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Rattled Spicer flees briefing amid flurry of questions on Trump's secret tapes

Donald Trump’s implied threat to silence former FBI Director James Comey continues to backfire, as members of Congress are now requesting any such tapes that might exist. At Monday’s White House daily briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer was hounded over Trump’s threat, and eventually was chased out of his own briefing by the dogged questioning. […]

By Tommy Christopher - May 15, 2017
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At Monday’s White House daily briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer was hounded over Trump’s threat, and eventually was chased out of his own briefing by the dogged questioning.

Real Clear Politics correspondent Alexis Simendinger began by asking Spicer if Trump plans to comply with requests for the alleged “tapes.”

Spicer refused to say whether the White House would cooperate with any such requests, again relying on his non-answer response from Friday that “the president has nothing further on that”:

SIMENDINGER: Several Republicans have joined Democrats in seeking additional information from the White House, in writing, about the existence of any tapes, producing the tapes, and any further information about the potential taping of conversations. Is this White House intending to cooperate with those requests and furnish that information, as requested in writing?

SPICER: I think I made it clear last week that the president has nothing further on that. Hunter?

SIMENDINGER: Does that mean that the president will deny the requests?

SPICER: I said, I was very clear, that the president would have nothing further on that last week.

SIMENDINGER: Is there a situation in which the president would defy the legislative branch’s request?

SPICER: Alexis, I made it clear what the president’s position is on that issue.

Moments later, NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson continued to press Spicer, asking him how any government official could feel comfortable conversing privately with Trump under the threat of secret recordings. Spicer, again, parroted his earlier statement:

JACKSON: Why won’t you just explain whether or not there are recordings of the president’s —

SPICER: I think the president has made it clear what his position is.

JACKSON: That’s not my question. Why won’t you explain it?

SPICER: Because that’s what the president’s position is.

JACKSON: So given that refuse to confirm or deny any of this, how is any senior official supposed to feel comfortable having a conversation privately with the president?

SPICER: Hallie, I think the president has made it clear what his position is.

JACKSON: Even with these congressional lawmakers calling for…

SPICER: Hallie, I have answered the question over and over again in the same way.

Spicer refused to call on ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, who rattled Spicer on the subject last week, but he was pressed just as hard by Kaitlan Collins of the conservative Daily Caller.

Collins exposed the absurdity of Spicer’s response by asking him, “How has the president made it clear what his position is on the recordings? I’ve only seen the tweet.”

Spicer replied, “Right, that’s his position, and he has nothing further to add.”

Spicer then went into a lengthy digression into the firing, and ultimately fled the briefing amid a flurry of shouted questions:

COLLINS: How has the president made it clear what his position is on the recordings?

SPICER: Yeah, I’ve answered that several times —

COLLINS: Well, how has he made it clear?

SPICER: So, that’s his position, he said that he has nothing further to add.

[crosstalk]

SPICER: I understand. Theres nothing further to add.

COLLINS: My second questions is: Has he made other inquiries about the Russia investigation to any other FBI officials?

SPICER: I don’t — no, not — I haven’t asked him about that, but I’m not aware of anything.

COLLINS: Okay, and one small follow up: Last week, you said you would get back to us on who requested the dinner between him and Comey?

SPICER: I still — I apologize, I will follow up on that today. I think one of the things that’s important with respect to that, just to clear something up, I think that there was clearly bipartisan support that Jim Comey wasn’t up to the job. The president has every right to fire a person, because he believed Director Comey lacked the judgment and the decision-making skills and wasn’t up to the job.

The president’s reaction to this, to what — his position has been completely misrepresented. You think about what he said to NBC News. He said, one, he didn’t care that this action would make matters worse for him. That it, quote, ‘might even lengthen out the investigation’ because he would take action against Jim Comey in firing him. He said that he wants the investigation to be done, quote, ‘absolutely properly.’ And he said that it might even confuse some people that he would take this action, knowing it would make matters worse for him. The actions that he took, he knew could be detrimental to himself, but none of those things mattered because the president had to do the right thing for the American people, because he believes that Jim Comey was the wrong man for that position.

And I think that we’ve got to be very clear as to the reason that the president took the actions that he did. He knew that what he did could be detrimental to himself, it could lengthen the investigation. But he knew it was the right thing for the country, the right thing for the FBI, and the right thing to get to the bottom of this.

COLLINS: Why did he feel like Comey was the wrong person for the American people?

SPICER: Because he didn’t have the leadership skills necessary to lead that institution. And as he said in the statement at the time, the FBI is the crown jewel of law enforcement, and they deserve a leader that can properly lead the institution. Thank you guys very much, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Whether or not Trump recorded his conversations with Comey, this line from the White House cannot possibly hold.

Trump’s threat in no way constitutes a “position” on secret taping. It in no way addresses congressional demands for these tapes. It also does not address compliance with the Federal Records Act, which would require any such recordings to be archived.

Spicer and Trump can run, but they cannot hide from the implications of this reckless and chilling threat.


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