I’m treating this as a desperate attempt by the writers of the simulation we’re now living in to top themselves by making American politics even less predictable than it’s been. How’s this for a subplot: After Bob Mueller finally drops his report and doesn’t indict Junior, Republican Sen. Richard Burr and his committee decide to haul Junior in and quiz him under oath about various Russiagate loose ends.
How does that subplot end? What would be maximum drama? I think it would have to be the committee catching Junior in a lie, referring him to the DOJ for a perjury prosecution, and then Papa Trump busting him out of jail with Bill Barr driving the getaway car.
Either that or a full presidential pardon, essentially affirming Junior’s right to lie to a congressional committee led by the president’s own party. Gonna be an exciting season either way.
It’s the first congressional subpoena — that we know about — of one of President Trump’s children. The subpoena sets up a fight that’s unprecedented in the Trump era: A Republican committee chair pit against the Republican president’s eldest son…
“Don and Senate Intel agreed from the very beginning that he would appear once to testify before the committee and would remain for as long as it took to answer all of their questions. He did that. We’re not sure why we’re fighting with Republicans,” a source close to Trump Jr. told Axios.
Sources close to Don Jr are taking the news not so well:
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 8, 2019
You can call Burr what you like but “cowardly” isn’t the first word that comes to mind for a threat to subpoena the president’s son on a matter like Russiagate in which absolute partisan loyalty is expected.
No one will say what the committee wants to ask Trump Jr about but it probably has to do with the Trump Tower Moscow project, as Michael Cohen’s testimony diverged from Junior’s on that subject. Trump Jr claimed that he didn’t know much about it but Cohen claimed that he briefed him and Ivanka about it around 10 times during the 2016 campaign. Trump Jr also told a Senate committee previously that he’d never informed his father of the famous meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in Manhattan to see what Russia might have on Hillary. Cohen says otherwise.
Junior is reportedly “exasperated” by the subpoena and weighing his legal options. As a private citizen he doesn’t enjoy the shield of executive privilege that Bill Barr can claim when he tells a congressional committee to stuff it. One option is to show up and take the Fifth but that would be “bad optics,” shall we say. Another is to just tell the committee to piss off and not show up, which would mean jail time for any other American but maaaaaybe not if your last name is “Trump.” Essentially Junior would be daring Burr and other Republicans on the panel to hold him in contempt and sic the DOJ on him. Would Burr really take that step, knowing how POTUS would react?
My gut says no. America may not be a monarchy yet but the GOP certainly is, and you don’t come after the prince. But if Burr was planning to wimp out if Don called his bluff, presumably he wouldn’t have taken the fateful step of issuing a subpoena.
I assume they’ll end up compromising, with Junior agreeing to answer written interrogatories instead of appearing again. Burr might be okay with angering POTUS by demanding that Junior testify in person since he’s not running for office again (or so he claimed in 2016) but other Republicans on the panel might not be. Susan Collins and John Cornyn are on that committee too are each up for reelection next year. Does Collins want POTUS and other Trump cronies throwing “witch hunt!” tantrums at her expense on Twitter next month? I mean, really:
.@DonaldJTrumpJr 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. It's time to move on. It’s time to focus on ISSUES, not investigations. https://t.co/fbFH5uMLUz
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) May 8, 2019
Apparently the Republican chair of the Senate Intel Committee didn’t get the memo from the Majority Leader that this case was closed… https://t.co/jvV5PIX266
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 8, 2019
Another cool subplot for this season would be if Rand Paul got hold of a time machine and traveled back to the tea party’s heyday of 2010 to inform his younger self that his main role in the Senate in 2019 would be providing cover for the president’s son to dodge legal process. Exit question: Could Papa Trump really pardon Junior in the unlikely event that the Intel Committee held him in civil contempt? Don’t be so sure.