By Matt Boyle
Donald Trump, Jr., President Donald Trump’s eldest son, is rebuffing a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee attempting to compel him to testify again before Congress on the Russia hoax scandal, setting off a major internal battle inside the Republican Party.
The news was broken on Wednesday afternoon by Axios.
“The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to answer questions about his previous testimony before Senate investigators in relation to the Russia investigation, sources with direct knowledge told Axios,” Axios reported on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s the first congressional subpoena — that we know about — of one of President Trump’s children,” Axios added. “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.”
This development is particularly significant because the Senate Intelligence Committee–chaired by Republican Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and run by the GOP-controlled Senate Majority–pushing to subpoena Trump, Jr., comes in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluding his investigation. Mueller found no evidence of collusion, or conspiracy, between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election–or between the Russians and any American for that matter–and did not find evidence of obstruction of justice, effectively clearing the president on all counts.
It also comes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who ultimately controls the Senate Intelligence Committee because he is the Majority Leader in the Senate, declared earlier this week regarding the Russia hoax that it was “case closed.” This effort by Burr flies in the face of what McConnell said, and threatens to seriously escalate differences between Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration at a time when the left seeks to create dissent among Republicans ahead of the critical 2020 presidential election.
“We do not discuss the details of witness engagements with the Committee,” the Senate Intelligence Committee spokesperson said in a statement to Axios. “Throughout the investigation, the Committee has reserved the right to recall witnesses for additional testimony as needed, as every witness and witness counsel has been made aware.”
Despite the Senate Committee’s claim that it does not discuss witness engagements with the media, Breitbart News is aware of several reporters who were told of this by the committee in an effort to push this into the news in the wake of McConnell’s claim that the case is closed on Russia. These reporters are aware of who they are, and more investigation into the Senate Intelligence Committee leaks on this front is likely.
Attorney General Bill Barr, who testified last week before a different Senate panel, has come under serious criticism by Democrats in Congress for the way he has characterized the report. Nonetheless, most of the report is public despite some redactions and Barr’s characterizations of it are essentially immaterial at this stage. Indeed, Mueller himself apparently was not happy with the initial media coverage of Barr’s first letter on the top-line conclusions of the Mueller report–he made that clear to Barr in a letter and phone call–but did not find Barr’s four-page letter to be inaccurate in any way. Mueller’s full report, with redactions for different reasons including protecting ongoing case matters and grand jury proceedings, has since been released publicly, so Mueller’s objections to the original coverage are essentially a moot point now, the Department of Justice contends.
The move on Trump, Jr., by Senate Republicans also comes as House Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday moved to hold Barr in contempt of Congress over his refusal to appear last week before the committee and his refusal to provide the full un-redacted Mueller report to Congress despite the need to protect sources and methods and classified information. Barr did testify, however, before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
While expectedly Democrats on Capitol Hill are continuing their fervor over Trump and Russia despite the complete collapse of the narrative, with even some pushing for impeachment of President Trump or worse, the fact that the GOP-led Senate would push to keep the hoax alive is particularly significant. Trump, a Republican, has gotten near-unanimous support from Republican lawmakers as the Russia collusion narrative died, but notably some more establishment-minded Republicans are holding out.
Chief among them is Burr, who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and has been in the wake of the Mueller report attempting to bring Trump, Jr., before his committee for more questioning. Trump, Jr., previously testified for more than 9 hours before the Senate Intelligence Committee, staying there until senators had no more questions to ask him and answering every single question senators had for him, while also producing hundreds of thousands of documents to Congress including more than 30,000 to this committee alone. Trump, Jr., also testified before two other congressional committees–totaling more than 22 hours of congressional testimony adding up to more than 1,000 pages of transcript. When it came to the Senate Intelligence Committee, too, Burr had previously agreed that Trump, Jr., would testify once–stay as long as senators needed answering all their questions until they had no more–and then that would be it and it would be over.
When Trump, Jr., and his attorneys–in light of all that substantial cooperation with Congress that found no wrongdoing by Trump, Jr., and the Special Counsel report clearing him of any allegations of wrongdoing–refused Burr’s requests for Trump, Jr., to appear again in contravention of Burr’s original promises that he would only have Trump, Jr., testify once, Burr moved to subpoena Trump, Jr. Burr’s behavior, a source close to Trump, Jr., told Breitbart News, will not be forgotten and will have deep wide-ranging consequences for all Senate Republicans.
“It’s outrageous that Senator Burr appears to be taking his marching orders from liberal Democrats intent on trying to take down the President and his family to harass a private citizen who has already spent nine hours testifying in front of the Senate Intel Committee,” the source close to Trump, Jr., told Breitbart News. “When Don agreed to testify to the Senate Intel Committee in 2017, there was an agreement between Don and the Committee that it would be a ‘one and done testimony’ and in return Don agreed to answer any questions for as long a time as they’d like. Don fulfilled his end of the agreement; clearly Senator Burr is not fulfilling his side of it. It’s bad enough that he has to deal with constant harassment from Democrats in the House, but it’s shocking to see Senate Republicans join them in this harassment campaign. Unfortunately for them, Don Jr. has a long memory and come the 2020 campaign season, when Senate Republicans are begging him to raise money and campaign for them, he will remember where every Senate Republican stood on this.”
McConnell, up for re-election in Kentucky next year, has framed himself as something of a warrior against the left’s forces in recent years. He did fight to get now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmed amid the allegations against him and has pushed through other Trump priorities–but, if McConnell allows Burr to continue promoting the Russia hoax, he could lose all that good will quickly.
McConnell, who empowers Burr by allowing him to be the chairman but is up for re-election in 2020, may also face serious consequences for allowing Burr to do this. A longtime major donor to McConnell and top ally of the White House told Breitbart News that it is imperative that McConnell immediately remove Burr as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, full stop.
“What Burr’s doing isn’t just a slap in the face to the President and his family, its a slap in the face to Americans across the country,” the top McConnell donor said. “It’s incumbent that Leader McConnell steps up to the plate and strips Senator Burr’s Chairmanship of the Intel Committee. If he refuses to do that, then he shoulders just as much blame for this travesty of justice as the Senator from North Carolina.”
The Trump universe is furious with Senate Republicans over this, to the point where they blame every Senate Republican for Burr’s actions–and believe that Burr has now sparked a “civil war” inside the GOP, which was until now mostly unified after years of infighting.
“By doing this, Senator Burr just started a civil war in the Republican Party with someone who has undoubtedly become one of the biggest superstars in the eyes of the base,” a former high-ranking Trump White House official told Breitbart News. “If I were a Republican Senator up for reelection 2020, I would be furious with Senator Burr because he assuredly just made their reelection campaigns that much more difficult.”
It remains to be seen what happens next, but Senate Republicans under the guise of McConnell and Burr may have just reopened a Pandora’s Box of chaos inside the party moving into 2020.