He dodged on Friday too but it wasn’t as clear then as it is today just how adamantly he’s been instructed not. to. discuss. this. No matter what. You need to watch The Hill’s version of the clip to appreciate how scripted he was in batting down questions on this subject, not just in refusing to answer but in using the same line over and over. (The clip below is a YouTube version of The Hill clip but the audio gets un-synced from the video halfway through. It’s best listened to rather than watched.) I don’t know why they’re even bothering to deny that tapes exist at this point. Everyone who watches this will come to the conclusion that (a) yes, obviously they exist or else Spicer would say otherwise and (b) the White House is verrrrry worried about Spicer uttering so much as a syllable that might get them (further) into legal trouble over the tapes. Maybe it has to do with executive privilege: Any discussion by Trump or, presumably, his press secretary of what he said to Comey might be found later by a court to constitute a waiver of that privilege. Probably, though, it’s a more straightforward matter of Spicer simply having no options on what he can say. He can’t admit that there are tapes or else the left-media feeding frenzy will get worse and he can’t deny that there are tapes if in fact there are tapes and the denial would be cited as proof later that he’s a liar. He’s stuck in PR limbo: His boss has made such a hash of things by mentioning tapes in the first place that Spicer can’t say anything without making things worse. So he has to resort to this “Who’s on first?” routine with the press corps.
Spicer also said today that he sees no need for a special prosecutor in the Russia probe, something Chuck Schumer is insisting on to the point where he’s threatened to try to block Trump’s new FBI director from being confirmed if the DOJ doesn’t appoint one. That seems like a bad idea, and not just because Harry Reid’s rule change in 2013 ensured that Schumer won’t be able to filibuster the FBI nominee now. It’s a bad idea because a special prosecutor might not work out as well for Trump critics as they’re hoping. What you want, says anti-Trumper David Frum, is an independent commission, not a special prosecutor. A prosecutor is stuck looking for evidence of crimes. A commission can look at things much more broadly.
Exit quotation on executive privilege from Jim Comey’s friend, lawyer Benjamin Wittes: “One of the problems that Trump created for himself in removing Jim Comey is that he dramatically increased the list of things that Jim Comey is now allowed to talk about.”