Donald Trump Archives - Page 2 of 269 - Florida Politics

Worst treatment ever, Donald Trump grumbles; Dems demand deep probe

Surrounded by multiplying questions, President Donald Trump complained Wednesday that “no politician in history” has been treated worse. Democrats demanded an independent commission to dig into his firing of FBI Director James Comey, but Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan cautioned against “rushing to judgment.”

Ryan said Congress needs to get the facts, but “it is obvious there are some people out there who want to harm the president.” Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on a key House oversight panel, countered that Ryan and the Republicans had shown “zero, zero, zero appetite for any investigation of President Trump.”

The White House has denied reports that Trump pressed Comey to drop an investigation into Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. In addition Trump is facing pointed questions about his discussions with Russian diplomats during which he is reported to have disclosed classified information.

Also Tuesday, in an extraordinary turn of events, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to turn over to Congress records of Trump’s discussions with the diplomats.

The White House has played down the importance and secrecy of the information Trump gave to the Russians, which had been supplied by Israel under an intelligence-sharing agreement. Trump himself said he had “an absolute right” as president to share “facts pertaining to terrorism” and airline safety with Russia. Yet U.S. allies and some members of Congress have expressed alarm.

Republicans and Democrats alike were eager to hear from Comey, who has increasingly emerged as a central figure in the unfolding drama.

The Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday asked Comey to appear before the panel in both open and closed sessions. The committee also asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to give the committee any notes that Comey might have made regarding discussions he had with White House or Justice Department officials about Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Putin told a news conference that he would be willing to turn over notes of Trump’s meeting with the Russian diplomats if the White House agreed. He dismissed outrage over Trump’s disclosures as U.S. politicians whipping up “anti-Russian sentiment.”

Asked what he thinks of the Trump presidency, Putin said it’s up to the American people to judge and his performance can be rated “only when he’s allowed to work at full capacity,” implying that someone is hampering Trump’s efforts.

Trump himself hasn’t directly addressed the latest allegations that he pressured Comey to drop the Flynn investigation. But the swirling questions about his conduct were clearly on his mind when he told graduates at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut that “no politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

Striking a defiant stance, he added: “You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. … I guess that’s why we won. Adversity makes you stronger. Don’t give in, don’t back down. … And the more righteous your fight, the more opposition that you will face.”

As for Comey, whom Trump fired last week, the FBI director wrote in a memo after a February meeting at the White House that the new president had asked him to shut down the FBI’s investigation of Flynn and his Russian contacts, said a person who had read the memo. The Flynn investigation was part of a broader probe into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

Comey’s memo, an apparent effort to create a paper trail of his contacts with the White House, would be the clearest evidence to date that the president has tried to influence the investigation.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, sent a letter to the FBI on Tuesday requesting that it turn over all documents and recordings that detail communications between Comey and Trump. He said he would give the FBI a week and then “if we need a subpoena, we’ll do it.”

John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said late Tuesday that the developments had reached “Watergate size and scale.”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, said simply, “It would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House.”

The person who described the Comey memo to the AP was not authorized to discuss it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. The existence of the memo was first reported Tuesday by The New York Times.

The White House vigorously denied it all. “While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” a White House statement said.

Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13, on grounds that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russians.

The intensifying drama comes as Trump is set to embark Friday on his first foreign trip, which had been optimistically viewed by some aides as an opportunity to reset an administration floundering under an inexperienced president.

Said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: “He’s probably glad to leave town, and a lot of us are glad he’s leaving for a few days.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Carlos Curbelo raises obstruction of justice concerns as some Republicans join Dems’ call for testimony, memo

As Florida’s Democratic members of Congress entered another day of denouncements toward new reports of President Donald Trump actions – this time involving former FBI Director James Comey – Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo raised strong concerns about potential obstruction of justice by the president.

And other Florida Republicans are joining in a call to get Comey and his now famous memo in front of Congress.

In a late-night interview on CNN, Curbelo, of Kendall, said Congress should subpoena Comey and his documents and question him about the validity of reports that the president asked him to “put aside” an investigation, and that Comey wrote a memo detailing the conversation.

In an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon airing shortly before midnight Tuesday, Curbelo stressed that the truth is not known about the Trump-Comey meeting, but that an action such as that attributed to Comey’s memo could be construed as obstruction of justice. And Curbelo said the House of Representatives has found in the past, in proceedings against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, that obstruction of justice “has been considered an impeachable offense.”

