Republicans in Congress exasperated as White House in ‘downward spiral’
(CNN) — Republicans in Congress barely had time to get their footing Monday, as another wild development, this time reports that President Donald Trump had revealed sensitive intelligence to Russia’s foreign minister and US ambassador, swept the Capitol.
Senators mulled over the latest stunning news, first reported by The Washington Post, as they met inside the chamber.
Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker said the wave of negative stories related to Trump and intelligence meant the White House is in a “downward spiral.”
“They are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” Corker told reporters. “You know the shame of it is there’s a really good national security team in place, there’s good productive things that are underway through them, and through others. But the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think — it creates a worrisome environment.”
Even some of who had been reluctant to criticize Trump said Monday’s report raised questions that needed answers.
“We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount,” said Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan. “The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”
Republican Susan Collins, a Maine senator, put her party’s apparent exasperation more concisely in a light-hearted aside comment to reporters. “Can we have a crisis-free day? That’s all I’m asking.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican leading one of four congressional probes into Russia’s meddling in the US elections, said he was not sure yet if Trump had leaked any intelligence to the Russians — noting that other stories have been inaccurate.
But he noted that he had a problem with Trump’s tweet Friday, threatening to release possible tapes of conversations with Comey.
“I think it was inappropriate, I think if there is a tape we need to know about it. I don’t think we can dodge that issue. I want to get back to doing the business of the country. North Korea is developing a missile that can hit the American homeland,” Graham said. “I want to help the President where I can, but tweets like that take us off in a ditch.”
Lawmakers were largely caught off guard by Monday’s development. Many Republican lawmakers said they had not seen details about the report and did not want to comment.
Democratic leaders said that if the report is true, then the President put American lives at risk.
“If the report is true, it is very disturbing,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous and puts at risk the lives of Americans and those who gather intelligence for our country.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also slammed Trump and called for a briefing.
“Congress must be given a full briefing on the extent of the damage President Trump has done in compromising highly classified code-word intelligence to the Russians,” the California Democrat said.
Asked what senators could do if Trump leaked this information to the Russian officials, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said, “I wish I knew.”
“This is really concerning that he doesn’t understand that certain information you don’t share with Russia. You just don’t. Share. With. Russia,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat. “Our only chance of keeping this country safe is good intelligence sources. And if he (Trump) thinks classified intelligence information is something you’re supposed to brag about to Russia. I mean, this shows a complete lack of information about what classified information is and how important.”
Asked if Trump should still have access to sensitive intelligence if he leaks it to Russian officials, McCaskill said: “He’s president of the United States. That’s the dilemma. He’s going to be called upon to make decisions about how we fight our enemies, so you don’t want to withhold information from the President of the United States.