The U.S. Senate judiciary committee plans to question the former chair of the Trump campaign and will subpoena him if necessary, the panel’s Republican chair said Wednesday.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said he and the committee’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, have agreed to try to bring Paul Manafort before the panel for questioning about the government’s enforcement of a law requiring registration of foreign lobbyists. Feinstein’s office confirmed that they plan to question him.
Manafort would unquestionably be asked about his participation in a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer last summer with President Donald Trump’s eldest son and son-in-law, where the purpose was to hear potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer.
Manafort disclosed the meeting in a package of information he provided to the Senate and House intelligence committees, which have been investigating potential co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, as is Robert Mueller, the former FBI director appointed by the Justice Department as the special counsel.
“Obviously it would be appropriate for anybody to get into anything that went on at that meeting, and he was at that meeting,” Grassley told Iowa reporters.
A person close to Manafort said that he hasn’t yet received a letter from the Senate judiciary committee about a possible interview. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Manafort’s private interactions with the committee.
‘Greatest witch hunt in political history’
Donald Trump Jr. disclosed on Twitter a series of emails on Tuesday that revealed his eagerness to hear negative material on Clinton from a Russian lawyer. The exchange showed Trump Jr. conversing with a music publicist who wanted him to meet with a “Russian government attorney” who supposedly had dirt on Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” He was told the Russian government had information that could “incriminate” Clinton and her dealings with Russia.
“I love it,” Trump Jr. said in one email response.
On Wednesday, the president declared that his son was “open, transparent and innocent. Defending his son’s conduct, Trump again dismissed the Russia investigation as the “greatest witch hunt in political history.”
My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!
The president’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, said in an interview with NBC’s Today that Trump Jr. did not violate any laws by accepting the meeting. He said the president had not been aware of Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting and didn’t find out about his son’s email exchange until “very recently.”
Sekulow said the president was not being investigated by Mueller. “I would know a little bit about it. I’m one of the lawyers,” Sekulow told ABC’s Good Morning America.
As the emails reverberated across the political world, Trump Jr. defended his actions in an interview with Fox News, blaming the decision to take the meeting on the “million miles per hour” pace of a presidential campaign and his suspicion that the lawyer might have information about “underreported” scandals involving Clinton. Trump Jr. said the meeting “really went nowhere” and that he never told his father about it because there was “nothing to tell.”
“In retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently,” Trump Jr. said.