Newt Gingrich claims Trump lied about tapes of White House conversations to scare James Comey

'He's not a professional politician,' the former House Speaker says in the President's defence

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich introduces Donald Trump during a campaign rally in Ohio
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich introduces Donald Trump during a campaign rally in Ohio

Former Speaker of the House and longtime Donald Trump confidant Newt Gingrich has claimed the President lied about having tapes of his conversations with James Comey in order to intimidate the former FBI Director.

"I think [Mr Trump] was in his way instinctively trying to rattle Comey," Mr Gingrich told the Associated Press. "He's not a professional politician. He doesn't come back and think about Nixon and Watergate. His instinct is: 'I'll outbluff you'."

Mr Trump first appeared to threaten Mr Comey with recordings of their White House conversations in a tweet last month.

“James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” he wrote.

The tweet came on the heels of a New York Times report claiming Mr Comey had kept extensive records of his meetings with Mr Trump in the months before the President fired him.

In one of those meetings, according to Mr Comey, the President had asked him to pledge his loyalty. In another, he suggested the FBI Director drop his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

If tapes of these meetings do exist, they could provide crucial evidence to the ongoing Senate, House, and Justice Department investigations into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia – and the reported investigation into potential obstruction of justice by Mr Trump.

Mr Gingrich’s comments, however, reflect a growing opinion in Washington that Mr Trump manufactured the idea to dissuade Mr Comey from talking.

Outside advisers to Mr Trump told the Associated Press the President never mentioned the tapes in their conversations. The Secret Service has no records of these tapes, according to documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal. And more than a half-dozen White House staffers told the Associated Press they are unaware of any recording devices in the White House.

Still, the President has refused to clarify whether or not the tapes exist. Two weeks ago, Mr Trump told reporters he would clear the matter up "maybe sometime in the very near future”.

"You are going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer,” he added.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that he expects an announcement on the tapes “this week," adding: "When he is ready, we will let you know."

If Mr Trump does confirm the existence of the tapes, it should make at least one person in Washington very happy.

"Lordy, I hope there are tapes," Mr Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee this month.

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