Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday declined to offer an opinion on the growing controversy over Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, even as key Republicans denounced Trump Jr.’s behavior and some Democrats began describing it as “treasonous.”
“The investigation in the Senate’s being handled by the Intelligence Committee, and I’m sure they’ll get to the bottom of whatever happened,” McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters.
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But key Republicans on Tuesday described Trump Jr.’s behavior as very serious — adding a new layer to an investigation that continues to distract from President Donald Trump’s agenda.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a staunch Russia hawk, called the emails released by Trump. Jr. “disturbing.”
“Anytime you’re in a campaign and you get an offer from a foreign government to help your campaign, the answer is no,” the South Carolina Republican told reporters. “This is going to require a lot of questions to be asked and answered.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) said that for him, the latest developments had crossed a line.
“I voted for @POTUS last Nov. & want him & USA to succeed, but that meeting, given that email chain just released, is a big no-no,” Zeldin wrote on Twitter.
His remarks came after Trump Jr. released an email chain showing he was offered a meeting with a Russian lawyer with the understanding that the lawyer was acting as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump and damage Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr. attended the meeting along with Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Some Democrats on Tuesday began using the word “treason” to describe the Trump campaign’s apparent willingness to accept information from the Russian government, while others said they weren’t yet ready to apply such an explosive term.
Asked whether Trump Jr.’s behavior amounted to treason, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded: “I am not going to get into the legal ramifications.”
But Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who was Clinton’s running mate, told reporters Tuesday that “we are now beyond obstruction of justice.”
“This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason,” Kaine said.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said on Twitter, “If this isn’t treasonous, I’m not sure what is.”
Other members of both parties said they would let law enforcement officials decide what does and does not constitute treason.
“People around here use a lot of strong terminology,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said when asked what he thought of Kaine and other Democrats using the word “treason.”
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) also said he wasn’t ready to use the word.
“I don’t know enough about it,” McCain told reporters, though he added that there would be “more shoes that will drop.”
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to label Trump Jr.’s behavior treasonous.
“My job in this investigation is to pursue all of the facts, and I’m not going to reach any conclusions until I get all of those facts,” said Warner, whose panel is investigating Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election, including whether there was collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
“This is clear black-and-white evidence that there was, based on the email, a Russian government effort that the Trump campaign welcomed to try to discredit Hillary Clinton,” Warner added.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who chairs the Intelligence Committee, declined to comment on Trump Jr.
Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.
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