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 TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification 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 CruzO'Rourke: Decisions on late-term abortions 'best left to a woman and her doctor' New report details O'Rourke's prankish past O'Rourke sees 'a lot of wisdom' in abolishing Electoral College 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 GrahamGraham: Dems want to abolish Electoral College because they 'want rural America to go away' Overwhelming majority of voters want final Mueller report released: poll Bottom Line 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 ComeyGeorge Conway responds to Trump calling him a loser: 'Perfect example of the point I was making' Trump: 'I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be' Nadler 'encouraged' by response to Trump documents request 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 PompeoState Department blocks reporters from Pompeo briefing with faith-based media: report The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms Pompeo jokes he'll be secretary of State until Trump 'tweets me out of office' 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 McCarthyOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests 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 ClintonDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Dem strategist says Donna Brazile is joining Fox News 'for the money' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina 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 KaineDem senator wants Trump to extend immigration protections to Venezuelans Pentagon sends Congress list of projects that could lose funds to Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE (D-Va.) said on “Meet the Press.”

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump Live video of New Zealand shooting puts tech on defensive The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP 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 CoonsSenate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission  Senate Dems introduce bill demanding report on Khashoggi killing 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 EngelThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP House passes series of measures hitting Russia, Putin The Hill's Morning Report - Trump budget reignites border security fight 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 DurbinSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court 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.