Mueller and Comey not as close as Trump and others suggest

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Defending his May tweet that suggested he may have "tapes" of his conversations with James Comey, President Trump said his comment may have persuaded the fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director to tell the truth about their interactions.

"With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information", Trump said in a pair of tweets shortly before 1 p.m.

Trump said that he never made tapes of his private conversations with Comey - doubling down on a tweet he'd sent a day earlier.

But the president's suggestion that his tweet influenced Comey to be truthful in recounting his conversations contradicts Trump's own assertion that Comey misled Congress.

The President has disputed Comey's version of a January dinner during which the president asked for a pledge of loyalty, according to Comey.

The president's tweets on Thursday left open the possibility that the conversations may have been taped without his knowledge.

Trump, of course, had been bluffing when he hinted that he had tapes of the Comey/Trump convos, and the impact of that dishonesty would have had no impact on the detailed journals Comey kept of the conversations.

Trump's attempt to intimidate Comey resulted in the release of those memos, followed by the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, and hours of devastating Senate testimony from Comey.

This month, Comey testified in detail about those conversations, saying the president had appealed to him on multiple occasions not to pursue an investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and his alleged links to Russian officials.

But the president had steadfastly refused to clarify whether any tapes existed.

"He added, "[The suggestion] wasn't very stupid. "And if you look further back, before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn't admitting that" Trump said without specifying to which of Comey's past statements he was alluding.

This is not the first time that Trump, the former star of reality TV and tabloids, has manufactured a melodrama that begins with bluster but often ends with a whimper. Marco Rubio on Thursday. "I don't know how this serves the country's interests".

Trump flirted with presidential runs in 1988 and 2000 before abandoning them. And his embrace of birtherism, which questioned whether Obama was born in the United States and eligible to become president, fueled his own political rise.

The pattern has continued since Trump's election.

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Ken Thomas and Deb Riechmann contributed reporting.

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