Donald Trump Jr. will answer some pretty tough questions on Wednesday from the Senate Judiciary Committee about his interactions with Russian contacts during the presidential election. While the hearing is sure to provide some provocative insights into what exactly occurred at Trump Jr.'s summer meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, his statements will remain behind closed doors — at least, for now. Trump Jr.'s hearing will not be public, and while this may initially be frustrating, it could end up being a pretty smart strategic move.
The hearing will be private because leaders of the committee cut a deal with Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was also at the meeting, in order to ensure that the two men cooperate with investigators. Although Trump Jr. was initially invited by the committee to testify publicly, the president's son reached an agreement to move the hearing behind closed doors.
One source reportedly told CNN that the committee felt compelled to reach this compromise because Trump Jr. and Manafort were "unlikely" to show up for a public session. Instead, according to the source, investigators reportedly used the threat of issuing subpoenas that would force the men to testify in public to get both members of the Trump campaign to agree to participate in a closed hearing this week.
The committee initially issued a subpoena for Manafort, but dropped it on Tuesday after he "started producing documents to the Committee" and began cooperating with investigators. House Judiciary Committee members reserve the right to re-issue the subpoena, and provide one for Trump Jr., at any time, they said in a statement.
Our investigation is still in its early stages, and we will continue to seek information from witnesses as necessary. As we’ve said before, we intend to get the answers that we need, one way or the other. Cooperation from witnesses is always the preferred route, but this agreement does not prejudice the committee’s right to compel his testimony in the future.
Ultimately, this agreement ensures that Trump Jr. and Manafort provide relevant documents related to their contacts with Veselnitskaya, answer questions pertinent to the investigation, and cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee under threat of subpoena. This also gives the committee more time to prep for a potential public hearing citing the information they learn in the initial interviews.
According to Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a public hearing will, in fact, take place, though the date has not yet been specified.