Donald Trump Jr.’s sketchy Russia meeting is spurring a reluctant Congress to act

Should have stayed in the golf business.
Should have stayed in the golf business.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
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The revelation that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer for the purpose of receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton appears sufficiently sketchy as to move even reluctant congressional Republicans to act.

The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, said today he will formally request that Trump Jr. testify under oath before the panel, and will reportedly subpoena him if necessary. Yesterday (July 12), the GOP senator also said he would ask former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to appear, possibly as early as next week.

“I think it’s just raised a lot of questions,” Grassley told a CNN reporter, while still praising what he said was the Trump family’s transparency on questions about Russia. “It seems like every conversation that has come from somebody in the family, where there’s been some sort of issue, they’ve seemed always to be very, very open,” he said.

Grassley’s actions represent the first major movement from a Republican since details of the meeting came to light earlier this week. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has been dodging reporters’ questions on the issue, and House speaker Paul Ryan has said only that he believes it is important to “get to the bottom of all of this.”

Unsurprisingly, lawmakers on the other side of the aisle have been quicker to criticize Trump Jr., with former Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine saying his actions could be considered treasonous. ”We are now beyond obstruction of justice,” he said. “This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason.”

Representatives Brad Sherman and Al Green also ratcheted up the pressure by introducing articles of impeachment against the president on July 12, citing obstruction of justice.

“Recent disclosures by Donald Trump Jr. indicate that Trump’s campaign was eager to receive assistance from Russia,” Sherman said in a statement. “It now seems likely that the President had something to hide when he tried to curtail the investigation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the wider Russian probe. I believe his conversations with, and subsequent firing of, FBI Director James Comey constitute Obstruction of Justice.”

Previously undisclosed communications between Trump Jr. and an intermediary, public-relations executive Rob Goldstone, provide the most concrete evidence to date that the Trump campaign was willing to accept Russia’s help in the race for the US presidency.

Trump Jr. released the string of e-mails in question on Tuesday (July 11) in what he said was an effort to be “totally transparent,” after learning that the New York Times was going to publish the messages in short order. Within the chain, Goldstone tells Trump Jr. that he wants to connect him with a “Russian government lawyer” holding compromising information on Clinton, which Goldstone said was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump’s eldest son replied: “If it’s what you say I love it.”

In an accompanying statement, Trump Jr. said that the meeting, which took place at Trump Tower in June of last year, yielded nothing “meaningful” and that there was no follow-up.

The president’s son later appeared on Fox News for an interview in which he expressed some measure of regret for his actions: “In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently,” he said.

The elder Trump told Reuters on July 12 that he had no knowledge of his son’s meeting with the Russian lawyer until “a couple of days ago.”

Speaking at a press conference alongside French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris today (July 13), Trump defended his son’s actions as par for the course of the political realities of a competitive campaign.

“It’s called opposition research,” Trump said. “I think it’s a meeting that most people in politics probably would have taken.”