Sean Spicer won't deny President Trump is recording his Oval Office guests. That's untenable.
WASHINGTON - White House press secretary Sean Spicer was given multiple opportunities on Friday to deny that President Donald Trump is recording conversations in the Oval Office. He didn't deny it once. He wouldn't even talk about it.
"The president has nothing further to add on that," he said repeatedly when asked about Trump's tweet suggesting there may be tapes of him talking to now-fired FBI Director James Comey:
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
Spicer would later add an obligatory "The tweet speaks for itself" - his usual response when he doesn't want to answer for his bosses' tweets. Later on, Spicer was asked again, and again he declined to say anything: "I think the point that I made with respect to the tweet is that the president has no further comment."
This is untenable. Spicer and his boss may not know it yet, but it is.
Shortly before Spicer offered these answers, 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 as he is trying to hammer out the details of things like the health-care bill.
Each and every one of these leaders should and will now be suspicious that their conversations with Trump are being recorded - possibly to be used against them at a later date, as Trump is threatening to do with Comey. 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.
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 voters 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 might 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 suggested such tapes could be used for what's difficult to label as anything except blackmail.
We'll see how long Spicer continues to try to no-comment this one away.
Aaron Blake is senior political reporter for The Fix.