The Senate Intelligence Committee jolted the political world a bit last week, issuing a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr. It was not only the first known congressional subpoena of a member of the president’s immediate family, it was also a subpoena issued by a Republican-led panel.
The Associated Press reports that Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr (R-N.C.) had tried to work with Trump Jr. about two previously scheduled interviews, but after the president’s adult son backed out of both sessions, the committee wasn’t left with much of a choice.
Not surprisingly, Trump Jr. doesn’t seem eager to cooperate. What is surprising, however, is some of the advice he’s received.
“You just show up and plead the Fifth and it’s over with,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Monday, adding that Trump Jr.’s lawyer would “have to be an idiot” to let him testify again.
“This whole thing is nuts,” Graham continued. “To me, it’s over.”
Graham also told Fox News that he believes the president’s son should simply ignore the subpoena.
So to recap, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has offered public guidance to a witness – who may have offered false congressional testimony – about how to undermine an ongoing congressional investigation being overseen by a member of his own party.
Or put another way, Lindsey Graham – who presumably has some loyalties to the institution in which he serves – is advising the president’s son to defy a lawful order issued by a Republican-led Senate panel.
The South Carolina senator, up for re-election next year, justifies this posture by saying the broader investigation is “over” – a contention Democrats on the Judiciary Committee debunked just last week.
Complicating matters, Graham isn’t entirely alone. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reportedly said yesterday that the issue of whether to subpoena Trump Jr. or not should be decided by the full Senate Republican conference, rather than just the Senate Intelligence Committee.
That may sound absurd, of course, but it’s a position that may soon have some political consequences: if the president’s son defies the subpoena, it may very well fall to the Senate to decide how – or whether – to enforce the legal summons.
All of the intra-party drama suggests Republican senators are prepared to back Trump Jr., not their own GOP colleague.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but these developments aren’t exactly signaling to the world that Donald Trump Jr. is totally innocent and has nothing to fear from congressional scrutiny.