As former FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday afternoon about his conversations with Donald Trump since he took office as president, attention was growing on the question of whether Trump tapes conversations and phone calls in the White House.
During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey was reminded how Trump tweeted May 12 the soon-to-be-fired lawman "better hope they are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
"I've seen the tweet about tapes," Comey told the senators. "Lordy, I hope there are tapes."
Questions about a taping system within the Oval Office were raised several times at the regular briefing session for White House reporters, which was held as Comey was testifying.
Asked point-blank if there was a taping system in the White House, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders replied: "I have no idea."
Sanders also suggested a reporter "call the Secret Service" to learn if a taping system was I installed in the Oval Office.
At another point in the briefing, Sanders quipped she expected to see her young children in the briefing room because "with toddlers you get to answer the same questions over and over again."
Since Trump raised the possibility of secretly taping in his office, analogies have been made to President Richard Nixon and the voiced-activated taping system he had installed in the Oval Office as well as the Cabinet Room and the Lincoln Sitting Room in the White House.
The system's revelations by White House staffer Alexander Butterfield in 1973 was considered pivotal to Nixon's downfall. The subsequent release of a tape from June 23, 1972 in which the president agreed to the use of the CIA to block an FBI investigation into the Watergate scandal was what forced Nixon to resign because it was considered proof of obstruction of justice.
Presidents dating back to Franklin Roosevelt have used taping systems in the White House. John Kennedy recorded a celebrated conversation with Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett on September 29, 1962, in which he presses Barnett to maintain law and order while the University of Mississippi is integrated.
Selected tapes made by President Lyndon Johnson are available at the Johnson Library in Austin, Texas and have been released to the public.
Following Nixon's resignation, President Gerald Ford dismantled the taping system and no taping was conducted by him or his successor Jimmy Carter. Ronald Reagan oversaw more than 800 hours of taping and filming of meetings he had while president, but they were done with the participants' permission.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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