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October 17, 2018

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Trump suggests tweet on tapes was meant to affect Comey testimony

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Stephen Crowley / The New York Times

President Donald Trump speaks during campaign-style rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, June 21, 2017. Trump appeared to acknowledge on Friday in an interview that his tweet hinting of taped conversations with James Comey was intended to influence the fired FBI director’s testimony before Congress, and he emphasized that he committed “no obstruction” of the inquiries into whether his campaign colluded with Russia.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump appeared to acknowledge Friday in an interview that his tweet hinting of taped conversations with James Comey was intended to influence the fired FBI director’s testimony before Congress, and he emphasized that he committed “no obstruction” of the inquiries into whether his campaign colluded with Russia.

The interview, with “Fox & Friends,” was shown one day after the president tweeted what most people in Washington had already come to believe: that he had not made recordings of his conversations with Comey.

Instead, the president explained in the television interview, his tweets were referring to the possibility that anyone could have taped those discussions.

“I’ve been reading about it for the last couple of months about the seriousness of the horribleness of the situation with surveillance all over the place,” the president said in the interview. “So you never know what’s out there, but I didn’t tape, and I don’t have any tape and I didn’t tape.”

When the Fox interviewer suggested that the possible existence of recordings might make sure Comey “stayed honest in those hearings,” Trump paused before responding, “Well, it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that.”

Referring to Comey, Trump said “When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else and who knows, I think his story may have changed.”

Trump appeared to be referring to his statements over the months, which Comey confirmed in his testimony, that the then-FBI director had told the president that he was not under investigation.

Trump, according to his advisers, had become enormously frustrated that Comey would not say so publicly.

He also called it “quite sad” that the Obama administration did not immediately punish Moscow for meddling in last fall’s presidential election, as first reported Friday in The Washington Post.

“It’s an amazing thing,” Trump said in another Fox interview that is scheduled to air on Sunday, excerpts from which were released Friday afternoon. “If he had the information, why didn’t he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don’t read that. It’s quite sad.”

Additionally, the president raised questions about the impartiality of Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who was named special counsel for the Russia investigation after Comey was fired.

“He’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome,” Trump said.

Trump repeatedly refused to say whether he believed Mueller would have to recuse himself from the inquiry. The president is said to have railed in private about Mueller to aides and has said he wants to leave open the option of firing him.

Trump said “there’s been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that,” and he added that some of Mueller’s legal team had supported Hillary Clinton.

The president closed on a more positive note, saying, “Robert Mueller’s an honorable man, and hopefully he’ll come up with an honorable solution.”

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