US President Donald Trump has suggested he was just trying to keep fired FBI director James Comey honest with his cryptic tweet implying there might be recordings of their private conversations.
Mr Trump ended a month-long guessing game on Thursday by tweeting that he never made and does not have recordings of his private conversations with Mr Comey.
With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
...whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
In an interview that aired on Friday on Fox & Friends, Mr Trump said: "When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it's governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed."
Asked if he was trying to keep Mr Comey honest, Mr Trump added: "It wasn't very stupid, I can tell you that. He was - he did admit that what I said was right."
The tapes saga began in May, just days after Mr Trump fired Mr Comey, who was then leading an investigation into Trump associates' ties to Russian officials.
Mr Trump has disputed Mr Comey's version of a January dinner during which, according to Mr Comey, the president asked for a pledge of loyalty.
Mr Trump responded at that time, via Twitter, that Mr Comey "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Mr Trump, in the Fox News Channel interview, did not say exactly what he thought had changed about Mr Comey's story.
The former FBI director has only offered his story publicly once, in testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, although his associates provided some details to the news media before that.
Mr Comey testified that he had told the president in multiple conversations he was not personally under federal investigation and said the president implored him to make that public.
Mr Trump has seized on that statement as vindication, though the investigation continues, as do congressional inquiries.
Mr Comey also said that Mr Trump asked him for "loyalty" - which Mr Trump emphatically denies.
Mr Trump's initial Twitter missive about the possibility of tapes triggered a series of consequences, each weightier than the last.
Mr Comey has suggested that the tweet prompted him to ask an associate to release damaging information to The New York Times.
The resulting news reports built pressure on a top justice department official to appoint an independent prosecutor to oversee the Russia investigation.
That special counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller, is now reportedly investigating Mr Trump's own actions in a probe that could dog his presidency for the foreseeable future.
Mr Trump showed concern about that situation as well, telling Fox that Mr Mueller is "very, very good friends with Comey which is bothersome".
Mr Trump's declaration now that there are no recordings appears to settle a key dynamic in that investigation - it is now the president's word against Mr Comey's notes.
Without recordings, Mr Comey's version of his conversations with Mr Trump - which he documented at the time, shared with close associates and testified about to Congress - are likely to play a key role as prosecutors consider whether Mr Trump inappropriately pressured the lawman to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Investigators will also weigh the credibility of Mr Comey against a president who has shown a wobbly commitment to accuracy.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway muddied the waters a little on Friday morning when she told CNN that, while Mr Trump "answered definitively" he has made no tapes, "he left open the possibility that they may exist".
Thursday's revelation came a day ahead of a deadline to turn over any tapes to the House intelligence committee.