Democrats slam Trump on security clearances, introduce resolution condemning president's statements in Helsinki

PHOTO: President Donald Trump and Russias President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018.PlayKevin Lamarque/Reuters
WATCH Dems slam Trump on security clearances, intro resolution condemning Helsinki comments

Democrats slammed President Donald Trump on Monday evening for considering revoking security clearances from former Obama administration officials, as they introduced a new resolution condemning the president’s statements during the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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The resolution comes as lawmakers face questions about the president’s power to revoke security clearances, which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called “all a deflection.”

“I have standing on these issues. I have been in the meetings for over 20 years,” Pelosi said. “This is so extraordinary. The last thing you want in intelligence is partisanship, and we were able to avoid that for so long.”

“This makes the case. We are the first branch of government, the legislative branch,” Pelosi thundered. “We have views that need to be respected, we have decisions that we must make…we need to know what happened in Helsinki. And the president’s response? 'Oh, we’re going to take classified security privileges of some Obama people away.' It’s all a deflection.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, slammed Trump for considering revoking the security clearances of some former Obama intelligence officials, calling it “a cowardly action of someone who is afraid of criticism.”

“Today’s action suggesting that we will punish critics of the president by stripping them of their security clearance? That is not what you see in a democracy. That is exactly what you see in authoritarian regimes, and we couldn’t have a more timely proof of why this resolution is necessary than by what I consider despicable action and that is to try to silence critics,” Schiff, D-Calif., said. “We need to stand up to it, and the people in this building, Democrats and Republicans -- and especially Republicans -- need to wake up and speak up on behalf of our democracy.”

“It goes from the ridiculous to the sublime,” quipped Rep. Eliot Engel, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

What else Democrats said about their resolution:

“As the whole world knows, one week ago, President Trump sold out our democracy in behavior that was damaging, destructive and disgraceful,” Pelosi, D-Calif., blasted at the start of the news conference.

PHOTO: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at a press conference at the Capitol, July 23, 2018. Win McNamee/Getty Images
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at a press conference at the Capitol, July 23, 2018.

Pelosi charged that House Republicans are “complicit in the President’s betrayal of our democracy” because most are not maintaining criticism of the president, and says the resolution is intended to “defend our democracy from the Russian threat.”

Schiff said the resolution reiterates the United States policy of standing up for democracies around the world and condemns Trump’s “destructive direction” to diplomacy by which he makes “common cause with autocrats around the world.”

Engel knocked Trump for a “failure to confront” Putin at the summit for Russia’s election interference, while touting NATO as “the hallmark of American foreign policy.”

“We have a president unfortunately who not only wants to destroy NATO, who insults our allies, who tries to rip NATO in half, but then he then cozies up to Vladimir Putin,” Engel, D-N.Y., said. “It’s like Alice in Wonderland.”

The trio also called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify in the House, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, as well as CIA director Gina Haspel to testify on the subject before committees of jurisdiction in the House.

“We want to know what went on in the meeting when Putin and Trump were alone,” Engel said. “No one’s told us what went on in the meeting.”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he continued. “That’s not acceptable in a democracy.”

Given Republican majority control of the House of Representatives, the resolution, introduced Monday night, is highly unlikely to advance in the legislative process – which even Pelosi acknowledged. Nevertheless, she said the resolution is bigger than party affiliation – it’s about defending the “security of the United States of America.”

“This is a very important and pivotal moment for our country,” she said. “We cannot appear to endorse what the president is doing by our silence or our political whatever it is in somebody’s district. So I doubt the Republicans will allow this to come to a vote. All we’re saying is do something.”

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