Donald Trump Jr. agrees to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee again
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump Jr. has reached a deal with the Senate Intelligence Committee to appear for a second closed-door interview in June, according to people familiar with the matter, ending a tense standoff between the president’s son and the panel’s Republican chairman.
Under the terms of the deal, Trump Jr. will testify for up to four hours on a limited number of topics. The committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and a representative for its chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., declined to confirm or comment on the deal. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., also declined to comment.
The agreement quells a simmering crisis for the GOP, after several Republican senators openly urged Trump Jr. either not to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee — or invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he appeared.
The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee related to the Russia investigation. pic.twitter.com/ClXbyN0d8G
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) May 14, 2019
Trump Jr. has been a focus of several probes — including Special Counsel Robert Mueller’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 deal between Trump Jr. and the Senate Intelligence Committee comes as the House Intelligence Committee is threatening to subpoena four lawyers for President Trump, his children and his businesses to determine whether they or others directed Michael Cohen to lie to lawmakers about the president’s efforts to build a tower in Russia during his presidential campaign.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., reached out to the lawyers in March, shortly after Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, told lawmakers during congressional hearings that the president’s lawyers had helped edit his 2017 testimony, in which he said the president relinquished his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow months earlier than he did.
Cohen also told members of the House Intelligence Committee that he had discussed the possibility of a pardon with representatives of the president, including his lawyer, Jay Sekulow, who denied the assertion at the time.
Questions about Trump Tower meeting and Moscow are constrained to limited follow ups, per @KaraScannell. His legal team had crafted letter they were ready to send to the committee Tuesday indicating that Trump Jr was prepared to be held in contempt https://t.co/WFtsxHAGL3
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 14, 2019
Sekulow is one of the four lawyers who now faces the threat of a subpoena after failing to produce documents and schedule interviews with the Intelligence panel before last Friday, according to a committee aide — a deadline Schiff imposed in a letter sent to the lawyers’ representatives earlier this month.
The other lawyers whose records and testimony are being pursued are Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner; Futerfas; and Alan Garten, who represents the Trump Organization.
The quartet of counsels pushed back against the committee’s request in an April letter, in which their attorneys claimed, among other things, that the committee’s request is without legislative merit and that their actions would be covered by attorney-client privilege.
The Washington Post obtained a copy of the correspondence, the existence of which was first reported by the New York Times.
Colleague John Roberts rpts Donald Trump Jr. was prepared to make the Intel Cmte try to hold him in contempt. But the sides agreed to a limited scope interview of 1-2 hrs. Trump Jr's counsel had prepared a letter to tell the cmte he wouldn't come. But never sent the letter.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) May 14, 2019
On Tuesday, Patrick Strawbridge, a lawyer for Sekulow, released a statement on behalf of the group, accusing Schiff of fomenting a “truly needless dispute.”
“Instead of addressing important intelligence needs, the House Intelligence Committee appears to seek a truly needless dispute — this one with private attorneys — that would force them to violate privileges and ethical rules,” Strawbridge wrote. “As committed defense lawyers, we will respect the constitution and defend the attorney-client privilege — one of the oldest and most sacred privileges in the law.”
Schiff defended the inquiry Tuesday, arguing that materials the Intelligence Committee has collected, as well as Cohen’s testimony to the panel and Mueller “raise serious, unresolved concerns about the obstruction of our Committee’s investigation that we would be negligent not to pursue.”
“The Mueller Report revealed a widespread, coordinated effort by the President and his surrogates to obstruct the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Schiff continued in a statement. “We must determine how expansive the obstruction effort was, and whether others were involved beyond those who were indicted.”
The standoff threatens to drag the Trump family’s lawyers into potential court battles with Congress as their clients are facing the same possibility. Several of the Democrat-run House committees investigating the president are preparing to enforce subpoenas with contempt resolutions, which leaders have indicated they want to bundle together into a package of measures before sending it to the House floor.
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) May 14, 2019
The House Judiciary Committee has already voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt, and threatened to do the same for former White House counsel Donald McGahn, if he does not comply with a subpoena to testify before the panel next Tuesday.
Schiff’s request seeks information about the contacts between Cohen, Trump, representatives of the Trump organization and any Russians related to the Trump Tower Moscow project – including details about its timeline and any plans to have Trump, then a presidential candidate, travel to Russia to help it along.
It also seeks details on any discussion about any pardon or “pardon-related concept” that was discussed for Cohen or other affiliates of the president who testified to the House Intelligence Committee, as well as the edits made to Cohen’s testimony.
Cohen is presently serving a three-year prison sentence for lying to lawmakers, as well as financial crimes.