Breaking News Emails
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wishes there was “less drama” coming out of the White House following reports that President Donald Trump revealed classified information during a meeting with Russian officials last week.
In response to questions, McConnell said that he has not lost confidence in the president and that he still trusts him with classified information.
“I think it would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the white house,” McConnell told reporters, not directly responding to the latest controversy flowing out of the executive branch.
Breaking News Emails
But the drama is inundating Capitol Hill, with Republican senators becoming publicly frustrated with the seemingly constant flood of controversy coming from the White House.
An exasperated Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is facing a difficult re-election in 2018, said that he's still waiting for more information about what actually happened, but is hoping for a break from the near-daily barrage.
"It would be nice to have a drama-free week," Flake said. When asked if he thinks that's likely, he said, "I don't know."
Sen. Susan Collins expressed similar sentiments just minutes after the news broke Monday night. "Can we have a crisis-free day? That’s all I'm asking," she said.
While Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the latest wasn't a factor in his decision, he told the Trump administration on Wednesday that he was withdrawing his name from consideration for FBI director.
"I’ve informed the Administration that I’m committed to helping them find such an individual, and that the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate," Cornyn wrote in a statement.
Still, key members of Congress have been waiting to hear from the White House on questions they have pertaining to Trump's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Servey Kislyak.
Republican leaders are the only members to have heard from the White House on the topic so far. House Speaker Paul Ryan's office confirms that they have talked to the White House while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office would neither confirm nor deny that a conversation took place.
Democratic leaders, however, said they have not heard from administration officials, according to aides.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo is expected to brief the House Intelligence Committee in a pre-scheduled briefing Tuesday evening. And the Senate Intelligence Committee is also meeting for a regularly-scheduled weekly briefing, which was supposed to be on a different topic but has devolved into a discussion on the latest controversy.
"My hope is we may get some level of update at Intel (Committee meeting) later today," Democratic Sen. Mark Warner told reporters.
Many Republicans have been reluctant to comment, saying that they want to learn more. "I’m going to wait until I get briefed on it. I don’t know the whole story," Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley said when asked for a response.
Others, however, have weighed in, like Sen. John McCain, who called the reports "deeply disturbing."
"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," McCain said.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who was a contender to be Trump’s secretary of state, was one of the first Republicans to react to the news, saying the reports were “worrisome.”
"The chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline," Corker said, is creating a "worrisome environment."
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., described the entire episode as "weird" but cautioned that the president appeared to have operated within his authority.
“It’s very difficult for a president to break laws related to classification,” Sasse said Tuesday on Fox News. “But the debate about imprudence, that’s a really important debate," he said.
"It’s not helpful that this was with the Russians. Right? I mean this was just weird,” Sasse added.
The overwhelming sentiment, though, is that members want to hear more.
“We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation's secrets is paramount. The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan spokesman Doug Andres in a statement Monday night.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., made the case for an all-senator briefing on the meeting.
"If it is in fact true that information that shared with the Russian ambassador, it seems to me it can be shared with United States senators," Tillis said.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, also a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that he's asked the White House for more information. The White House is expected to reach out to members of Congress today to brief them on the developments.
"I'm not disputing it, I'm not admitting it I just want to know more," he said.
Some Republicans have remained mum. When asked if he had any reaction to the reports, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., simply said “none.”
He refused to answer any follow up questions and proceeded to walk into the Finance Committee room to attend a hearing on Medicare.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the White House to release the transcripts from the Lavrov and Trump meeting to the Congressional intelligence committees.
"Producing the transcripts ... is the only way for this administration to categorically prove the report’s untrue," Schumer said.