In the 36 hours or so since NC GOP Sen. Richard Burr announced he would be issuing a subpoena for Donald Trump Jr. over the younger Trump's lies to the Senate Intel Committee involving the Trump Corporation's plans to build a hotel in Putin's backyard, the response from a stunned White House and furious Senate GOP has been unprecedented.
A single senator criticizing a fellow senator of the same party, especially a committee chair, is rare enough, but six Republican senators criticized the decision by Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. about the Russia investigation.
What's next: We're told Don Jr. won't show up. Options include daring the committee to hold him in contempt, taking the Fifth in writing, or (most likely) a compromise like answering written questions.
A Trump ally said: "We're drawing battle lines: If you touch Don, we'll come after you. ... And our base will come after you."
Burr is not the only GOP NC senator facing crucifixion by his party if he follows through with this.
Donald Trump Jr.’s political allies launched an all-out war against the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, turning several Republican senators Thursday against the panel’s chairman amid news that he subpoenaed testimony from the president’s son.
The broadsides included tweets targeting the Republican chairman, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, calls from people close to the president to at least one vulnerable Republican senator, and a Breitbart story aimed at senators including the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, according to multiple people involved in the effort.
Even President Trump got involved on Thursday, telling reporters he was “pretty surprised” his son — “a very good person” — would be subpoenaed after Mr. Burr had said publicly he had found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The main target of the pressure campaign appeared to be Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, a close ally of Mr. Burr’s who is facing a conservative primary challenger next year. Some of Mr. Trump’s allies said they anticipated that the president would tweet support for Mr. Tillis’s primary opponent if the senator did not speak out.
The extraordinary pressure campaign, taking place in public and private, is forcing the party’s senators to choose between their loyalty to the Intelligence Committee and to the president’s family as it attempts to quash any remaining investigations of the president after the completion of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
It also put Mr. Burr and the Intelligence Committee on their heels. After two years of conducting the only bipartisan congressional investigation into Russia’s election interference campaign, the committee is in the final stages of its work and had hoped to avoid partisan fireworks that would distract from the substance of its final warnings about the Russian threat.
Burr's fine, he's not going anywhere. Tillis however, that's a much different story, there's a very real chance he loses his primary seat. But at this point Junior here obviously feels 100% safe from a congressional subpoena, and besides, in the end all of it is up to Mitch McConnell anyway.
A source with direct knowledge confirmed to Power Up that McConnell defended Burr's decision to issue a subpoena during a closed-door GOP lunch on Thursday. Publicly, the GOP leader spent the week pushing the line “case closed” with regards Mueller's investigation (not to mention placing an op-ed defending Trump in his favorite newspaper: The New York Post).
“Mr. McConnell’s remarks seemed to many to run counter to a closely watched speech he delivered on the Senate floor this week, in which he declared the “case closed” on Russian collusion after the Mueller report. Donald Trump Jr. and several Republican senators pointed to the speech as evidence that Mr. Burr was missing his cues,” the New York Times's Nicholas Fandos, Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns report.
“However, McConnell also acknowledged an exception for the Intelligence Committee’s probe, which he said should continue,” Seung Min and Karoun reported.
GOP strategists and Senate staffers viewed McConnell's "case closed” rhetoric as a deliberate decision to lay down a marker in an effort to move people off the topic.
“McConnell is where he is because he's a Zen master at navigating precarious positions,” GOP strategist Kevin Madden told Power Up. “This isn't the first committee chair to do what they believe is best for their committee. McConnell knows exactly where to shore up bulwarks of support elsewhere in his conference. As far as popularity as a measure, his political capital is always expertly deployed inside his home state and inside his Senate majority. That's how you become the longest serving leader in your party.”
“McConnell is a political survivor,” a GOP Senate staffer told Power Up, adding that certain parts of the country like “what the Trumps are doing,” and McConnell understands that better than anyone.
“People have fallen in line with the McConnell messaging tone and context more than the alternative. A lot of folks have come out and made it clear that it is case closed,” the GOP strategist added.
Anyone expecting more than Trump Jr.'s lawyers handling a Burr written questionnaire is making a sucker's bet, but it's entirely possible that Junior is just as much of an asshole as his dad and will make a point of taking the 5th and daring Burr to do any single goddamn thing about it, too.