Multiple media reports Tuesday and Wednesday, starting with the New York Times, citing unnamed sources, say that after a Feb. 14 meeting in the oval office Comey wrote an internal memo reporting that the president asked him to “let go” an FBI investigation into whether former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had inappropriate dealings with Russia.

The White House denied that Trump made any such request.

“We have to hear from Director Comey,” Curbelo told Lemon. “Any effort to stop the federal government from continuing an investigation, any effort to dissuade federal agents from proceeding in an invesigation, is very serious, and could be construed as obstruction of justice.

“I’m not accusing anyone,” Curbelo added. “We don’t know what happened.”

Both Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Vern Buchanan also called for Comey and his memo to appear before Congress to start delving deeper to seek the truth.

“Mr. Comey should be asked to testify in public so that Congress and the American people can get all the facts and learn the truth,” Buchanan, of Longboat Key, said in a statement issued late Wednesday morning. “And we need to see Mr. Comey’s memo regarding his discussion with the president. Transparency is the best disinfectant.”

Mast, of Palm City, said Congress should have access to “whatever Comey memo or notes exist.”

“Speaking about intelligence, it’s a very serious thing,” Mast said in a written statement. “The way that you gather it is a very fragile thing. And it should be taken very seriously because irreparable harm can be done for a long time.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami tweeted, “I hope to get a full and complete briefing on details when they become available.”

In some ways, their comments were as strong as any provided by Florida Democrats following the Trump-Comey meeting reports, which followed within hours of the previous controversy, involving reports that Trump had shared highly-sensitive, highly-classified information with Russian diplomats.

Among Democrats, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson stated, “If true, this is another piece to the puzzle and it does not look good for the White House.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park said much the same as Curbelo:

“This is a very serious allegation,” Murphy said in a statement. “Congress must obtain all relevant information about this conversation, and James Comey must testify in an open forum. Congress must also subpoena White House senior officials and all of Comey’s memos related to his conversations with the President. We need a comprehensive, bipartisan investigation that can follow the facts and uncover the truth.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg renewed his call for a special prosecutor:

“If accurate, the President was attempting to impede an FBI investigation with national security implications. It’s just wrong, plain and simple,” Crist stated in a release. “The President is not above the law, but frighteningly it appears he thinks he is. If this isn’t the final straw making clear the need for a special prosecutor, I don’t know what is.”

U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando said the new reports set off an alarm for every member of Congress.

“On the surface this appears to be obstruction of justice, which is why I’m joining my democratic colleagues on the House Oversight Committee in asking for a launch an immediate joint investigation with the House Judiciary Committee,” she stated.

“We need to investigate whether President Donald Trump and his top officials are engaging in an ongoing conspiracy to obstruct the criminal, counter-intelligence, and oversight investigations currently being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, and Congress into members of his presidential campaign and their contacts with Russian officials,” she added.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando called the latest reports “the most damning” yet.

“FBI Director Comey’s notes detail that Trump asked him to drop the case against Gen Flynn. This constitutes the most damning evidence of obstruction of justice yet,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “The revelation comes after news that Trump released highly classified info to Russians putting our country and allies in jeopardy. Time for independent investigative commission!”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said America is enduring “one shocking revelation after another.”

“The President asked the FBI Director to shut down one investigation, then fired the FBI Director in order to shut down another investigation. In the end, the President’s actions must lead to a new, fully independent investigation to determine any evidence of undue influence or obstruction of justice by this White House,” Deutch stated.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach accused Trump of abusing power.

“The latest report that President Trump asked former FBI director Comey ‘to forget about Mike Flynn’ is just the latest string of disturbing occasions of this President abusing his power,” she stated. “It’s clear we need an independent investigation of whether there is connection between the Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign.”

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens called Coomey “a perfect witness.”

“I see bombshells dropping everywhere. And from what I understand and what I have read and seen, our president needs to take an eighth-grade civics course because he doesn’t understand government. You cannot obstruct justice. You cannot threaten people. And now that he has fired the director of the FBI, we have a perfect witness in someone who can give us all of the details that we need to know. I’m hoping that he will spill the beans, and spill his gut, and tell everything he knows about Russia’s ties to our election and the president’s ties to Russia,” said Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24). “We have to find out the truth. And someone needs to help Mr. Trump because he doesn’t realize that he is on the brink of impeachment. People will begin to call for him to be impeached. The Republicans will have to join in because they need be on the right side of history. The world is watching us. And it’s a shame the way that we are showing up in the news every single day with some travesty involving the president. He has to understand this is not a reality show. He is the president of the United States.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston allowed for either obstruction of justice or abuse of executive power in her observation, calling either one disturbing.

