WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday it has no record of any audio recordings made in the White House since President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Their statement came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Wall Street Journal and was confirmed by NBC News. The Secret Service’s response does not, however, cover any potential recordings made without the agency’s knowledge.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Trump would make an announcement about any potential recordings “when the president is ready to make it.”
Spicer refused to say anything else, other than that news would come, “shortly.”
It’s been a month since Trump first suggested he had recordings of his private conversations with James Comey that might contradict the former FBI director’s version of events surrounding his firing. But the president has punted every time when asked about releasing the tapes or whether they even exist.
“I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the near future,” Trump said at a press conference in the Rose Garden on Friday.
The House Intelligence Committee has requested the White House turn over any tapes that might exist.
Comey said during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday that he hopes tapes do exist since, since they would back up his claim that Trump asked for personal loyalty and told him to back off of an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
But some, have questioned whether Trump is just bluffing about the tapes.
“If the president had tapes that clearly contradicted Director Comey, I am shocked that they’re not public right now,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island told MSNBC on Friday. “He has the ability to release them. It just seems to be implausible that tapes would exist that contradict Comey and be held by the White House.”
Author Tim O’Brien, who wrote a biography of Trump that ended up the subject of a Trump lawsuit, is also skeptical.
Trump had told O’Brien that he had a secret recording system in Trump Tower and had taped journalists. But later, when Trump had to testify under oath as part of the lawsuit, he admitted he was “not equipped to tape-record,” O’Brein wrote Monday for Bloomberg.
Several other journalist have reported similar interactions with Trump.
Several prior president have installed secret taping systems in the White House.
Richard Nixon’s staff installed a voice-activated system that automatically recorded everything said in the Oval Office because the former president, who was bad with technology, was uncomfortable manipulating the buttons on a tape recorder.
After a major legal battle, the White House was forced to release the tapes, which pushed Congress closer to impeachment. As one former Nixon aide recounted to Chris Whipple, the author of a new book about White House Chiefs of Staff, “For want of a toggle switch, the presidency was lost.”