The Russia probe plunged Washington into turmoil Wednesday as Donald Trump’s son reportedly was ordered to testify before a Senate panel and the White House refused to release material on investigations into the president.
A day after the top Republican in Congress called the Russia probe “case closed,” Trump’s conflict with his Democratic opponents escalated to new heights as a House panel voted to hold the nation’s Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt for refusing to turn over key documents.
Following a day of drama that included Trump asserting executive privilege for the first time in his presidency, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee took the surprise step of issuing a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr to testify as part of its investigation into Russian election interference, US media reported.
It was the first known legal summons issued to a member of the president’s family to force testimony in the ongoing investigation, and comes after special counsel Robert Mueller declined to accuse Trump’s 2016 campaign of criminal conspiracy to collude with the Russians.
Trump Jr, 41, has testified voluntarily in private once to the committee, and was peppered with questions about a June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York that he and other campaign officials had with a Russian lawyer who had offered them dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Committee aides would not confirm the subpoena or what they want to discuss with the president’s eldest son, who currently helps run the Trump Organization.
Citing a person close to Trump Jr, The Wall Street Journal reported he had offered to answer questions in writing from the committee, and planned to fight the subpoena, which demands he testify in person.
The White House has been seeking to shield a large swathe of material -- including redacted portions of Mueller’s report -- subpoenaed by lawmakers seeking to exert their oversight responsibility.
The rare move to invoke executive privilege came as the House Judiciary Committee took its most substantive step yet against a member of the Trump administration by approving a contempt motion against Barr.
“This was a very grave and momentous step we were forced to take today,” committee chairman Jerry Nadler said after the party-line vote.