Opinion

Exhibit A on Why Don Jr. Just Doesn’t Get How to Keep Himself Out of Legal Trouble

Donald Trump Jr. Mueller PsyOne thing you can count on with Donald Trump Jr. is that when faced with a choice, he’ll make the wrong one. The Senate Intelligence Committee just subpoenaed FSOTUS to give testimony about Russian contacts, and neither father nor son seems to be clear on how this all works.

“I was very surprised,” President Donald Trump told reporters about the Senate’s decision to issue the subpoena. “My son’s a very good person. Works very hard.”

I’m not sure why our president thinks that lazy bad guys are the only ones who are required to testify, but there it is. Junior appears to be similarly confused about the mechanics of subpoenas, and is reportedly planning to simply ignore Congress’ order.

If you’re thinking that sounds eerily familiar, you may remember that there has been some fallout with Attorney General William Barr over his refusal to comply with a Congressional subpoena just a few days ago. So we’re clear, recipients of subpoenas are supposed to show up and give testimony. Failure to comply leads to consequences, including jail time.

Here’s that statute again. Under 2 U.S.C.A. § 192, Congress can hold a person in contempt if that person, “willfully makes default, or who, having appeared, refuses to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry.” That basically means that any non-cooperating witness is fair game. Bottom line: when Congress asks you for testimony, you give it.

But hey, we’re not monsters. We don’t expect people to testify against their own self-interests. That’s why we have Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. It would be perfectly legal for Don Jr. to show up, listen to the Senate’s questions, and, if anything really dicey comes up, just take the nickel. Junior isn’t a strategist, though. He can’t seem to figure out how to play his hand, nor does he seem to notice that those around him are doing backflips to protect him.

Let’s remember – the Congressional subpoena we’re talking about here didn’t come from the House full of Dems – it came from the Republican Senate. These are not the people who are looking to take down Team Trump at all costs; these are simply lawmakers who know that there is no way they can purport to be doing their jobs without creating the appearance of a thorough investigation. Don Jr.’s role was to show up, answer some softball questions, and subsequently parade around cable news declaring himself to be the picture of transparency. In return, the Senate would put on a charade of deliberating, arrive at the conclusion that Don Jr. did nothing wrong, and book themselves on cable news declaring themselves to the guardians of justice. Sadly for everyone, Don Jr. didn’t get the memo, and can’t extrapolate for himself.

A non-appearance by FSOTUS will create an obligation on the Senate’s part to enforce its subpoena. It’s not likely that even Senate Republicans will cool with having their subpoenas considered optional, especially by someone who isn’t even a government employee.  Trump Jr.’s decision-making process on the subpoena is as flawed as we have come to expect from him.  And as the legal dominos continue to fall, the First Son seems committed to a regimen of making things worse for himself at every turn.

[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. She is a frequent media contributor, and is Of Counsel to Smedley & Lis, in Woodbury, New Jersey. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos

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