President Trump on Thursday said he was “very surprised” — and appeared displeased — that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, to answer more questions about his contacts with Russia.
“I was very surprised,” the president told reporters during an event that was supposed to focus on medical billing reform at the White House.
People close to Trump Jr. say he is resisting the subpoena and may invoke his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions, according to the New York Times.
The president questioned why the committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., would pursue the matter after special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election concluded that there was not enough evidence to charge Trump or members of his campaign with conspiracy.
“I saw Richard Burr saying there was no collusion two or three weeks ago,” Trump said.
Donald Trump Jr. was a key witness in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russia’s interference. The panel is reportedly seeking to question Trump Jr. about congressional testimony he gave in September 2017 about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow — testimony that was later contradicted by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
Trump Jr. told the committee that he “was peripherally aware” of the Trump Tower Moscow project. But in public testimony to the House Oversight Committee, Cohen said he briefed Trump family members, including Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump, “approximately 10 times” about it.
The president painted Don Jr. as a political novice who backed into his role in the 2016 campaign.
“My son’s a very good person. Works very hard,” the president continued. “The last thing he needs is Washington, D.C. He would rather not ever be involved. I remember he said to me a long time ago when I was thinking about running, ’Dad, if I can help, let me know. It’s not my expertise, it’s not something I really like, but whatever I can do, you are my father.’”
Trump Jr. arranged the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who claimed to have dirt on his father’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, which Trump Jr. said he would “love.”
The president on Thursday described it as “opposition research” that “99 percent” of those in the room had done.
Referring to the Mueller report as “the Bible,” Trump falsely claimed that the special counsel completely exonerated him and his son. Mueller explicitly refused to clear Trump of obstruction of justice, citing at least 10 occasions when he sought to meddle in the federal probe.
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report read. “We are unable to reach that judgment.”
House Democrats want Mueller to testify. Attorney General William Barr said that he would not object to letting Mueller, who is still an employee of the Department of Justice, testify before the committee. Last week Trump told reporters he would leave Mueller’s testimony up to the attorney general. On Sunday, Trump reversed course, tweeting: “Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!”
On Thursday, the president appeared to return to his initial position.
“I’m going to leave that up to our very great attorney general,” Trump said. “He’ll make a decision on that.”
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