Senate Intel at standoff with Trump Jr. after issuing subpoena for testimony
The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. for him to return and testify again, and the committee is now at a standoff with President Donald Trump’s eldest son, according to sources familiar with the matter.
One option Trump Jr. is considering in response to the subpoena is to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, and another is just to not appear at all, according to one source.
Discussions for Trump Jr’s testimony began several weeks ago before the Mueller report was released, the sources say. Trump Jr.’s team resisted giving testimony, in part, because the findings of the Mueller report were still not known.
During the negotiations, the idea to use written questions and answers was floated, and at another time it was proposed that Trump Jr. sit for an untranscribed interview, according to one source.
The subpoena for Trump Jr.’s testimony marks an escalation of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russian election interference. While House Democrats have fought with the Trump administration over their subpoenas, the Senate Intelligence panel is believed to be the first congressional committee to issue a subpoena to one of Trump’s family members.
The committee’s investigation, led by Republican Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina, has been running for more than two years, and the committee has interviewed many of the same witnesses who spoke to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The committee has recently begun re-interviewing witnesses, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who appeared for a second time earlier this year.
Trump Jr.’s position on testifying hardened after the Mueller report was released, according to one of the sources. The report stated that the special counsel’s team explored charging Trump Jr. and other campaign officials with campaign finance violations for the meeting they took with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton in 2016 but ultimately declined because they could not place a value on the materials offered and could not establish Trump Jr. knew he was violating the law. Mueller’s team also did not establish that there was a conspiracy between Russians and members of the Trump campaign, which Trump allies have used to embolden their position that the investigation was a “witch hunt.”
A representative for Trump Jr. declined to comment.
Axios first reported the subpoena.
Trump Jr. has already testified under oath in 2017 before both the House and Senate intelligence committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee released the transcript publicly.
Trump Jr.’s testimony has been scrutinized for how he described his conversations in the lead-up to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, in which he said that he only talked to Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort about the meeting where a Russian lawyer was offering dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“Was there anyone else?” Trump Jr. was asked.
“No, not to my recollection,” he responded.
But in the Mueller report, the special counsel wrote that Trump Jr. announced at a morning meeting of top campaign and Trump family members “he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation” in the days before the Trump Tower meeting.