Last week, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, joined in issuing a subpoena for Donald Trump Jr. to return to the committee for testimony, setting off a firestorm of criticism from his fellow Republicans.
The guy can’t seem to catch a break. It was less than a month ago that many, including the News & Record, criticized him for apparently leaking information about the Russia investigation to the White House, according to findings in the Mueller report. This seemed an abrogation of his responsibility to run his committee independently and to serve the country first, not the Trump administration.
But in this instance, Burr has done the right thing. We hope he sticks to his convictions.
To be clear, Burr hasn’t accused Trump Jr. of anything. But the Mueller report revealed contradictions between its findings and statements Trump Jr. made to the Intelligence Committee. These discrepancies should be cleared up one way or another. That’s not unreasonable; it’s responsible.
“This case is closed. The Mueller Report cleared @DonaldJTrumpJr and he’s already spent 27 hours testifying before Congress,” Burr’s fellow N.C. Republican senator, Thom Tillis, tweeted. “It’s time to move on & start focusing on issues that matter to Americans.”
Tillis was echoing the hard line coming from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has declared “case closed” on the Russia investigation. But the case is not closed and won’t be anytime soon. The Mueller report’s first 100 pages alone are full of dozens of redactions made because of “Harm to Ongoing Matter” or “for Grand Jury” — because of continuing investigations, including one by the Intelligence Committee itself. The Mueller report also lists at least 10 episodes of what may be construed as President Trump’s obstruction of a legitimate investigation.
Even so, some of Burr’s fellow Republicans have been downright nasty. Former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee accused Burr of “harassment.” Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk tweeted, “Primaries will not be kind to Republicans who stand silent as government power is ... abused to harass the President’s family.”
But Burr, who has said he won’t run for re-election, hasn’t even asked a question yet.
Others, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, are urging Trump Jr. to ignore the subpoena. That’s an irresponsible stance. And it lends itself to the question: What are these Republicans afraid Burr might learn?
To their credit, several prominent Republicans have come to Burr’s defense, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Maine Sen. Susan Collins. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the panel, said he thinks the criticism of Burr is “a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Senate Intelligence Committee is about,” which is congressional oversight and not prosecution. The subpoena “is a courageous move for Burr, for the senator, because he knew that the angriest people would be members of his own party,” Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster, told USA Today.
Burr has a responsibility as his committee’s leader to investigate as thoroughly as he can, no matter how long it takes and no matter whom it upsets. It’s a sign of the hyper-partisanship reigning in Washington that the mere idea of Burr doing his job has led these Republicans to ask where his loyalties lie.
They should lie with his country. And they should side with the truth.