found out when televisions in the room began broadcasting the news of his dismissal.
The president’s relationship with the fiercely independent director had been publicly deteriorating since he took office on Jan. 20 and leaks related to the bureau’s investigation continued to trickle out.
But Comey was a widely respected and popular head from within the bureau, and his dismissal came as a gut-punch to many.
Speculation has roiled Washington about whether Comey will speak publicly about this circumstances that led to his dismissal.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued an invitation for him to testify behind closed doors, but as of Thursday, he had not accepted, according to committee leaders.