Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called for a broader bipartisan investigation if it's true that Donald Trump's team communicated with Russians during the presidential campaign.
"If there's contact between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials outside the norm, that's not only big-league bad; that's a game-changer," Graham told ABC News' "Good Morning America" on Wednesday. "If it is true, it is very, very disturbing to me."
The New York Times reported that Trump's campaign team had repeated dealings with senior Russian intelligence officials in the run-up to the election, according to telephone records and intercepted calls disclosed by American officials.
Trump denied the report, calling it fake news.
"We're not going to make a decision based on what a newspaper says," Graham told ABC. Further, Graham said that before calling for a broader probe, he and other senators would conduct a preliminary investigation to make sure the intercepts exist and that the communications were outside the norm.
But at the same time he appeared to slam Trump's style.
"Maybe none of it is true, but I can tell you this, the Congress is not fake," Graham said.
"There are real members of Congress up here, Republicans and Democrats who love our country and are going to make sure that checks and balances that have been in place for 200 years work even when the president's in your own party."
Graham emphasized that "now is the time for Congress to up its game," stressing that "I do know this: Russia is interfering in the democratic process all over the world … they did hack into [Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John] Podesta's email, they did hack into the DNC. They did share that with WikiLeaks to interfere in our election."
The South Carolina senator said that if it is true "that there were contacts between Trump officials and Russian intelligence operatives during the campaign, we need a joint select committee in Congress to get to the bottom of it and also look at Trump's business ties in Russia."
Graham said "Russia needs to pay a price when it come to interfering in our democracy ... and any Trump person who was working with the Russians in an unacceptable way also needs to pay a price."
When asked if he could understand Trump's relationship with the Russians, Graham said he had no explanation for the president's views on Russia, which he called the outlier in the Republican Party.
He conceded that "Maybe it's just a policy difference. It's OK for Trump to disagree with Lindsey Graham and other Republicans on how to handle Russia. It would not be OK for the Trump campaign to receive assistance from the Russians."
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