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Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenas Donald Trump Jr. to answer questions about prior claim to have limited role in Trump Tower Moscow deal

Key Points
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is headed by a Republican, has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of President Donald Trump, to answer questions about his claim to have just limited knowledge of an ultimately aborted plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
  • Trump Jr.'s testimony was called into question earlier this year by new testimony from President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who said he had briefed Trump Jr. repeatedly about the effort to develop a Trump Tower there.
  • Cohen told a House committee that he had met with both Donald Trump Jr. and his sister, Ivanka Trump, "approximately 10" times to brief them about the Trump Tower plan.
Donald Trump Jr.
Justin Lane | Pool | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to answer questions about his claim to have just limited knowledge of an ultimately aborted plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, NBC News reported Wednesday.

Trump Jr.'s prior testimony was called into question earlier this year by new testimony from President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who said he had briefed Trump Jr. repeatedly about the effort to develop a Trump Tower there.

A person close to Donald Trump Jr. blasted the subpoena to CNBC as "an obvious PR stunt from a so-called 'Republican' senator" — Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina — "too cowardly to stand up to his boss [committee ranking Democrat] Mark Warner and the rest of the resistance Democrats on the committee."

That person said people should expect Trump Jr. to fight the subpoena.

Trump Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017 that "I was peripherally aware" of an effort to build that project in Russia, which was being pursued as his father was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. That effort was not known to the public at the time.

A source directly familiar with the matter told NBC News that the committee also wants to ask Trump Jr. about what he has claimed to have told colleagues about the Trump Tower New York meeting in June 2016, when he, his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer who purportedly had negative information about Hillary Clinton.

In his Senate judiciary testimony, Trump Jr. claimed he did not tell Manafort or Kushner what the meeting was going to be about, and further claimed he did not tell his father about the meeting at all.

But Cohen has said he recalled being in the elder Trump's office in June 6 or 7 in 2016 when the younger Trump told his father that a meeting to obtain derogatory information about Clinton was going to happen.

And Cohen in February told a House committee that he had met with both Donald Trump Jr. and his sister, Ivanka Trump, "approximately 10" times to brief them about the Trump Tower plan.

"The company [the Trump Organization] was involved in the deal, which meant that the family was involved in the deal," he testified.

Cohen on Monday began serving a three-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to crimes that included having lied to Congress in 2017 about details of the Trump Tower project.

Cohen originally falsely told Congress that the project was dropped in January 2016 — months before the elder Trump had locked up the GOP presidential nomination — when it actually had continued being pursued through June 2016, when Trump had the nomination well in hand.

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Representatives for the Trump Organization — which Trump Jr. runs with his brother Eric — the White House and the Senate Intelligence Committee did not immediately return calls for comment

The person close to Trump Jr. told CNBC, "Don is a private citizen, who has already been cleared by [special counsel Robert Mueller] after a two-year investigation. "

"He has done eight, nine hours of testimony in front of Senate Intel already and 27 hours of testimony in front of various committees in total," that person said. "When he originally agreed to testify in front of the Senate Intel Committee in 2017, there was an agreement between Don and the Committee that he would only have to come in and testify a single time as long as he was willing to stay for as long as they'd like, which Don did."

The person added that, "Don continues to cooperate by producing documents and is willing to answer written questions, but no lawyer would ever agree to allow their client to participate in what is an obvious PR stunt" from Burr.

The North Carolina Republican, when asked about the subpoena, told NBC News, "I've made all the statements I'm going to make."

A committee spokesman told NBC News, "We do not discuss the details of witness engagements with the Committee."

"Throughout the investigation, the Committee has reserved the right to recall witnesses for additional testimony as needed, as every witness and witness counsel has been made aware," the spokesman said.

Warner, a Virginia senator who is the committee's ranking Democrat, told NBC News, "We don't comment on witnesses, you'll go back and look at my earlier statements make clear some of my positions, but I'm not going to comment on it."

"I'm not going to comment on our ongoing investigation," Warner said.

Earlier Wednesday, before news of the subpoena broke, Trump Jr. tweeted out a message critical of House Democrats' efforts to obtain the full, unredacted report of Mueller, who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, possible collusion by Trump campaign officials and possible obstruction of justice by the president.