“If President Trump pressured then-FBI Director Comey to close down an investigation into former National Security Advisor Flynn, it would represent an egregious corrosion of the rule of law. The latest reports indicate that the President possibly abused his executive power, or attempted to obstruct justice. Either one, if true, would represent one of the most disturbing allegations yet,” she said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

“Along with this latest revelation and President Trump’s subsequent firing of Director Comey, it is increasingly evident that Trump has interfered with an investigation into whether he or his campaign colluded with the Russian government. It is essential that we put our country and the rule of law above politics now, and allow an independent counsel to broadly investigate the Trump-Russia ties without fear of presidential influence,” Wasserman Schultz concluded.

Ben Carson to keynote Hillsborough GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner

Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Donald Trump administration, will be the keynote speaker for the Hillsborough County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner scheduled for June 9.

That announcement was made Tuesday night by Deborah Tamargo, the chair of the Hillsborough GOP, at the party’s monthly meeting in Tampa.

Congressmen Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan and Dennis Ross will also appear at the dinner, as will House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

A native of Detroit, Carson grew up poor and was raised by his single mother, eventually graduating from Yale University and University of Michigan Medical School.

In 1984, Carson became the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. At age 33, he was the youngest doctor in America to rise to that position.

Carson earned worldwide recognition in 1987 when he led the team performing the first successful separation of conjoined twins, Benjamin and Patrick Binder, who were joined at the head. The procedure took five months of planning, and the surgery was over 22 hours using a 70-person team. He is also credited with discovering hemispherectomy, a procedure where half a brain is removed in a patient to cure certain brain diseases causing seizures.

Carson documented his life story in an autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” which made him a national hero, particularly among African-Americans. He has written several books since, including “One Nation,” which became a New York Times best-seller in 2014.

In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Carson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to a civilian.

After ending a Republican bid for president in 2016, Carson — an early Trump supporter — became Trump’s pick for HUD secretary in February 2017. The U.S. Senate confirmed him March 2 on a 51-48 vote. He was a controversial nominee because of his lack of experience in either housing or development, or government in general.

Partly in disbelief, Florida’s members of Congress denounce Donald Trump’s revelations to Russians

A lot of Florida’s Democratic members of Congress are responding with stunned disbelief to news reports — and President Donald Trump‘s Tuesday morning tweet — that he shared classified, highly sensitive ISIS information with Russian diplomats last week, calling the prospect inexcusable and demanding details.

Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Mario Diaz-Balart also denounced the events, while most other Republican members from Florida have yet to react Tuesday morning to Monday evenings’ news, and Trump’s tweet essentially acknowledging the information exchange.

On the other hand, Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge argued that if the concerns are real and serious, the sources who brought the story forward need to be taking their concerns to Congress, not offering unnamed source tips to the media.

“The President has the authority to make decisions regarding our national security and work with other nations to combat international terrorism,” Posey stated. “It’s time for these unnamed sources to come forward and inform Congress and the public of any specific allegations.”

After reports first in The Washington Post and then other major media outlets, Trump responded Tuesday morning with two tweets stating, “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining …” and “… to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

Essentially The Washington Post and others had reported that Trump told the Russian officials about intelligence it had gathered on ISIS in Syria, from third-party sources that presumably would not want that information shared with the Russians, who are not aligned with the United States in the multisided Syrian conflicts.

“If the story is true,” began a statement from Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“If these allegations are true,” opened Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando.

“If reports are accurate,” surmised Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton

“If true,” started Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston.

“Putin and the Russian regime are dangerous players in the global arena,” Diaz-Balart stated. “They are not our allies and cannot be trusted with sensitive, classified information.”

Ros-Lehtinen spoke on CBS Miami, and then passed along her essential position in a tweet Tuesday morning: “No one should share classified information with nations like #Russia that have interests adverse to ours.”

Democrats were no less direct, including those who caveated their statements in initial disbelief, calling for damage assessments and more.

