Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, said Sunday that there is "nothing wrong" with a campaign accepting information from Russians, defending the Trump team's efforts to obtain damaging material about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 race.
"There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians," Giuliani said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union." "It depends on where it came from."
His comments prompted a rebuke from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
"I said it before and I'll say it again: It's not ok to seek Russian help in your campaign," Schiff said in a tweet. "It's not ok to use materials they stole from your opponent, or to make it part of your campaign strategy. Sadly, my GOP colleagues do think that's ok. The American people know better."
Giuliani was speaking three days after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller III's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. According to the report, Trump sought ways to turn leaks of stolen emails to his advantage during the campaign.
At a rally in July 2016, Trump expressed hope that Russia would find about 30,000 emails that Clinton had said she deleted because they were of a personal nature. After that, "Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails," Mueller's team found.
The report also states that Trump repeatedly directed aides not to disclose emails about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower attended by a Russian lawyer offering negative information about Clinton.
The details contained in the report prompted an onslaught of criticism from Democrats. But Republicans largely either stayed quiet or defended Trump - with the exception of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who criticized the president and his campaign aides in a sharply worded statement posted Friday on Twitter.
"I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President," Romney said.
The 2012 GOP presidential nominee said he was "appalled" that associates of Trump's campaign had "welcomed help from Russia," and he called the report a "sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders."
Romney's reaction was far more critical than statements by some of his Republican colleagues, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
In a statement Friday, Portman said that he was "pleased" that the report was made public and that it "confirms several key facts consistent with the summary findings by Attorney General William Barr." Portman said that although the report "documents a number of actions taken by the president or his associates that were inappropriate, the Special Counsel reached no conclusion on obstruction of justice."
Collins expressed concern with Trump's attempts to fire Mueller, as documented in the report, which she called "a very thorough undertaking."
"He was not only very upset by the special counsel's investigations, but tried several times through intermediaries to end it, and it is an unflattering portrayal of the president," she said Friday in an interview with Maine Public Radio.
Asked about Romney's criticism of Trump on Sunday, Utah's senior Republican senator, Mike Lee, notably made no mention of the president in his initial reply, pivoting instead to criticize former President Barack Obama's handling of the U.S. relationship with Russia.
"Well, first of all, I think Senator Romney has some credibility with regard to Russia," Lee said on CBS News's "Face the Nation," pointing to Romney's warnings about Russia during the 2012 presidential campaign. "Sadly, his warnings went unheeded. And under President Obama's leadership over the next four years, Russia's activities, its nefarious efforts to undermine our system, continued."
Asked whether he agreed with Romney on Trump in light of Mueller's findings, Lee said there was "nothing in this report that changes my view of this president."
This article was written by Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Felicia Sonmez, reporters for The Washington Post.