Politics & Policy

Grassley: Blumenthal Relying on ‘Fake News’ to Push for Don Jr. Interview

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley speaks in Washington, D.C., October 4, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has accused the panel’s ranking Democrat, Senator Richard Blumenthal, of relying on demonstrably false, retracted reporting to impugn Donald Trump Jr.’s credibility and request that Trump Jr. be called before the Committee to testify for a second time.

In a letter sent to Blumenthal on Monday, Grassley rejected his Democratic colleague’s request that Trump Jr. be called to testify again on the grounds that the suggestion that Trump Jr. lied to the Committee when he testified in early September 2017 was based on “fake news.”

“You referenced ‘recent press reports’” for that claim, but did not cite any in the footnote to that sentence,” Grassley wrote, referencing Blumenthal’s claim that Trump Jr. misled lawmakers about when exactly the Trump Organization abandoned plans for a Moscow Trump Tower.

“I suspect I know why,” Grassley continued. “On November 30, 2018, NPR published a story titled ‘Trump Jr.’s 2017 Testimony Conflicts with Cohen’s Account of Russian Talks.’ The article made this argument – claiming that Cohen’s acknowledgement that the real estate efforts had continued into 2016 somehow implicated Trump Jr., as though Trump Jr. had told the Committee it had ended earlier. That was fake news.”

The NPR report Grassley cites initially claimed that Trump Jr. told Congress that plans to build a Moscow Trump Tower were abandoned in 2014 — a claim that would have been contradicted by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s recent admission that the talks continued well into 2016. But the report was later corrected after a number of journalists pointed out that a cursory review of the transcript revealed Trump Jr. had made no such statement.

“Trump Jr. did acknowledge in his testimony that Cohen and another man were exploring a possible deal in Moscow in 2015 or 2016,” NPR’s correction read.

Grassley went on to point out that Blumenthal also relied on debunked reporting to suggest that Trump Jr. lied to Congress when he said then-candidate Trump did not have foreknowledge of an infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York.

“Puzzlingly, your letter also cites yet another claim that was the subject of a high-profile retraction. You cited a CNN article from July 2018 to imply that Mr. Trump Jr. may have lied when he said he did not tell his father in advance about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting,” Grassley wrote. “That CNN article cited an anonymous source to claim that Mr. Cohen had witnessed Mr. Trump Jr. tell his father about the meeting beforehand. That anonymous source was later revealed to be Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, who retracted his claim in a bizarre media spectacle, which your office seems to have missed.”

After dismissing Blumenthal’s suggestion that Trump Jr. should be investigated for misleading lawmakers, Grassley argued that Congress should instead investigate Fusion GPS founder Glen Simpson for providing “extremely misleading if not outright false testimony” to the committee in 2017.

When asked by lawmakers during his deposition about the timing of opposition research his firm did on Trump, Simpson seemed to suggest that his firm did not perform any such research on after Trump he was elected.

“So you didn’t do any work on the Trump matter after the election date, that was the end of your work?” Simpson was asked.

“I had no client after the election,” Simpson responded.

“As we now know, that was extremely misleading, if not an outright lie,” Grassley wrote in the Monday letter, citing former Senate staffer Daniel Jones’s admission to the FBI that he hired Simpson’s firm to continue investigating Trump after the election.

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