A lot will be written about the following tweet, possibly for decades or even centuries. We won’t know the full implications for a while, yet, and it could be that it doesn’t amount to much in the bigger picture.
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
Still, we can for now set aside all the legal implications, like whether there really are recording devices and if they’re subject to subpoena or preservation requirements, or what it might mean to threaten the former FBI director, etc.
Just think about what the tweet says about the terms on which the president and Comey parted ways. There’s the way Comey was fired, while in Los Angeles talking to recruits. There’s the fact that Trump didn’t give him the courtesy of a call. There’s the fact that Trump followed up by calling Comey a grandstander and otherwise impugning his character and reputation. There’s the fact that Comey was fired shortly after making it clear that the investigation of Trump was ongoing and in need of more resources.
And, finally, there’s the fact that Trump claimed that Comey wasn’t investigating him at all and had even assured him of this on three separate occasions. This claim is now what Trump is trying to defend by suggesting he has tapes to prove it. Maybe he does have tapes, but more likely he does not. He probably is desperate to avoid having Comey testify that he is lying.
But Comey has no choice but to testify to that. To assume otherwise is to assume that Trump is telling the truth, and if that were the case it would be for the first time in this whole saga.
Trump thinks the so-called Deep State is out to get him but the Deep State tried to warn him that Michael Flynn was in the pay of the Russians and he didn’t care or listen. He’s made war on them over and over again, from dismissing their assessments of Russia’s role in the elections, to disrespecting their dead at CIA headquarters, to now threatening James Comey. Only a fool goes after the intelligence community like this, especially when they’re not at fault.
This is an epic miscalculation by the president, because he’s in the wrong and virtually no one has his back. The few people who are half-heartedly defending him today will be gone tomorrow, but the intelligence community isn’t going anywhere.