WASHINGTON - Republicans lashed out Thursday at fellow GOP Sen. Richard Burr for his committee’s subpoena of President Donald Trump’s son, a move that suggested the Russia investigation is not “case closed” as some in the party insist.
The revolt by some against the Senate intelligence committee chairman comes after The Associated Press and other news outlets reported the panel is calling in Donald Trump Jr. to answer questions about his 2017 testimony to the panel as part of its probe into Russian election interference.
It’s the first known subpoena of a member of Trump’s immediate family and a new sign that the Senate panel is continuing with its own investigation, even after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s call to move on from the probe.
The blowback against Burr was especially fierce from Republicans up for re-election in 2020.
“This case is closed. The Mueller Report cleared @DonaldJTrumpJr and he’s already spent 27 hours testifying before Congress,” tweeted Burr’s fellow North Carolina Republican, Sen. Thom Tillis. “It’s time to move on & start focusing on issues that matter to Americans.”
Texas Sen. John Cornyn told reporters it was, at some point, not about finding facts.
“This smacks of politics and I think we have an important job to do to try to keep the intelligence committee out of politics,” he said.
Criticism also came from the top Republican in the House.
“Endless investigations_by either party_won’t change the fact that there was NO collusion. It’s time to move on. It’s time to focus on ISSUES, not investigations,” tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
The suggestion that Burr, a third-term senator not running for re-election, is failing to properly lead the committee escalates Republican complaints from the White House down who insist that Mueller’s report closed the book on any question of whether Trump conspired with the Russians to meddle in the 2016 campaign or obstructed justice. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul a day earlier tweeted that Burr apparently “didn’t get the memo from the Majority Leader that this case was closed.”
Mueller did not find evidence of conspiracy, but did not make a recommendation on the obstruction question.
The GOP rebellion against Burr was broad, but not absolute. Burr’s committee has a tradition of bipartisanship, and he has worked closely with the ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Burr was running the committee “in a very bipartisan way.” Still, the Republican questioned “what more is there to do now” after the Mueller report’s release.
Burr’s committee had renewed interest in talking to Trump Jr. after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified earlier this year. Cohen told a House committee in February that he had briefed Trump Jr. approximately 10 times about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow before the presidential election. Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017 he was only “peripherally aware” of the proposal.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican member of the panel, hinted after Cohen spoke behind closed doors to the Senate intelligence panel that the committee would want to talk to Trump Jr. again. She said senators “clearly need to re-interview some witnesses whose accounts (Cohen) contradicts.”
It’s unclear if Trump Jr. will comply with the subpoena. A person close to the president’s eldest son, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter, said Wednesday that Trump has continued to cooperate by producing documents and answering written questions.
Mueller’s report, released last month, says Cohen recalled being in Trump’s office “when Trump Jr. told his father that a meeting to obtain adverse information about Clinton was going forward.” The report notes that Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, that he did not inform his father about the emails or the upcoming meeting.
Cohen reported to federal prison this week to start a three-year sentence for crimes including tax evasion and campaign finance violations related to hush-money payments made to protect his former boss.
Warner on Thursday would not comment on whether the panel had issued the subpoena but said the committee is going to “follow the truth wherever it leads.”
He said the committee reserves the right to call witnesses back if they see inconsistencies in testimony. Warner made the comments at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Warner said that the intelligence panel also wants to see the underlying evidence in Mueller’s report, a request that House lawmakers have also made. Trump on Wednesday invoked the principle of executive privilege over that material, claiming the right to block lawmakers from receiving it.
Warner said his panel knew about “90 to 95 percent” of the Russian contacts mentioned in Mueller’s report, and in other areas the committee had “much more extensive” information.