North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee — which he chairs — has elicited anger among his colleagues, and the issue may soon be coming to a boil.
According to a new Politico report, aides on both sides of the aisle think a response to Trump Jr.’s defiance of the subpoena may end up before the whole Senate if he fails to comply.
“Republicans said privately on Monday they were eager to avoid the clash and what would surely be an ugly floor vote if Trump Jr. ignores the Senate, and some hope the committee and Trump Jr. can work out a deal to avoid a floor vote on complying with the subpoena or even holding the president’s son in contempt,” wrote reporter Burgess Everett. “But the chamber has several options if it chooses to force the issue, and they could pass given that they would only require a simple majority and aren’t subject to the chamber’s supermajority requirement, according to aides in both parties.”
CNN reported that Trump Jr. and Burr have been negotiating about his further testimony for the committee for months, but the legal team for the president’s son has objected to the scope of the questioning, which encompasses various issues in connection with the Russia investigation.
His defiance of the subpoena would be a brash choice. After all, Trump Jr., like anyone else, has the option of showing up to the hearing but staying quiet and claiming the Fifth Amendment.
Everett reported that the Senate has multiple options for enforcing the subpoena, including holding him in contempt of Congress, employing criminal contempt statutes, asking a court to declare the subpoena valid, or issuing civil penalties for defiance. This last option is rarely used, but possible.
It’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate would take any drastic measures against the president’s son. But even a vote to hold him in contempt without any penalties would be deeply divisive. Republicans have already fiercely criticized Burr for pursuing the subpoena even after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released. While GOP senators shouldn’t be happy to see anyone defy a congressional subpoena, they’re almost certainly loathe to cast a vote in condemnation of Trump Jr.