Members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle are frustrated that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., multiple sources tell CNN.
Those close to Trump are exasperated that Republican Sen. Richard Burr, in their minds, just handed Democrats a talking point. Multiple Republicans had coalesced around Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s talking point of “case closed” in recent days, but now Democrats can argue that even members of the President’s own party don’t agree that all Russia inquiries should end immediately.
Trump said Wednesday he was “very surprised” by the subpoena issued to his son, though it was issued more than two weeks ago, according to a source familiar with the matter.
“My son’s a very good person, he works very hard,” Trump said, adding that Trump Jr. offered his assistance during his 2016 campaign.
He repeated that his son is a “good person” and testified for “hours and hours,” and was ultimately “exonerated by Mueller.”
“Frankly, for my son after being exonerated and now, getting subpoenaed, and to go again to speak again after close to 20 hours telling everybody that would listen” about the Trump Tower meeting, Trump said, he was “very surprised” by the subpoena.
Asked if Trump Jr. should fight the subpoena, the President wouldn’t say: “Well, we’ll see what happens.”
The subpoena for Trump Jr.’s testimony marks an escalation of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russian election interference. The panel’s investigation, led by Burr, has been running for more than two years, and the committee has interviewed many of the same witnesses who spoke to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The committee has recently begun re-interviewing witnesses, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who appeared for a second time earlier this year.
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said in an interview Wednesday he was caught off guard by the news of the subpoena and only found out when news reports broke. But people familiar with the matter say that’s more a reflection on Mulvaney’s role in the West Wing. As CNN’s Jeremy Herb reported, the subpoena was issued two weeks ago, and sources say the president was aware of it.
For now, Trump Jr. feels emboldened by this fight, people close to him say. He spent the end of last year building up relationships with Republican lawmakers who solicited his endorsement and asked him to campaign for them on the trail.
That may help him as this plays out publicly. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Senate Intelligence Committee who is up for re-election next year, just told CNN’s Manu Raju he understands Trump Jr.’s frustration with the panel and says the committee probe is “wearing kind of thin.”
The immediate backlash from Republican lawmakers has fortified Trump Jr.’s allies, they say, and will continue to push for more of them to come out against the move.