Congress shows growing concern over Trump controversies

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“On Tuesday night, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) compared the current situation to the Watergate scandal while speaking at an International Republican Institute dinner.

“We’ve seen this movie before. I think it’s reaching the point where it’s of Watergate size and scale and a couple of other scandals that you and I have seen,” McCain told Bob Schieffer of CBS News. “It’s a centipede and the shoe continues to drop.”

Asked Wednesday whether the current imbroglio could lead to impeachment, McCain responded: “I have no idea on that — come on.”

Centipedes are arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda of the subphylum Myriapoda. They are elongated metameric creatures with one pair of legs per body segment. Centipedes are known to be highly venomous, and often inject paralyzing venom. Wikipedia

Congress shows growing concern over Trump controversies

Congress shows growing concern over Trump controversies

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Congressional Republicans are increasing pressure on the Trump administration to produce documents related to the latest string of controversies involving President Trump, amid flagging confidence in the White House and a growing sense that scandal is overtaking the presidency.

As the White House sought to contain the damage from two major scandals, leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the FBI for documents related to former Director James B. Comey, who was leading an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election before Trump fired him last week.

The panel’s chairman and ranking Democrat asked the FBI to hand over Comey’s notes about his communications with White House and senior Justice Department officials related to the Russia investigation. In a separate letter, they also asked Comey to testify before the committee in both open and closed sessions.

The requests came after news reports revealed Trump’s disclosure of highly classified material to Russian officials and an alleged attempt to shut down an investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

On Wednesday, some members of the GOP began predicting that the party will rally behind some sort of independent investigative body to probe the two issues.

Here’s what happened after the Post revealed Trump’s disclosure to the Russians

The White House defends President Trump’s disclosure of classified information to Russian officials while Democrats demand to see transcripts of the meeting. The White House on May 16 defended President Trump’s disclosure of classified information to Russian officials while Democrats demanded to see transcripts of the May 10 meeting. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde,Jayne Orenstein,Dalton Bennett,Alice Li,Whitney Leaming/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

(Bastien Inzaurralde,Jayne Orenstein,Dalton Bennett,Alice Li,Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

[How Key Washington players are reacting: Complete live coverage]

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, said Wednesday that the collective political fallout from the past week “will make it difficult” for Republicans to resist a change in approach.

Dent said he does not like investigations by independent prosecutors because they “tend to take on a life of their own” and instead preferred an independent commission of outside experts.

“We may have to move in that direction,” Dent said Wednesday at a forum moderated by Center Forward, a moderate Democratic organization.

The collision of the two stories Tuesday night left Republicans reeling, with a senior GOP senator comparing the situation to Watergate, and Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) directing the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to immediately seek records from the FBI.

Ryan was careful to strike an evenhanded tone Wednesday, saying congressional committees would continue to conduct oversight “regardless of what party is in the White House” but seeming to dismiss some concerns that arose in the wake of news about a memo by Comey suggesting that Trump had pressured him to drop the Flynn investigation.

“There’s clearly a lot of politics being played here,” Ryan said.

Cummings blasts House Republicans for not investigating Trump

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) blasted House Republicans for not taking action to investigate the Trump administration on May 17. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) blasted House Republicans for not taking action to investigate the Trump administration’s ties to Russia during a press conference on May 17. (Reuters)

(Reuters)

He noted FBI acting director Andrew McCabe’s recent comment that there has been “no effort to impede our investigation.” McCabe made the remark in a congressional hearing when asked whether the firing Comey had affected the bureau’s work.

Ryan also sounded a skeptical note about Comey’s actions following the meeting in which Trump asked him to “let this go,” referring to the Flynn probe.

“If this happened as he described, why didn’t [Comey] take action at the time?” Ryan said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not directly commented on allegations that Trump tried to pressure Comey. He did not mention the president or the controversies facing the White House during his morning remarks on the Senate floor and ignored questions from congressional reporters in the halls of the Capitol.

As they pleaded for more information from the White House, lawmakers from both parties rejected Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s unusual offer Wednesday morning to provide a record of the meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump shared classified information.

“The idea that we would accept any evidence from President Putin is absurd,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in an interview with CNN.

