Trump Threatens Retaliation Against Comey, Warns He May Cancel Press Briefings | Touch Latest Local,World,Tech,Entertainment,Health,Sport News
24 February 2018 00:00:00 AM Breaking News

• WORLD

Trump Threatens Retaliation Against Comey, Warns He May Cancel Press Briefings

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday warned James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director he fired this week, against leaking anything negative about the president and warned the news media that he may cancel all future White House briefings.


In a series of early-morning Twitter posts, Mr. Trump even seemed to suggest that there may be secret tapes of his conversations with Mr. Comey that could be used to counter the former F.B.I. director if necessary. It was not immediately clear whether he meant that literally or simply hoped to intimidate Mr. Comey into silence.


“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. Mr. Trump appeared agitated over news reports on Friday that focused on contradictory accounts of his decision to fire Mr. Comey at the same time the F.B.I. is investigating ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.


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The New York Times reported that, in a dinner shortly after his inauguration, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty to him, which the F.B.I. director refused to do. The story cited two people who heard Mr. Comey describe the dinner but the White House rebutted the account.


The president also expressed pique at attention on the shifting versions of how he came to decide to fire Mr. Comey. In his first extended comments on the firing on Thursday, Mr. Trump contradicted statements made by his White House spokeswoman as well as comments made to reporters by Vice President Mike Pence and even the letter the president himself signed and sent to Mr. Comey informing him of his dismissal.


The original White House version of the firing was that the president acted on the recommendation of the attorney general and deputy attorney general because of Mr. Comey’s handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email. But in an interview with NBC News on Thursday, Mr. Trump said he had already decided to fire Mr. Comey and would have done so regardless of any recommendation.


And he indicated that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he made the decision. Mr. Trump said on Friday morning that no one should expect his White House to give completely accurate information.


“As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” he wrote on Twitter. “Maybe,” he added a few moments later, “the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”


The threat may have been just a rhetorical point, but Mr. Trump by his own description likes to be unpredictable and does not feel obligated to follow longstanding White House conventions simply because that is the way they have been done for years. Every president in modern times has been frustrated with the news media at points, but they all preserved the tradition of the daily briefing.


Mr. Trump’s mention of tapes did nothing to dispel the echoes of Watergate heard in Washington this week. His dismissal of Mr. Comey in the midst of an investigation into Mr. Trump’s associates struck many as similar to President Richard M. Nixon’s decision in October 1973 to fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor, in an incident that came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre.


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Related video: President Trump appears to threaten James Comey about conversation "tapes" (provided by CBS News)

In that case, Nixon was mad at Mr. Cox for seeking access to secret White House tapes of the president’s conversations. Ultimately, the Supreme Court forced Nixon to turn over the tapes, which contained evidence pointing to his involvement in the cover-up of the Watergate burglary and led to his resignation in August 1974.


Mr. Trump’s defenders have said Watergate comparisons are overwrought and that there is no evidence of collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia during last year’s election. American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia tried to meddle in the campaign with the aim of tilting the election to Mr. Trump.


The president has said any suspicions of collusion are “fake news” and that the Russia investigation is the product of Democrats who are sore losers looking to explain away an election defeat and undermine his legitimacy.


“Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday morning. He added later that James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, has testified that he knew of no collusion. Mr. Clapper left office on Jan. 20 with the end of President Barack Obama’s administration and has not been involved in the investigation since then.


“When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?” Mr. Trump asked.




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