President Donald Trump issued a cryptic threat to former FBI director James Comey on Friday, tweeting that the recently-fired bureau chief "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
The Nixonian warning comes amid ongoing investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Comey has been invited to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week, although he has not yet accepted.
"Mr. President, if there are 'tapes' relevant to the Comey firing, it's because you made them and they should be provided to Congress," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted in response.
Mr. President, if there are "tapes" relevant to the Comey firing, it's because you made them and they should be provided to Congress. https://t.co/rztyxG6Ytt— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) May 12, 2017
Legal experts expressed concerns about the implications of Trump's tweet.
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"Thanks for the heads up, Donald," wrote Columbia University's Jeffrey D. Sachs. "Congressional investigators should certainly subpoena Trump-Comey tapes."
"[Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein] made a recommendation, but regardless of [the] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey," Trump said.
The president's relationship with Comey has been on thin ice since the FBI director confirmed in March that the bureau was looking into possible collusion between Trump's team and the Russian government.
Trump's threat also follows differing reports of what occurred during a dinner between him and Comey just before the FBI director's firing.
Trump said Comey had requested the meeting to ask to keep his job, at which point the president asked if he was under investigation—which many saw as a shocking conflict of interest—while bureau officials said it was the White House that set up the dinner, during which Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him, which Comey refused to do.
Ultimately, the public backlash to Comey's firing seems to have agitated the president, who issued a series of tweets early Friday morning referring to the news coverage of the fallout as "fake media working overtime" and asking, "When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?"