Senate Intelligence Committee Issues Subpoena For Donald Trump Jr. To Testify Again

May 8, 2019
Originally published on May 8, 2019 6:31 pm

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

The Senate intelligence committee has issued a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, to testify again before the panel, according to a source familiar with the subpoena.

He met with the committee in December 2017 about his participation in a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians offering "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.

Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., declined to comment on the matter, but a spokeswoman for the committee told NPR, "We do not discuss the details of witness engagements with the committee. Throughout the investigation, the committee has reserved the right to recall witnesses for additional testimony as needed, as every witness and witness counsel has been made aware."

Trump Jr. wouldn't be the first in the president's immediate family to return to Capitol Hill for questioning. Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, met with the intelligence committee in July 2017 and again in late March 2019.

But Axios, which first reported the news, reports this is the first time one of Trump's children has been directly subpoenaed — notably by a committee led by the GOP majority.

Donald Trump Jr. doesn't work in the White House, unlike Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Kushner's wife, but he is a visible surrogate, appearing at campaign rallies and vigorously defending his father on social media. His girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, is a senior adviser to Trump's reelection campaign.

News of the subpoena comes as the administration spars with House Democrats over authority and access to information related to the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The White House is asserting executive privilege as the House Judiciary Committee seeks the full contents of Robert Mueller's report, which was released with redactions on April 18. The panel voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for withholding some of the material, sending the resolution to the full House. Barr refused to testify before the Democratic-controlled committee last week after a dispute over the hearing's format.

The administration also "directed" former White House counsel Don McGahn not to comply with the committee's subpoena for documents on Tuesday.

According to the Mueller report, special counsel investigators could not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with Russia. The report was noncommittal on whether President Trump had obstructed justice, though Barr has concluded he did not. Democrats are seeking additional details from the report on how the Justice Department reached those conclusions.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena to the president's son Donald Trump Jr. This is the first time a member of the Trump family has been subpoenaed in the congressional investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. NPR political reporter Tim Mak is here in the studio. Hi, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

SHAPIRO: So why is the Senate Intelligence Committee interested in speaking with Donald Trump Jr. now?

MAK: Well, so not only are they interested in speaking with him, they're interested in speaking with him again. This isn't the first time he's been asked to talk to them. He testified in December 2017 before the committee. And at that point, he downplayed his knowledge of any proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.

But what we've learned in the time since is that former Trump confidant Michael Cohen has testified in open session that he repeatedly briefed Trump Jr. on a project in Russia. So they want to bring him back in and see whether there's an explanation for this.

SHAPIRO: So that first testimony was voluntary. They've now issued a subpoena. But this comes the same week that the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said it is time to move on from the investigation into Russian interference in the election. So why is this committee, led by Republicans, issuing the subpoena?

MAK: So Mitch McConnell's argument is essentially, hey, the Mueller investigation is over, so we should move on from the issue. But what's interesting is the Senate Intelligence Committee's own investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election they haven't finished. And it's pretty obvious by the fact they're still issuing a subpoena even today.

The committee's chairman, Senator Richard Burr - he said he's not commenting. He's said publicly in the past he hasn't seen evidence of collusion, and he's generally agreed with the president. But his investigation and its final report is still to be finished. And a spokesperson for the committee told NPR that they generally don't discuss subpoenas or who might be before the committee, but they have generally reserved the right to recall witnesses for additional testimony as they require.

SHAPIRO: What is Donald Trump Jr.'s camp saying about this?

MAK: Nothing. We've reached out for comment, and they haven't responded yet. I'm sure they will in coming days.

SHAPIRO: We have seen the White House fight other subpoenas for other documents and testimony. Do you expect that, ultimately, we will see Donald Trump Jr. testify before this committee?

MAK: I'd be surprised to see it. I think that the Trump White House has indicated that it's going to fight a lot of congressional demands. Now, usually, this has been congressional demands from Democratic-controlled committees on the House side. What makes this so unusual is this is a Republican demand, or at least a demand from a Republican-led committee on the Senate side. They'll probably try to resist this demand, just like they've resisted others.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR political reporter Tim Mak. Thanks so much, Tim.

MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.