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Republicans seek to temper fallout from latest Russia bombshells

Republican lawmakers on Sunday sought to temper the impact of the latest bombshell reports involving President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE and Russia, while their Democratic colleagues renewed calls to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's investigation.

The responses came after both The New York Times and The Washington Post reported new details over the weekend involving allegations of Trump's close ties with Moscow, sparking renewed concerns about the fate of Mueller's probe.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Boehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Senate confirms Biden Commerce secretary pick Gina Raimondo MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on NBC criticized Washington, D.C.'s, focus on the Mueller investigation as out of touch with the rest of the country.

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And Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief FBI director faces lawmaker frustration over Capitol breach Juan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of the president, raised doubts about some of the reporting's accuracy.

The New York Times reported Friday that the FBI was so concerned about Trump’s firing of former bureau chief James ComeyJames Brien ComeyWray says FBI not systemically racist John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Trump DOJ officials sought to block search of Giuliani records: report MORE that it opened an inquiry into whether the president was working on behalf of Russian interests.

And The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Trump has kept details of his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin from top officials in his administration, including withholding notes from an interpreter. 

The White House dismissed the reports as “inaccurate” and defended Trump’s record on Russia, while the president called the stories “insulting” and “ridiculous.” 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoChina plays the Trump card, but Biden is not buying it Trump: 'I can't imagine' any Republican would beat me in 2024 primary if I run Green New Deal's 3 billion ton problem: sourcing technology metals MORE would not directly address The New York Times story, but in a Sunday interview called it "ludicrous" to consider Trump a national security threat.

Both parties on Sunday called for a closer look at Trump’s behavior toward Russia, with Democrats and Republicans both saying Trump's actions speak for themselves. However, Democrats argue that Trump has been soft on Russia while Republicans believe the opposite.

Multiple GOP guests appearing on the Sunday show circuit pointed to the Trump administration’s track record of levying sanctions against Moscow and expelling a number of Russian diplomats from the U.S. as evidence the president is tough on Russia.

Graham on “Fox News Sunday” expressed skepticism with the accuracy of the Times report and suggested it provided more proof of bias at the FBI than evidence against Trump.

"I, for one, don’t trust what I read in The New York Times," he said, but added "if this really did happen, Congress needs to know about it."

Cruz said he would consider any corroborated allegations that emerge, but called it "premature" to attempt to subpoena notes of the president's meetings with Putin.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySome Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Wray says no evidence of 'antifa' involvement in Jan. 6 attack Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC MORE (R-Calif.) defended Trump's right to keep private the details of his meetings with Putin, suggesting on CBS's "Face the Nation" that doing so was part of the president's strategy to build a relationship with a foreign leader.

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"I know this administration. I know this Congress is very tough on Russia, and we will continue to be so," he said. "But I want this president to be able to build a relationship, even on a personal level with all the world leaders as well."

However, Democrats on Sunday highlighted the president's call during the 2016 campaign for Russia to hack Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClintons remember former adviser Vernon Jordan Biden praises Vernon Jordan: He 'knew the soul of America' The parts of H.R. 1 you haven't heard about MORE's emails; his public skepticism over the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 election; and his performance at a joint press conference with Putin last year in Helsinki.

“The right answer is … to protect the Mueller investigation at all costs, let it get to its end, make sure that the results are made public,” Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military Biden tells Senate Democrats to stick together, quickly pass coronavirus relief Kaine plans new push on war powers after Biden's Syria strike MORE (D-Va.) said on “Meet the Press.”

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Democrats offer fresh support for embattled Tanden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump teases on 2024 run Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (D-Va.), the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CNN that whether Trump ever worked on behalf of the Russians is "the defining question" of Mueller's investigation.  

Sen. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsKhashoggi fiancée: Not punishing Saudi crown prince would be 'stain on our humanity' GOP says Ron Klain pulling Biden strings Pompeo: Release of Khashoggi report by Biden admin 'reckless' MORE (D-Del.) on Fox News maintained that the latest reports underscore the need to allow Mueller's investigation to reach "its logical conclusion."

The chairmen of the House Foreign Relations, Judiciary and Intelligence committees have all said in the wake of this weekend's reports that they will look into Trump's relationship with Russia.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelProgressives target Manchin, Sinema with new PAC State Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies How Congress dismissed women's empowerment MORE (D-N.Y.) responded Saturday to the Post story with a pledge for upcoming hearings.

The future of the Mueller investigation, which has thus far implicated five former Trump associates and more than 20 Russian nationals, is also sure to be front-and-center at this week's confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee William Barr.

Democrats have uniformly said they'd like guarantees from Barr that he will not allow interference in Mueller's investigation.

"I mean, clearly he’s a good lawyer. No question," Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Hillicon Valley: Senate confirms Biden Commerce secretary pick Gina Raimondo | Wray hints at federal response to SolarWinds hack | Virginia governor signs comprehensive data privacy law Wray hints at federal response to SolarWinds hack MORE (D-Ill.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on "This Week."

"But when it comes to this delicate political situation, the power of the presidency, whether this investigation is warranted, Bill Barr had better give us some ironclad, rock-bottom assurances in terms of his independence and his willingness to step back and let Mueller finish his job," Durbin said.