Chaos on Capitol Hill as Lawmakers Reel From Allegations Trump Gave Russians Top Secret Intel

From disbelief and anger to caution and denial, American political leaders man their positions in wake of bombshell report

President Donald Trump awaits the arrival of Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the White House in Washington, Monday, May 15, 2017.
Susan Walsh/AP

WASHINGTON - In the hours after the Washington Post's report that U.S. President Donald Trump revealed classified information to senior Russian officials, three kinds of reactions emerged from Washington: On the Democratic side of the aisle, dozens of elected officials expressed anger and outrage; on the Republican side, some Senators and members of Congress criticized the President; and many others chose either to back him or to ignore the bombshell story completely. 

One of the first Republicans to express some level of criticism was Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "The White House is in a downward spiral," Corker said. "They've got to figure out a way to come to grips." Corker is usually considered a supporter of Trump within the Republican Party, but this time he warned the administration that it has got to "do something to bring itself under control and in order." 

Senator John McCain of Arizona, who in the past was one of Trump's strongest critics on the Republican side of the aisle, chose a cautious response this time, saying only that if the report is true, it is "disturbing." His ally Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) game a similar reaction, and emphasized that he did not know whether the story - which was later confirmed by multiple media outlets - is true. 

Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) represented a different line, choosing to fully back the President by stating that under the law, he "has the ability to declassify anything at any time without any process." McCain also made a similar point, saying that technically, Trump "has the right" to determine with whom he wants to share classified information. Finally, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) summarized a feeling shared by many in the party, by asking reporters who approached her for reaction on the scandal - "Can we have a crisis-free day? That’s all I'm asking."

The Democrats, as expected, went hard after the President in light of the revelations. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the senior Democratic member on the House Intelligence Committee, called the reports "deeply disturbing" and said that if Trump indeed shared classified information with the Russians, "this disclosure could jeopardize sources of very sensitive intelligence and relationships we have with key allies." He called on the administration to immediately brief the House Intelligence Committee on the affair. 

"If the Washington Post report is true, it is very disturbing. Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous," stated Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader. Schumer added that "it puts at risk the lives of Americans & those who gather intelligence for our country. The President owes the intelligence community, the American people, and Congress a full explanation." 

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked on his twitter account - "is Donald Trump the #1 threat to America's national security?" while linking to the original Washington Post report. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) who also sent his followers to the report, said: "Shocking actions for any American President but sadly unsurprising coming from President Trump." 

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote that "this is what happens when your only priority is how to look awesome in front of whoever is in the room." Deutch also trolled Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), by retweeting a tweet that Ryan sent out against Hillary Clinton in July, after the FBI closed the investigation into her email scandal. 

"Individuals who are "extremely careless" with classified information should be denied further access to such info," Ryan wrote at the time. On Monday, however, he refrained from repeating that message.

Senator Tammy Ducworth (D-IL) said: "Considering the President regularly complains about leaks, the revelation that he may have leaked national security secrets himself is absolutely stunning. This alarming disclosure, if verified, is an insult to the dedicated men and women serving in our intelligence community who work around the clock to counter Russian hostilities against our nation and allies."