Changing His Tone, McCain Calls Trump’s Sharing Of Intel ‘Disturbing’

Tom Williams/CQPHO

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was harshly critical on Tuesday of President Donald Trump’s reported sharing of highly classified information with Russia. It was a sharp departure from his sentiment Monday night, when he said that Trump “does have the right” to “leak classified information.”

In a statement in his capacity as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain called the Washington Post’s reporting “deeply disturbing.”

The Post reported Monday that Trump had shared highly classified intelligence with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister during a meeting in the Oval Office last week. The Post reported that the United States had obtained the information from an American ally that has “voiced frustration with Washington’s inability to safeguard sensitive information related to Iraq and Syria.”

“The reports that the President shared sensitive intelligence with Russian officials are deeply disturbing,” McCain said in his statement. “Reports that this information was provided by a U.S. ally and shared without its knowledge 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.”

He added that, “[r]egrettably, the time President Trump spent sharing sensitive information with the Russians was time he did not spend focusing on Russia’s aggressive behavior, including its interference in American and European elections, its illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, its other destabilizing activities across Europe, and the slaughter of innocent civilians and targeting of hospitals in Syria.”

McCain expressed a more reserved reaction to the news Monday evening.

Speaking to reporters Monday night, TPM’s Alice Ollstein reported, McCain affirmed that “the President does have the right to do that, because he’s the commander in chief,” referring to sharing highly classified information with Russia. He added, walking into an elevator: “Any president needs to be careful.”

And he told the conservative Independent Journal Review around the same time: “When they say it’s classified, if it becomes public knowledge, then it could hurt the national security of the United States. That’s why we classify. […] Of course everything is of concern to me that may hurt the White House. Whether you’re Republican or Democrat or libertarian or vegetarian.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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