In a development that may disappoint former FBI Director James Comey, and will certainly displease the press, the Secret Service said Monday that it doesn’t have any audio copies or transcripts of tapes recorded in the Trump White House, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“In response to your request, the Secret Service has conducted a reasonable search for responsive records,” the agency told WSJ. “It appears, from a review of Secret Service’s main indices, that there are no records pertaining to your request that are referenced in these indices.” Such records would typically be subject to the Presidential Records Act, and turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration at the end of a president’s time in office, a topic which gained prominence earlier today when an Illinois Rep. filed the "COVFEFE Act" to preserve all of Trump's tweets for records purposes.
In the past, the Secret Service handled White House recording systems for previous presidents, including Richard Nixon and JFK. Trump told reporters in the White House Rose Garden during a press conference Friday that he’d reveal the truth about whether the rumored Comey tape exists in “the very near future.” The president cryptically added “Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.”
The agency’s disclosure - made in response to a freedom of information request filed by the Journal on May 15 - naturally doesn’t exclude the possibility that tapes might’ve been made by other sources like President Donald Trump himself. Trump has hinted that he might’ve recorded a conversation involving his ex-FBI nemesis that was at the center of the latter’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week. Comey, who famously responded “Lordy, I hope there are tapes” in response to a question during last week’s public testimony, has maintained that a tape or transcript would corroborate his account of a conversation between him and President Trump in which, Comey alleges, the President pushed him to drop the agency’s investigation into former National Security Advisers alleged dealings with Russian entities. Ironically, Trump previously tweeted that Comey "better hope there are no tapes", a statement which allegedly prompted Comey to leak the contents of his memo to the NYT.
The leaked memo alleged that Trump said he “hoped” the then-FBI director could "let this go" - referring to the investigation into Flynn. Then again, after subsequent leaks which suggested that Comey would accuse the president of obstructing justice, he ended up testifying that the president's conduct stopped short of doing so, leading to mass confusion about who is telling the truth.
Hence, the importance of the tapes, which last week were also subpoenaed by Congress... if they exist.
Separately, Sean Spicer declined to answer questions about whether there are tapes, saying he was “not aware” while his deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, saying she didn’t know and then quipping she would “look under the couches” to check. At a cabinet meeting Monday, Trump didn’t respond to a shouted question from a reporter about whether there were tapes.