WASHINGTON: The US Secret Service said Monday it does not have any audio recordings or transcripts of US President Donald Trump’s White House conversations.
After Trump again intimated last week that he could have recorded his controversial discussions with fired FBI director James Comey, it remained unclear if that claim was true.
The issue could be crucial for the president amid allegations — though not formal accusations — that he has sought to obstruct the investigation into possible collusion by his advisors in Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.
The Secret Service, which protects the president and his family, maintained a secret taping system for the White House in the eras of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
But in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Wall Street Journal, the agency said it did not have any such records for the Trump administration.
“It appears, from a review of Secret Service’s main indices, that there are not records pertaining to your request,” the agency told the Journal in a letter.
On May 12, three days after he fired Comey, Trump suggested in a tweet that he had recorded their private discussions with Comey.
The claim came in response to reports, since confirmed, that Comey himself had kept detailed notes on those discussions in which, he alleges, Trump demanded a pledge of loyalty and pressed the then-FBI director to pull off on an investigation into Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump wrote.
Trump evasive on ‘tapes’
On Friday, after explosive testimony from Comey in Congress repeated the claims that Trump pressured him over Flynn, Trump responded angrily, calling Comey a liar.
Asked by reporters if he had tapes of their conversations to support his claim, Trump replied demurely, “I’ll tell you about that maybe in the very near future.”
That left open the possibility that other White House staff, or Trump himself, could have been involved in recording their talks, if anyone.
Members of Congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the election have shown interest in whether Trump did tape his White House conversations with Comey or anyone else.
On Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer, asked again if there were recordings, would not confirm it.
“I think the president made it very clear on Friday that he would get back as soon as possible on this,” he told reporters.
“When he’s ready to further discuss it, he will.”