Donald Trump Jr. has so far not been indicted for his actions in 2016, apparently because prosecutors decided he was too stupid to pull off an actual conspiracy with Russia to aid in their efforts to get his father elected president (though he did give it his best shot).
But now, as the Senate Intelligence Committee continues its investigation into that Russian campaign, Jr. is being a chip off the old block. By which I mean he’s acting like someone who is guilty of something.
And what might that something be? In a word: perjury. Here’s the latest:
The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, seeking additional closed-door testimony as part of lawmakers’ ongoing probe of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, according to people familiar with the summons.
Trump Jr. has been a focus of several probes — including special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation — over his involvement in a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who allegedly had promised incriminating information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Congressional Democrats think that in his previous turns on Capitol Hill, Trump Jr. may have lied to investigators about that meeting and whether he alerted his father that the meeting would take place. [...]
The subpoena is not new; it was issued at least a week ago, people familiar with the matter said. But a person close to Trump Jr. argued that no lawyer would allow him to go back to the panel for open-ended questioning.
If that last line has a familiar ring to it, it may be because Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, said much the same thing about the prospect of his client answering Mueller’s questions. Trump himself has said the same thing about his tax returns, that lawyers would insist that he not release them while he’s being audited by the IRS.
It seems to be a common Trump argument: I’d love to be open about all this, but the lawyers say I’d have to be an idiot to do so, and also I’m totally innocent.
Not that there aren’t some circumstances in which even an innocent person wouldn’t want to answer questions. But Donald Trump Jr. isn’t some poor 16-year-old kid the cops are trying to coerce into making a false confession to robbing a liquor store. He’s a grown man with a team of high-priced lawyers who doesn’t want to face questions from the members of a congressional committee, half of whom have pledged their political loyalty to his father. If he thinks he can’t answer their questions without incriminating himself, what does that mean?
This subpoena was necessary because the Senate Intelligence Committee — which, we have to stress, is run by a Republican — obviously couldn’t get Jr. to testify voluntarily. Republicans on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, are reacting with outrage at the subpoena, which means that they too believe that if Jr. is forced to testify then bad things will happen. If they thought that he’d be nothing but a helpful and honest witness whose forthright testimony would earn the gratitude of the committee, they wouldn’t be so upset.
Ever since Don Jr. testified to the Intelligence Committee in September 2017, Democrats have been saying they believe he lied under oath. But the fact that the Intelligence Committee approved this subpoena suggests that the Republicans on the committee may agree, or at the very least there are issues they want to explore with him further.
We know already that Don Jr. lied to the public about the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that he attended in the eager expectation of receiving damaging information on Hillary Clinton supplied by the Russian government. The question is whether he also lied to the Intelligence Committee about it, which would be a crime. One outstanding unknown is whether he told his father about the meeting before it occurred.
His position so far has been that he didn’t tell his father about the meeting beforehand, an assertion that is almost impossible to believe. First, he was obviously excited about the prospect of obtaining damaging information on Clinton. It would be strange if he did not tell the father from whom he obviously seeks approval that he was about to obtain, through his own contacts, information that could be vital to the campaign.
But that’s speculation. What isn’t speculation is the fact that four days after Don Jr. set up the meeting and two days before the meeting was to take place, Donald Trump told a crowd, “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we're going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you're going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”
Then the meeting turned out to be a bust, and the “major speech” about “all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons” never occurred.
That’s just the beginning. Democrats have also charged that Don Jr. lied in his testimony when he said he wasn’t aware of any other governments besides Russia that were offering to help the Trump campaign. In fact, he and Stephen Miller had another meeting in Trump Tower in August 2016 with a representative of the Saudi and UAE governments, alon with an Israeli social media specialist and notorious mercenary Erik Prince.
As the New York Times reported in May 2018, “The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team."
Then there’s the question of the Trump Organization’s efforts to build a tower in Moscow, which President Trump lied about publicly and Michael Cohen lied to Congress about. Don Jr. told the committee that he was only “peripherally aware of it,” but Cohen testified that he briefed Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump a total of approximately ten times about the project.
If this were all a series of misunderstandings and Don Jr. had been honest with the committee in his first round of testimony, he’d be eager to answer their questions and clarify whatever they had failed to understand. Instead, he’s acting like someone who has something to hide. Like a true Trump.