President Trump faced increasing pressure on Sunday from both sides of the aisle to confirm whether or not he has tapes of his private conversation with ousted FBI Director James B. Comey, and, if so, to turn them over to the special counsel investigating whether or not there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, suggested Mr. Trump could clear the cloud over his presidency by either turning over the tapes or by testifying before the Senate, which he invited the president to do during an appearance on “Face the Nation” on CBS after Mr. Trump said on Friday he’s willing to go under oath.
But if there are no tapes, Mr. Trump should make that known so there is “no more game playing,” Mr. Schumer said.
“When it comes to the tapes and it comes to testifying, he ought to say what he means,” Mr. Schumer said. “The president seems to be taking it almost a little bit lightly. It’s almost like the tax returns.”
Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, also wants the president to step up and address the recordings, saying that if they do exist, he should voluntarily turn them over to the special counsel.
She said she didn’t think a subpoena for the tapes was necessary, but if one were to be issued, it would come from the special counsel.
Mr. Trump hinted on May 12 he had recordings of his private conversation on Twitter.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Mr. Trump said in a tweet.
The president’s ambiguous tweet came after The New York Times reported on May 11 that Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey for his loyalty during a private dinner on Jan. 27.
Mr. Comey confirmed last week during his testimony before the Senate intelligence committee that the president asked for his loyalty during the conversation and also directed him to let the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn go.
But nearly one month after Mr. Trump’s tweet, the president refused to confirm whether or not the tapes actually exist.
“I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the near future,” Mr. Trump said during a press conference on Friday.
Later on Friday, the House intelligence committee asked the White House to turn over any recordings that may exist by June 23.
“This is an issue the president should have cleared up in his press conference,” Ms. Collins told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
But Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, told “Face the Nation” he doubts they exist.
“I hope there are recordings,” Mr. Lankford said. “But I doubt that they’re really there.”
Mark Zaid, an attorney in Washington, D.C., said it’s likely Mr. Trump will have to confirm or deny the existence of the tapes either voluntarily or by being compelled.
“If they exist, this is potentially shades of Nixon’s Watergate, and the harm to the credibility of either President Trump or former FBI Director Comey, depending on whose story any tapes support, is likely to be unrecoverable,” Mr. Zaid said.
The bigger question, though, is whether or not Mr. Trump will accept Mr. Schumer’s invitation and testify before Congress, making him the first president to do so since Gerald Ford, Mr. Zaid said.
“The dynamic theater of such an event will probably be one of the most dramatic stories of the 21st century and possibly could bring down a presidency,” he said.