“I don’t talk to murderous dictators like Vladimir Putin, so Putin’s word to me doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a member of Republican leadership, told the same network.

“Probably the last person the president needs to vouch for him right now is Vladimir Putin,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview with CBS News. “Its credibility would be less than zero.”

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee had asked the FBI to produce records of communications between Trump and Comey. The request came after reports disclosed the existence of a memo in which Comey described his meeting with Trump.

“I simply want to see the documentation,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who has said he will issue a subpoena if necessary, told The Post Tuesday night. “We will let the evidence take us where it does.”

[Republicans’ difficult fork in the road: To take Trump at his word … or not, and see where it leads]

Concerns are clearly growing among Republican lawmakers.

On Tuesday night, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) compared the current situation to the Watergate scandal while speaking at an International Republican Institute dinner.

“We’ve seen this movie before. I think it’s reaching the point where it’s of Watergate size and scale and a couple of other scandals that you and I have seen,” McCain told Bob Schieffer of CBS News. “It’s a centipede and the shoe continues to drop.”

Asked Wednesday whether the current imbroglio could lead to impeachment, McCain responded: “I have no idea on that — come on.”

The senator’s spokeswoman, Julie Tarallo, said the comparison was “simply meant to convey that the constant revelations of events surrounding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election are reminiscent of past scandals, are not good for America, and require further scrutiny.”

When asked what he’d say to Trump, McCain replied: “Get it all out. It’s not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people have made a judgment. And the longer you delay, the longer it’s going to last.”

Other Republican senators, while saying they need to review documents before making a final judgment, voiced growing doubts about Trump.

“There’s a lot here that’s really scary,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said Wednesday morning in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “It’s obviously inappropriate for any president to be trying to interfere with an investigation.”

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) is now calling for a Democrat to replace Comey as head of the FBI. Toomey believes “changes are needed at the White House,” spokesman Steve Kelly told The Post in an email Wednesday.

And one of two House Republicans to endorse an independent investigation of the Comey matter said that if the details reported this week are true, it could be grounds for impeaching Trump. “Yes,” replied Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), a member of the Oversight Committee, when posed the question by a reporter.

The White House has been largely silent since the New York Times first reported Trump’s effort to end the Flynn investigation by pressuring Comey. Trump aides have not directly commented on the story and were absent from television shows starting Tuesday night, a notable difference from last week when they blanketed the networks to defend Comey’s firing.

Before the Times story broke, Trump aides had sought to tamp down the controversy over Trump sharing classified information with Russian officials. National security adviser H.R. McMaster called the action “wholly appropriate” to the conversation that took place in the Oval Office.

Both Republicans and Democrats have called on Trump, who has suggested that he records his conversations, to provide a transcript of the meeting to congressional intelligence committees so they can assess what took place.

White House aides have neither confirmed nor denied the possibility that Trump keeps tapes of his meetings.

Democrats blasted House Republicans Wednesday for doing little so far to probe Trump’s potential ties to Russia.

“They do as little as humanly possible just to claim that they’re doing something,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee.

“Our committee should already be conducting robust and transparent investigations,” said Cummings, who joined 32 other Democrats Tuesday night in calling for his panel to partner with the Judiciary Committee on a new probe of Trump’s White House.

“Speaker Ryan has shown he has zero — zero, zero — appetite,” he said.

Democrats’ priority is advancing a bill from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) creating a bipartisan congressional commission to investigate Russia’s cyber intrusions, how the intelligence community handled the matter and the president’s potential involvement.

The Democrats are hoping to file a discharge petition — which requires the signatures of a majority of all House members — to compel GOP leaders to schedule a vote on the proposal. But they could have trouble gathering enough support: as of Wednesday, The Washington Post found only five GOP senators and 10 House Republicans open to an independent investigation.

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While several Democrats have called for Trump to be impeached over the Comey firing, the party’s leaders reiterated that their priority was a special investigation.

Schiff cautioned that hasty talk of impeachment would distract from the need for a bipartisan probe — and mire the investigation in partisanship.

“It cannot be perceived as an effort to nullify the election by other means,” he said.

Karoun Demirjian, Carol Leonnig, Ed O’Keefe, Amber Phillips, Kelsey Snell and David Weigel contributed to this story.

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