As part of its ongoing Russia investigation, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence sent a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn Friday, insisting that the White House provide any audio documentation of conversations between Trump and Comey.
It remains an open question as to whether any recordings actually exist. The possibility that there were tapes of conversations between the president and Comey was first suggested by Trump himself last month.
It’s doubtful that such tapes exist. Far more likely is that the president’s penchant for drama, bullying, and mendacity inspired him to threaten Comey with the possibility that their conversations had been recorded. Even White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders cast doubt on the existence of tapes.
Asked about a secret recording system in a press conference Thursday, she was dismissive, saying, “Sure, I’ll try to look under the couches.”
Pressed again Friday as to whether such tapes exist, Trump was cagey. “I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the near future,” he said. “You’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.”
Comey, for his part, has welcomed the potential existence of tapes. He says that they would only serve to vindicate him. Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, Comey exclaimed, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” Tapes of conversations between Comey and Trump could corroborate or, in a less likely scenario, disprove Comey’s testimony.
If Trump has tapes and doesn’t turn them over to the House committee by June 23, Congress could subpoena them. Even some Republicans have agreed that a subpoena would be appropriate. In a CNN interview Sunday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said:
“[Trump] should give a straight yes or no to the question of whether or not the tapes exist, and he should voluntarily turn them over not only to the Senate Intelligence Committee but to the special counsel. I don’t think a subpoena should be necessary, and I don’t understand why the President just doesn’t clear this matter up once and for all.
“I would be fine with issuing a subpoena, but that most likely would come from the special counsel’s office.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed that the president should immediately clarify whether he has tapes. “There is a cloud over the presidency, the president said, and that’s rightly so. There two ways to clear up that cloud. One: if there are tapes … he should make them public right away. If there aren’t tapes, he should let that be known. No more game playing.”
Featured image via YouTube video.