Trump Jr. spent nearly 8 hours with House Committee, bickered over comparison to Clinton’s Benghazi testimony
(WASHIGTON) -- Donald Trump Jr.'s interview Wednesday with the House Intelligence Committee focused mainly on three areas, sources with knowledge of the interview told ABC News: The June 2016 meeting between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian attorney; Trump Jr.'s conversations with Wikileaks; and past business by the Trump Organization.
At one point, hours into the meeting, multiple sources with knowledge tell ABC News that Trump Jr.’s lawyers asked how many more questions the committee had. The sources said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had sat for 11 hours when she was questioned by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., as part of the Benghazi investigation and they were nowhere near that point. It was then that Trump Jr., per the sources, said Clinton's testimony was not the same: she was testifying about the 2012 attack in Benghazi where four Americans were killed.
Trump Jr. declined to discuss details of a conversation he told investigators he had with his father after reports about the Trump Tower meeting emerged, citing attorney client privilege, according to the top Democrat on the panel.
The sources tell ABC News that the committee's questions focused on what information was exchanged during the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York City, and the president's oldest son indicated the short gathering did not produce any information and ended quickly.
Sources said Trump Jr. told investigators he spoke with his father after reports surfaced about his controversial Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. He also told the committee he initially discussed a response with Hope Hicks, a top campaign aide now serving as White House communications director, according to a committee source.
Pressed by Democrats for further details about those conversations, Trump Jr. insisted conversations with his father were privileged, sources in the room said. "They stuck to their position that they were not going to share any conversations that Donald Trump Jr. had with his father about the June 9th meeting," Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told CNN Wednesday night.
Committee Democrats subsequently questioned the legitimacy of Trump Jr.'s privilege claim and raised the possibility of seeking a subpoena to compel him to answer.
"The only category of question the he declined to answer were, with respect to any discussion with his father about the June 9th meeting, after the emails had been disclosed publicly," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told ABC News's Pierre Thomas after the interview. "Counsel made a claim of attorney-client privilege. In my view, this is a central communication about a very pivotal meeting and a conversation between father and son is not subject to the attorney-client privilege. So, uh, we intend to persist and make sure we get answers to that question."
It's unclear if Republicans who control the committee will join that push.
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, one of the Republicans leading the probe, said the interview was “professional” and described Trump Jr. as “cooperative at all times.”
The president's son was also asked about his communications with Wikileaks after the company reached out to him via Twitter towards the end of the campaign. Trump Jr., according to the sources familiar with his testimony, said his communications were limited to the messages exchanged via Twitter and went no further. A Republican source added Trump Jr. was asked about some Trump Organization business going back decades and at times based on old news reports about his father.
The meeting, which lasted just under 8 hours, was the longest meeting the president's son has had before a Congressional Committee, compared to a previous meeting he had with the Senate Judiciary Committee for multiple hours in September.
The sources added that Trump Jr. was questioned only by members, with limited exceptions, a majority of which were Democrats.