Lindsey Graham (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Lindsey Graham advises Donald Trump Jr. to "plead the Fifth" before Senate colleagues

Graham's comments are an extraordinary exhibit of one Senate Republican chairman attempting to undercut another


Shira Tarlo
May 14, 2019 4:34PM (UTC)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., encouraged Donald Trump Jr. on Monday to cite his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions from the upper chamber's Intelligence Committee — if he complies with its subpoena for a second closed-door interview.

"You just show up, and plead the Fifth and it's over with," Graham told reporters, adding that Don Jr.'s lawyer would "have to be an idiot" to allow him to testify before the committee again, according to The Washington Post.

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"This whole thing is nuts," Graham continued. "To me, it's over."

Graham's comments come just a day after the senator told Fox News that the president's eldest son should simply ignore the subpoena and "call it a day."

The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Trump Jr. to testify about his communications with Russian officials less than a week ago. The panel reportedly subpoenaed the president's eldest son after he backed out of two scheduled interviews as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump Jr. is the first known member of the president's immediate family to have been subpoenaed in congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Graham's comments are an extraordinary exhibit of one Republican Senate committee chairman undercutting another by offering free legal advice to a witness, who might have previously offered false testimony to Congress, about how to undermine an ongoing congressional investigation.

Reuters reported last week that senators on the panel want to question Trump Jr. about testimony he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017, which was apparently contradicted by Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer who started his prison sentence last week in part for lying to Congress.

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At the time, Trump Jr. told lawmakers he was only "peripherally aware" of plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, but Cohen told lawmakers in February that the president's son was far more involved in the development proposal. Cohen claimed that he briefed Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, the president's elder daughter, "approximately 10" times about the project.

Trump Jr. privately testified before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in 2017.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on Monday slammed Graham's Sunday comments about ignoring the subpoena, saying on CNN that "suggesting that Donald Trump Jr. is above the law strikes me as unfounded and contrary to the positions that he took on Richard Nixon, and on Bill Clinton and others, where he has argued that the law applies to everyone — and that’s the ruling of the United States Supreme Court."

Several Republicans in recent days lashed out at Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., over the subpoena issued to the president's eldest son. The criticism was especially fierce from Republicans up for re-election in 2020, including Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas.

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"The Mueller Report cleared @DonaldJTrumpJr and he's already spent 27 hours testifying before Congress," Tillis tweeted last week. "Dems have made it clear this is all about politics. It's time to move on & start focusing on issues that matter to Americans."

Cornyn, who is on the intelligence panel, said, "At some point, this is not about finding the facts. This smacks of politics. I think we have an important job to do to try to keep the Intelligence Committee out of politics."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, declared that the "Russia investigation is over" and added that there was no need to subpoena Trump Jr.

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Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel, noted last week that the committee had been clear that it reserves the "right to bring witnesses back if we have additional questions or there’s inconsistencies." He did not comment on why the subpoena was issued.


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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