Even as the House Judiciary Committee was voting to hold Donald Trump’s Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, the surprising news leaked that the Senate Intelligence Committee is subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr to testify about his role in the Trump-Russia scandal. So what’s really going on here?
Donald Trump Jr already testified about the Trump-Russia scandal for the Senate once, and his testimony has since proven to be – how can we say this politely – factually false. Because this committee is controlled by Donald Trump’s Republican Party, some observers are assuming on first blush that the GOP is coordinating with Trump Jr to bring him back in, so he can clean up his testimony and thus insulate himself from potential perjury charges. But if that were the case, Junior would be coming in voluntarily, and the subpoena wouldn’t be needed. In fact NBC News is now reporting that Jr did refuse to voluntarily appear.
This raises some other possibilities. Notably, the redacted Mueller report recently revealed that in 2017, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr conspired with the Trump White House behind the scenes to try to give Trump’s people the upper hand. Now suddenly Burr is forcing Trump Jr to come back in and answer for his previous possible perjury. Is this a matter of Burr trying to protect himself? One thing to keep in mind: Junior’s initial testimony was to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is now under control of Lindsey Graham, who will seemingly do anything to protect Trump. It looks like Burr is stepping in to essentially do Graham’s job for him.
In any case, the Axios report which initially broke the Trump Jr subpoena news doesn’t indicate whether Jr’s testimony will be public or private. If it takes place in private, it may impact his legal standing, but it won’t move the public opinion needle. When the House Intelligence Committee ends up subpoenaing Jr, those hearings will likely be at least partly public and televised, which could change everything.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report