An embattled Donald Trump complained on Wednesday that no other U.S. leader had been treated “more unfairly,” as top Republican lawmakers demanded the facts on the swirling scandals convulsing his presidency and rattling world markets.
The White House has been thrown into turmoil by a succession of stunning allegations against the president, most damagingly that he may have obstructed justice by asking his FBI chief to drop an investigation into one of his top advisers. “We need the facts,” Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said in reaction to the explosive reports of Trump’s request to the now-sacked James Comey, coming on the heels of claims he shared U.S. secrets with Russian officials in the Oval Office. “It is obvious there are some people out there who want to harm the president. But we have an obligation to carry out our oversight regardless of which party is in the White House,” Ryan added.
The crisis took an international bent when President Vladimir Putin offered to provide Congress with a record of Trump’s controversial exchange with Russia’s top diplomat last week—a suggestion immediately rebutted by lawmakers.
Trump himself vented his frustration during a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly,” he said. “You can’t let them get you down.” Trump urged graduating cadets to follow his example and “fight, fight, fight. Never, ever, give up,” assuring them: “Things will work out just fine.”
But the turmoil was rattling markets as Wall Street stocks suffered their steepest drop of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 1.8 percent, and the Nasdaq 2.6 percent, amid worries that Trump’s economy-boosting and tax-cutting agenda could be derailed.
On Capitol Hill, some Republicans have begun siding with the many Democrats demanding an independent investigation into the Trump team’s possible connections with Moscow. That could come either through the appointment of a special prosecutor, or the creation of a congressional commission—two moves Republican leaders have so far resisted.
But perhaps shaken by the gravity of recent developments, the leaders of the Senate committees on intelligence and the judiciary, and the House panel on government oversight, demanded that the FBI and White House hand over records related to Comey. They notably sought any documents connected with a meeting in which Trump reportedly pressured the FBI chief to drop his investigation of sacked national security adviser Michael Flynn. The American Civil Liberties Union has also filed for access to a reported Comey memo of the encounter.
Senate Intelligence Committee leaders requested Comey testify in both an open and closed setting, while House Government Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz wants Comey to testify at a hearing next Wednesday.
Meanwhile Trump’s search for a successor to Comey gathered pace: he was meeting on Wednesday with four candidates including Joe Lieberman, a former Democratic vice presidential nominee who later became an independent.
As the White House fought to shake off the latest Russia-linked controversy, Putin caused a stir by saying Moscow could provide a “recording” of Trump’s meeting with his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
A Russian foreign policy aide subsequently clarified that “audio is not made” at such meetings, and that he was referring to a written record.
The Washington Post reported that Trump had shared highly-classified intelligence with the Russians about an Islamic State group terror threat—divulging secrets provided by a third party in a major breach of intelligence protocol. A U.S. administration official confirmed to AFP that the original intelligence came from Israel, news that cast a shadow over Trump’s visit to the Middle Eastern ally next week.
The Russian leader also mocked the idea that Trump had shared secrets during the Oval Office meeting, calling the allegations “political schizophrenia.”
U.S. lawmakers shot down the prospect of Putin providing evidence to congressional investigations, with Senator Susan Collins dismissing the notion as “absurd.”
Collins however is among a growing number of Republicans who are deeply troubled by the White House’s woes. “He needs to right the ship,” Collins told Newsradio WGAN. “We cannot have this constant chaos and serious questions being raised virtually every single day.”
Congressman Adam Kinzinger added on CNN: “I think we’re at the position now where it is time for an independent commission or a special prosecutor.”
Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, warned guests at a Tuesday dinner that Trump’s missteps were “reaching Watergate size and scale,” referring to the 1970s scandal that brought down Richard Nixon.
Still, other Republicans were standing by their man. “Let’s not panic here,” congressman James Comer said. “This is a new administration. I think the president deserves a chance.”