This week, the Trump team got hit with a tangible manifestation of the lingering reality of their legal vulnerability via a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena for testimony from Donald Trump Jr. It’s the first subpoena for one of the president’s children, and President Donald Trump responded to the development this week at the White House by essentially flipping out. Although the Republican-led committee has lingering questions including over past testimony from Trump Jr., the president thinks his son shouldn’t have to appear for questioning again.
He shared with reporters:
‘I was very surprised to see my son — my son is a very good person, works very hard. The last thing he needs is Washington, D.C. He’d rather not ever be involved.. He’s now testified for 20 hours or something, a massive amount of time. The Mueller Report came out — that’s the Bible! — the Mueller Report came out and they said he did nothing wrong. The only thing is, it’s oppo research. If he did wrong, then everybody standing with me probably did… My son was totally exonerated by Mueller — who frankly does not like Donald Trump… To now get a subpoena to go again… yeah, I’m pretty surprised.’
Trump’s declaration of Trump Jr. having simply engaged in opposition research covers the infamous meeting that he had in 2016 at Trump Tower with Kremlin lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Trump Jr. had been promised that she’d bring dirt from the Russian government on Hillary Clinton, and although by all appearances the Trump campaign didn’t get anything actionable from the encounter, the reality doesn’t change that Trump Jr. declared that he loved the idea.
Consistently, the Trumps’ side has sought to downplay that meeting. Some on the right have suggested it was a set-up from the left — which somehow included getting Trump Jr. to welcome the possibility of foreign government help but not be guilty of collusion? Is that how this works? The president himself parroted this strange suggestion speaking to reporters, saying that before and after meeting with Trump Jr., Veselnitskaya met with Fusion GPS, which has become infamous for its role in the production of the Steele dossier outlining allegations of the Trump team’s connections to Russia.
The reality of the situation is more complicated than the conspiracy Trump suggests — Fusion GPS insists they had no idea that Veselnitskaya was meeting with the Trump campaign, and the information she did have that’s connected to them she got through completely unrelated means. They were on the same side of a case against the Ziff brothers for supposed money laundering; she presented Trump Jr. with some information that Fusion GPS had helped collect in years prior suggesting they used the cash to fund Democrats.
And again — none of them can make up the fact that Trump Jr. “loved” the idea of the Kremlin helping them out.
There is another lingering issue, too. During his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, former longtime Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen asserted Trump Jr. knew more about efforts to construct a Trump Tower Moscow than he was letting on. The president’s son has testified about that, providing the opening for Congressional investigators to seek clarification. The president’s team doesn’t get to just wish away the troubling nature of a planned real estate project that would have intertwined them with adversarial foreign powers to the point of giving Putin a penthouse.
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