Donald Trump Jr. Subpoened By Senate Intelligence Committee

The President's eldest son has been subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding Trump campaign contacts with Russia.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is at least ostensibly controlled by Republicans, has subpoenaed the President’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. to testify regarding contacts with Russian officials or agents during the 2016 Presidential campaign:

WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, who met with Russians in June 2016 after being promised political dirt about Hillary Clinton, according to people familiar with the committee’s decision.

The younger Mr. Trump is the first of President Trump’s children to be subpoenaed in the continuing congressional investigations into Russia’s 2016 election interference, and the move by the Republican-led committee is a sign that some members of the president’s party are not aligned with his desire for a swift end to all of the Russia inquiries.

News of the subpoena came a day after Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, sought to lower the curtain on the drama in Congress surrounding Russia’s efforts to sabotage the 2016 election. The end of the Mueller investigation, he said, meant “case closed.”

But the subpoena of the younger Mr. Trump shows that the Intelligence Committee, which is under Mr. McConnell’s jurisdiction, is proceeding with its vigorous investigation that — for the most part — has not degenerated into a partisan morass like a parallel investigation by the House.

The committee is particularly interested in the younger Mr. Trump’s account of the events surrounding the Trump Tower meeting — as well as his role in his father’s efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow — and comparing the testimony to his previous answers to Senate investigators in 2017. Mr. Trump is a scion of President Trump’s global business empire and was one of his father’s close advisers during the election.
Republicans expressed frustration with news of the subpoena. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, posted on Twitter that the younger Mr. Trump “has already spent dozens of hours testifying in front of Congressional committees.”

“Endless investigations—by either party—won’t change the fact that there was NO collusion,” he added. “It’s time to move on. It’s time to focus on ISSUES, not investigations.”

A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr. declined to comment, as did spokespeople for the committee’s leaders.

The decision to subpoena the president’s son is an aggressive move, and appears to have come after discussions broke down about whether the younger Mr. Trump might appear voluntarily before the panel. Mr. Trump was highly unlikely to appear before the panel in person, three people close to him said, and one person said that he could invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in a written response.

CNN’s Kaitlin Collins reports that the President’s inner circle is “frustrated” by the committee’s decision to subpoena the younger Trump, but there doesn’t appear to be much they can do to stop it from going forward:

Members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle are frustrated that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., multiple sources tell CNN.

Those close to Trump are exasperated that Republican Sen. Richard Burr, in their minds, just handed Democrats a talking point. Multiple Republicans had coalesced around Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s talking point of “case closed” in recent days, but now Democrats can argue that even members of the President’s own party don’t agree that all Russia inquiries should end immediately.

The subpoena was issued more than two weeks ago, according to a source familiar with the matter, and it compelled Trump Jr. to testify before the committee, the source said.


The subpoena for Trump Jr.’s testimony marks an escalation of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russian election interference. The panel’s investigation, led by Burr, 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.

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said in an interview Wednesday he was caught off guard by the news of the subpoena and only found out when news reports broke. But people familiar with the matter say that’s more a reflection on Mulvaney’s role in the West Wing. As CNN’s Jeremy Herb reported, the subpoena was issued two weeks ago, and sources say the president was aware of it.

For now, Trump Jr. feels emboldened by this fight, people close to him say. He spent the end of last year building up relationships with Republican lawmakers who solicited his endorsement and asked him to campaign for them on the trail.

Trump Jr’s most well-known contact with Russian officials became known to the public when The New York Times first reported about a heretofore secret meeting in June 2016 that included Trump Jt., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, and a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya. Veselnitskaya had previously been linked to the Russian government and has since admitted to being an informant for the Russian Government. As we learned several days after the initial Times report when Trump Jr. made the emails he had exchanged with campaign officials prior to the meeting public, the meeting was scheduled after Trump Jr. and others in the campaign were told that  Veselnitskaya had access to damaging information about Hillary Clinton. In one of those emails, Trump Jr. responded “That’s great” when informed that the lawyer had access to damaging information about Clinton and the Democrats. Later, Veselnitskaya said in interviews that Trump Jr. offered a quid pro quo in exchange for information about Clinton.

When the meeting was first reported, though, both Trump Jr. and the White House claimed that its purpose was to discuss issues such as the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans as well as sanctions imposed by Russia in the wake of its seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. That claim was made most prominently in a statement released by the White House while the President was returning from a visit to Europe. As we learned when the younger Trump released the email chain discussed above, this claim was false. This is significant because the President himself participated in drafting that initial statement that falsely stated the original purpose for the meeting. The fact that we now know it was false makes the President’s involvement in what may constitute an attempted cover-up extremely significant.  It is worth noting that Trump had previously stated that the meeting’s initial purpose was “opposition research,” however that admission came before we knew about the President’s role in drafting the White House statement that attempted to cover-up the motivation for the meeting.

