Republican lawmakers scramble to contain Ukraine whistleblower fallout

Senate Republicans are scrambling to contain the political fallout from reports that President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE pressured a foreign leader to investigate his leading Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Graham: 'Stupid' for Trump to ask China to investigate Biden Romney: Republicans don't criticize Trump because they fear it will help Warren MORE.

Several Republican lawmakers have called on Trump to reveal more details from his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the president on Sunday acknowledged discussing Biden and his possible links to corruption in Ukraine. This effort comes as some Democrats in the House are ramping up their calls for a vote on an impeachment inquiry. 

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Fox's Wallace says 'well-connected' Republican told him there's a 20 percent chance GOP will vote for impeachment White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours MORE (R-Ky.) announced on the Senate floor Monday afternoon that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrEx-CIA agent: Whistleblower's complaint 'should be considered on its merits' Senate Intel chair: Whistleblower hasn't agreed to testify before panel Juan Williams: Trump, the conspiracy theory president MORE (R-N.C.) is trying to bring the Trump-appointed intelligence community’s inspector general who received a complaint from a whistleblower before his panel to investigate the matter.

But McConnell cautioned his colleagues to handle the issue with bipartisan cooperation and refrain from some of the political fireworks that have erupted in the House over the complaint.

“I believe it’s extremely important that their work be handled in a secure setting with adequate protections in a bipartisan fashion, and based on facts rather than leaks to the press,” he said.

Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate GOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate War of words at the White House MORE (S.D.) told reporters Monday that Congress needs to be briefed on the whistleblower complaint.

“I would hope that whatever information is available that is in the possession of the inspector general of the DNI [director of national intelligence] that we would get access to that,” he said.

“If there is some transcript or something available from that conversation, hopefully eventually we’ll see it and everybody will be able to know what was said,” he added. “The president has described it as a very appropriate conversation, but I think we’ll see what the facts say.”

A congressional official said intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire are both expected to testify before the full committee later this week. Maguire is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. 

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate Farmers: New Trump ethanol proposal reneged on previous deal Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate MORE (R-Iowa), the vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference who faces a potentially competitive election next year, said the appropriate path is to task the Intelligence Committee with getting to the bottom of the controversy.

“I just think all this needs to go to the Intel Committee and needs to be sorted out,” she said.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R-Maine), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said it’s “important and appropriate” that the intelligence community’s inspector general brief the Senate and House committees. 

“The law is clear that if the inspector general of the intelligence community receives a whistleblower complaint that the IG [inspector general] deems is urgent that that is to be reported to the leaders of the Intelligence committees,” she said. 

GOP senators including Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney appears to confirm name of secret Twitter account Graham: 'Stupid' for Trump to ask China to investigate Biden Turkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate MORE (Utah) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (Pa.) are warning that Trump would have acted improperly if he in fact pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden, who is leading the Democratic field of presidential contenders.

“If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out,” Romney, a Trump critic, tweeted Sunday. Romney said Monday that the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky should be released.

Toomey on Sunday said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it is “not appropriate” for a candidate to ask a foreign leader for assistance.

Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerLawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings GOP congressman slams Trump over report that US bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters Kinzinger challenges Trump's defense chief on Syria in closed-door meeting MORE (Ill.), a Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday that it would be “highly inappropriate” if Trump directed a foreign leader to investigate a rival politician.

“It’s absolutely highly inappropriate what President Trump did, and I don’t care about the Biden arguments, I, you know, that’s important, and we need to get to the bottom of it,” Kinzinger said on the “Guy Benson Show.” 

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurkey says soldier killed despite cease-fire in Syria Schumer calls for FDA to probe reports of contaminated baby food How Trump and Pelosi went from bad to worse MORE (N.Y.) on Monday ratcheted up the pressure on more Republicans to call for additional details about what Trump might have offered the Ukrainian president in return for probing Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who served as a paid board member for a Ukrainian energy company.

Trump on Monday denied that he threatened to hold back foreign aid to pressure Ukraine.

“I did not make a statement that ‘you have to do this or I’m not going to give you aid,’ ” the president told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

McConnell later said on the floor that it is “regrettable” that Schumer had “chosen to politicize the issue.”

A Republican House member who requested anonymity told The Hill that Trump should release the transcript of his call to put an end to speculation.

“I believe reviewing the transcript is necessary and appropriate to put an end to the rumormongering,” the source said.  

Schumer argued in a letter to McConnell that Republicans should demand the release of a complaint made by an unnamed whistleblower to the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, claiming that Trump made an inappropriate pledge to Ukrainian officials.

Schumer accused Senate Republicans of remaining “silent and submissive” and “shying away from this institution’s constitutional obligation to conduct oversight.”  

“The Republican Senate’s ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ attitude toward such a serious national security concern is unacceptable and must change. I call on you and the chairs of the relevant Senate committees to fulfill your constitutional duty,” he wrote.

Maguire has so far refused to turn the document over to Congress, which Democrats say is a violation of law. In a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump lashes out at Pelosi as she visits Jordan to discuss Syria Trump's insult-comic act enters danger zone  White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours MORE (D-Calif.), Maguire last week stated the complaint was not an “urgent concern” because it applied to stakeholders outside the intelligence community and did not relate to intelligence activity.

Schumer called on Senate Republicans Monday to hold hearings to find out what prompted the whistleblower complaint; issue a subpoena to compel the release of the complaint to Congress; request the White House to release a transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky; identify administration officials who delayed aid to Ukraine; and ask for a legal opinion from the Justice Department on sharing the whistleblower complaint with Congress.

Juliegrace Brufke and Jordain Carney contributed.