WASHINGTON — Thunderstruck.
That was many federal lawmakers' reaction to a series of news reports over the past several days alleging that members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and national security team have had inappropriate ties with Russian officials.
An already charged political atmosphere in Washington escalated Monday night with the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. A night later, a pair of reports from The New York Times and CNN asserted that members of Trump’s team frequently communicated with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has blasted the reports.
The Trump transition team and then, later the Trump White House, have engaged in a series of evolving explanations of the matter. The matter escalated recently, when reports showed that Flynn gave contradictory statements to Vice President Mike Pence and that Justice Department officials had warned the White House that Flynn was a possible target of Russian blackmail as a result.
This series of events begat calls for increased congressional oversight — meaning subpoenas and hearings — to investigate the circumstances reported.
The Texas Tribune asked every Texas delegation office the following question:
“Is Congress currently performing its appropriate oversight over the relationships between Russia and members of the Trump administration/transition/campaign and the potential ramifications on foreign policy? If not, what should Congress be doing that it currently is not?”
Predictably, their answers — or lack thereof — fell along partisan lines. Democrats called for expansive, public investigations; Republicans were quiet — for the most part.
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Helotes is a former CIA operative and member of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee. The sophomore Republican called on Congress “to exercise oversight of the other branches of government.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, also member of his chamber’s intelligence committee, suggested that committee was the appropriate jurisdiction for oversight. Capitol Hill Democrats argue that the secrecy of the intelligence committees does not allow the public a full understanding of what happened.
And U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, in discussing the matter on a San Antonio radio show, accused congressional democrats of "trying to make a circus out of this."
Some responses were culled from recent news interviews and were not direct answers to the Tribune’s question.
Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.