This week, Donald Trump will publicly address his claims that he may have secretly recorded conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey. At least, that’s what Sean Spicer has said. At the Tuesday press briefing, the White House press secretary responded to a reporter’s question on the subject, saying, “The president has said that he will make an announcement on this. I expect it this week.”
Trump first alleged that he recorded his conversations with Comey back in May:
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
Since then, White House officials have neither confirmed nor denied the existence of these “tapes.” The company line, as put forth by deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has been ignorance: She told reporters that she had “no idea” whether or not Trump records his conversations.
When asked about the tapes earlier this month, Trump told reporters, “I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time,” adding, “You’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer.” Those are very confusing statements! Does “I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time,” mean he’ll tell us soon, or that the explanation itself will be short, i.e., a brusk “No tapes!” before sprinting out of the room? Will we be disappointed because there are no tapes, or because there are tapes, or because the tapes are over a short period of time? The exchange is open to interpretation:
"You're going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer." - Pres. Trump responds to question on if there are James Comey tapes pic.twitter.com/3OlUvLg6ZN— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 12, 2017
Do Spicer's comments Tuesday suggest that this “very short period of time” has finally arrived? There are plenty of ways this story could unfold. I’ve cataloged a few possible scenarios for your convenience:
Trump dramatically produces the tapes like he’s the Count of Monte Cristo or something.
In this scenario, Trump spends months sitting on evidence that exonerates him from accusations made by a former FBI director under oath. This plan would take an astonishing level of calculation and patience, which seems unlikely, because all evidence points to Donald Trump being rather impatient. Take this 1997 New Yorker profile, for example, in which Trump, flying to Mar-a-Lago on his private jet, makes his son Eric man the VCR and fast-forward through all the slow, exposition-building moments in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport so he can go straight to the fight scenes.
Trump comes clean: There are no “tapes.”
The president’s original tweet leaves lots of room for this admission. Sean Hannity would undoubtedly praise his “frankness” and “honesty,” and it would be hailed in some corners as the moment he “truly became president.” The following morning, bored by a Trump-free segment on Fox and Friends, the president would send out a new tweet claiming that he actually does have the “tapes,” and we’d start the whole thing from scratch again.
Trump opens a new hotel.
We’ve been here before. The last time Trump promised to address highly controversial and disputed remarks was back in September, when he was to make a “major statement” regarding birtherism. Presumably, he was going to announce that he believed Barack Obama was born in the United States, which would be a public rebuke of the racist conspiracy theory he had touted for so long. With every major cable news network on hand to broadcast it live, Trump instead held what was most accurately described as an “infomercial” for his new D.C. hotel. “I think it may be one of the great hotels anywhere in the world,” he said. Could he do this with a Comey-tapes press conference? Tune in to find out!
Trump does nothing.
There will be no announcement regarding recorded conversations between the president and James Comey. Questions about it will either be ignored or swiftly dismissed. Another week will pass. Leaves will detach themselves from trees. Snow will start falling softly upon the White House and, farther north, softly fall into the water hazards of the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. It will fall too upon the lonely house of James Comey, where the former FBI director will gaze out a window as he sees the flakes accumulating on his lawn in a universe where there may or may not be “tapes,” their existence unknown to both the living and the dead.