Donald Trump sure does like borrowing ideas from Richard Nixon, like being the "Law & Order" president, talking to the "Silent Majority," hanging out with Henry Kissinger, and even adopting Nixon's "Madman strategy" approach to foreign policy -- with the caveat, of course, that it's no strategy and Trump is simply fucking nuts. So should we be even the least bit surprised Trump hinted in a Tweet that maybe -- just for speculation's sake -- there might be a recording out there of his dinner conversation with James Comey? Don't be silly! The answer to every question about Trump that starts with "Should we be surprised...?" is always "No, and it'll turn out to be worse." So now it's time to ask whether Trump, like ol' Dick, has a recording system in the White House. The answer is: He'd be a goddamned fool to repeat Nixon's mistakes, so the odds are pretty good he has a recording system in the White House.

Sean Spicer's refusal to answer questions about whether Trump recorded his conversation with Comey -- or whether there are recording devices in the Oval Office or elsewhere in the White House -- was the big takeaway from today's press briefing; Spicer went out of his way to refuse any comment on the matter; like Peter, he denied it three times before the cock crew (his nickname for the press corps).

When asked about the tweet itself, Spicer said, “I’ve talked to the president. The president has nothing further to add on that.”

Spicer was pressed further: “As I mentioned, the president has nothing further to add on that.”

Are there recording devices in the Oval Office? “As I’ve said for the third time, I have nothing further to add on that.”

Lookie, here he is explaining extensively that he has nothing to say on the matter:

Also, no, that wasn't a threat to Comey, get outta here, Trump's Tweets speak for themselves. Incoherently, just like the president.

Just to add fuel to the speculative fire, Trump himself, in a teaser for tomorrow's alliterative but illiterate "Justice With Judge Jeanine" program, refused to confirm or deny whether there's such a recording system. This should be fun!

(Also, he never asked Comey for his loyalty like some kind of weird mafioso -- but it sounds like a great idea to him now!)

Now, Trump has a history -- or at least an alleged history -- of being obsessed with security and surveillance, and not just the kind where Obama is doing wire tapps to poor Donald Trump. Last May, the New York Times (which somehow hasn't failed yet) reported,

A sense of paranoia is growing among [Trump's] campaign staff members, including some who have told associates they believe that their Trump Tower offices in New York may be bugged, according to three people briefed on the conversations.

After Spicer's refusal to say anything about bugging today, the co-authors of that Times piece, Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker, both Tweeted reminders of the allegations from last year; Parker also noted that their story had "so enraged Trump that he called us out as 'a woman named Parker and a woman named Haberman.'"

A month after last May's Times story, Buzzfeed also reported that four former employees at Trump's luxury resort in Florida, Xana-Doo-Doo or whatever, said Trump could use a phone console in his bedroom to listen in on phone calls on any extension at the resort. According to the escapees from Mar-a-Gulago, Trump used the "switchboard" only to monitor calls between employees, or between staff and guests -- sort of a very personal approach to the old Calls May Be Monitored for Quality Assurance.

One former employee said it was common knowledge that Trump listened in, and that employees were actually told to expect that the Big Boss might be surveilling them any time they used a phone extension:

For example, this source recalled a time when a staff member was on the phone with a club member. During the phone call, Trump called the staff member on another line to weigh in on the very issue that was being discussed. “There is no other way you could know what that conversation was about unless you were eavesdropping,” this source said.

Another source said that some resort executives' phones had a light that lit up to let them know Trump was listening in, but most phones didn't have that feature, and that "it was acknowledged that when he was at the property there was a likelihood of him listening in on your call.”

For balance, two former officials went on the record to say no such thing ever happened, and even if the system had the capability to allow eavesdropping, Donald Trump would never do such a thing, don't be ridiculous. Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks (we miss her!) replied to written queries, "This is totally and completely untrue.” So there.

Another Buzzfeed piece, in December, also detailed Trump's "surveillance operations" at the Trump National Golf Club and in an unassuming, non-Trumpian looking home Trump owns nearby in Sterling, Virginia. Sources said the house was full of cameras, monitored online by Trump Organization staff in New York, not at the nearby golf course. The golf club itself is full of cameras used to track not only possible crimes, but also to keep an eye on employees: If somebody wanders to an area of the club where they don't have work duties, they'll get a phone call asking why they're away from where they belong. The golf course also has a license-plate camera to keep track of who arrives at and leaves the club; the article says the surveillance at Trump National is much more extensive than at most other clubs. Not that there's anything weird about that.

The Washington Post's Marc Fischer recalls Trump Tower's surveillance system, which he saw back in the 1980s, and recalls meetings in recent years where Trump would say "I bet you'd like a nice drink of water," and voila! An aide with a glass of water would appear.

So should we be expecting subpoenas of the Trump Tapes, and looking forward to Trump blustering through an incoherent explanation (full of references to fake news and his huge electoral vote count) of some eighteen-minute gap in a recording Congress wants to hear? The congressional requests for recordings are already starting: Illinois Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has sent a request to the White House Counsel to confirm whether the White House has a recording system, and to turn over any recordings of Trump's dinner with Comey, should they exist.

Huh. So maybe the reason Trump assumed Obama was wiretapping him is that OF COURSE that's what he'd do if he ran the intelligence agencies (not that he knows about "warrants" or stuff).

Or maybe this is all just a lot of idle speculation, and Trump didn't at all mean to suggest he had a recording system. He might simply have been reminding Comey that Vladimir Putin was listening in on his secret Oval Office bug.

OK, so now that we've reminded you that Donald Trump has a history of watching his people very carefully, loves him some listening devices, and now has the reins of the surveillance state in his hands and no regard for the limits on presidential power, we hope you'll have a nice relaxing weekend! It's your OPEN THREAD!

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[NYT / WaPo /Buzzfeed / Buzzfeed / Tom Namoko on Twitter]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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