And with later reports on Tuesday that the intelligence may have come from Israel, Deutch really let loose.

“It is shocking that President Trump shared classified information reportedly obtained by Israel with the Russians. Not only does this endanger Israel’s intelligence network, but it puts highly sensitive information into the hands of Russia — a partner of Israel’s enemies Syria, Iran, and its proxy Hezbollah,” Deutch said. “Intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel has always been a cornerstone of our relationship, and to jeopardize this while boasting to the Russians puts America’s national security and Israel’s security at serious risk.”

“When you betray the trust of our allies and national security partners, it jeopardizes our safety and future intelligence sharing. As the former vice chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I can’t stress enough how serious of a blunder this is,” declared U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar. “It is imperative that Congress is given a full briefing on the extent of the damage that President Donald John Trump has caused in compromising highly classified code-word intelligence to the Russians.”

“If the story is true, this is a serious breach of security and will have lasting and dangerous consequences for the U.S.,” Nelson said.

“Trump betrays our country & allies when he leaks classified info to Russia,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando.

“The news that the president gave highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador in the Oval Office is deeply, deeply disturbing. His actions are indefensible,” declared U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg. “They delivered a self-inflicted wound to our national security, imperiling secret, sensitive operations overseas battling ISIS, putting the lives of our operatives in grave danger. Congress must exercise its oversight responsibilities immediately. The repercussions of the disclosure, and measures to prevent the President from repeating such a serious error, must be weighed.”

“If these allegations are true, they are inexcusable and deserve immediate action from Congress. In leaking this kind of intelligence, the President would be putting lives in danger. Our allies need to know that they can trust us,” Demings offered.

“As president, Trump has the right to declassify anything he wants, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” offered U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens. “Russia is not our friend, and the sooner he realizes that, the better off our country will be.”

“If true, news reports indicate that President Trump compromised America’s intelligence gathering operations and security, and possibly harmed a relationship with a key ally and put lives at risk,” stated Wasserman Schultz. “His disclosure would be a gravely dangerous compromise of classified information with an adversary. Congress needs an immediate and full briefing on what damage has been done.”

“If reports are accurate, President Trump revealed vital and highly classified information in the Oval Office to Putin’s top officials. This reckless move jeopardizes our intelligence sources, exposes extremely sensitive information, and seriously calls into question our president’s judgment,” Deutch declared in his original statement, before the Israel report. “This dangerous behavior threatens our global alliances in the fight against terrorism and actually makes America less safe.”

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee posted on Facebook, “Reports of President Trump sharing highly sensitive information with Russian officials is extremely concerning. This underscores the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate this administration’s ties to Russia.”

At a news conference Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa said: “If it’s true that President Trump shared classified information with one of our adversaries while they were invited into the Oval Office, it’s simply outrageous and it undermines the ability of the United States of America to cooperate with our allies across the world, gathering intelligence. It undermines the effectiveness of the brave men and women in our intelligence agencies.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, also sent out a tweet, stating, “If other nations can’t trust us to keep shared classified info secret, then they will stop sharing it with us — making us less safe.”

Murphy’s campaign side had a lot more to say on the subject late Tuesday, in a fundraising email, demanding that transcripts of Trump’s meeting with the Russians be sent to Congress for review:

“These leaks could put American lives in danger and no one — not even the President — should be given a free pass for this kind of reckless behavior. Nothing is more important than the safety and security of American citizens. Trump’s leaks to the Russians put our national security at risk and endanger our relationships with key allies.

“In fact, The Associated Press is reporting that other countries may stop sharing intelligence that could prevent future terrorist attacks. As a former National Security specialist with one of the nation’s top security clearances, Stephanie knows the importance of keeping classified information within the intelligence community.

“That’s why she’s taking Trump’s leaks VERY seriously and calling for the immediate release of the meeting transcripts for Congressional review.

“Congress should at least have the same information the Russians now have in their possession. If our President put our nation in danger — we deserve to know.”

The email then directs people to click on a link to send a message to Trump, but the link first sends visitors to a fundraising page for Murphy’s 2018 re-election.

Gus Bilirakis wants Donald Trump to talk human rights when meeting Turkish president

Gus Bilirakis is calling on Donald Trump to speak about the deteriorating state of human rights in Turkey, just before the president is scheduled to sit down with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House Tuesday.

