Donald Trump Jr.
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

I’m unsure who, aside from members of his own family, truly qualifies as a member of Trump’s “inner circle,” but apparently they’re upset that Don Jr. has been subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle are frustrated that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., multiple sources tell CNN.

Those close to Trump are exasperated that Republican Sen. Richard Burr, in their minds, just handed Democrats a talking point. Multiple Republicans had coalesced around Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s talking point of “case closed” in recent days, but now Democrats can argue that even members of the President’s own party don’t agree that all Russia inquiries should end immediately.

Apparently they convinced themselves that Mitch McConnell had succeeded in shutting down any further inquiries about Russia-related matters in the Senate. Now they’re “exasperated” to discover that this is not the case.

Keep in mind that Senator Richard Burr, who serves as the chair of the Intel committee, served as a backchannel to the Trump administration and kept them apprised of who the FBI was looking at as possible collaborators with Russia’s 2016 election interference. So, while he’s been overseeing a more aggressive and bipartisan inquiry than occurred in the House when it was under GOP control, he’s not someone we should automatically expect to take a hardline against the administration, let alone the president’s namesake.

But there’s a limit to how much Burr is willing to cover up, and there seems to be a widespread consensus that Don Jr. perjured himself when he testified before the Senate Intel committee. In fact, he appears to have lied to the House Intel committee, too.

There’s the obvious matter of whether Don Jr. informed his father about the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting either beforehand or afterwards. He testified that he did not, and Michael Cohen says he did. That’s therefore a matter of contention, no matter how implausible Don Jr.’s denials may seem. What’s not a matter of contention is this:

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.”

Don Jr.’s testimony also conflicts with Cohen’s on the Moscow Trump Tower project. Don Jr. testified that he wasn’t involved with and was only “peripherally aware” of Cohen’s efforts to secure a deal. I suppose there’s a subjective element in determining what constitutes involvement and awareness, but it does not seem that he was truthful about his role.

Of the three controversies, the clearest case of dishonesty is his failure to disclose that he received offers of help from the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That’s not a matter of conflicting memories or differing interpretations. It doesn’t stand Don Jr.’s credibility against the credibility of a convicted perjurer like Michael Cohen. It’s a simple case of being asked if any countries other than Russia offered help to the campaign and then telling a lie in response.

Richard Burr can do a lot for Trump, but he can’t spin that lie. He has to maintain a standard that people cannot come before his committee and perjure themselves with impunity. That’s why he had to agree with the Democrats that Don Jr. needed to at least return and explain his testimony. And it’s why the committee issued a subpoena when he refused to voluntarily appear.

Burr is taking a lot of heat for this from his own colleagues and from the White House, and looks like Don Jr. will either defy the subpoena or take the Fifth.

Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Senate Intelligence Committee who is up for re-election next year, just told CNN’s Manu Raju he understands Trump Jr.’s frustration with the panel and says the committee probe is “wearing kind of thin.”

The immediate backlash from Republican lawmakers has fortified Trump Jr.’s allies, they say, and will continue to push for more of them to come out against the move.

But, try as they might, the Republicans cannot sweep the Russia investigation under the rug. Not even in the Senate.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at