Donald Trump Jr. will return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a second closed-door interview with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to people familiar with the plans, as part of a deal he struck with leaders last month after the panel issued a subpoena for his testimony.
Under the terms of that deal, the president’s oldest son is expected to spend about four hours with the committee answering a limited number of questions, according to people familiar with the terms – including queries about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer promising incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr.’s participation in that meeting has made him a focus of several probes, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Congressional Democrats also believe that Trump Jr. may have lied to them during previous testimony about the meeting, and whether he told his father about it – suspicions that were heightened after the publication of Mueller’s report.
Mueller’s report documented former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s recollection of a phone call between the then-candidate and his son, in which Trump Jr. told his father about a meeting to collect “adverse information” on Clinton. Cohen is serving a three-year jail term for lying to Congress and financial crimes.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., has expressed a reticence to explore perjury charges for Trump Jr., reasoning that if Mueller had access to the transcript of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s first interview with Trump Jr., he likely would have indicted him if there was reason to do so.
But the threat of such exposure complicated Burr’s efforts to bring in Trump Jr. for additional testimony. After it was revealed last month that the Senate Intelligence Committee had subpoenaed his testimony, several of Trump’s congressional Republican allies took the unprecedented step of openly urging Trump Jr. to either flout the committee’s summons, or invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, and refuse to answer the panel’s questions.
In the end, the deal Trump Jr. struck with the panel requires him to field questions on six broad topics, reduced from a list of 10. In addition to the Trump Tower meeting, the president’s son is expected to tell senators what he knew about the president’s plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and how long into Trump’s campaign those efforts continued.
Trump Jr. is one of several witnesses that the Senate Intelligence Committee is bringing back to its chambers for a second interview aimed at giving members an opportunity to engage with key figures in the investigation before they will be asked to sign off on the panel’s final report. It’s long-running investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential elections has been largely staff-run, and is widely considered to be the most bipartisan probe into the matter in Congress.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Karoun Demirjian