Trump Jr. set for high-stakes interview with House intel panel

Trump Jr. set for high-stakes interview with House intel panel
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Donald Trump Jr. is set on Wednesday to testify before congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the election, the latest high-stakes interview of a member of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE’s immediate family.

The interview, which is voluntary and will take place behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee, is Trump Jr.’s second appearance on Capitol Hill and follows similar interviews by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Trump Jr. will face questioning on the Trump family’s financial entanglements with Russia as well as his involvement in a controversial meeting with a woman purporting to be Russian government lawyer offering dirt on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Dem pollster: GOP women have a more difficult time winning primary races than Dems Mellman: (Mis)interpreting elections MORE.

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The president’s eldest son has remained defiant in the face of a growing drumbeat of media scrutiny surrounding both the Trump Tower meeting as well as a series of private messages he exchanged with the Twitter account for WikiLeaks, the organization that released the Democratic emails that U.S. intelligence officials say were stolen by Russian hackers.

“More nothing burgers from the media and others desperately trying to create a false narrative,” the president’s oldest son wrote on Instagram after the WikiLeaks messages were exposed. “Keep coming at me guys!!!”

Democrats will also be fiercely interested in any communications that Trump Jr. had with Michael Flynn, the president’s short-lived national security adviser who last week pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature of his communications with a Russian ambassador.

“I think the three key areas are the June 9 meeting, the WikiLeaks communications and overall Trump investments with Russia throughout the decades,” said one committee source.

“And then any information exchanged between father and son throughout the campaign and transition.”

The interview is the second such appearance Trump Jr. has made before congressional investigators. In September, he gave the Senate Judiciary Committee a five-hour interview that he said he believed "satisfied" investigators' inquiry into a now-infamous 2016 meeting he took with the Russian lawyer.

During that interview, Trump Jr. said that he accepted the meeting because he wanted to assess Clinton’s “fitness” for office. Democrats have painted it as an example of the Trump campaign’s willingness to collaborate with Moscow to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

But the House Intelligence Committee will be starting with a clean slate on Wednesday — a source familiar with the matter said the panel has no prior knowledge of Trump Jr.’s testimony before Senate investigators.

The committee on Monday night received another “large dump of documents” from Trump Jr., according to ranking member Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDem lawmaker: Putin will take Trump's attack on Mueller probe as 'green light' to interfere in 2018 The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Russians' indictment casts shadow ahead of Trump-Putin summit MORE (D-Calif.), but he declined to offer details on their contents.

The Trump family’s financial entanglements with Moscow have long been of keen interest to Democratic investigators, who see them as a possible key to evidence of collusion between a campaign they see as all-too-willing to advance the interests of a foreign government.

In 2013, Trump teamed up with Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov to run the Miss Universe Pageant. Agalarov, who reportedly had received large construction contracts from the Kremlin, tweeted at Trump after the beauty contest concluded about making a Trump Tower in Moscow “happen.” While the deal never came to fruition, Trump had hired law firm Sojuzpatent to file a handful of trademarks in Russia between 1996 and 2008 to stake out names like “Trump” and Trump Tower.” 

Trump’s business ventures over the years have also allegedly tied him to Alfa Bank, a commercial bank giant in Russia. While Trump’s widespread business ties extended across international waters, Trump Jr. in 2008 boasted that the Trump Organization was particularly seeing “a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” 

Special counsel Robert Mueller has also reportedly subpoenaed Deutsche Bank to provide information on the president's accounts, though the White House on Tuesday denied that such a subpoena had been issued. 

Privately, current and former White House advisers have said they’re not too unnerved by Trump Jr.’s role in the various investigations.

“Don Jr. was never ascendant or consolidating power in the campaign,” one campaign aide told The Hill before he appeared before the Senate panel in September. “He was compassionate and supportive, but he’s a business guy and had never been involved in a campaign.”

But for lawmakers, his testimony offers a rare window in an often-chaotic campaign from a person uniquely related to the principal. 

“There’s a whole range of issues we want to go over with him, everything from what went into the Trump Tower meeting, his private communications with WikiLeaks, any other meetings he had with Russian representatives, what he’s aware of in terms of Mike Flynn, what information he has about Russian money that has gone into the Trump businesses,” Schiff told The Hill Tuesday.

Democrats may have a laundry list of questions for Trump Jr., but the voluntary nature of the interview does not necessarily mean they will be satisfied. Members have begun to complain that witnesses who they interview voluntarily are allowed to leave questioning before lawmakers are done.

Republican members say their counterparts on the opposite side of the aisle have been unnecessarily dragging out questioning, adding that they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. 

But the interview comes as Trump’s inner circle has been under increasing scrutiny. Kushner in particular is seen as a potential flashpoint in special counsel Robert Mueller’s federal investigation — which, unlike the House panel, has prosecutorial authority.

Trump Jr., meanwhile, has also agreed to testify before Senate Intelligence Committee staff, who for months have sought an interview with him.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have issued calls for the president’s son to be subpoenaed to return before that panel to answer what Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called a “number of cascading disclosures that suggest collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.”

That interview should be public and under oath, according to ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families California Dems endorse progressive challenger over Feinstein MORE (D-Calif.), who on Tuesday backed Blumenthal’s calls for a subpoena.

"I would certainly agree to a subpoena,” she told CNN. “I think the rights and obligations of the United States Senate should be followed."

It’s unclear whether committee chair Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (R-Iowa) will support taking that step.