“When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” — Richard Nixon
Lawmakers are calling on President Trump to release the transcript of last week’s meeting with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador in which he reportedly revealed top-secret information, assuming the meeting was recorded and a transcript exists.
Democrats had already been asking the Trump administration to release any tapes of his Oval Office meetings after he raised the possibility that he had recorded his conversation with fired FBI Director James Comey.
But after the Washington Post published a bombshell report that Trump had shared top-secret information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, members of both major political parties joined to demand greater transparency from Trump.
Former and current U.S. officials told the Post that sharing the intelligence with the Russians endangers a relationship with a foreign government critical to the fight against ISIS, and is so sensitive that it’s been withheld from other U.S. allies.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., took to Twitter Tuesday morning to demand that Trump give the U.S. intelligence community, the American people and Congress a full explanation. He said revealing classified information at this level is “extremely dangerous” and puts the lives of Americans and those who collect intelligence for the country at risk.
The White House should make the transcript of @POTUS' mtg w/ the Russian Foreign Minister & Ambassador available to Intel Cmtes ASAP
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 16, 2017
The American people will be justified, Schumer said, in doubting whether Trump can handle the country’s closely guarded secrets until the administration provides an unedited transcript.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Trump is failing at his most important task as president — protecting the United States’ national security.
A week ago Trump fired Comey. Now this. It's vitally important that Trump make public any recordings he has of talks in the Oval Office.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 15, 2017
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., argued on Twitter that though the president has the legal authority to disclose classified information, there’s a larger question about whether he should. Gallagher said the transcript should be handed over to the House and Senate intelligence committees for the sake of transparency and that he anticipates “getting a thorough account” of the meeting.
As an intelligence officer by training, I know firsthand the life and death implications of safeguarding classified information.
— Rep. Mike Gallagher (@RepGallagher) May 16, 2017
Gallagher said the United States’ allies must have the “utmost confidence” that the sensitive information they share with us is not disclosed and that it’s dangerous for Americans to believe Russia can be reliable in counterterrorism efforts.
The sooner we abandon this fantasy and work with our allies to oppose the Russian-Iranian axis throughout the Middle East, the better.
— Rep. Mike Gallagher (@RepGallagher) May 16, 2017
Sen. Richard Blumenthal. D-Conn., said Monday night that all potential Trump tapes regarding Comey’s dismissal or the meeting with the Russian leaders should be subpoenaed to preserve evidence and uncover the truth. He elaborated Tuesday morning on the “Today” show.
“The Congress must subpoena transcripts and tapes, whether they exist or not,” Blumenthal said. “The only way to know reliably whether there are such transcripts or tapes is to issue a subpoena, probably from the intelligence committees, and make sure that all of the evidence is provided to the appropriate members of Congress. And that is because those transcripts would reveal whether classified information was shared with the Russians.”
Other politicians weighed in as well.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., described Trump’s actions as “appalling and deeply disturbing.” He said sharing sensitive information with Russia “undermines national security, breaks trust of our allies & puts lives at risk.”
If literally anyone else did what @realDonaldTrump is reported to have done, there would be an immediate criminal investigation.
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBookerOffice) May 15, 2017
Booker asked when Republicans in Congress will start doing their jobs and hold Trump accountable for his actions.
In making his point, Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., referenced an old tweet from House Speaker Paul Ryan suggesting that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should be denied further access to classified information considering her allegedly “extremely careless” handling of it.
— André Carson (@RepAndreCarson) May 16, 2017
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was Clinton’s running mate against Trump and Mike Pence last year, said he’s not surprised by the news.
Shocking actions for any American President but sadly unsurprising coming from President Trump. https://t.co/yPgycqLyda
— Senator Tim Kaine (@timkaine) May 15, 2017
On Monday night, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., said sharing intelligence on a mutual threat — ISIS in this case — is warranted at times and the president has the right to do so, but that the United States must take every precaution to protect its sources and methods of gathering information. He said he’s deeply concerned about the recent reports and intends to bring up the issue at the House Intelligence Committee’s next meeting.
Classified intelligence is classified for a reason and must be respected and protected as such at all levels of government.
— Frank LoBiondo (@RepLoBiondo) May 15, 2017
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., released a statement calling for the House Intelligence Committee to be briefed on what Trump shared with the Russian officials.
Report that Trump shared highly classified intelligence with Russians is deeply disturbing. House Intel needs to be briefed immediately. pic.twitter.com/jHaMKy71am
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) May 15, 2017
On Tuesday, Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, argued that the president’s conversation with the Russians was “wholly appropriate” and that he has “an absolute right” to share “facts pertaining to terrorism” with Russia.
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