Donald Trump did not threaten James Comey, White House says after US president's tweet about secret 'tapes'

The White House on Friday denied charges that President Donald Trump had threatened James Comey, who was unceremoniously fired by Trump earlier this week. "That's not a threat. He simply stated a fact. The tweet speaks for itself," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on being questioned about a tweet that President Trump posted earlier in the day. In the tweet, Trump appeared to suggest he or his administration would release 'tapes' of conversations between the US president and the former FBI chief if the latter started talking to the press. "James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Trump said on Twitter, a medium that he often uses to communicate. During his media briefing, Spicer avoided answering whether the White House had taped conversations between Trump and Comey. Spicer did not say much on the issue except stating, "I've talked to the president. The president has nothing further to add on that," every time he was asked a question on the subject. The tweet led to strong reactions that the US president was trying to gag Comey, who until very recently was heading an investigation into possible collusion between Donald Trump's election campaign and Russia. The tweet was followed by a CNN report that, citing unnamed sources, said Comey was "not worried about any tapes" Trump may have. Democrats, who have slammed Trump for firing Comey, said that such tapes, if they exist, should be made public.

"In light of the varied and divergent statements from the White House press briefing room regarding the firing of both former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the former FBI Director James Comey, the production of such tapes would allow the facts of these terminations to come to light," Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi wrote in a letter to the White House. "President Trump should release the tapes he referred to and come clean on the real reasons why Director Comey was abruptly fired in the midst of a critical investigation," said Congressman Joe Crowley, House Democratic Caucus chairman. Meanwhile, two other Democrats, Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers and Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings, raised questions on the veracity of Trump's claims. "However, because of the many false statements made by White House officials this week, we are compelled to ask whether any such recordings do in fact exist. If so, we request copies of all recordings in possession of the White House regarding this matter," they said. Conyers and Cummings were referring to the contradictions present between White House's initial statement on what led to Comey being fired and the president's comments on the issue. The White House initially said Trump fired Comey on the recommendation of the top Justice Department officials: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein. In an NBC interview on Thursday, Trump said he would have fired Comey regardless of any such recommendations. Trump addressed the criticism over the contradictory statements by saying on Twitter, "As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!" Trump went on to say that perhaps he should "cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy". The Trump administration has indicated that James Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server was among the reasons for his dismissal. However, Democrats have charged that Comey, who found out about his dismissal via the news, was fired because of the FBI's Russia-Trump campaign probe and that Trump is trying to dent to the investigation.
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