Washington Brief: Trump Defends Sharing Intelligence on ISIS With Russian Officials

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump revealed classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador during a White House meeting last week, jeopardizing a source of intelligence on the Islamic State and drawing criticism from Republicans such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (The Washington Post). Trump later said on Twitter that he has an “absolute right” to share “facts” with Russia. (The New York Times)
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein has agreed to brief all senators Thursday on the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. (Reuters)
  • Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), are questioning the idea of elevating one of their own – Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas) – to lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Cornyn is one of a handful of candidates being considered by the Trump administration. (CNN)
  • Hillary Clinton launched an organization called Onward Together to channel her network of donors and supporters to help groups that encourage Democrats to organize and run for public office. (Politico)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

CATO Institute event on the Iran deal 10 a.m.
Senate Banking Committee considers several nominations 10 a.m.
House convenes 12 p.m.
U.S. Chamber Global Supply Chain Summit 8:15 a.m.
Sen. Lee, OMB’s Mulvaney speak at Federalist Society conference 9 a.m.
USDA’s Perdue at House Agriculture Committee 10 a.m.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers former Sen. Scott Brown for New Zealand ambassador 2 p.m.
Rep. Brady speaks at Politico tax event 5:30 p.m.
Rep. Delaney at Atlantic Council event on infrastructure 6 p.m.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce event with Arizona Gov. Ducey, Kentucky Gov. Bevin on foreign investment in U.S. 8:30 a.m.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers William Hagerty for Japan ambassador 9:30 a.m.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at Senate Banking committee 10 a.m.
Bipartisan Policy Center event on infrastructure 10 a.m.
Sen. Murphy speaks at Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy 12:15 p.m.
Hoover Institution Event with EPA’s Pruitt 5 p.m.
No events scheduled



Clinton launches new political group: ‘Onward Together’
Anna Palmer, Politico

Hillary Clinton is officially back in the political game. Clinton sent a blast email to supporters Monday afternoon asking people to sign up for her next venture Onward Together.

In Computer Attacks, Clues Point to Frequent Culprit: North Korea
Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger, The New York Times

Intelligence officials and private security experts say that new digital clues point to North Korean-linked hackers as likely suspects in the sweeping ransomware attacks that have crippled computer systems around the world. The indicators are far from conclusive, the researchers warned, and it could be weeks, if not months, before investigators are confident enough in their findings to officially point the finger at Pyongyang’s increasingly bold corps of digital hackers.

Syria Prison Crematory Is Hiding Mass Executions, U.S. Says
Gardiner Harris and Anne Barnard, The New York Times 

The State Department released satellite images on Monday that officials said showed that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has built a crematory at a military prison outside Damascus to hide a large number of executions. Stuart E. Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, said officials believed that the crematory had been constructed so that little evidence exists of the thousands of people who are executed every year at the Sednaya Prison complex.

Chinese spent $24B on US, other ‘golden visas’
Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press

When the sister of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner promoted investment in her family’s new skyscraper from a Beijing hotel ballroom stage earlier this month, she was pitching a controversial American visa program that’s proven irresistible to tens of thousands of Chinese. More than 100,000 Chinese have poured at least $24 billion in the last decade into “golden visa” programs across the world that offer residence in exchange for investment, an Associated Press analysis has found.


Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador
Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, The Washington Post 

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

Donald Trump Defends Sharing Intelligence With Russia
Glenn Thrush, The New York Times

President Donald J. Trump said early Tuesday that he had an “absolute right” to share with top Russian officials information about an Islamic State threat during a White House meeting last week. But he did not precisely address reports from multiple news outlets that he had disclosed highly classified information to the Russian officials, possibly jeopardizing a relationship with an intelligence-sharing ally.

Trump to voluntarily file personal financial disclosure for 2016
Matea Gold, The Washington Post

President Trump plans to file a disclosure shortly that will detail his assets and liabilities over the past year, a voluntary move that follows the practice of his most recent predecessors. A White House official said Monday night that Trump will submit a personal financial disclosure covering the 2016 calendar year “in a short period of time,” confirming a report by the Associated Press.

Spicer Again Says Trump Has Nothing to Add on ‘Tapes’
Eli Stokols, The Wall Street Journal 

President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, again declined to say whether or not conversations in the Oval Office are being recorded. Reporters peppered Mr. Spicer with that question several times during Monday’s White House press briefing after the president’s tweet Friday morning suggesting that “tapes” may exist of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired last Tuesday.

Trump will have to navigate diplomatic land mines abroad. Here’s how he’s preparing.
Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker, The Washington Post

As the White House was engulfed by a crisis of its own making — the abrupt firing of the FBI director — President Trump received an unlikely visitor: Henry Kissinger, the Republican Party’s leading elder statesman, who came to deliver a tutorial on foreign affairs last Wednesday ahead of the president’s first overseas trip. Kissinger was not alone.

NATO Frantically Tries to Trump-Proof President’s First Visit
Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy

NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy.


Republicans concerned about report Trump shared secrets with Russia
Austin Wright, Politico

The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee joined Democrats in slamming Donald Trump on Monday over a report the president divulged highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. “To compromise a source is something that you just don’t do,” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters, adding that he didn’t know yet whether the report was true.

Deputy attorney general to brief full Senate on Comey firing
Patricia Zengerle, Reuters  

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will conduct a classified briefing on Thursday, May 18 for the full U.S. Senate on President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday. The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said in a statement he hoped senators would use the briefing at 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT) to seek the “full truth” about Comey’s dismissal, press Rosenstein “to make way” for a special prosecutor and ensure the administration preserves and makes public any audio recordings of his conversations with Comey.

