It was rare bad luck for the Trump family that the head of the committee, Richard Burr, was the one of the few remaining Republicans in the Senate whose balls aren’t in the president’s pocket for safekeeping.
Burr drove a hard bargain, at political risk to himself, by subpoenaing Don Jr to get him to come back and testify on Russiagate. The president enlisted some of Burr’s own colleagues to pressure him publicly and no doubt privately to get him to back off, knowing that any additional testimony from Junior would risk self-incrimination or perjury despite its value to the committee. Burr didn’t budge. Trump Jr could have called his bluff by following Lindsey Graham’s advice and ignoring the subpoena, essentially daring Burr to go nuclear and cite him for contempt. But he didn’t.
It shows you how much both Trumps apparently feared that Burr wasn’t bluffing that Don Jr decided to make a deal with the committee to testify instead.
Donald Trump, Jr. and the Senate Intelligence Committee have reached a deal for the President’s eldest son to appear before the committee behind closed doors in mid-June, sources familiar with the matter told CNN…
The interview will be limited to two to four hours and limited in scope to five to six topics, according to the sources. But questions about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the Trump Tower Moscow project will not be off limits, said two sources familiar with the matter.
The two sides also agreed it will be the last time Trump Jr. will be asked to come before the committee in relation to its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
According to Axios, Junior’s lawyers told Burr that they wouldn’t agree to an open-ended interview but that Trump wouldn’t assert his right against self-incrimination if called, essentially an invitation for a time-limited interview as a compromise. Why Don Jr didn’t want to take the Fifth and refuse to testify altogether, I don’t know: Sure, the headlines would have been bad, but his father’s political enemies already assume the worst about the family’s behavior regardless of what they do. Meanwhile the right-wing commentariat would have rallied with praise for the glorious Fifth Amendment right to refuse the government’s demand that you speak, with solemn warnings that guilt must never be presumed from a witness’s reluctance to answer questions. No one’s mind about the propriety of Junior’s behavior would have been changed either way. He would have had two days of bad press but he also would have ensured that, having eluded prosecution by Mueller and the DOJ, he wouldn’t be snagged at the last moment by somehow providing false information to Congress.
I mean, his dad has already taken to describing witnesses cooperating with the government as “rats.” Why not go the whole nine yards mafia-wise and invoke the Fifth as well?
Maybe Junior did his dad a favor here, defusing a situation that had the potential to pit the president directly against Burr and McConnell if Don had defied a subpoena and been held in contempt. Imagine what a tough spot it would have created for Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and other Republicans running next year if Trump Jr had openly flouted the law, as Graham seemed to recommend on Sunday, and in so doing forced GOP senators to pick a side. Side with Burr and you’re a traitor to the Trump monarchy in the eyes of the “populist” base. Side with the Trumps and you’ve validated the idea that the First Family should be above the law. It’s electoral poison either way.
Graham has been sufficiently lambasted for his Trump toadying in this case that he backed down a bit today, at one point saying that he’d recommend Trump Jr take the Fifth rather than defy the subpoena and later affirming that no one should be above the law, be it Donald Trump’s son or Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, for his business dealings in Ukraine. There may be no one happier that this mess is over with than he is. Here’s your exit quotation. For the first and probably last time, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is entirely right.
The Senate Intel Committee (which is GOP-controlled!) issued a legally binding subpoena, & Sen. @LindseyGrahamSC advised that individual to ignore it.
If Lindsey Graham wants to work for Trump so badly, he can resign his seat and move his office down a few blocks to do so. https://t.co/wrbjoNMISd
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 14, 2019