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The Trump Tapes That Never Materialized

Purported tapes with material damaging to Donald Trump never materialized during the 2016 race. Will they ever?

Trump and the markets

As Donald Trump vanquished opponent after opponent in the GOP presidential primary, Democrats and members of the press began searching for The Apprentice tapes – supposed outtake footage from Trump’s NBC show, which spanned from 2004-15 with the New York businessman, and now president-elect, as the host.

The tapes began to take on mythical properties, promising to take down Trump while simultaneously revealing his alleged true feelings about a host of controversial topics. A new Vanity Fair piece takes a closer look at the “white whale” of Democratic opposition researchers and journalists:

The putative “tapes,” a source said, actually referred to mere moments within an almost incomprehensibly large volume of footage—larger than anyone likely could have fathomed. While the boardroom scenes of The Apprentice accounted for only about a third of the one- or two-hour-long television show, Trump and his producers were in that room for several hours per episode taping. There could be between 10 and 12 cameras, which would often be rolling the entire time.

Clinton campaign meetings debated the merits of finding and scouring what would potentially be days of footage to find a remark here or a comment there. The magnitude of the task was enough to discourage some staffers, but the fact that they were never produced made the debate moot.

That didn’t stop the obsession over finding them, however:

Throughout the year, the tapes were a subject of almost mythical fascination within the media. People involved with The Apprentice had received calls from reporters at the Associated Press, BuzzFeed, Politico, The New York Times, CNN, the Huffington Post, and The Washington Post. Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign would also obsessively try to find the tapes up until Election Day. In fact, one person close to the Clinton campaign told me that he had spoken to someone, on the Sunday before the election, who said he had a damaging clip of Trump.

On Friday, comedian Tom Arnold claimed in a radio interview on Seattle’s KIRO he had the tapes, but explained why he won’t release them:

I’ll tell you why. Because when the people sent it to me, it was funny. Hundreds of people have seen these. It was sort of a Christmas video they put together. He wasn’t going to be President of the United States.

Arnold, who never produced physical evidence that he owned the tapes, said he didn’t believe the tapes would have changed the outcome of the election.