(CNN)Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley on Tuesday pushed back against a Democrat who has accused Donald Trump Jr. of potentially lying in his testimony to the committee, and suggested a different witness may have lied to the panel instead.
Grassley, an Iowa Republican, sent a letter to Sen. Chris Coons on Tuesday responding to the Delaware Democrat’s letter last week, which charged that President Donald Trump’s eldest son may have “provided false testimony” to the committee and urged Grassley to bring Trump Jr. back to the committee to testify publicly.
Coons suggested Trump lied in his September 2017 testimony when he told the committee that foreigners did not “offer or provide assistance” to the Trump campaign and he did not seek any foreign assistance. He pointed to a recent New York Times report that revealed Trump Jr. met in the months before the 2016 election with George Nader, an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and an Israeli social media specialist offering help to the Trump campaign.
But Grassley defended Trump Jr., arguing that Coons was comparing committee testimony to news reports and suggesting that it may not be contradictory anyway.
“Notably, even if the reporting is entirely accurate, it is not clear that anything in that article contradicts Mr. Trump, Jr.’s testimony, let alone materially so,” Grassley wrote. “Your letter cited to five questions from the transcript, but the last three do not appear to be implicated by the content of the New York Times article. Even regarding the other two, while it is possible there could be contradictions, there are potentially innocuous explanations as well.”
Grassley also raised the prospect that Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson may have lied in his testimony to the committee, comparing Simpson’s statements to Trump Jr.’s and asking Coons what action he wanted to take with regard to Simpson’s testimony.
In his letter Tuesday, Grassley pointed to past questions about Simpson’s testimony about a Trump campaign informant, and also suggested Simpson wasn’t truthful when he said that he did not work on the “Trump matter” after the 2016 election. Grassley cited the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican report that stated the Penn Quarter Group worked with Fusion GPS and dossier author Christopher Steele in 2017.
An attorney for Simpson declined to comment.
Grassley has also gone after Steele, the ex-British intelligence agent who was hired by Fusion GPS to write the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia, when he and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina referred Steele to the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution, accusing him of potentially lying to federal investigators about his contacts with the media.
Coons noted Grassley’s criminal referral of Steele in his letter, though his request to Grassley was for the committee to hold an open hearing with Trump Jr., something that Democrats have urged for months now.
“There’s clear tension with his firm answers that there were no efforts by foreign powers to provide assistance to the Trump campaign and recent reporting that there were meetings he participated in where representatives of gulf states were offering some assistance to the Trump campaign,” Coons said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Earlier this month, Grassley released the transcript of the committee’s closed-door interviews with Trump Jr. and others who attended the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. In his letter Tuesday, Grassley said he would “suggest Mr. Trump, Jr.’s attorneys be asked about these press accounts,” but he did not raise the prospect of a public hearing with Trump Jr.
Trump Jr.’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment on Coons’ letter.