By Ben Kamisar - 02-15-17 10:52 AM EST
Reports that President Trump's campaign aides had regular contact with Russian intelligence officials would be a "game changer" if true and would warrant a select committee to investigate, according to Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).
The GOP senator in an interview early Wednesday called for a "preliminary investigation" to see if further scrutiny is warranted after The New York Times and CNN reported that Trump campaign aides and allies spoke regularly with members of Russian intelligence.
"We are not going to make a decision based on what a newspaper says, but now is time for Congress to up its game," the Senate Armed Services Committee member told ABC's "Good Morning America."
"If there's contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials outside the norm, that's not only big-league bad, that's a game changer. And I would change my view as to what Congress would do."
The White House has categorically denied the reports, with Trump tweeting Wednesday morning calling them "fake news."
While the Times said there was no evidence of corruption, Graham said that Congress would need to play a larger investigatory role if the reports of communication alone are true.
"If there are contacts between Trump officials and Russian intelligence, we need a joint select committee in Congress to get to the bottom of this and also look at Trump's business ties to Russia," he said.
"I want to do a preliminary investigation ... I want to make sure myself that these intercepts exist, that the communications are outside the norms. if that's the case, its time for the Congress, in my view the Senate, to do a joint select committee where we can look at it holistically."
He went on to add that the reports are very "disturbing" and that Russia and any Trump campaign official who was working with Russia also needs to "pay a price."
Graham has long expressed unease with Trump's posture toward Russia, criticizing him about his skepticism about Russia's role in recent hacks on Democratic groups, hacks that the intelligence community blames on Russia.
On Tuesday, Graham called for further congressional investigation into the conduct of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned on Monday night after admitting he spoke to the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about American sanctions before Trump took office.