There was a curious moment this weekend when Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, publicly advised Donald Trump Jr. that he should ignore the subpoena issued to him by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is virtually unprecedented for the chairman of one Senate Committee to encourage a witness to defy another chairman of a Senate Committee. It is even more bizarre when the first chairman heads the Judiciary Committee.
Graham told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday “If I were Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer, I would tell him, ‘You don’t need to go back into this environment anymore. You’ve been there for hours and hours and nothing being alleged here changes the outcome of the Mueller investigation.’ I would call it a day.”
Graham later walked back that irresponsible statement by saying that Trump Jr. should show up and take the Fifth: “You just show up and plead the Fifth, and it’s over with.”
That is better but not ideal. Graham is still encouraging a witness to defy a fellow Republican chairman in a congressional investigation.
There is no principled basis to defy the Senate or refuse to answer any questions. Attorney General Bill Barr has just ordered a new investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation. That is based on the view that many Americans have lingering questions about these controversies. However, you cannot demand such answers on one side while telling others not to give answers on the other side. The Senate Intelligence Committee still has questions for Trump Jr. That is its prerogative to pursue answers. Period.