“As it is a critical moment for Turkey and the U.S.-Turkish relationship, the United States must be candid and consistent in our support of democratic values and respect for human rights for the sake of Turkey’s future, as well as the long-term interests in the region of both the United States and our NATO allies,” writes the Tarpon Springs Republican congressman in a letter made available Tuesday afternoon. “We, therefore, urge you to make support for Turkish democracy a priority, both in your meetings with President Erdogan and in U.S. policy toward Turkey thereafter.”

Erdogan has been under fire for a contested referendum that vastly expanded his executive power, as well as his government’s crackdown on dissidents and civil society after an attempted coup last summer.

Trump is reportedly among the minority of world leaders who actually called and congratulated Erdogan on his recent victory in the referendum giving him sweeping constitutional powers and extending his potential political lifespan.

“Over the past several years, Erdogan and his allies have a continuous assault on the rule of law, particularly using the courts to stifle fundamental rights, including free speech, to quash any opposition to their undemocratic actions,” writes Bilirakis, a co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus.

As his staff indicates, Bilirakis has often spoken out against Turkish provocation and threats to the sovereignty of Greece.

Bilirakis represents Tarpon Springs in Congress. That city has the largest population of Greek-Americans of any city in Florida.

casino table

Fresh off Atlantic City deal, Seminole Tribe now adding Hard Rock in Canada

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which recently bought the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, is expanding its Hard Rock gambling and entertainment brand to Canada.

Hard Rock Casino Ottawa
Hard Rock Casino Ottawa (rendering). (PRNewsfoto/Hard Rock International)

A Tribe spokesman on Tuesday said that the Seminoles had won a bidding process to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, the nation’s capital.

The deal with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., pending final approval by Canadian authorities, includes an investment by Rideau Carleton Raceway Holdings Limited, a Canadian horse racing concern.

“This is a crucial first step towards a larger strategic vision of our world-class brand’s expansion efforts in Ontario and throughout Canada,” said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming CEO, in a statement.

The investment group will transform an “existing property with a complete remodel, rebrand and significant expansion, leading to an economic development boost,” according to a press release. “The multi-phase project is expected to potentially create 1,900 construction-related jobs and 2,000 direct and indirect ongoing jobs.”

Hard Rock International, which the Tribe controls, earlier this year bought the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino on Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk, formerly owned by President Donald Trump, from billionaire Carl Icahn. That deal includes two New Jersey investors.

Allen also has said the Tribe wants to build a $1 billion casino in northern New Jersey just outside New York City. He told The Associated Press that Hard Rock remains committed to its plan to build a casino at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford if voters change the law to allow it.

The Tribe last year consolidated its control over the rock ‘n’ roll-themed Hard Rock hotel and casino brand, buying out remaining rights from the owner-operator of Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Donald Trump defends sharing ‘terrorism’ facts with Russians

President Donald Trump defended revealing information to Russian officials, saying in a pair of tweets Tuesday that he shared “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety” and had “the absolute right” to do so.

Trump was responding to reports Monday that he revealed highly classified information to senior Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting last week, putting a source of intelligence on the Islamic State at risk.

But Trump tweeted that he shared the information for “humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

Trump says he wanted to share with Russia “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.” He noted that as president, he has an “absolute right” to do this.

The reports by The Washington Post and others drew strong condemnation from Democrats and a rare rebuke of Trump from some Republican lawmakers. White House officials denounced the report, saying the president did not disclose intelligence sources or methods to the Russians, though officials did not deny that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting.

The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser. “At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also disputed the Post report. He said Trump discussed a range of subjects with the Russians, including “common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism.” The nature of specific threats was discussed, he said, but not sources, methods or military operations.

The Post, citing current and former U.S. officials, said Trump shared details about an Islamic State terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The ambassador has been a central player in the snowballing controversy surrounding possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling.

The anonymous officials told the Post that the information Trump relayed during the Oval Office meeting had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. They said it was considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.

The New York Times and BuzzFeed News published similar reports later Monday.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman denied the report. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, on Facebook on Tuesday described the reports as “yet another fake.”

The revelations could further damage Trump’s already fraught relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies. He’s openly questioned the competency of intelligence officials and challenged their high-confidence assessment that Russia meddled in last year’s presidential election to help him win. His criticism has been followed by a steady stream of leaks to the media that have been damaging to Trump and exposed an FBI investigation into his associates’ possible ties to Russia.

