Most Republicans close ranks to defend Trump

Most Republicans close ranks to defend Trump

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A combination photo shows US President Donald Trump, left, in the House of Representatives in Washington on Feb. 28, 2017 and FBI Director James Comey in Washington on July 7, 2016. — Reuters
A combination photo shows US President Donald Trump, left, in the House of Representatives in Washington on Feb. 28, 2017 and FBI Director James Comey in Washington on July 7, 2016. — Reuters

WASHINGTON — Most of the Republicans do not appear poised to abandon a president who remains critical to their goals of acting on health care and tax legislation despite the anxiety and displeasure voiced by McCain and a handful of other prominent GOP lawmakers. Several came to his defense and sought to close ranks. “There isn’t anybody who can run the White House without criticism,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a senior lawmaker. “This man has been subject to more criticism than any predecessor that I know of. They hate him, they didn’t like the fact that he won, he beat their favorite, it was a remarkable election.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded tersely “no” when pressed on whether he had concerns about the president’s ability to handle classified information, or whether he was losing confidence in Trump.

But McConnell acknowledged that “it would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House.”

Just the opposite happened over the course of Tuesday.

First Republicans faced questions on a report initially published in the Washington Post that Trump last week shared details about a Daesh (the so-called) terror threat with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.

As most Republicans defended Trump and others expressed concerns, another bombshell report landed, this time about a memo where Comey wrote that Trump had asked him to shut down an FBI investigation into Flynn, according to a person familiar with the situation. The White House denied what was first reported by The New York Times.

Republicans, caught off-guard, insisted they wanted to hear from Comey, who was fired last week a day before Trump met in the Oval Office with the Russian diplomats.

“Let’s get to the bottom of what happened with the director. And the best way to get to the bottom of it is for him to testify … I’m not going to take a memo, I want the guy to come in,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Democrats badgered Republicans to stand up to the president, and demanded access to the transcripts of Trump’s meeting last week with two Russian diplomats. After the news broke of the Comey memo, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., stood in the chamber and said, “I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate — history is watching.” Yet as the House came back into session Tuesday night some Republicans from conservative districts said their constituents were not overly concerned with any aspect of the Russia story.

Addressing the Comey memo, GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas said: “If Comey felt like the president was trying to obstruct justice, Comey would have been duty-bound to report it to the DOJ and act on it. And we’re not hearing that happened. I think this is another example of whatever Trump does gets the worst possible spin.” — AP

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