White House press secretary Sean Spicer was given multiple opportunities Friday to deny that President Trump is recording his conversations. He didn't deny it once. He wouldn't even talk about it.
“The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer said when asked about Trump's tweet suggesting there may be tapes of him talking to now-fired FBI director James B. Comey. He said the same thing when asked specifically if Trump records his Oval Office conversations.
This is untenable. Spicer and his boss may not know it yet, but it is.
And it's not even so much that Trump may be recording his Oval Office guests. As The Post's Philip Bump reports, presidents did that for much of the 20th Century, though it was supposed to have ended with Richard Nixon. And Bump figures, based on the evidence at hand, that it's quite possible Trump has indeed revived the practice.
The reason the White House is in a tough spot is because Trump has now threatened in a very public way to use these hypothetical recordings as a form of blackmail. The point of secretly recording people is that it's supposed to be secret; Trump, if he is recording people, just gave away the game.
Shortly before Spicer offered the answers above, he detailed a number of visits from foreign leaders next week, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Oval Office is also a place where Trump meets with congressional leaders and top staff as he is trying to hammer out the details of things like the health-care bill.
Each and every one of these visitors and staff should and will now be suspicious that their conversations with Trump are being recorded — possibly to be used against them at a later date. That's the unavoidable and inescapable conclusion that anybody who reads about this threat has to take away. I don't know how you go into the Oval Office now without this being in the back of your head. Trump has played that card with Comey, so clearly he'd be willing to play it again. How can you be totally candid with the guy now and not measure everything you say?
Trump has again backed Spicer into a corner. As with so many controversies before it, Trump's itchy Twitter finger has led to inevitable questions about whether he's actually being serious and whether he knows something we don't. It's the same with the still-unsubstantiated claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped him. It's the same with the still-fanciful claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.
In each of these cases, Trump would much rather make the claim than back it up. That's either because he's completely bluffing or because he actually believes these things exist. His — and Spicer's — reaction is always to play coy and hope the questions go away.
But in this case, I'm just not sure how they can do that. Even if people who go into the Oval Office may have entertained the idea that they could be recorded, Trump has now taken that a step further and signaled to everyone that what they say can and will be used against them.
We'll see how long Spicer continues to try to no-comment this one away. The president may have outfoxed himself here.