US President Donald Trump has warned former FBI director James Comey against leaking to the media, saying he had “better hope that there are no ‘tapes'” of their conversations.
- Trump said Comey “wasn’t doing a good job” when he was fired.
- Trump reiterated his view that reports about collusion with Russia were “fabricated”.
- Trump said Comey told him three times he wasn’t under investigation
In a series of tweets, Mr Trump threatened Mr Comey and also warned that he may cancel all White House press briefings.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” he tweeted.
The President’s abrupt move to fire the director of the FBI during an ongoing investigation into whether his presidential campaign had ties to Russia stunned Washington, and was swiftly condemned by Democrats and some in his own party.
As he later met with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger at the White House, Mr Trump was asked by reporters why he fired Mr Comey, responding: “He wasn’t doing a good job, very simply.”
In the termination letter to Mr Comey, Mr Trump said the firing was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence in the FBI”.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr Trump said in the letter dated Tuesday.
Mr Comey has not commented since he was fired.
The President’s morning Twitter comments again raised the spectre of former president Richard Nixon, who secretly taped conversations and telephone calls in the White House during the Watergate investigation that ultimately led to his downfall.
Mr Trump’s firing of Mr Comey already has left him with the dubious distinction of being the first president since Nixon to fire a law enforcement official overseeing an investigation tied to the White House.
Trump says people shouldn’t expect ‘perfect accuracy’
Even before Mr Trump’s provocative tweet, the White House was scrambling to clarify why Mr Comey was fired.
Mr Trump told NBC he had planned to fire Mr Comey all along, regardless of whether top Justice Department officials recommended the stunning step.
The White House initially cited a Justice Department memo criticising Mr Comey’s handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails as the impetus for Mr Trump’s decision.
But Mr Trump on Thursday acknowledged for the first time that the Russia investigation, which he dismissed as a “made-up story”, was also on his mind as he ousted the man overseeing the probe.
He later tweeted that no one should expect his White House to give completely accurate information.
“As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” he said.
Tweet: Donald Trump says, “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted the information she and her colleagues offered was consistent.
“It was a quick-moving process,” she said.
“We took the information we had as best we have it and got it out to the American people as quickly as we could.”