A report in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday quotes three anonymous ex-employees who claim to have direct knowledge of recordings he has made in the past but are too fearful of stating their names because they signed a non-disclosure agreement.
“Mr. Trump had one or more recording devices that he used to tape phone calls from his office, the three people said. All are former high-level employees who worked for Mr. Trump over a span of three decades. They said they saw devices in use recording phone calls.”
A fourth unnamed source was cited, stating that “he knew that Mr. Trump had recorded a phone conversation with him because it was later entered into evidence in a lawsuit,” but that lawsuit was not revealed, and neither was the name of the informant.
Representatives of the White House and the Trump Organization declined to talk about the matter with the WSJ, but Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen stated, “In the decade that I worked for Mr. Trump, I have never seen a recording device attached to his phone, nor am I aware of any occasion where he taped a conversation.”
The article dismisses Cohen’s statement and goes on to say that taping conversations is not a crime in New York or Washington, D.C., “as long as one party in the conversation, such as Mr. Trump, is aware that it is being recorded. Florida, where Mr. Trump also has frequently traveled since taking office, generally requires all parties to consent to taping, although there is an exception for taping in public places where the parties wouldn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation.”
On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Later that day, the press demanded answers, but White House spokesman Sean Spicer “declined to comment on whether any tapes featuring Mr. Comey exist or whether the president regularly recorded conversations from the Oval Office.”
Trump also reportedly kept mum when asked about it in a Fox News interview, saying, “That I can’t talk about. I won’t talk about that.”
Democratic legislators expressed their ever-present outrage on the Sunday talk shows.
“First of all, we’ve got to make sure that these tapes, if they exist, don’t mysteriously disappear, so I’ve asked, and others have asked, to make sure the tapes are preserved, if they exist,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on ABC.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D., Ill.), a member of the House Oversight Committee, immediately demanded that the White House Counsel’s Office provide the committee with “all tapes of the president’s communications” with Mr. Comey, with the Russian officials he met with on Wednesday and anything concerning former national security adviser Mike Flynn.
“These White House tapes could accelerate current investigations as previous tapes have aided past inquiries,” Mr. Krishnamoorthi stated.
Stephen Meister, a New York real-estate attorney who has represented Mr. Trump in the past was cited as having had no knowledge of Mr. Trump recording phone calls, and the report went on to admit that even the ex-employees have no idea whether Trump is taping conversations in the White House. But then it went back to quoting the anonymous ex-employees who contradicted each other about the frequency of their former boss’s practice of recording conversations.
One claimed Trump recorded virtually everything in the office while another former employee said the recordings were infrequent.
The WSJ was able to unearth a legal battle Trump had with the company that owns the Sands Casino in Atlantic City. Pratt Hotel Corp.’s then-president, William Weidner, said that he had unknowingly been recorded by Trump, because Trump brought the recording up in court to prove that Weidner had “wrongly described the conversation.”
More reports of people who know and work with Trump saying they never witnessed the man record any conversations were downplayed, although the report did cite real estate attorney Jay Neveloff as saying that “he spent hundreds of hours over a period of decades in Mr. Trump’s office while he talked with others on the phone and never saw him record phone calls.”
The report also revealed that “during last year’s presidential campaign, a Wall Street Journal reporter who had come to interview Mr. Trump in his office told him that he planned to tape the conversation, and Trump replied that he would be taping as well.” Interestingly enough, the reporter was unnamed. The anonymous reporter went on to claim, “the future president then slid a newspaper across his desk to reveal a smartphone underneath. It wasn’t clear if the device was already recording.”
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