Comey tapes: Rage, awe and WTF
Welcome to the parallel universes of Trump land
By TATIANA PROPHET
It's June 2017, six months into Donald Trump's unprecedented presidency, and he is still keeping everyone guessing like Willy Wonka disappearing behind a two-foot door.
The latest topic opened in May, after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and as most everyone remembers, the President tweeted that there might be tapes of conversations between the two men.
Or did he?
This question is where the parallel universes of rage, awe and WTF diverge, never to meet.
For a month, speculation mounted about whether the President had recorded the conversations between him and James Comey. Congressional committees even issued a formal subpoena to the White House for the recordings. And Comey himself declared, to the Internet's voyeuristic delight: "Lordy, I hope there are tapes."
Most everyone hoped there were tapes.
Then this week, Trump tweeted again, finally laying the issue to rest. No, he wrote, he had not made any recordings of Comey's conversations with him.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman wrote that most of Washington had pretty much already figured out this fact. They're getting wise to Willy Wonka.
Reaction was swift, of course.
For those prone to rage these days, the tweet in question is clear evidence of obstruction of justice, as it amounts to intimidating a witness.
For those prone to awe of our shock-jock President, the tweet was a brilliant chess move.
For those who feel as if we've entered Wonka's chocolate factory, the saga of the Comey tapes is just one more WTF moment.
On social media, some were outraged at the evil of the man, at the same time marveling at his stupidity. To them, Trump's tweet was a bluff that prompted the appointment of a special counsel just six days later, on May 17, to investigate Russian interference in the election, and, they hoped, Trump.
Those who admire the president thought the tweet was brilliant, that it caused James Comey to divulge parts of their conversations that he would have otherwise left out -- namely the idea that he had specifically told Trump on three occasions that he was not personally under investigation. Some went even further to say the tweet launched a series of events that ended with Comey admitting he had leaked information to the New York Times (through a friend).
Still others saw it as, just another disgusting display of a carnival barker, another WTF moment in many, many WTF moments since he stepped down that escalator and announced his candidacy.
So, which is it? The clue lies in looking, not at individual tweets, but at tweets sorted by topic.
We need to go back to the beginning, when Trump first tweeted about President Obama wire tapping him at Trump Tower.
"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"
Most established media outlets say that these allegations are false. But other media such as FOX News and Circa news point to officials admitting to Trump being recorded, and unmasked, in the course of one or more counterintelligence investigations. Wiretapping or not, there is a lot of evidence to suggest the government can and does obtain private conversations on demand, through various means.
In the new tweet and on FOX and Friends, Trump himself confirmed that the tweet after Comey's firing was alluding to the capability of the government to make such recordings.
But the problem is, people aren't reading his actual tweets. They're reading headlines based on his actual tweets.
Further, whether we will ever get to hear or see those conversations is unlikely, given that we have never even gotten to hear -- anything at all -- from the actual conversation between Trump's erstwhile National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
But back to the tweet that Comey better hope there are no tapes. Contrary to what many established reporters have been writing, Trump never said he had made tapes.
The latest tweet on the matter was in response to the media and Congress asking him to provide tapes if he had indeed made them.
Legal experts weighed in, and here is a pretty good synopsis of their opinions, in the Washington Post.
Not to be content with their balanced presentation, the Post also published a column today by Pulitzer Prize-winning Kathleen Parker, of the Trump-is-cunning-and-evil variety, also positioning Comey as approaching canonization, if out of his depth. Never mind that all of established media was unified in their vilification of the FBI director immediately following the 2016 election.
Whatever the case, it is now pretty clear that we will all be better off if we sort the President's tweets by topic and view them in sequence. It's kind of like taking the whole tour of the chocolate factory, and not getting sidelined by greed or curiosity -- or prejudice -- before it's over.