GOP chairman plans to call on Donald Trump Jr. to testify
WASHINGTON — The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he will call on President Donald Trump’s son to testify amid investigations into Russian meddling in last year’s election — and he says he’ll subpoena him if necessary.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday he plans to send a letter to Donald Trump Jr. to ask him to appear before the committee. He said he wants Trump’s eldest child to testify “pretty soon,” and it could be as early as next week. Asked if he was willing to issue a subpoena if Trump Jr. declined to appear, Grassley said “yes.”
Trump Jr. released emails this week from 2016 in which he appeared eager to accept information from the Russian government that could have damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The emails were sent ahead of a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended.
Grassley has said he also wants Manafort to testify. He said Wednesday that he wants to question Manafort about the government’s enforcement of a law requiring registration of foreign lobbyists. But Manafort would certainly also be asked about the New York meeting.
Grassley wouldn’t say what he wants to hear from Donald Trump Jr., but said members aren’t restricted “from asking anything they want to ask.” The top Democrat on the committee, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, had also called on Donald Trump Jr. to testify and had discussed possible subpoenas with Grassley.
A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr. did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on whether his client would agree to appear before the committee. A spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee said the letter hasn’t been sent.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is one of several congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said he would also like to hear from Trump Jr. But the committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, hasn’t said whether the secretive committee will call him in.
In response to calls for him to testify before the intelligence panel, Trump Jr. tweeted Monday that he was “happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know.”
Donald Trump Jr.’s release of his Russia-related email exchange reignited a legal debate about whether members of the Trump campaign engaged in unlawful activity. Former White House Counsel Bob Bauer and Jed Shugerman of Fordham Law School join Judy Woodruff to offer different perspectives on the legal questions surrounding the controversy.
It’s unclear whether Trump Jr. would be as eager to testify before the Judiciary panel, which generally conducts open hearings. The Senate intelligence committee interviews many of its witnesses behind closed doors, though it has held an unusual number of open hearings as part of the Russia probe.
Asked at his weekly news conference about Grassley’s letter and whether Trump Jr. should testify, House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t object to the move.
“I think any witness who’s been asked to testify before Congress should testify,” Ryan said.
Ryan said he would leave it up to the witness and the Senate to decide whether the hearing should be held in public.
Also Thursday, the Justice Department released a heavily blacked out page from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ security clearance application in response to a government watchdog group’s lawsuit.
The application page asks whether Sessions — a senator before joining the Trump administration — or anyone in his immediate family had contact within the past seven years with a foreign government or its representatives.
There’s a “no” listed, but the rest of the answer is blacked out.
The department has acknowledged that Sessions omitted from his form meetings he had with foreign dignitaries, including the Russian ambassador.
A department spokesman says the FBI agent who helped with the form said those encounters didn’t have to be included as routine contacts as part of Sessions’ Senate duties.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Richard Lardner contributed to this report.