WASHINGTON -- Many of Georgia’s Republican members of Congress kept to the sidelines Wednesday as new details emerged about alleged contact between President Donald Trump’s aides and Russian intelligence officials during the presidential campaign.
Reaction among the state’s GOP lawmakers was varied but overall muted as Democrats called for an independent investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election, as well as contact between Trump’s recently departed national security adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian diplomat.
Many Georgia Republicans on Wednesday praised Flynn’s qualifications – as well as his decision to step down.
Sen. Johnny Isakson was one of the only Georgia Republicans to voice support for a congressional investigation into Russia’s involvement in November’s election. His remarks were focused, however, an ongoing Senate Intelligence Committee probe, not a new, nonpartisan investigation outside of Congress, as Democratic leaders suggested Wednesday.
“The American people place a great deal of trust in our government leaders who are responsible for the safety and security of our country,” Isakson said. “When that trust or the integrity of our national security is compromised, there should always be scrutiny, oversight and accountability with real consequences.”
Responses from Sen. David Perdue and Rep. Buddy Carter of Pooler were more cautious. They said members of Congress’ intelligence committees should recommend whether to investigate Russia, Flynn and the Trump campaign.
“When they get those answers they’ll come back to us,” said Perdue of the intelligence committees. He praised Flynn on Tuesday as a “great general” who faced an “unfortunate set of circumstances.”
There are no Georgia lawmakers on the House or Senate intelligence committees.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, said Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo were best positioned to advise Trump on Russia.
"Moving forward, I urge my colleagues in the Senate to focus on confirming and fully staffing the White House and the national security agencies with qualified individuals who can chart the best path forward for our nation," Hice said.
Barry Loudermilk of Cassville echoed the argument Trump took to social media, that the more burning question was the fact that American intelligence officials were leaking information to the media.
The second-term lawmaker, who worked in intelligence for a portion of his eight-year stint in the Air Force, said the leakers should be “hunted down, fully investigated and sent to jail for a very, very long time.”
“This is very potentially a treasonous act within our intelligence community,” Loudermilk said in an interview Wednesday. “…These are the types of things that happen in third-world countries, in banana republics.”
Most of Georgia’s other Republican lawmakers didn’t weigh in or released carefully-worded statements on the need for Trump to have full confidence in his advisers. Every one of the state's GOP members of Congress endorsed Trump ahead of the election.
Democrats said a full outside investigation was needed.
“The American people deserve to know the full extent of Russia’s financial, personal and political grip on President Trump,” Lithonia Democrat Hank Johnson said.