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Republicans in Congress gambled on Trump and won. Here's why they're worried now

Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

And areas of significant disagreement with Trump lay ahead, such as his $1 trillion infrastructure plan, having Congress pony up funds for the border wall with Mexico, and a massive military buildup.

But the Russian questions are threatening to overshadow Republican goals. Emboldened Democrats are calling for independent inquiries into alleged contacts between Trump's campaign team and Russian intelligence officials, and demanding the release of a transcript of a wiretapped conversation between Flynn and a Russian diplomat.

The Republican leadership has tried to contain the congressional investigations to the House and Senate intelligence committees, where hearings are often conducted in secret because of the classified nature.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) suggested that former Obama administration officials were behind intelligence leaks about Flynn and others. "I have never seen such a concerted effort to try and make an administration fail so early on," he said.

Trump is also pushing back hard, saying Thursday that "Russia is a ruse."

The issue threatens to not only distract Republicans but divide them over how aggressively to investigate the president.

Many are mindful of poll numbers that show Trump popular among Republicans and his core supporters, even as most Americans, 56 percent, according to Pew, disapprove of his performance.

But a growing number of top Republicans, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are calling for a deeper and more transparent dive into Russia's role in the November election. That could take weeks, or more likely months.

"What the hell went on? That's what's on my mind," McCain said. "We know they tried to affect the outcome of the election ... . Now we've got all these other issues."

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