Since President Donald Trump alluded in a Friday morning tweet that he taped conversations with recently fired FBI Director James Comey, much of the talk in the media has centered around the significance of the taping, itself. And there is even more significance where Trump is concerned, since he accused Barack Obama of wiretapping him.
First things first: As noted by LawNewz and other outlets familiar with the laws surrounding recording both phone and in-person conversations, if Trump was truthful about a recording, it was most likely recorded legally. Federally, as well as in Washington, D.C., New York, and New Jersey, only one party to a conversation needs to be aware of the recording.
For a Trump recording to be made illegally based on where he is known to hang his hat, it would have to have been produced while he was in Florida at his Mar-a-Lago club, as Florida is a “two-party consent.” state. Still, even if recordings were made legally, that doesn’t mean they’re insignificant.
Last night on Rachel Maddow’s eponymous MSNBC show, she devoted her final two segments to the topic. Citing Richard Nixon’s own White House tapes, she noted that the greater issue is not the mere existence of the recordings.
“The prospect that a tape exists of the president’s dinner conversation with former FBI Director James Comey is interesting not because a president taping conversations is inherently nefarious,” she explained. “I mean, presidents haven’t done it since Nixon, but lots of presidents did it before Nixon.” She continued:
“The reason that’s really interesting is because if there is a tape, and the conversation went anything like the president says it did, where they’re talking about if he’s under investigation Well, that tape, now that he’s talked about it, is fair game for being subpoenaed. It could be used as potential evidence. And James Comey could be called as a potential witness.”
Maddow also recalled the case of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who ended up charged with attempting to sell Obama’s Senate seat after the later was elected president. Blagojevich seemingly had a winnable case…until recordings from (legal) wiretaps of his conversations about selling the seat were unveiled.