WASHINGTON ― Amid reports that President Donald Trump revealed classified intelligence to Russian leaders in the Oval Office, Republicans reacted with a now-familiar refrain: some expressions of dismay, some shrugging, and no suggestion from anyone in authority ― including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ― that Congress respond.
Trump revealed to the Russians details about the Islamic State militant group that had been provided by allies, according to The Washington Post. Administration officials at first agreed with the basic facts, then denied the story. Trump himself confirmed Tuesday morning that he had spilled the beans.
McConnell, the person who is perhaps best positioned to offer a check and balance against Trump, simply shrugged off the news as a distraction that might not even be true.
“I read the story in The Washington Post and I read Gen. [H. R.] McMasters’ response, which tends to refute the story, rebut the story,” McConnell said in an interview with Bloomberg.
“I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so we could focus on our agenda, which is deregulations, tax reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare,” he said, entirely skipping over Trump’s own admission and the potential consequences of handing out secret intelligence to hostile nations.
I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so we could focus on our agenda, which is deregulations, tax reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
McConnell repeated his plea for the White House to drop all the drama later when he spoke to reporters after meeting with fellow Republicans, but seemed somewhat hesitant in expressing confidence in Trump.
Asked if he had concerns about the president’s ability to handle classified information, McConnell first offered a nervous chuckle and a what-am-I-supposed-to-do wave of his hands before declaring, “No.” He similarly answered “no” when asked if he was starting to lose confidence in Trump. But in neither case did he offer any elaboration or defend Trump’s revelations to the Russians.
Some other Republicans professed anger.
“The reports that the President shared sensitive intelligence with Russian officials are deeply disturbing,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement. “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.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from a swing district in Illinois, was more blunt in a tweet:
Neither McCain nor Kinzinger offered any suggestions that the president should face consequences for his actions, however. McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, could potentially hold hearings on the impact of the military’s fight against ISIS. There’s probably not much Kinzinger could do, aside from support Democratic efforts to wring some accountability from Trump.
Democrats have little more than a platform to complain about Trump, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) ― speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning after McConnell gave a long speech on Obamacare ― at least offered a simple solution to let people assess what Trump did.
“I am calling on the White House to make the transcript of the meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador available to the congressional intelligence committees as soon as possible,” Schumer said. And by “as soon as possible,” he added, he meant immediately.
The stakes are simply too consequential to ignore, Schumer said, arguing that if the reports of Trump’s revelations are accurate, they seriously damage U.S. national security interests.
“There is a crisis of credibility in this administration which will hurt us in ways almost too numerous to elaborate,” Schumer said. “At the top of the list are an erosion of trust in the presidency, and trust in America by our friends and allies. The president owes the intelligence community, the American people and the Congress a full explanation.”
This article has been updated with later comments from McConnell.