Trump says Senate subpoena of Donald Jr. left him 'very surprised'

President Trump on Thursday said he was “very surprised” — and appeared displeased — that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, to answer more questions about his contacts with Russia.

“I was very surprised,” Trump told reporters during an event that was supposed to focus on medical billing reform at the White House.

People close to Trump Jr. say he is resisting the subpoena and may invoke his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions, according to the New York Times.

The president questioned why the committee’s co-chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., would pursue the matter after special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election concluded that there was not enough evidence to charge Trump or members of his campaign with conspiracy.

“I saw Richard Burr saying there was no collusion two or three weeks ago,” Trump said.

Donald Trump Jr. was a key witness in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russia’s meddling. The panel is reportedly seeking to question Trump Jr. about congressional testimony he gave in September 2017 about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow — testimony that was later contradicted by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

21 PHOTOS
Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. through the years
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Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. through the years
FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr. (L) gives a thumbs up beside his father Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (R) after Trump's debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S. September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
Donald Trump, flanked by his son Donald Jr. (R), addresses the media in Chicago May 10, 2006. Trump was in Chicago to speak about his Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago that is being built on the old site of the Chicago Sun-Times building on the north side of the Chicago River. Trump also stated in the news conference that he has given the project oversight to the children.
FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr. (C) hugs his father, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, as Donald Jr's wife Vanessa (L) walks past after Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File photo
Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump during 1988 U.S. Open - September 3, 1988 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Donald Trump Jr. (L) walks off stage with his father Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump after Trump's debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S. September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. during 'Veranda: New York's Best at Trump Park Avenue, The Ultimate Showcase Penthouse' Opening Night Reception at The Trump Park Avenue in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by Robin Platzer/FilmMagic)
Donald Trump (C), entrepreneur and host of the television reality series "The Apprentice" poses with his wife and children (L-R) Donald Trump, Jr., Tiffany, Donald Trump, wife Melania, and daughter Ivanka at the party following the live telecast of the finale of season five in Los Angeles June 5, 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 12: Donald Trump (C) and his sons Eric F. Trump (L) and Donald Trump Jr. (R) attend the 'Celebrity Apprentice All Stars' Season 13 Press Conference at Jack Studios on October 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
Donald Trump (2nd L), entrepreneur and host of the television reality series 'The Apprentice', poses with his children, (L-R) son Donald Trump, Jr., and daughters Tiffany and Ivanka at the party following the live telecast of the finale of season five in Los Angeles June 5, 2006.
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (C) speaks with Donald Trump Jr. (L) and Ivanka Trump (R) during the third day of the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (R) waves to a fan as his son Donald Jr. looks on after Trump received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles January 16, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello (UNITED STATES)
(L-R) Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump attend the ground breaking of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington July 23, 2014. The $200 million transformation of the Old Post Office Building into a Trump hotel is scheduled for completion in 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS REAL ESTATE)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump kisses his son Donald, Jr. at a campaign event at Regents University in Virginia Beach, Virginia February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
UNITED STATES - APRIL 14: Donald Trump is joined by his son, Donald Jr., at a Park Ave. luncheon hosted by The Donald. (Photo by Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 27: Donald Trump, Visionary Business Leader award honoree, poses with his children Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka at Fashion Group International's 22nd Annual 'Night Of Stars' at Cipriani's 42nd Street October 27, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19: Donald Trump Jr., Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump at the Trump Soho Launch on September 19, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/WireImage)
COO Trump International Hotels, Jim Petrus, Ivanka Trump Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump at Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Jr.and Eric Trump Launch the N on October 10, 2007 at Jean Georges, Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City. (Photo by Shawn Ehlers/WireImage)
DATELINE NBC -- Pictured: (l-r) Donald Trump, Natalie Morales, Donald Trump Jr. -- (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) introduces his son Donald Trump Jr. (R) as he addressing the crowd during a campaign rally at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on April 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Trump is preparing for the Indiana Primary on May 3rd. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 09: Donald Trump, Jr. (R) greets his father Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. This is the second of three presidential debates scheduled prior to the November 8th election. (Photo by Rick Wilking-Pool/Getty Images)
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Trump Jr. told the committee that he “was peripherally aware” of the Trump Tower Moscow project. But in public testimony to the House Oversight Committee, Cohen said he briefed Trump family members, including Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump, “approximately 10 times” about it.

The president painted Don Jr. as a political novice who backed into his role in the 2016 campaign.

“My son’s a very good person. Works very hard,” the president continued. “The last thing he needs is Washington, D.C. He would rather not ever be involved. I remember he said to me a long time ago when I was thinking about running, ’Dad, if I can help, let me know. It’s not my expertise, it’s not something I really like, but whatever I can do, you are my father.’”

Trump Jr. arranged the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who claimed to have dirt on his father’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, which Trump Jr. said he would “love.”

The president on Thursday described it as “opposition research” that “99 percent” of those in the room had done.

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Donald Trump Jr.
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Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump, Jr., son of US President Donald Trump, attends the 139th White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. arrives to speak during the second session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Donald Trump Jr. pumps his fist after speaking about his father, Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the second day at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa attend the second day session at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Donald Trump Jr. speaks about his father, Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Tiffany Trump. daughter of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, sits near her half-brother Donald Trump Jr. (C) during evening speeches at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) smiles as his son Donald Trump Jr. speaks for a moment at a campaign rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk
Donald Trump Jr, son of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, tours the arena at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
Donald Trump Jr. (R) kicks balloons into the crowd as Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and vice presidential nominee Governor Mike Pence stand with their families onstage at the end of the final session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Donald Trump Jr with his children arrives at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, U.S., after Easter weekend in Palm Beach, Florida, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Donald Trump Jr. (R) makes remarks at a press conference while Joo Kim Tiah (C) the CEO of TA Global, the owner and developer of Trump International Hotel and Tower Vancouver, looks on with Eric Danziger the CEO of Trump Hotels (L) during the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick
U.S. President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump, Jr., watch children roll Easter Eggs at 139th annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump arrive for the Presidential Inauguration of Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool
BOZEMAN, MT - APRIL 22: Donald Trump Jr. speaks at a rally for Republican Greg Gianforte as he campaigns for the Montana House of Representatives seat vacated by the appointment of Ryan Zinke to head the Department of Interior on April 22, 2017 in Bozeman, Montana. Gianforte is running against democrat Rob Quist in the special election to be held on May 25, 2017. (Photo by William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images)
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Referring to the Mueller report as “the Bible,” Trump falsely claimed that the special counsel completely exonerated him and his son. Mueller explicitly refused to clear Trump of obstruction of justice, citing at least 10 occasions when he sought to meddle in the federal probe.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report read. “We are unable to reach that judgment.”

House Democrats want Mueller to testify. Attorney General William Barr said that he would not object to letting Mueller, who is still an employee of the Department of Justice, testify before the committee. Last week, Trump told reporters he would leave Mueller’s testimony up to the attorney general. On Sunday, Trump reversed course, tweeting: “Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!”

On Thursday, the president appeared to return to his initial position.

“I’m going to leave that up to our very great attorney general,” Trump said. “He’ll make a decision on that.”

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