Congressional investigators demanded Friday that the president turn over within two weeks any recordings he made of his conversations with former FBI director James B. Comey, as President Trump refused to answer questions about whether such recordings exist.
The House Intelligence Committee’s letter comes just one day after Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee about notes and memos he kept to document interactions with the president that made him uncomfortable — memos he slipped to the press, using a friend as intermediary, after Trump suggested via Twitter that he might have taped their discussions. Comey said he hoped their contents would compel the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate the administration over possible links to Russia.
The House Intelligence Committee also sent a second letter Friday to Comey, asking him to turn over his memos. The committee gave Comey and White House Counsel Don McGahn until June 23 to produce the requested memos and tapes.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also has requested a copy of Comey’s memos — but from the intermediary, Columbia Law professor Daniel Richman. The committee sent a letter Thursday night insisting that Richman turn the memos over to the committee by Friday in the format in which he received them.
Richman has been in touch with the committees through Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is handling the issue, said a person familiar with the matter. Richman declined to comment.
Trump spent Friday claiming “vindication” after Comey’s testimony, while still accusing the former FBI director of lying about their interactions . At a news conference, Trump said that “some of the stuff [Comey] said just wasn’t true.”
But during his testimony, Comey invited Trump to “release all the tapes” he may have made, a sign that he believed they would corroborate his rendition of events, if such tapes exist.
Comey recalled many details of his memos in written and spoken statements he gave to the Senate Intelligence Committee, testifying as part of their investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The president has instead remained cagey about the existence of the “tapes” — he referred to them in quotes in his initial tweet — that he hinted at just days after he fired Comey.
“I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future,” Trump said Friday, in response to a reporter’s question about whether the tapes exist.
When pressed by reporters to better specify when he intended to address the issue, Trump added: “I’m not hinting anything about it; I’ll tell you about it over a fairly short period of time.”
And then noted: “Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.”
The continued mystery surrounding any tapes is fueling confusion as well as Richard Nixon comparisons, as Trump rejects calls to set the record straight swiftly. It’s not just the media, however, that are wondering whether these tapes exist.
Across Capitol Hill, congressional leaders and committee members of both parties are clamoring for the president to pony up the tapes of his Feb. 14 conversation with Comey in the Oval Office, if he even made them.
The most vocal demands are being raised by Democratic leaders, such as Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), all of whom have called for issuing the White House a subpoena to procure the tapes, if the administration doesn’t provide them freely — or tell the public they simply don’t exist.
Republicans have not yet joined the chorus of leading Democrats demanding stringent legal measures to unearth any recordings. But they, too, have been issuing formal and increasingly insistent requests for the recordings.
Before the House Intelligence Committee’s Friday letter giving the White House a deadline of June 23, the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to the FBI and the White House in May, demanding documents and records related to Comey and Trump’s interactions — including any tapes or memos. The FBI and White House informed the committee recently that they would need more time to work on the request, according to a spokesman for the panel.
The House Oversight Committee also sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in March requesting “all documents” and “all other components” relating to former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials after last year’s election. A Democratic committee aide said Friday that request also would apply to any tapes of Comey and Trump’s Oval Office conversation, given that the conversations focused on Flynn. A spokeswoman for the House panel chairman, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), did not return a request for comment.
Whether these requests for materials are eventually enforced, however, depends on a more committed bipartisan effort to force the president’s hand — something that to date, most leading Republican lawmakers have been loath to do.
A spokesman for Judiciary committee chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) stressed that the panel’s effort to procure more information about the recordings was bipartisan, adding that the senator still had no knowledge about whether the tapes existed.
A spokeswoman for Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr (R-N.C.), however, would not say Friday whether Burr knew that the tapes exist — or whether he felt the committee should have access to that information.