A looming deadline on Trump tapes has lawmakers thinking subpoena

The tools at the House Intelligence Committee’s disposal are few: if Trump doesn’t respond by Friday to their request for information about “whether any White House recordings or memoranda of Comey’s conversations with President Trump now exist or have in the past,” they can subpoena him for that information. Which is exactly what the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), suggested on Wednesday that they would do.

But even with a subpoena, the panel stands little chance of actually compelling Trump to turn over anything he doesn’t voluntarily want to produce, according to legal experts, setting lawmakers up for a high-stakes choice: Let it go, and look like they are giving the president a pass; or pursue the subpoena, and risk exposing the legislative branch’s weakness in the midst of a historic probe of the president.

“I’m skeptical about this ever getting any traction,” said Andrew Herman, a specialist in civil and criminal federal litigation and an expert on congressional investigations. “If it behooves him to release a tape or tapes, he will; otherwise, he won’t.”