GOP senators question whether Cornyn should get FBI job
Manu Raju and Tom LoBianco, CNN

Influential Senate Republicans are questioning whether one of their own — Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn — should be tapped to run the FBI, amid a deeply chaotic political environment after President Donald Trump fired James Comey as director of the bureau. While Cornyn is one of the more popular members of the Senate GOP Conference, a number of his colleagues are skeptical that he would be the right choice for the job, worried that such a pick would be viewed as too political at a time when many critics are questioning whether Comey was fired to slow-walk the FBI’s investigation into alleged Russian coordination with the Trump campaign during last year’s elections.

Cruz, Paul want to go ‘nuclear’ on Obamacare repeal
Jennifer Haberkorn and Sung Min Kim, Politico

Conservative GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are pushing to test the limits of how much of Obamacare can be repealed under Senate rules, setting up a potential “nuclear” showdown. The firebrands want to overturn long-standing precedent for what can be done under reconciliation, the fast-track budget process the GOP is using to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Bipartisan group of senators meets to talk health care
Caitlin Owens, Axios

A small group of Republican and Democratic senators met Monday night to discuss whether there’s any path forward together on health care. While there was no firm conclusion, members emerged hopeful they’ll meet again.

In One-Party Alabama, Senate Primary Sinks Into ‘Swamp’
Alan Blinder and Jonathan Martin, The New York Times

The suburban Birmingham headquarters of the Alabama Republican Party is something of a shrine to the one-party rule that is a political fact of life here. But on Monday afternoon, the headquarters’ Chairman’s Parlor showcased the less tidy side of the party’s total grip on power: The fiercest attacks now come during the Republican primary, which is tantamount to the general election.


Two Republicans say no to running for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat
Patricia Mazzei, The Miami Herald 

A pair of Republican state legislators have decided against vying for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s congressional seat when she retires next year. State Sen. René García of Hialeah said Monday to be mentioned as a potential contender was “one of the greatest compliments I have ever received in my career in public service.”

Stivers Aims to Protect GOP House Majority Despite Headwinds
James Arkin, RealClearPolitics 

Steve Stivers may have one of the most difficult jobs in politics. The Ohio congressman, chairman of House Republicans’ campaign committee, is tasked with leading his colleagues through a volatile midterm election under a president with historically low approval ratings while facing a frustrated but energized Democratic opposition.


Strict North Carolina Voter ID Law Thwarted After Supreme Court Rejects Case
Adam Liptak, The New York Times 

The Supreme Court on Monday announced that it would stay out of a fight over a restrictive North Carolina voting law. The move left in place a federal appeals court ruling that struck down key parts of the law as an unconstitutional effort to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

Is populism popular? These Virginia candidates are banking on it
Marc Fisher, The Washington Post

Corey Stewart wants to be the next governor of Virginia, and the way he has chosen to get there is by issuing polarizing provocations in support of the Confederate flag. “My purpose is to show I have the guts to stand up to political correctness,” he said.

Texas Seeks Medicaid Money It Gave Up Over Planned Parenthood Ban
Abby Goodnough, The New York Times

Four years after Texas gave up millions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds so it could ban Planned Parenthood from participating in a family planning program for low-income women, the state is asking the Trump administration for the money back. The request presents an important early test for the administration of President Trump, who recently appointed an anti-abortion official to oversee federal family planning programs.

Moves to Ease Gun-Carrying Restrictions Expand
Joe Palazzolo, The Wall Street Journal

A convergence of state and federal legislation could ease restrictions on carrying concealed firearms nationwide, a long-sought goal of gun-rights activists that their opponents say would threaten public safety. More states are giving their residents the right to carry a concealed handgun without permission from authorities—including two this year, bringing the total to 12—while Congress is considering legislation to make that right portable across state lines.


Lobbying war rages over Turkish exile
Megan R. Wilson, The Hill

A high-stakes lobbying and public relations battle is being waged between the government of Turkey and a single man, Fethullah Gulen. The country has targeted Gulen, a roughly 76-year-old Turkish-born religious leader living in self-exile in rural Pennsylvania, for more than two decades.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Trump’s Best Defense on Russia Is Incompetence
Eli Lake, Bloomberg View

One way you know the president is in trouble is that, accused of collusion, his best defense is incompetence. Such is the case with Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey.

How Trump Hurts the Spying Business
David S. Cohen, The New York Times

The man seated across from me had been a spy for the United States for several decades. Recruited by a C.I.A. officer, this man, at great risk to his and his family’s lives, had provided critically important intelligence that formed the basis of innumerable raw intelligence reports, some of which found their way into the President’s Daily Brief.

The FBI needs a nonpartisan director
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey has rattled Washington. Mr. Trump’s admission that the Russia investigation was a motivating factor has legal scholars debating whether he obstructed justice. Fresh polling shows that the public is confused and wary of the direction Mr. Trump is heading.

Trump Just Did Something Good on Trade
Editorial Board, Bloomberg View

The mini-deal on U.S. trade with China announced by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week deserves a cautious welcome. It’s narrow in scope, and the reasoning behind it, as related by Ross, is questionable at best, but it gets the main thing right: It expands rather than contracts the opportunities for mutually beneficial commerce.

‘Winning’ Is Trump’s Only Value—But Can a Value-Less Country Win?
Tim Miller, The Daily Beast  

In politics, the road to defeat is forever paved with good intentions. Ask my fellow presidential campaign staff losers about our efforts and I suspect you will hear us comfort ourselves with the notion that “at least we stayed true to our values.”

Research Reports and Polling

American attitudes on President Trump’s early policies
Shibley Telhami, The Brookings Institution

Since the election of President Trump, the world has witnessed shifts in U.S. policy towards both Syria and Muslim migrants. In his first few months in office, Trump has ordered airstrikes against the Syrian government and fought repeatedly to implement a travel ban that many see as a “Muslim ban.”