WASHINGTON ? A day after The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump shared highly classified intelligence with Russian officials, Republicans on Capitol Hill said they feel perfectly comfortable with the president?s ability to handle sensitive information.
?Heh, heh, heh. No,? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday when asked if he was worried about Trump?s ability to protect classified information.
?Sure,? said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) when asked if he trusts the president with classified materials. ?No reason not to.?
Trump reportedly shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the U.S. during an Oval Office meeting last week. CNN reported that Israeli intelligence was a source for some of the information on ISIS bomb-making capabilities that Trump shared.
The White House disputes those reports, and Trump sent out his national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, on Monday to tell reporters that he never discussed ?sources or methods? of intelligence gathering with the Russian officials. But that?s not what the Post and others reported, which is that Trump shared the intelligence itself.
Most Republicans did not want to talk about the latest chaos emanating from the White House. Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), every reporter?s favorite chatterbox, was short when asked about the potential fallout from the news.
Worried about U.S. allies not trusting us with intel? ?Of course.?
Are you concerned about the president?s trip overseas? ?No.?
Does it concern you that McMaster said Trump wasn?t even aware the information he shared was classified? ?I take Gen. McMaster at his word.?
Some said they want more details on what exactly Trump shared with Russian officials before they pass judgment. They were clearly annoyed by Trump?s penchant for self-created crises and suggested White House officials hurry up and brief them on what happened.
?In order for me to judge appropriateness, I have to have context. None of us have context right now,? said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). ?If it is, in fact, true that it?s information shared with the Russian ambassador, it seems it?d be OK to share it with U.S. senators.?
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who declared Monday that the White House is ?in a downward spiral? as news keeps breaking about its scandals, was unusually quiet Tuesday.
?I think I?ve said all I need to say for a while,? he told reporters when asked if there?s a tipping point for GOP support for Trump. He said he got a call from the White House on Monday, but dismissed the idea he got in trouble over his ?downward spiral? comment.
He?d started walking away as one reporter asked if he felt Trump can be trusted with classified intelligence. Corker stopped and shrugged.
?I?,? he began, with a long pause. ?Sure.?
HuffPost noticed that Senate Republicans introduced a bill last fall to strip security clearance from ?any officer or employee of the federal government who has exercised extreme carelessness with classified information.?
The bill was meant as a political jab at his presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, and her email drama. But in light of Trump directly giving classified intelligence to Russian officials, HuffPost went ahead and asked co-sponsors of that bill if they think it should apply to Trump. They weren?t amused.
?Call Alex in my office,? said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the bill?s author.
Scott, a co-sponsor of the bill, said he wanted to re-read the bill before responding. But he said the president didn?t break any laws. ?The president?s ability to communicate whatever he wants to, without it being a breach of the law, is very clear. An employee has a very different function.?
Asked if he considers it ?extremely careless? that Trump related classified intelligence to Russian officials,? Scott dryly repeated, ?I don?t think the president broke the law.?
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), also a bill co-sponsor, said the measure applies to all federal employees except the president. For that matter, he said, he still trusts Trump with classified information, but he conceded Trump?s repeated missteps could be diminishing his political capital.
?It never helps,? he said, slipping into an elevator. ?It never helps.?
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