There were also questions raised about the meeting and the subsequent effort to apparently cover-up the initial purpose for scheduling it raised by Trump Jr.’s closed-door testimony before Senate Intelligence Committee which raised more questions than it answered. For example, the President’s oldest son stated that he could not recall if he ever communicated with his father regarding the Trump Tower meeting. However, phone records apparently show that Trump Jr. spoke at length to someone on a blocked number both immediately and immediately following the meeting. It is well-known that Trump Sr. typically uses a phone with a blocked number for privacy reasons so this raises the rather obvious questions of who, other than his father, Trump Jr. would have been talking to so close to the meeting itself. Additionally, it’s been widely reported that Trump Jr. was in frequent contact with his father regarding what was going on during the campaign and that it would have been unusual for him to not discuss a matter such as this meeting with his father either before or after it took place. This is especially notable given the fact that, in a speech just days before the meeting, Trump said in a stump speech that there would be some damaging information about Clinton released within days. Most recently, of course, is has been reported that Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen is prepared to tell investigators that President Trump knew about the meeting, and its purported purpose, prior to the time that it actually took place. This final revelation, along with the recent release of a report on that meeting released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, leads to several interesting conclusions and potentially points to significant evidence that could implicate Trump directly in a cover-up and could cause even more serious legal liability for his son.

As I have noted before, what all of this tells us is that the Trump campaign was so eager to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton that it was willing to send three of its senior representatives, including the Campaign Manager, the President’s son, and the President’s son-in-law to meet with a lawyer with connections to the Russian government. While the Trump Administration and its supporters are quick to dismiss this particular revelation on the ground that “opposition research” is a standard part of any campaign. While this is true, it’s also the case that Federal law prohibits foreign nationals or officials of foreign governments from making any kind of donation, whether monetary or otherwise, to a campaign for Federal office and forbids campaigns from soliciting such donations. Without question, the kind of “opposition research” spoken of here would be included in the kind of donations that foreign nationals or officials are forbidden from making. Additionally, Federal law also prohibits persons from conspiring to violate Federal law or to defraud the United States. Arguably, that’s exactly what was going on here notwithstanding the fact that, apparently, nothing of value came of the meeting.

Trump Jr. has previously spoken with committee representatives in the House and Senate regarding this meeting and other issues pertaining to contact between the Trump campaign and Russian representatives, but he has never testified under oath, publicly or otherwise. It has been suggested on several occasions, though, that at least parts of what Trump Jr. may have said during these Capitol Hill appearances was untrue, misleading, or at the very least incomplete. This appears to be the reason why Committee member from both parties are eager to bring him back and get him under oath. It also means that the younger Trump is likely to be subpoenaed by other Congressional committees, including House committees controlled by Democrats. Suffice it to say all of this should be very interesting.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, National Security, Politicians, Russia, Russia Investigation, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    A lesson in nepotism for some future president: family members are not shielded by executive privilege. It must be very confusing for Trump (most things are) to discover that although it’s smart to use family to commit crimes in the normal course of #TrumpCrimeFamily business, it’s smarter to use an attorney general to commit your crimes once in office.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    It may be that Burr is operating in good faith. I read somewhere he’s planning to retire after his current term. On the other hand, there are reports he discussed the ongoing investigation with the WH. It may be that Burr’s faced with either charging him with lying to congress or giving him a chance to clean up his testimony, and the junior Don is too dumb to play along. Or he’s afraid of being cornered into revealing something worse than already known.

  3. @gVOR08:

    The membership of the Senate Intelligence Committee has, by and large, been far more bipartisan than most of their colleagues.

  4. HelloWorld! says:

    @michael reynolds: “it’s smarter to use an attorney general to commit your crimes once in office”

    I guess one glimmering hope is that Trump has demonstrated that he has the capacity to learn from his mistakes.

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    there doesn’t appear to be much they can do to stop it from going forward:

    They could always ignore it. That seems to be what they do in regards to any House subpoenas. Hell, that’s pretty much what they do in regards to any law. Or inconvenient facts. Or citizens of color impacted by disaster. Or….

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  6. Kathy says:

    Let’s see if this doesn’t degenerate into Republicans on the committee pitching softball questions to bask in Junior’s “decency.”

    I wonder if Manafort, the one experienced person in the fiasco, warned Jr. and Kushner they should avoid the meeting and notify the FBI. If he did, the rich kids can’t keep arguing ignorance of the law (and when did that become a defense?).

  7. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Aside from the possible damage from Junior stupid-ing up the room, the comic possibilities are endless. This is the guy who dealt with reporters hunting around for confirmation that he met with Russians in Trump Tower by releasing his emails about it himself. Truly a keen executive mind at work.

    Bonus result: Eric can coast on being The Smart One for a few years at least.

  8. Gustopher says:

    For now, Trump Jr. feels emboldened by this fight, people close to him say. He spent the end of last year building up relationships with Republican lawmakers who solicited his endorsement and asked him to campaign for them on the trail.

    There is so much in those two sentences that I do not understand.

  9. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: I think the rationale is that for collusion or conspiracy, one has to be aware of the consequences of their actions. If you don’t actually know that talking to the Russians about smearing an electoral opponent is illegal, you can’t actually engage in conspiracy, you can only be a fatuous and witless gull.

