I don’t know what he means here when he says his legal advice to Trump Jr would be to “call it a day.” If you’re a private citizen and you’re subpoenaed, you have four options: Show up and answer questions, show up and plead the Fifth, threaten to plead the Fifth unless you’re granted immunity, don’t show up and be held in contempt. Which does he mean by “call it a day”?
I think he’s thinking of a new fifth option: Exercise your royal prerogative as a Trump not to answer questions with no consequences to you for doing so. Don Jr needn’t follow the rules to which the grimy masses are subject. That’s Republican “populism” in 2019.
According to CNN, Junior and Richard Burr’s Committee have been negotiating since December about a follow-up appearance, with Trump reportedly having agreed twice to come in before backing off. His last scheduled appearance was to have happened on April 4, two weeks after Barr issued his summary of the Mueller report announcing that the special counsel wouldn’t be charging anyone with conspiracy in Russiagate. You can imagine how that changed Don Jr’s calculus. Up to that point, fearing that he might be indicted, he had been cooperative with Congress, probably figuring that that fact would help him during the criminal process if he were charged. Once he realized he wouldn’t be charged, his incentive to keep talking vanished. And so the two sides were at an impasse:
Sources with knowledge of the discussions told CNN the committee initially provided Trump Jr. with a list of roughly a dozen topics that investigators want to cover, including the Trump Tower meeting and Trump Tower Moscow. Trump Jr.’s legal team expected a much shorter followup interview than proposed by the committee, which would not agree to limit the time or topics, according to the sources.
But Trump Jr.’s lawyers are pushing back at addressing questions about the June 2016 meeting or Moscow project because he’s already sat before three congressional committees for more than 20 hours and answered questions about those topics under oath, the people said. Trump’s lawyers viewed the format of the followup interview as effectively a “do-over” from his 2017 appearance.
There is a concern, echoed by several Republicans, that the interview is an effort to try to catch Trump Jr. in a lie since several Democrats have already accused Trump Jr. of committing perjury, the sources said.
The panel allegedly wants to clear up “discrepancies” in some of the testimony it’s heard about the Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer and the Trump Tower Moscow project that Don Jr, Ivanka, and Michael Cohen were involved in. Perfectly understandable for Burr to want more answers about that; perfectly understandable for Don Jr not to want to expose himself to further legal jeopardy; perfectly understandable for Trump Sr to stick up for his son by criticizing the decision to subpoena him.
But having Republican members of Congress, including Senate colleagues of Burr’s, coming out of the woodwork to pressure Burr on Junior’s behalf is a rolling disgrace, not least because they realize better than most people how much political courage it took for Burr to sign that subpoena. He’s a young man by Senate standards, just 63 years old. He’s said that he won’t run again for Senate but people have said that before and changed their minds. His chances at another term are probably dead now. If he had any thoughts of running for governor potentially, those are probably out the window too now that he’s made enemies of the Trump family. It may even cost him friends in Republican social circles in North Carolina if this standoff deepens and he’s forced to cite Junior for contempt. Given the steep price to him personally and professionally, whatever he needs to know from Trump must be important enough for him to incur that cost. At a minimum, if they’re afraid to risk the president’s wrath by defending Burr, you’d think Republicans on the Hill would remain studiously neutral in the dispute out of respect for his guts in following through on this.
But all of the Trump servants in the chamber have taken up the cause of protecting the royal offspring. Cruz, Rand Paul, Jim Jordan, and of course ol’ Lindsey Graham: Not one of them knows precisely what Burr’s concerns are or where the Intelligence Committee investigation stands but they’re eager to earn presidential favor by extending Trump Jr the sort of political cover that no commoner could dream of. Special exceptions from legal process for the presidential brood is one of the swampiest things I can think of. And of course it’s mostly tea-party heroes who are calling for them, the latest reminder lest there was any doubt from current federal spending levels of how far short of its ideals that movement fell.
What Graham might mean here by “call it a day” is Trump Jr tearing up the subpoena and daring Burr to hold him in contempt. Would a Republican senator dare threaten a Trump with consequences for flouting the law? Rest assured that if Burr does, Graham will be on TV shilling for Junior in that case too. In a better world, he’d be worried about being disciplined by the South Carolina bar for what he’s suggesting here. Exit quotation: “A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers and public officials. While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold legal process.”