The disclosure also risks harming his credibility with U.S. partners around the world ahead of his first overseas trip. The White House was already reeling from its botched handling of Trump’s decision last week to fire James Comey, the FBI director who was overseeing the Russia investigation.

A European security official said sharing sensitive information could dampen the trust between the United States and its intelligence sharing partners. “It wouldn’t likely stop partners from sharing life-saving intelligence with the Americans, but it could impact the trust that has been built, particularly if sharing such information exposes specific intelligence gathering methods,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak about such intelligence sharing.

The revelation also prompted cries of hypocrisy. Trump spent the campaign arguing that his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should be locked up for careless handling of classified information.

The Post said the intelligence partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russian officials. By doing so, Trump would have jeopardized cooperation from an ally familiar with the inner workings of the Islamic State group, and make other allies – or even U.S. intelligence officials – wary about sharing future top secret details with the president.

Afterward, White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency, the newspaper said.

The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment Monday evening.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats expressed concern about the report.

GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters the Trump White House “has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and order.” He described the White House as “on a downward spiral.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York also called the story “disturbing,” adding, “Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous and puts at risk the lives of Americans and those who gather intelligence for our country.”

The controversy engulfed the White House. Reporters spent much of the evening camped out adjacent to Press Secretary Sean Spicer‘s office, hoping for answers. At one point, an eagle-eyed reporter spotted a handful of staffers, including Spicer and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, walking toward the Cabinet Room.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

GOP leaders dismiss James Comey firing as fleeting political drama

Chaos is President Donald Trump’s style, yet as long as the Republican delivers on health care, taxes and tapping a new FBI director as solid as his Supreme Court pick, GOP leaders say everything will be just fine.

While Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey roiled Washington, Republicans who attended the national committee’s spring meeting outside San Diego this week defended the president’s actions and insisted that they would have little political impact on midterm elections next year.

Even Trump’s Friday morning tweetstorm warning Comey that he had better hope there are no “tapes” of their private conversations and threatening to cancel White House media briefings failed to dent his support among several GOP leaders.

Peter Goldberg, an Alaska committeeman, said Trump’s latest tweets about Comey are “just a distraction” and that reaction to the firing is like “a bee buzzing around your head. It’s going to go away. I think it’s going to disappear.”

Goldberg, who grew up in New York, said he understood Trump’s style of governing.

“Even during the campaign, some people might have thought of him as brash and I just thought of it as just an average New Yorker. It wasn’t bad, it’s just part of the culture where he was living.”

Republicans said the issues that Trump campaigned on — repealing the Affordable Care Act, cutting taxes and boosting border security — would determine if the party keeps control of both houses of Congress.

Trump addressed the crowd in a five-minute video, telling them their support will help Republicans keep control of the House next year and make gains in the Senate.

“I’ll be going around to different states. I’ll be working hard for the people running for Congress and for the people running for the Senate. We could pick up a lot of seats, especially if it all keeps going like it’s going now,” the president said.

Ron Nehring, a former committee member and former California Republican Party chairman, said Comey’s firing was far more important to journalists and Washington insiders than voters.

“Every day that something unexpected comes up out of the White House, we see people freaking out and then outside of Washington it doesn’t really have that big of an impact,” he said.

Dirk Haire, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said every president brings a new style.

“President Trump’s style is chaos,” Haire said. “Would I personally like that? No, it would drive me nuts. That’s just the way he operates.”

Among leading talk radio conservatives on Friday, criticism was directed at the news media for the use of anonymous sources on the story, not Trump. Laura Ingraham tweeted that the reporting was “false,” while Hugh Hewitt said Comey’s successor was what mattered.

Hewitt did critique Trump’s suggestion that the White House cease holding briefings. Trump “needs more direct on-the-record” contact with the media, “not less,” Hewitt posted on Twitter.

The harshest criticism came from conservative Erick Erickson, who described Trump as “self-immolating.”

“The overwhelming majority of Trump voters will double down in their support of Trump,” Erickson wrote on his website Friday morning. “Many of us see this as unhinged, suspicious and headed toward impeachment-level.”

