Committees vie to be first to question Trump Jr.

Committees vie to be first to question Trump Jr.
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Lawmakers are vying to get the first crack at questioning Donald Trump Jr. about his meeting with a Russian lawyer offering compromising information on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcAuliffe says he won't run for president in 2020 Chuck Todd slams reports that DOJ briefed Trump on Mueller findings: 'This is actual collusion' Crowdfund campaign to aid historically black churches hit by fires raises over M MORE.

The Senate Intelligence, Senate Judiciary and House Intelligence committees are conducting separate investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including potential ties between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.

But Tuesday’s political bombshell that Trump Jr. was told the “very high level and sensitive information … is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump,” is threatening to reignite a turf battle, with lawmakers publicly vying to get President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE’s eldest son to talk with their committees about his 2016 meeting.  

Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) argued Tuesday that Trump Jr. should testify publicly before her panel, saying the meeting in question is "very much our committee business."

"This is aired on front page newspapers. It should be aired front page [in the] United States Senate. The committee of jurisdiction is clearly the Judiciary Committee," she told reporters. “It’s not an Intelligence matter.”

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Feinstein, who is also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, added that she wants to make progress on the issue as soon as Tuesday and has "urged the chairman to move quickly" to bring Trump Jr. in to talk.

A spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, didn't respond to a request for comment. But the Iowa Republican separately defended Trump Jr., praising him for being willing to testify and for his “transparency.”

Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) backed up Feinstein, saying their committee "has jurisdiction over here."

"If you're ever approached about getting help from a foreign government the answer is no," he said. "I think we need to hear from Donald Trump Jr., yeah I do."

Graham, one of the Senate’s most vocal Russia hawks, was one of the few Republicans who openly criticized Trump Jr. on Capitol Hill on Tuesday — even as many of his GOP colleagues went on defense or dodged the issue altogether.

The Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the FBI, is one of five committees investigating Russia's election interference, in addition to the Department of Justice-FBI probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

But the Judiciary panel could find itself in a battle with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s separate investigation.

That probe has increasingly moved into the spotlight amid closed-door meetings with top administration officials, and is widely viewed as Congress’s best chance at getting to the bottom of Russia’s election interference.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer slams Justice Dept over 'pre-damage control' on Mueller report Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders welcomes fight with Trump over 'Medicare for all' | DOJ attorney in ObamaCare case leaving | NYC mayor defends vaccination mandate | Ohio gov signs 'heartbeat' abortion bill Dems see room for Abrams in crowded presidential field MORE (D-N.Y.) threw his support behind both committees on Tuesday, while Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release McConnell touts Trump support, Supreme Court fights in reelection video Why Ken Cuccinelli should be Trump's choice for DHS MORE (R-Ky.) said the Intelligence Committee has “ball control.”

“What I have a lot of confidence in is the Intelligence Committee handling this whole investigation. Senator [Richard] Burr [R-N.C.] and Senator [Mark] Warner [D-Va.] have ball control, and we'll hear from them later,” he told reporters when asked about Trump Jr.

Sen. John CornynJohn Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, also backed the idea of Trump Jr. testifying before the Intelligence Committee.

Cornyn, like Feinstein, is a member of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

Intelligence Chairman Burr remained tight-lipped on Tuesday about whether he would request that Trump Jr. meet with his panel, but pushed back against it the idea of it being a Judiciary Committee matter.

"I don't see how it could be [Judiciary jurisdiction], but she's ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, so I imagine she wants to claim as much jurisdiction as she can," he told reporters when asked about Feinstein's comments.

Multiple Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, including moderate Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Collins receives more donations from Texas oil, gas industry than from Maine residents | Interior chief left meetings off schedule | Omar controversy jeopardizes Ocasio-Cortez trip to coal mine Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Collins receives more donations from Texas fossil fuel industry than from Maine residents MORE (R-Maine), have backed the idea of Trump Jr. meeting with them as part of their investigation.

Warner said "of course" his panel should hear from Trump Jr., but appeared open to him also talking to the Judiciary Committee.

"This was part of a Russian government effort to discredit Clinton and help Trump. So all of these denials that we have heard ... they're all patently false," he said. "It makes the [Intelligence Committee] investigation all that more important."

It isn’t be the first time Senate committees have bumped jurisdictional elbows. GOP senators mulled widening the Russia probe earlier this year, but backed away after leadership signaled that the Intelligence Committee could handle the investigation.

The Intel and Judiciary committees both met with Mueller and both requested former FBI Director James Comey meet with them in the wake of his firing. Comey declined the Judiciary Committee's invite and testified publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The move appeared to frustrate Grassley and Feinstein, and there’s little sign that Judiciary Committee members are willing to back down.

A subcommittee overseen by Graham and Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Senators press drug industry 'middlemen' over high prices MORE (D-R.I.) held a hearing Tuesday on how to avoid running into Mueller’s jurisdiction.

Whitehouse said the panel had faith in Mueller, but it also has “has a duty” to dig into Russia’s election interference.

“These questions are deadly serious, as they implicate the President’s fitness to perform his duties,” he said.  “I hope the full committee get’s energized.”

Charles Tiefer, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, told lawmakers during Tuesday’s hearing to not “give your job and your turf away to Intel” — earning a laugh from Graham.

Further complicating the battle for Trump Jr.’s time, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also wants him to testify.

"These participants are all going to have to come before the committee," Schiff told MSNBC. "We're going to have to try to obtain any relevant emails and documents."

Trump Jr. has indicated he will cooperate with congressional investigators and hasn't specifically ruled out appearing before multiple panels.

He also tweeted Tuesday an email chain of his conversations setting up the meeting in question — a move that only increased scrutiny from lawmakers.

The information offered by a Russian lawyer “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” reads one of the emails from Rob Goldstone, who acted as an intermediary to set up the meeting.

“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump,” he continued.

Updated 5:42 p.m. 

Katie Bo Williams contributed.