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Senate GOP wants to question Flynn

Top Senate Republicans said Tuesday the Intelligence Committee should investigate the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Michael Flynn as President Trump’s national security adviser and ask him to appear before Congress for questioning.

GOP lawmakers stopped short of calling for an independent committee to look into Flynn’s actions. The creation of such a panel, demanded by Democrats, would elevate the investigation and allow for televised, public hearings.

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But Republicans largely agreed the Flynn matter should be included in a current Intelligence Committee probe into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.

“It’s likely that General Flynn will be, at some point, asked to come and talk to the committee about both post-election activities and any other activities he would be aware of,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters Congress moves to ensure the greater availability of explosives detecting dogs in the US McConnell sets key Kavanaugh vote for Friday MORE (R-Mo.), a member of Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellJuan Williams: Trump’s policies on race are more important than his rhetoric It’s Mitch McConnell’s Washington – and we’re just living in it Trump makes new overtures to Democrats MORE’s (R-Ky.) leadership team who serves on the Intelligence panel.

McConnell added it’s “highly likely” the Intelligence panel will investigate Flynn.

Across the Capitol, House GOP leaders charged with oversight were less aggressive than their Senate counterparts, seeming to shrug off calls for Congress to get more involved.

The controversy with Flynn began after reports surfaced that he had privately discussed Obama-initiated sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. before Trump took office and then misled Vice President Pence and other top Trump administration officials about the matter.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzEric Trump blasts professor at alma mater Georgetown: ‘A terrible representative for our school’ Matt Schlapp: Trump's policies on Russia 'two or three times tougher than anything' under Obama Tucker Carlson: Ruling class cares more about foreigners than their own people MORE (R-Utah) deferred to his chamber’s Intelligence Committee, which has been conducting a broad review of Russia’s attempts to influence the elections. That probe includes campaign communications with the Russian government.

“I think that situation has taken care of itself. I know that the intel committee is looking into the hacking issue,” Chaffetz told reporters. “It’s not something the Oversight Committee can actually look at because sources and methods are the exclusive purview of the intel committee.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a member of Trump’s transition team, said his panel would instead review the intelligence community leaks of Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian ambassador, CNN reported.

Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said the committee “will continue to investigate any intelligence our counterintelligence issues involving Russia and follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Paul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters MORE (R-Wis.) offered support for the decision to accept Flynn’s resignation but didn’t push for action from the House.

“I’m not going to prejudge the circumstances surrounding this. I think the administration will explain the circumstances that led to this,” he told reporters.

Democrats, still smarting over losing the White House to Trump, said the Flynn episode raises broader concerns about the Trump team’s ties to Russia.

“There are so many questions that have to be answered. I think we need the sworn testimony of Michael Flynn, we need sworn testimony of [former Trump campaign chairman] Paul Manafort, we need sworn testimony from people in the White House who knew this for over a month and had done nothing,” Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight GOP Senate candidate: Kavanaugh 'debacle' 'hugely motivating' to Missouri voters Democrats hold fading odds of winning Senate this November MORE (D-Mo.), who serves on both the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, told The Hill.

Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, submitted his resignation hours after The Washington Post reported that the acting attorney general had warned top White House officials last month that Flynn could be blackmailed by Russia because he was deliberately mischaracterizing his discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. FBI agents interviewed Flynn just days after Trump’s inauguration, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The White House insisted Tuesday that Flynn had not broken any laws. Press secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump fired Flynn because his trust in him had “eroded,” rather than taking issue with his calls to the Russian ambassador.

Democrats signaled their desire to keep the pressure on the GOP.

“I just think it’s, frankly, outrageous that Republicans are standing mute. … This is certainly a bigger threat to national security than Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarter Page files defamation lawsuit against DNC Dems fear party is headed to gutter from Avenatti’s sledgehammer approach Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE’s private email server,” McCaskill said.

Kurt Bardella, a prominent Trump critic who worked for former House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), accused Chaffetz of showing a double standard with the Trump administration.

“If the first month of the Obama administration had been like it has during the Trump administration, the Oversight Committee would have been issuing subpoenas, launching investigations and convening hearings at a record pace,” Bardella said.

One House Republican who didn’t want to be identified said he’d like to hear directly from Trump about what he knew and when he knew it. Spicer said Trump “absolutely” did not direct Flynn to conduct back-channel communications with Russia while Obama was still in power.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a House Freedom Caucus member, said Republicans’ reluctance to judge the situation without knowing the full story could be easily remedied.

“We have to be careful because of commenting without the facts. But at the same time, I don’t know how you get the facts without doing some investigation,” Perry said.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDating app for Trump supporters leaked its users data on launch day: report Overnight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist MORE (R-Fla.), whom Trump defeated in the GOP presidential primaries, said he wants to see more evidence before bringing Flynn before Congress. But the senator said he was certain the committee’s existing Russia investigation would now include Flynn.

“I have full confidence that the intel committee is going to do a good job,” Rubio told The Hill. “And if we don’t, then I will let everyone know that we didn’t.”

Jordain Carney and Alexander Bolton contributed.