Politics & Government

McConnell seeks ‘a little less drama’ from the White House

By Jennifer Steinhauer and Emmarie Huetteman

The New York Times

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump congratulated each other at a White House ceremony in February.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump congratulated each other at a White House ceremony in February. Associated Press

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has been largely silent on President’s Donald Trump’s increasing troubles concerning Russia, carefully pleaded with the administration to stop impeding the Republican agenda Tuesday morning as Democrats prepared to use their limited powers to pressure the White House to reveal more detail about the president’s meeting with Russian officials.

“I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things, so that we can focus on our agenda,” McConnell said in an interview on Bloomberg Television on Tuesday morning, reflecting an increasingly frustrated Republican majority over the near standstill of any policy agenda in the wake of Trump’s many contentious statements. As if to emphasize that point, when he took the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell again criticized the health care law.

The inscrutable McConnell did not go as far as Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who on Tuesday suggested in a statement that the information discussed by Trump with the Russians might have endangered allies.

“The disclosure of highly classified information has the potential to jeopardize sources and to discourage our allies from sharing future information vital to our security,” Collins said in her statement.

“Although the president has the legal authority to disclose classified information, it would be very troubling if he did share such sensitive reporting with the Russians,” she added. “The Senate Intelligence Committee should be briefed on this important issue immediately.”

Her comments followed remarks made to reporters Monday night by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said that the White House was in “a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening.”

A spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an email Tuesday that the committee had requested “additional information on recent reports about alleged dissemination of intelligence information” from the White House.

Overall, Republicans were tempered in their criticism of Trump, with many arguing that the president was acting within his authority to declassify information.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, also took the Senate floor Tuesday morning, demanding that the Intelligence Committee be given access to the transcripts between Trump and the Russians.

“We rely on our intelligence from our allies to keep us safe,” Schumer said. “If our allies abroad can’t trust us to keep sensitive information close to the vest they may no longer share it with us.”

“Given the gravity of the matter we need to be able to quickly assess whether or not this report is true and what exactly was said,” Schumer said, calling on the White House to “make the transcript of the meeting available to congressional intelligence committees as soon as possible.”

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called reports of Trump discussing highly classified information with Russian officials “deeply disturbing.”

“The administration and intelligence community must immediately and fully brief the House Intelligence Committee on what, if anything, was shared with Russian officials, and whether it could impact either our sensitive sources and methods, or our intelligence-sharing relationships,” he said in a statement.

Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, is expected to brief members of the House committee Tuesday evening. Emily Hytha, a spokeswoman for Rep. Michael Conaway of Texas, the Republican who is heading the investigation on the committee, said the meeting had been scheduled “several weeks ago.”

Other Republicans seemed to give the White House the benefit of the doubt as they called for more information. “I suspect the administration will brief the Congress more fully on exactly what transpired,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a former Army captain, said Tuesday during an interview on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. “But I have much greater confidence in the word of H.R. McMaster on the record, in front of cameras, than I do anonymous sources in the media.”