Why Trump’s Gambit to Intimidate Comey Didn’t Work

I do not profess to have access to the internal machinations of the mind of The Donald, but if he was trying to intimidate James Comey by claiming he had tapes, it didn’t work.

Trump is known for making unsubstantiated comments, whether it was threatening to “spill beans” on Heidi Cruz during the campaign or claiming that President Obama wiretapped his office. One of his most recent ones however was a tweet in which Trump said: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Honestly, the timing for Trump’s comment was terrible given that some already were beginning to compare him to Nixon. Now claiming he had tapes, he was perhaps unknowingly drawing yet another parallel to the infamous Nixon who had recorded and taped meetings in the Oval Office. Why Trump would make such an ill-timed comment? One such explanation would be that Trump wanted to make Comey more honest when he testified to Congress and ensure he didn’t paint an inaccurate picture of their meetings.

The problem with this is that Comey didn’t leak his own statements about his meetings with Trump until AFTER Trump issued this tweet and at the time, Comey wasn’t scheduled for any hearing with Congress. Not to mention, Trump has continued to offer a different side of the story and has branded Comey as a liar. I think a better explanation is Trump was simply being Donald Trump. Just like he went after Obama and Heidi Cruz, Trump likely thought he could scare Comey by announcing he had tapes of their conversations.

Such a threat of course backfired because it now makes us all the more certain of the validity of Comey’s testimony to Congress. Sure, Comey was under oath and I am not insinuating that Comey would ever lie under oath, but without the existence of tapes, it would have been Trump’s word against Comey’s. But even though Comey now knew that Trump could’ve recorded him, he still stuck to his same story. If Comey was lying, Trump’s tapes could’ve easily proved him wrong and meant he would’ve been charged with perjury, a serious and criminal offense.

Because Trump threatened to release tapes, he guaranteed us that Comey would be exceptionally honest with Congress. Trump meanwhile has tried to turn this on its head by insisting Comey is lying but then also that he never had any tapes on Comey. Trump has also claimed he is willing to testify under oath against Comey but those are just words and unless Trump actually does so, its the word of a former FBI director who testified under oath with the assumption that there was a physical recording of his conversation in Trump’s possession, against that of Trump himself, a person who hasn’t exactly made honesty and accuracy one of his trademark qualities.

We’ll never know for certain why Trump chose to make that comment. Was it to intimidate Comey, to make him more honest, or was it simply Trump being Trump? But one thing is for certain: Trump’s decision to make that fateful tweet only reinforced a testimony that puts him in a very uncomfortable position.

Follow Publius Tacitus on Twitter at @PCTacitus

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