In a Friday afternoon press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly refused to confirm or deny whether or not Donald Trump’s meetings in the Oval Office or with former FBI Director James Comey were being recorded, or if press briefings would be canceled—two ideas that Trump introduced via Twitter before 8:30 a.m.
Reuters White House Correspondent Jeff Mason first asked, “Did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI Director Comey?”
“I assume you’re referring to the tweet,” Spicer responded, “and I’ve talked to the President and the President has nothing further to add on that.”
The back-and-forth continues:
Mason: Why did he say that? Why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?
Spicer: As I mentioned, the President has nothing further to add on that.
Mason: Are there recording devices in the Oval Office or in the residence?
Spicer: As I said for the third time, there is nothing further to add on that.
Mason: Does he think it’s appropriate to threaten someone like Mr. Comey not to speak?
Spicer: I don’t think—that’s not a threat. He’s simply stated a fact; the tweet speaks for itself. I’m moving on.
Later, OANN’s Trey Yingst asks if anyone has an audio recording of what went on at the dinner between Comey and Trump. Spicer says he’s “not aware” of that. Yingst also asks if Trump is considering canceling the press briefing.
“I think he’s a little dismayed as well as a lot of people, that we come out here and try to do everything we can to provide you and the American people with what he’s doing on their behalf, what he’s doing to keep the nation safe, what he’s doing to grow jobs and yet we see time and time again an attempt to parse every little word and make it more of a game of ‘gotcha’ as opposed to really figure out what the policies are or why something’s being persuved [sic] or what the update is on this.” Spicer responds, notably omitting any kind of denial.
“And I think that’s where there’s a lot of dismay and I don’t think it’s something that’s just alone the President feels.”
Several questions later, Time White House Correspondent Zeke Miller asks Spicer a third time about Comey—this time, a yes-or-no question, “Is the President of the United States currently recording conversations taking place in the Oval Office?”
“I think the point that I made with respect to the tweet is the President has no further comment on this.”
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss notes that presidents supposedly stopped the once frequent practice of recording Oval Office meetings after President Richard Nixon’s recording system was revealed in 1973. Separately, a friendly relationship between the government and the press is typically a symbol of democracy.