May 10, 2019


Don Jr. Has Some Explaining to Do: Triumph of the rule of law. (NOAH ROTHMAN, 5/09/19, Commentary)

The president's son testified before congressional investigators in September 2017 behind closed doors. But, according to the opening statement he released to the public, he characterized the Trump Tower meeting as "primarily focused on Russian adoptions." He also claimed that he had always maintained that this was the case, but that was not true. The president personally dictated a statement on his son's behalf claiming that the meeting was unrelated to the campaign. White House emails subsequently revealed that the agenda was going to include substantive support for the president's reelection efforts as part of "Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." The question the Mueller probe declined to resolve was whether Donald Trump Jr. was aware of the campaign-finance laws he was violating at the time of the meeting. That's a question that can only be satisfactorily resolved by the president's son under oath.

This wasn't the only occasion in which Don Jr. appears to have been manipulated by Russian assets with a few degrees of separation from Moscow. In November 2017, media reports revealed that the president's son had exchanged direct messages with Wikileaks's Twitter account in 2016, which was often utilized by Julian Assange himself. By that point, it was already public knowledge that the entity known as Guccifer 2.0, which was understood to be a front for Russian military intelligence, was responsible for the hack of Democratic National Committee servers and had funneled the documents it stole through Wikileaks. According to Mueller's report, Wikileaks gave the password to an anti-Trump website to Don Jr., who proceeded to inform campaign officials of the find without disclosing its provenance. "I tried the password and it works," the younger Trump revealed. This could constitute illegal hacking.

But the Senate Intelligence Committee is reportedly most curious about the extent to which Don Trump Jr. was aware of his father's efforts to secure the rights to construct a skyscraper in Moscow--efforts that reportedly continued well into 2016, even after Trump had secured the Republican nomination for president. The president's son told Senate investigators that he "wasn't involved" in those negotiations and was only "peripherally aware of it." But Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified in his plea agreement with prosecutors that he repeatedly briefed both Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump about the status of negotiations regarding the Moscow tower project. Someone has not been entirely truthful.

This subpoena suggests that the president's son declined to cooperate with Congress voluntarily. The New York Times revealed that, according to someone close to Don Jr., "he could invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in a written response." Congressional investigators are obliged to pursue these outstanding issues and reconcile Donald Trump Jr.'s 2017 testimony with what we know today.

Posted by at May 10, 2019 8:46 PM