At the RNC meeting, Kris Warner, a West Virginia committeeman, predicted that Comey’s successor will put to rest any voter misgivings about Trump’s handling of the FBI, holding up the president’s selection of Neil Gorsuch for a long-vacant seat on the Supreme Court as an example.

“I expect nothing short of someone beyond reproach and (it) will be exactly what the country needs,” said Warner, a Trump delegate at last year’s party convention. “Look at his Supreme Court pick. Very impressed with that, and I would expect him to do the same with the FBI.”

Party leaders said Trump was right to fire Comey, or at least that he had a right to do it.

Kyle Hupfer, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, said picking the FBI chief is a president’s prerogative, despite tradition that the post be held for 10 years regardless of who occupies the White House. He said backlash to Comey’s dismissal was “not resonating” with Indiana voters.

David Bossie, a Maryland committeeman who was Trump’s deputy campaign manager during the final leg of last year’s race, conceded the news could have been better explained.

“I think the White House communications shop needs to do a little better, and I think they’re going to get better at what they’re doing,” he said. “I think we had some mixed messages out there that didn’t help matters at all. But the president made the decision to fire Jim Comey. How that happened and the semantics of the timeline, people can debate over the next couple days.”

On Thursday, about 300 protesters marched on the beach, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!” They were kept a good distance from the iconic Hotel del Coronado, where some party members looked out from a patio bar.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump to James Comey: Better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of talks

President Donald Trump, in an apparent warning to his fired FBI director, said Friday that James Comey had better hope there are no “tapes” of their conversations. Trump’s tweet came the morning after he asserted Comey had told him three times that he wasn’t under FBI investigation.

“I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation?’ He said you are not under investigation,” Trump said in an interview Thursday with NBC News. He said the discussions happened in two phone calls and at a dinner in which Comey was asking to keep his job.

Comey has not confirmed Trump’s account. Late Thursday, The New York Times cited two unnamed Comey associates who recounted his version of a January dinner with the president in which Trump asked for a pledge of loyalty. Comey declined, instead offering “honest.” When Trump then pressed for “honest loyalty,” Comey told him, “You will have that,” the associates said.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders disputed the report and said the president would “never even suggest the expectation of personal loyalty.” Officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether Trump recorded his discussions with the FBI director.

The president’s morning Twitter comments again raised the specter of Richard Nixon, who secretly taped conversations and telephone calls in the White House during the Watergate investigation that ultimately led to his downfall. Trump’s firing of Comey already has left him with the dubious distinction of being the first president since Nixon to fire a law enforcement official overseeing an investigation tied to the White House.

Even before Trump’s provocative tweet, the White House was scrambling to clarify why Comey was fired. Trump told NBC he had planned to fire Comey all along, regardless of whether top Justice Department officials recommended the stunning step.

The White House initially cited a Justice Department memo criticizing Comey’s handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton‘s emails as the impetus for Trump’s decision. But Trump on Thursday acknowledged for the first time that the Russia investigation — which he dismissed as a “made-up story” — was also on his mind as he ousted the man overseeing the probe.

The shifting accounts of the decision to fire Comey, whom Trump derided as a “showboat” and “grandstander,” added to a mounting sense of uncertainty and chaos in the West Wing, as aides scrambled to get their stories straight and appease an angry president. Not even Vice President Mike Pence was spared the embarrassment of having told a version of events that was later discredited by Trump.

The White House’s explanations continued to crumble throughout the day Thursday. On Capitol Hill, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe strongly disputed the White House’s assertion that Comey had been fired in part because he had lost the confidence of the FBI’s rank-and-file.

“That is not accurate,” McCabe said. “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”

Unfazed, Sanders insisted she had heard from “countless” members of the FBI who welcomed the president’s decision.

McCabe also pointed out the remarkable nature of Trump’s version of his conversations with Comey. McCabe told a Senate panel it was not “standard practice” to tell an individual whether they are or are not under investigation.

Previous presidents have made a public show of staying out of legal matters, so as not to appear to be injecting politics. Trump’s comments demonstrated his striking deviation from that practice.

The ousted director himself is said to be confident that his own version of events will come out, possibly in an appearance before Congress, according to an associate who has been in touch with him since his firing Tuesday.

Trump and Comey’s relationship was strained early on, in part because of the president’s explosive and unsubstantiated claims that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Comey found the allegations confounding, according to his associate, and wondered what to make of what he described as strange thoughts coming from his new boss.

