Moderate GOP Rep. Charlie Dent Responds To Trump's Reported Intelligence Leak

Originally published on May 16, 2017 11:43 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A second major allegation against the president has emerged today. The White House is disputing reports that President Trump asked the former FBI director, James Comey, to end the investigation into ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. This news comes the day after allegations that Trump revealed highly classified information to two Russian officials, a situation that raises all sorts of security questions. Earlier today, my co-host Audie Cornish spoke with Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania about that.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Welcome to the program.

CHARLIE DENT: Thank you, Audie, for having me on the show.

CORNISH: Now, the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, today repeatedly said that the president's sharing of intelligence with Russian diplomats was wholly appropriate. He also said the president in no way compromised any sources or methods in the course of the conversation. So do these explanations sit right with you?

DENT: Well, first, let me say that I don't know what the president actually said to the Russian foreign minister and the ambassador. Now, the reports, if true - The Washington Post story in particular - of the president's alleged sharing of classified intelligence with high-ranking Russian officials is alarming, in my view. The Russian government is a threat and an adversary whose interests do not align with ours. They're neither a friend nor an ally, and for years, they have worked to undermine American interests in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe. And so I guess perhaps the most concerning consequence of this situation is the impact it's going to have on our allies, particularly those in the Middle East with whom we regularly rely on for intelligence. So it's imperative...

CORNISH: Right. Should those allies be wary of sharing information with this president or the administration?

DENT: Well, I know one thing - they're not going to say it publicly. I mean, they're going to say this thing quietly. I mean, I know the Israelis - it's alleged today that the Israelis were the source. And I don't know if that's true or not, but I saw that in the news. And they're saying, you know, basically kind things, but that's what you'd expect them to say publicly. But I would have to think privately, there is cause for concern and not just on this situation. We've had the WikiLeaks disclosures and other major revelations, too, that have caused a lot of folks to, I think, be wary of, you know, of sharing with us because of these types of - these incidents. And I think right now it's imperative that Congress be briefed on the full nature of the conversations between the president and the Russian foreign minister and the information that was shared.

And just kind of piggybacking on what I heard earlier on your program, your earlier segment - I mean, yeah, sure, the president has a lot of authority and the right to do certain things, but having the right to do something doesn't mean it's the right thing to do or the right way to do it in some circumstances. So that's, I guess, why I'm mostly concerned.

CORNISH: To that point, you know, after the firing of James Comey, the former FBI director who was leading that agency's investigation, you said it's now harder to resist calls for an independent investigation, you know, on this whole issue of Russia and whether or not there are connections with the Trump campaign. Do you still feel that way? Does the actions of the last two days reiterate that call to you?

DENT: Well, let me be very clear. I - I've always wanted these investigations to be handled by both the Justice Department - in this case, the FBI. I have confidence in the FBI. Even without Jim Comey, they are strong, independent and professional. So I do have confidence in them and their ability to carry out this important investigation on Russian meddling. And I think it's important, too, that the House intelligence - that the congressional intelligence committee, Senate and House, continue their work. Clearly, the way Jim Comey was relieved of his duties I think, you know, has made it harder to resist calls for an independent commission or a select committee.

But I've never liked - I've personally never liked special prosecutors that much because they seem to take on a life of their own, whether it was Ken Starr or Pat Fitzgerald, all those who were involved. I've always had some hesitancy there. That said, you know, let's let this play out. I'd like to have some conversations with my colleagues. We've just returned to D.C. today. We were not in Washington the last week when the firing occurred and now, of course, the events of yesterday. So - but we need to have this conversation about the best way to proceed.

CORNISH: Republican Charlie Dent represents Pennsylvania's 15th District. Thank you for speaking with us.

DENT: Thank you, Audie.

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