WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has admitted that he does not have recordings of his private meetings with fired FBI director James Comey, after fuelling speculation for weeks of secret Oval Office tapes.
But Mr Trump's belated admissions did little to quell allegations that he has sought to stifle investigations into possible collusion between his presidential campaign and Russian interference in last year's election.
"Look there has been no obstruction, there has been no collusion," Mr Trump told Fox News Channel in an interview that aired yesterday.
Mr Comey was leading the investigation into allegations that Russia tried to sway the election towards Mr Trump when the President fired him on May 9.
He testified before a Senate committee that Mr Trump had asked him to drop a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn's alleged ties to Russia.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump had tweeted: "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are 'tapes' or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."
The admission threw a new twist into allegations, fed by Mr Comey's own claims, that Mr Trump wanted the FBI to pull back on its probe into the Russia scandal.
NO RUSSIA LINKS
Look there has been no obstruction, there has been no collusion.
MR DONALD TRUMP, denying any links between his election campaign and Russian interference in a Fox News Channel interview that aired yesterday.
Those accusations are believed to now be part of an independent Justice Department probe into possible illegal obstruction of the investigation by the President.
Mr Trump's tweet came after weeks of challenges to the White House to prove the assertion that he might have recordings of the conversations.
Mr Trump had warned Mr Comey that there could be retribution if he revealed anything of their private conversations.
"James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" he tweeted on May 12.
That claim quickly raised concerns that Mr Trump, like some past US presidents, was secretly recording all of his conversations in the White House.
During the Fox interview, Mr Trump also questioned the impartiality of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the probe into Russia's meddling in the US election and the possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Mr Trump argued that Mr Mueller is "good friends" with Mr Comey, who was Mr Mueller's successor as director of the FBI.
The President also said some of the staffers that Mr Mueller has hired for his investigation "are all Hillary Clinton supporters".
Asked if Mr Mueller should recuse himself from the Russia probe, Mr Trump said: "Well, he's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. But he's also - we're going to have to see." The President did say, however, that Mr Mueller is an "honourable man".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS