Republicans Restrained In Response To Trump Sharing Intelligence With Russia

May 16, 2017
Originally published on May 16, 2017 4:46 pm

Republicans in Congress are calling for briefings and pleading for "less drama" at the White House following revelations that President Trump shared classified intelligence with Russia — but most are muted in their criticism of him.

For the leader of Senate Republicans, the biggest concern is that the controversy over Trump's sharing of secrets — with the successor to what Republican President Ronald Reagan once labeled the "evil empire" — is that it's distracting lawmakers from their legislative program.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday morning in an interview with Bloomberg News that "we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things." McConnell added that drama was interfering with the ability of Republican senators to "focus on our agenda, which is deregulation, tax reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare."

In a statement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the intelligence sharing was "deeply disturbing." McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, added, "Reports that this information was provided by a U.S. ally and shared without its knowledge sends a troubling signal to America's allies and partners around the world and may impair their willingness to share intelligence with us in the future."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it would "be very troubling" if Trump shared sensitive information with the Russians and said the Senate Intelligence Committee "should be briefed on this important issue immediately." Collins is a member of that committee.

Another lawmaker calling for briefings is Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia. Comstock is one of the more vulnerable House Republicans, facing a tough re-election campaign in a district that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump last fall by 10 points.

Comstock issued a blistering statement, saying lawmakers "need to have immediate classified briefings on what occurred at this meeting so that Congress can at least know as much as Russian leaders."

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee, said the White House is "in a downward spiral right now." He added that the Trump administration has "got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening."

Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican in his first term, tweeted: "For the purpose of transparency, the White House should share a transcript of the meeting with the House and Senate intelligence committees." He said that as "an intelligence officer by training, I know firsthand the life and death implications of safeguarding classified information."

But as with the abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey last week, most GOP lawmakers have been restrained in their criticism of Trump. So far no one in the GOP's leadership on Capitol Hill is calling for an independent investigation or a special committee to investigate any Trump ties to Russia. And while some GOP lawmakers privately express frustration with the president's distractions and crisis-prone administration, there's been little public condemnation of Trump, who remains popular with the GOP base.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.