Bombshell emails released by President Donald Trump’s eldest son immediately refocused Congress’ attention on the investigation of Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. election.
Emails in which Donald Trump Jr. expressed eagerness to obtain damaging information about his father’s 2016 election opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, from a Russian source sent shockwaves across the Capitol.
"This is the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of the organized Russian effort, " said Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Today we see acknowledgement in black and white that this was the Crown prosecutor of Russia and part of a Russian government effort to try to discredit Clinton and help Trump.”
Steps must be taken, according to Republican Senator Susan Collins, who also serves on the Intelligence Committee.
"The emails deserve a thorough investigation. I believe that the [intelligence] committee should interview Donald Trump Jr. as well as everyone else who was involved in attending the meeting or setting up the meeting. Until we have a fuller picture, it would be premature for me to reach any judgment,” she said.
But some conclusions are inescapable, according to Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.
"For a long time we saw a lot of smoke but no fire [in the Russia investigation]. You are seeing the fire today. This starts to look like open collusion — open, knowing collusion with the Russian government. It just doesn’t stand to reason that the president wouldn’t have known about a meeting between the Russian government, his son-in-law, his campaign manager, and his son,” he said.
As provocative as the emails are, they do not establish that any actual information passed between Russia and the Trump campaign, said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
“One person suggested that the Russian government was willing to help the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign seemed to be interested in being helped. But the actual meeting, as far as I understand, there was no help given. But, on its face, it’s problematic,” he said.
Asked if the emails show evidence of treason, Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich said the correspondence “speaks for itself.”
"I think it says that we are at a very unusual moment in history, and I hope that people start putting their country first,” said Heinrich.
Several Republican lawmakers declined to comment. Senator John Cornyn told reporters he had no reaction to the Trump Jr. emails, explaining that he has been “too busy” focusing on the Republican push to reform America’s health care system.