With consecutive days of late-afternoon bombshell stories reporting classified information disclosures and investigation interference by President Donald Trump, there seems to be some amount of scandal fatigue settling in on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is waiting to see how it all settles, which may not be surprising considering the stories from the Washington Post and the New York Times have gone online so late in the day as to constitute a new tradition of unhappy hour for the White House and its allies in Congress.
“Sen. Isakson does not wish to speculate on what may or may not have been discussed until he has learned all of the facts,” Isakson Communications Director Amanda Maddox told The News Tuesday afternoon.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has maintained a similar stance.
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., remains one of the administration’s most vocal and visible surrogates, regularly appearing on television news programs, including Tuesday afternoon on Fox News shortly before the Times report broke.
In reacting to the leaking of Trump’s actions to the media rather than the actions themselves, Perdue said, “We take this very seriously in the Senate — we have to treat this classified information very carefully. I know that the White House is committed to do the same thing. But again, this is a president that’s beginning to reassert the national interests of America, and I think that you see the global situation requiring that right now.”
Wednesday morning, Perdue said on camera to Bloomberg News on the Comey memo, “Knowing President Trump the way I know him and seeing how he’s operated over the last four months, it’d be hard for me to believe that this will be substantiated, so we will see how it turns out.”
However, during the last session of Congress both men sponsored a bill that grew out of another scandal fatigue- inducing issue, the controversy over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server.
The bill, S. 3135, expressed “the sense of the Congress” — which is non-binding — that Clinton should have had any security clearance she held revoked and denied further access until she re-earned the legal right to it, and also deny access to staff “who demonstrated extreme carelessness in their handling of classified information should no longer have access to that information.”
The bill further stated, in binding language, “No officer or employee of the Federal Government who has exercised extreme carelessness in the handling of classified information may be granted a security clearance,” and the clearance “of any officer or employee of the Federal Government who has exercised extreme carelessness in the handling of classified information shall be revoked.”
The legislation did not move far, though, after it was referred July 6, 2016, to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.
Meanwhile, Tuesday in the House, some reactions to Trump administration developments were less than diplomatic. U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., for instance, allegedly gave the middle finger Tuesday to Politico reporter Rachel Bade when she asked him about allegations Trump sent a memo to former FBI Director James Comey asking him to call off his inquiry into activities of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
According to a Matt Fuller story in HuffPost, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop R-Utah, tried to be honest while keeping up appearances, saying, “OK, what non-answer do you want me to give you?”
And Monday, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, exited the Senate subway to see a gaggle of reporters coming her way and according to the Independent Journal Review’s Haley Byrd, said, surprised, “Oh my goodness. What’s happened.”
She had not seen the Washington Post story reporting Trump revealed sensitive intelligence to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister.
It got to the point that not long after the Times story on the Comey memo went live, another story began by a Times reporter describing the political chaos before reassuring readers the story was not about that at all, but instead about ducklings at the Capitol and efforts to provide them easier access to the reflecting pool.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation into Trump’s actions with Russia, while the Washington Post reported U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a recorded private conversation in June 2016 that he believed Trump and U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher received payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A House leadership spokesman said the claims were meant as a joke and were in no way serious assertions.