  10. Kathy says:

    @just nutha:

    So if I don’t know that, say, making up phony medical expenses to defraud my insurance company and lower my taxes, is wrong. And I plan that with you, who does know, but the thing falls through because I didn’t get the phony receipts to you in time, I don’t go to jail?

  11. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: I believe it is a specific, poorly drafted law that requires “willful intent” (or some similar phrasing) which has been neutered by the courts so it is interpreted as requiring someone to say “let’s break the law”

  12. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: If you don’t actually carry out the crime because of incompetence, my understanding is that no crime has been committed. Just like if you planned a bank robbery in the 1930s, but the bank went bust before you stuck it up, you’re not a bank robber. IANAL, but to be charged with “attempted felony X,” there would need to be a actual attempt, not an aborted one.

    Even Mueller’s report noted that one of the reasons that Trump and company might not be chargeable under conspiracy (a tough case to make to begin with) was that they were too stupid to realize they were actually conspiring, IIRC.

  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Put the greaseball in jail.

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  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Kathy:

    I don’t go to jail?

    Oh, no. You and I would be in jail. But you and I don’t have a corrupt Attorney General, a Turtle-Faced Senator, and a drunken SC Justice in our hip pockets.

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  15. grumpy realist says:

    @just nutha: It dates from common law. Conspiracy is one of the “intent” crimes, which means you have to have the mens rea to commit the crime. However….even with the “intent” crimes there are limits. You can’t weasel out of having killed someone by saying you only intended to commit GBH and therefore the mens rea was lacking.

    Conspiracy is one of those crimes that exists as soon as you have the intent with another person to commit a crime and take an “action” towards committing the crime. So even if you end up not committing the crime, you’ve already committed conspiracy.

    Also note that “attempted X” is a different beast than conspiracy and with different triggers…..

  16. KM says:

    @just nutha :
    Precisely. There’s a difference between “tried despite incompetence and failed” and “circumstances prevented plan from coming together”. Hell, there’s even a difference between “tried despite incompetence and failed” and “too mind-numbingly stupid to get it off the ground”.

    Jr, despite his shortcomings, doesn’t fall into the second category. As of “willful intent”, his intent was to go talk to Russians to get dirt. Jr’s smart enough to know that getting dirt on someone is often done in a less-then-totally-kosher manner or he would have been talking to professionals who do those things for a living. It’s like arguing that someone who buys something “off the back of a truck” is unaware it’s possible those things were obtained in a sketchy fashion. You’d be at the store otherwise. If you are going through abnormal channels, you are at the very least aware it’s an abnormal channel. If you are *not* aware of that….. well, it just raises questions about what you think is normal and what else you’re into.

  17. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I think you got the right answer.

  18. just nutha says:

    @grumpy realist: So then, in Kathy’s example, she (actually both of us) go to jail if the court can prove the conspiracy. But neither of us can be convicted of defrauding the insurance company because we didn’t actually do it. Can Kathy be convicted of the conspiracy if she didn’t realize she was committing a crime?

    Like the nitwits from my younger days who asserted “the right not to pay income taxes because such taxes were illegal” according to the book that they read. The one’s that I knew were all convicted of tax evasion (and yes, I actually did know more than one). But I don’t recall the authors of those types of books ever being charged with conspiring with the purchaser of such information. Is my memory faulty?

  19. KM says:

    @just nutha:
    Because they weren’t involved in that *particular* scam that the person was arrested for. You can publish information on how to run a successful crime but you’re not actually planning to *do* it, especially with that specific person. How can you be charged with conspiracy if you’ve never met, contacted or otherwise interacted with a person?

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @KM:
    This is welcome news. I’m copyediting a book in which I give excellent details on how to rob the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

  21. Electroman says:

    @grumpy realist: Killing someone isn’t an intent crime, so your statement about not having the mens rea makes no sense. If you’re talking about *first-degree murder*, which does require mens rea, then your statement isn’t correct; you can definitely avoid such a conviction by the weaseling you describe.

  22. just nutha says:

    @Electroman: Yeah, but in the case of murder one, if the mens rea isn’t fairly clear, you probably shouldn’t be asking for murder one in the first place.

  23. Sleeping Dog says:

    McConnell will likely strong arm Sen. Burr into squashing the subpoena, but junior will be subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee and they will put him in jail if he doesn’t show up.

  24. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I’ll place good money that no one served with a House subpeona will serve time for failure to show. Now major daily fines on the other hand…

  25. wr says:

    It just seems wrong to call Jr. before the Intelligence Committee. Isn’t there a Stupidity Committee? That really sounds like the place for him.

  26. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m copyediting a book in which I give excellent details on how to rob the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

    Take the Aert de Gelder portrait that looks like Val Kilmer. It’s as good as almost any Rembrandt, but will generate far less law enforcement frenzy. (And no, the photo doesn’t do it justice. It just leaps off the wall at you in real life.)