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After Trump Jr. subpoena, White House laments 'bad form'

There's a larger concern here about the White House's understanding of how Donald Trump Jr. fits into the president's political operation.
Mick Mulvaney
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney listens to a question during a press briefing at the White House, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Washington.

The Senate Intelligence Committee raised a few eyebrows yesterday when it issued a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr. Apparently, lawmakers have some questions about his previous testimony, which may have been misleading, regarding the Trump Organization's proposed Moscow tower project negotiated during the 2016 campaign.

To put it mildly, many in the GOP weren't pleased to see a Republican-led committee in a Republican-led chamber issue a subpoena to the son of a Republican president. But as the Washington Post noted, someone in the West Wing was especially displeased.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday criticized Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee for not informing him that President Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. would be subpoenaed by the panel as part of its ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.In an interview with CBS News, Mulvaney said it was "bad form" for the Republican-led committee to subpoena Trump Jr. without giving him advance notice.

Specifically, the president's acting chief suggested he expected some kind of special treatment. "I have no difficulty with bipartisanship, but to subpoena the president of the United States' son and not at least get a heads-up, I thought was -- let's say -- bad form," Mulvaney said.

I suppose the obvious joke here is to mock the Trump White House's newfound interest in norms, decorum, and the importance of senators protecting people's feelings.

And while that's certainly notable, I also think there's a larger concern here about the White House's understanding of how Donald Trump Jr. fits into the president's political operation.

Because in the not-too-distant past, we were told that the president's adult sons would run the Trump business and not be political players at all.

"What I'm going to be doing is, my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company," Trump told reporters in January 2017.

Around the same time, Eric Trump stressed the importance of separating the business venture from political considerations. "Listen, I think it's important to keep separation of church and state," he said at the time.

With this in mind, Don Jr. should be seen as a businessman -- not a White House official or a member of the president's team.

Why should the Senate Intelligence Committee deliver a private alert to the West Wing about a subpoena for the head of a private business? If there's a firewall between the Trump Organization and the president's political operation, why is Mick Mulvaney suggesting it's "bad form" to honor that barrier?