U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was "very surprised" that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed his oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., for more testimony linked to the panel's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
"My son's a very good person," Trump told reporters at the White House, saying that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation had "totally exonerated" him.
The U.S. leader said his son had already testified for "nearly 20 hours."
It was not immediately clear whether Trump Jr. would comply with the subpoena, even though it was issued by the Republican-controlled congressional panel.
Mueller's investigation did not establish that Trump's campaign cooperated with Russia to sway the election, but it took no position on whether the president obstructed justice as the probe proceeded. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein later decided criminal charges were not warranted.
Trump said, "Bob Mueller's no friend of mine," alleging his team of prosecutors was composed of "17 or 18 very angry Democrats who hated Donald Trump."
However, in his first extensive remarks on Mueller's report, the president said, "The report comes back. It's perfect. It's beautiful. There's no collusion. Nobody even talks about the illusion."
"You know, I haven't heard the word 'Russia' in a long time," Trump said. "There's no more talk about Russia. What happened to Russia? The Russian witch hunt, they don't talk, because it was so on collusion, which by the way, is by far, that's the big deal because it was all about Russia. ... So, there's no crime, that never was a crime, was a hoax. It was a witch hunt."
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said it was "bad form" for the committee to subpoena Trump Jr. without telling the White House ahead of time.
Trump and his administration are battling with opposition Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives for testimony and documents on an array of fronts, but the Senate panel's Wednesday subpoena of Trump Jr. was a surprise.
It was the first known subpoena of a member of the president's immediate family, although the younger Trump and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, a White House adviser, have voluntarily testified before congressional panels.
The younger Trump was summoned to answer more questions about his 2017 testimony to the Senate panel as part of its probe into the election meddling by Russia. The committee's interest in talking to Trump Jr. was renewed after the president's former attorney, Michael Cohen, told a House committee in February that he had briefed Trump Jr. about 10 times on a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The younger Trump told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017 he was only "peripherally aware'' of the proposal.
Cohen started a three-year prison term this week, partly related to his guilty plea that he'd lied to Congress about then-candidate Trump's termination of his pursuit of the Moscow project in 2016. Cohen made his false statement so that his testimony would match Trump's claim to voters in the early stages of the presidential race that he was no longer pursuing the Russian venture.
Mulvaney, in an interview with CBS News, downplayed the significance of the subpoena for the younger Trump since he does not work in the White House. Trump Jr. and his brother Eric are overseeing the president's Trump Organization business empire while Trump is in office.
"That being said," Mulvaney said, "the fact that the president's son got a subpoena from a Republican-led committee ... and not at least get a heads-up, I thought was — let's say, bad form."
The Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating Russian election interference and Trump's ties to Russia for the last two years. The Trump Jr. subpoena was a new sign that the Senate panel is continuing with its own Russia investigation even after the release last month of a redacted version of the special counsel's 448-page report.
The Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday overrode Republican opposition to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for his refusal to turn over Mueller's unredacted report.
The president has vowed that he will fight all subpoenas from Democratic-controlled committees trying to investigate him and his administration.