There's another topic besides Obamacare animating town halls across the country this week: Donald Trump's relationship with Russia.Constituents and liberal activists are demanding to know what GOP lawmakers are doing to help or hinder investigations into the president's ties to Moscow and Russian interference in the 2016 election. The scrutiny suggests the firestorm over alleged ties between Russian officials and members of Trump's campaign and administration has spread well beyond the Beltway."I am very concerned about the Trump administration and his ties to Russia," a woman told GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley in Garner, Iowa, on Tuesday -- winning huge applause from the overflow crowd when she said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R) hosted an event in his native Arkansas last night, in which he faced an unexpectedly fierce audience, filled with constituents who didn't seem impressed by the far-right senator's answers. Many of the questions related to health care, the Republican campaign to kill the Affordable Care Act, but one local voter asked if Cotton would support an independent investigation into Donald Trump's Russia scandal.In response, she received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience. When Cotton demurred, saying he wants the Senate Intelligence Committee -- on which he serves -- to examine the controversy, the Arkansan faced jeers from attendees.If anyone had the sense that interest in the Russia scandal is limited to inside-the-Beltway types, that impression is quickly being discredited. Politico reported late yesterday:
Fears about health care are clearly helping drive the public backlash at these Republican events, but interest in the Russia scandal is palpable.If GOP officials were counting on the controversy not drawing attention at the grassroots level, they were mistaken.On a related note, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a Senate Intelligence Committee member, told a local radio show yesterday that she expects Michael Flynn to give testimony as part of the ongoing investigation. Collins added she's open to requesting the president's tax returns to get additional relevant information.