In just a few words to reporters last night, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., noted what many people inside and outside Washington are thinking daily: "Can we have a crisis-free day? That's all I'm asking."
The Trump era has been a torrent of revelations -- bombshell after bombshell, day after day.
Even so, early signs suggest that this latest scandal -— the Washington Post reporting President Trump revealed secret intelligence information to the Russians -— just might mark a breaking point for Republicans who have been generally loyal to President Trump.
Start with the timing: This news broke just days after the president fired FBI director James Comey, who was leading the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged Russia ties. Two top Russian officials were in the Oval Office with the president the very day after Comey was dismissed.
Then there’s the content: Secret information, gleaned from an American ally, was shared with the Russians, without the permission of that ally, the Post reported. The White House isn’t even denying that, with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster contending today that “the premise of the article is false,” while not disputing the basic facts of the story.
“What the president discussed with the foreign minister was appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he's engaged,” McMaster said.
Almost every single other jaw-dropping incident in this still early presidency has been explained away by loyal Republicans, who prefer to focus on the “leakers” of classified information. McMaster adopted that same tack in the wake of this revelation, calling for more scrutiny on those who divulged the secret conversation between the president and the Russian officials.
But, now that the president reportedly divulged classified information, what will those same Republicans do? Especially since the outcry over Hillary Clinton’s emails hasn’t been in the rearview mirror that long. No one has forgotten those daily cries of “Lock her up, lock her up.”
Does the president get the same scrutiny or is that just talk on the stump?
The reveal, as well as boasting, by the president, according to the Post, figures to rock the president’s standing and perception in the world community, just as he sets to leave on his first foreign trip, and means more eyes on a trip that couldn’t be more closely watched.
Before the Trump presidency, national security was long thought of as a GOP issue and a hard line on foreign policy, as well as strict policing of our intelligence, was a calling card of congressional Republicans. That’s all changed now, but how will Republicans—especially congressional hawks, explain it away? This time it may be just too difficult.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who hasn’t hesitated to disagree with this president, calls the report “deeply disturbing” and said that it “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.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another hawk who has gone from adversary to recent ally of the president, called the bombshell revelation “troubling.”
But when do the cries and anger get louder? Is there concern the president could be reckless with secret intelligence on this upcoming trip? The American people are likely concerned, but what about Congress?
There are clear signs of cracking. “Obviously they’re in a downward spiral right now,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a onetime finalist for Trump’s secretary of state post, told Bloomberg of the White House team.
And few, if any Republicans, are rushing to defend the president, a departure from every previous scandal. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told reporters today he is seeking “more clarity” and the “handling of classified information is a critical thing.” And even rank-and-file members who like to usually hide from the Trump controversy of the day are issuing statements calling the story troubling and demanding classified briefings.
Obviously, the center of this story -- as well as the blame -- goes to the White House and the president himself. How can Trump be advised and controlled, from secret intelligence to tweeting?
It’s for the good of the country that his staff, as well as GOP allies in Congress, figure out a way to stop the president from engaging in more destructive behavior. It’s long past time.