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 John TrumpPentagon update to missile defense doctrine will explore space-base technologies, lasers to counter threats Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE and Russia, while their Democratic colleagues renewed calls to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 CruzCongress can stop the war on science O'Rourke blogs from road trip: 'Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk' Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall 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.

And Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Overnight Defense: Four Americans killed in Syria suicide attack | State of the Union becomes latest shutdown flashpoint | Missile defense review on track for Thursday release White House condemns 'terror attack' that killed US troops in Syria 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 ComeyFISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased Dems demand access to interpreters at Trump's meetings with Putin Kremlin official: ‘Stupid’ to think Trump is working for Russia 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 PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTop North Korean official to meet with Trump this week: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi asks Trump to postpone State of the Union | US troops killed in Syria blast | Day 2 of Barr confirmation US calls China's death sentence for Canadian man 'politically motivated' 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 Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Dem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King McCarthy rejects idea of censuring Steve King 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.

"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 ClintonTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs FISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased Pompeo’s Cairo speech more ‘back to the future’ than break with past 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 KaineMcConnell: Senate will not recess if government still shutdown Kaine threatens to object to Senate leaving for recess Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks MORE (D-Va.) said on “Meet the Press.”

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLeaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Mobile providers at center of privacy storm Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks 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 CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: Washington heads into multi-day shutdown Overnight Energy: Senators introduce bipartisan carbon tax bill | House climate panel unlikely to have subpoena power | Trump officials share plan to prevent lead poisoning Flake to co-introduce bipartisan climate bill 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 EngelOvernight Defense: Trump rejects Graham call to end shutdown | Coast Guard on track to miss Tuesday paychecks | Dems eye Trump, Russia probes | Trump talks with Erdogan after making threat to Turkey's economy Dems zero in on Trump and Russia Top Dem: Congress may have 'no choice' but to subpoena Trump interpreter 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump AG pick: I won't be 'bullied' by anyone, including the president Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Senate Dems set to take aim at new Trump attorney general pick 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.