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Donald Trump Jr.’s No-Shows Led to Subpoena, Republican Senator Says

Category: Political News,Politics

WASHINGTON — Allies of Donald Trump Jr. may have stirred up a firestorm among Republicans over a subpoena to recall the president’s eldest son to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but the panel’s Republican chairman has suggested to colleagues that the standoff is of the younger Mr. Trump’s making.

Twice in recent months Donald Trump Jr. agreed to sit for voluntary interviews with the Intelligence Committee, only to later back out, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the panel’s chairman, told colleagues privately last week, according to two people familiar with his remarks. The chairman said at a senators-only luncheon last Thursday that the evasions had left the committee no choice but to issue a subpoena on April 8 to give senators a chance to directly question the younger Mr. Trump as they seek to tie up loose ends on their investigation of Russian election interference.

Nodding to the media maelstrom that news of the subpoena set off, Mr. Burr told colleagues that he was not happy about the confrontation, but he suggested that the younger Mr. Trump had been given ample opportunity to cooperate quietly and voluntarily, according to the people, who were not authorized to discuss the private lunch. The committee’s investigation is the last bipartisan inquiry into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and the Kremlin’s ties to the Trump campaign.

The campaign on Donald Trump Jr.’s behalf persuaded several Republican senators to demand that the committee’s investigation end. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close ally of President Trump’s, said if he were a lawyer for the president’s son, he would advise him to plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify.

“You’d have to be an idiot as a lawyer to put your client back into this circus, a complete idiot,” Mr. Graham told reporters.

Some Republicans went further, suggesting that Mr. Burr was a party turncoat beholden to his Democratic co-chairman, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who they said was determined to carry on a partisan witch hunt against the president, his campaign and his family.

In one statement widely circulated to news outlets, a person close to Donald Trump Jr. wrote that the president’s son had been assured that he would have to testify only once when he originally appeared for questioning in 2017. The person also said that no lawyer would have allowed a client to take part in such questioning.

Mr. Burr’s account on Thursday, parts of which were first reported by CNN, contradicted that statement. He told fellow senators that the committee had always been clear that it might call Donald Trump Jr. back for additional questioning, as it has with other central witnesses in the closing stages of the investigation, the people familiar with his remarks said. In fact, the process of scheduling that follow-up session began in December, Mr. Burr said, and the younger Mr. Trump had agreed to appear voluntarily in March and then in April before the committee for open-ended questioning.

It was only after his lawyers sought to postpone the April session, after also having done so in March, that the committee warned the Trump team that it was losing patience, the people said Mr. Burr told senators. If Mr. Trump did not show up, committee staff members told the lawyers, Mr. Burr would be forced to issue a subpoena.

A spokesman for Donald Trump Jr. declined to comment.

People close to the younger Mr. Trump said his position on the committee’s request changed after the release of a 448-page report by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Trump campaign ties to Russia. The report made clear that investigators for the special counsel had studied the possibility of charging him in connection with an infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, but decided against it.

Mr. Burr has yet to comment publicly on the subpoena or Donald Trump Jr.’s attacks. But the escalation is testing the durability of an approach that had guided him through much of the investigation as he worked quietly and methodically outside the public eye.

As of late Monday, the two sides had not reached any firm resolution on whether the younger Mr. Trump would appear or defy the subpoena.

Mr. Burr has said the committee is nearing the end of its investigation and hopes to produce a detailed public accounting of Russia’s 2016 efforts. He and Mr. Warner believe that for the results to have maximum impact on their colleagues and the broader public, they must avoid the partisanship that hobbled the House Intelligence Committee and, to some extent, the special counsel’s investigation.

Other return interviews have yielded no fireworks. The committee issued a subpoena for Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, to return earlier this year, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, came voluntarily. While earlier interviews were conducted primarily by committee staff members, the return visits are meant in part to allow senators to ask questions themselves.

Witnesses and the committee also can iron out details of testimony and reconcile contradictions between witnesses.

Donald Trump Jr. has faced repeated questions about his role in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and about his knowledge of negotiations over a Trump Tower Moscow.


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