A number of high-ranking Republican lawmakers had a far more muted reaction to the news, however, declining to wade into specifics when asked about the email revelations, or suggesting that they do not want to rush to judgement about the disclosures.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell deflected questions from reporters about whether he is personally concerned over the Trump Jr. revelations, and whether the latest developments make it harder to trust the president with respect to Russia. “The investigation in the Senate is being handled by the Intelligence Committee, and I’m sure they’ll get to the bottom of whatever happened,” he said.
Senator Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, reportedly said that his panel will “go where the facts lead us,” adding, “I don’t form conclusions until I’ve finished the investigation.”
In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday afternoon after the emails had been posted to Twitter, Kaine said: “These emails are very explosive.” He continued: “They should have turned this over to law enforcement immediately. Instead, they had this very, very troubling meeting. This is just wheelbarrows full of new evidence for the special prosecutor and the Senate Intelligence committee.”
Kaine is not himself a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and neither is Graham. A Spokesperson for the Senate Intelligence Committee did not immediately return requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, who is overseeing the House Intelligence Committee probe of Russia involvement in the presidential election, wrote in an e-mail: “Unfortunately, I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.”
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who is a member of the Senate committee probing Russian election involvement, put out a statement on Tuesday saying “these emails show there is no longer a question of whether this campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power to subvert America’s democracy. The question is how far the coordination goes.”
Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth said in a statement that “Today, Donald Trump Jr. undermined his father’s denials by admitting that he and the President’s closest advisors did, in fact, knowingly and gleefully seek help from Russian government officials who were trying to interfere in our election.”
In his comments to reporters, Graham added: “We cannot allow foreign governments to reach out to anybody’s campaign, and say ‘We’d like to help you.’ That is a non-starter. I know Donald Trump Jr. is new to politics. I know that Jared Kushner is new to politics, but this is going to require a lot of questions to be asked and answered.”
Democrats have been attempting to focus public attention on the Senate Republican health-care bill, which GOP congressional leaders are trying to find enough votes to pass. Earlier on Tuesday, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy wrote on Twitter that the GOP health care bill should be a higher priority than the “Russia/Trump Jr. story” this week. Later in the day, after the release of Trump Jr.’s email chain, however, the senator tweeted again to say: “Oh my. I'm moving Russia/Trump Jr. up a notch [on the list of priorities].”