The president was no kinder to Comey on Thursday, calling him names and saying he’d left the FBI in “virtual turmoil.” He said that while he received a scathing assessment of Comey’s performance from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday, that memo was not a catalyst for his dramatic decision as the White House had said earlier.

“I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said. “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

That’s far different from the White House’s initial account in the hours after Comey’s firing. Multiple officials, including Pence, said the president was acting at the behest of Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

But it quickly became clear that the president had been stewing for days over the Russia investigation and Comey’s refusal to defend him in appearances before lawmakers. By Wednesday afternoon, the officials, like Trump, were saying he had in fact been considering ousting the FBI director for months because of a lack of confidence in his ability to lead the agency.

And the Russia investigation was still on his mind.

“In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,” he said.

Sanders attributed the disconnect in the week’s explanations to the fact that she had not directly asked Trump when he’d made the decision to fire Comey until shortly before Thursday’s press briefing.

White House officials and others insisted on anonymity in order to disclose private conversations and internal deliberations.

The White House said Trump is weighing options for replacing Comey, a decision that could have broad implications for the future of the Russia investigation. Some senior officials have discussed nominating Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who ran the House committee that investigated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s actions in connection with the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Trump’s advisers have repeatedly tried to downplay the Russia-election matter, with Sanders saying Wednesday the FBI was “doing a whole lot more than the Russia investigation.”

But McCabe characterized the investigation as “highly significant” and assured senators that Comey’s firing would not hinder it. He promised he would tolerate no interference from the White House and would not provide the administration with updates on its progress.

“You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing,” he declared. He said there has been no interference so far.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Stephanie Murphy: Russian interference in U.S. elections ‘direct assault on our democracy’

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy renewed her call Friday for independent, non-partisan investigations into Russia’s involvement in last fall’s elections, calling the Russian activities “a direct assault on our democracy.”

Speaking at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce in her hometown, the freshman congresswoman pressed her background, interests and house committee assignments in national security to express her concerns about Russia’s role, and her questions about President Donald Trump‘s firing Tuesday of FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating it.

“I’m alarmed by the consensus view among our intelligence community that the Russian government interfered in our democracy. And here’s what we know: that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered an influence campaign, in an attempt to sway our presidential election,” she said. “But what we don’t know is who, necessary, was involved, and whether Americans were actively participating or had knowledge of the Russian activities.

“So make no mistake about it, Russian attempts to sway our election constitutes a direct assault on our democracy, and they can’t go on,” she said. “And we have to take action to prevent this type of interference again.”

Murphy delivered a broad-based speech in which she also talked about the need to fix, not replace the current health care system, making sure to provide access and also to find ways to bring down costs to small businesses and individuals. The comments harkened to concerns she heard raised earlier this week in a Sanford Chamber of Commerce meeting, but also reflect some of her policy statements that have called for finding ways to reduce costs.

She also raised her concerns about North Korea, and noted that the CIA just announced creation of a broad intelligence review committee that mirrors what she pushed for in a bill she introduced last month. Yet she criticized the Trump White House’s “lack of tiered strategy” for North Korea and other foreign affairs matters.

Those comments and many others were drawn from a theme Murphy raised about she said she’s hearing from constituents, about growing uncertainty.

“The overarching theme delivered to me by nearly every constituent in my district is uncertainty. They recognize that progress in Central Florida and the nation has seen over the last few years… But I think with Congress in disarray, the war in the Middle East still ongoing, growing threats in North Korea, health care facing dramatic changes, that people are feeling uncertainty and concern,” she said.

“Uncertainty isn’t good for families and seniors, and it definitely isn’t good for businesses and the stock market, and it’s definitely not good for our allies like Israel, who depend on a strong and stable America,” she said.

But she offered optimism based on the American people, saying “our brave service members, diplomats and intelligence officers will always do what it takes to keep us safe…. I also think the hard-working spirit of the American people will overcome any obstacle. We are a nation that is already great, and it’s because of the internal fortitude and American values.”

But she also pressed on about the “crisis in our government” she centered on Trump, the allegations about Russia, and Comey’s firing.

“The timing of this termination is unusually suspect, and I think we need to know. We need to follow the facts where they lead, and we can hold those who broke the law, accountable, and protect the sanctity of our elections and get back to governing,” she said.

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