WASHINGTON -- Two more Republicans from the Philadelphia area have raised questions about reports that President Trump shared classified information with Russian officials, but each said they want more information about what happened.
"If the president divulged information that exposes our sources and methods to the Russians, who obviously are adversaries of the United States, then that could be a very imprudent decision, despite the fact that it wouldn’t be illegal," Sen. Pat Toomey said in a call with Pennsylvania reporters Tuesday morning. "I want to find out what happened before I come to a conclusion."
Updated: Toomey later added in a statement that he hopes for a full explanation from the administration. And on another swirling issue, his office said he believes a Democrat should be named to lead the FBI. Such a move might bolster faith in the agency's independence as it investigates Russian meddling in the 2016 election and questions of whether the Trump campaign colluded in that interference.
Last year, while seeking reelection, Toomey had blasted Democrat Hillary Clinton "for jeopardizing classified information that jeopardizes our security," by using a private email server as secretary of state, and criticized her "incredibly failed Russian reset." He described her as a bigger threat to the U.S. than Trump.
In an example of how quickly the ground around Trump can shift -- and create awkward circumstances for fellow Republicans -- Toomey noted the questions raised Monday night by White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster, who said the intelligence story as reported was "false." Toomey said he had not yet seen Trump's tweets Tuesday morning indicating that the president had, in fact, shared information with Russia in the hopes, Trump wrote, of getting them more involved in the fight against ISIS.
U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, the former U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia, called for a full explanation from Trump.
"Every day the president is given information on sensitive issues by our intelligence community, and the president has a responsibility to be a good steward of that information," Meehan said in a statement late Monday night. "The president should give Congress and the American people a full account of the conversation in question and a complete explanation if any classified information was disclosed."
Their comments came after a New Jersey Republican on a key intelligence committee called the intial reports about Trump revealing highly classified information to Russian officials “deeply concerning” and vowed to bring the issue up with the House panel this week.
“Classified Intelligence is classified for a reason and must be respected and protected as such at all levels of government. While sharing intelligence against a mutual threat such as ISIS is warranted at times - and in the President's purview - the U.S. must take every precaution to protect the sources and methods of long-established allies who assist us,” said the statement from U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “These media reports are deeply concerning and I will raise the issue surrounding the disclosure of classified information” when the committee meets this week.
LoBiondo was the first Republican from the Philadelphia region to respond to the report as GOP officials seemed caught between the explosive news, first reported by the Washington Post, and subsequent denials by the White House. McMaster, said in a brief statement to reporters Monday night, said the Post story “as reported is false.”
Democrats responded with alarm.
“If literally anyone else did what President Trump is reported to have done, there would be an immediate criminal investigation because such actions are extraordinarily dangerous,” said a statement from Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.). “When will Congressional Republicans do their job and begin holding President Trump accountable for his actions?”
Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) said, “the President's carelessness with classified information is endangering crucial intelligence-sharing agreements and puts our national security at risk.”
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