Senators scramble to deal with fallout from Trump's news conference

Senators in both parties were considering options Tuesday to push back against President Donald Trump's decision to a...

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 1:03 AM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 1:03 AM

Senators in both parties were considering options Tuesday to push back against President Donald Trump's decision to align himself with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their summit in Helsinki, Finland.

As Democrats sense a moment of political vulnerability for the President, Republicans are under pressure to stand by US intelligence findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Hearings and additional sanctions against Russia are being floated amid bipartisan public statements of support for the US intelligence community.

Tuesday afternoon, Trump issued a statement of support for the intelligence agencies and said he accepted their findings on Russian election meddling, though he said other actors could be responsible and kept up his defense of the Helsinki meeting Wednesday morning.

Democratic leaders had a "far-ranging" discussion at a morning meeting about how the Senate should respond, according to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, following Trump's failure to support the US intelligence community's findings about election interference by the Russians while standing at a news conference with Putin

Democrats hope to settle on a specific proposal that they will support before the end of the day, said Durbin, who described the Democratic meeting in the Capitol.

"There are many options," Durbin told CNN. "Many of us feel we need to go beyond a statement of the obvious -- that we stand behind the professionals at the Department of Justice and intelligence community and the Department of Defense. We think the Senate has to act immediately to do something. At a minimum to have a public hearing to get to the bottom of what happened in Helsinki."

Moments later, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, speaking on the floor, called on the Senate Republican leaders to compel Trump's national security team to appear before the Senate right away to explain exactly what was said at the summit in Helsinki, especially during the one-on-one meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Democrats call for hearings, briefings

Durbin wasn't the only one to call for hearings. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire called for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to speak with the interpreter present for the Trump-Putin private meeting.

"I believe the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should hold a hearing with the American interpreter who was present during President Trump and President Putin's private meeting to determine what was specifically discussed and agreed to on the United States' behalf," she said in a statement.

Democratic Sen, Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Tuesday that senators need to do more than give statements.

"One area that I hope will be broad base consensus is we need to get a briefing as soon as possible about what happened not only in the group setting, but what I'm deeply concerned about, and warned the administration beforehand, was what happened in this one-on-one setting?" Warner said. "If the President was willing to dismiss American concerns in public, what in the heck did he say in private?"

But the second-ranking GOP leader in the Senate appeared to reject that idea when he was asked if Republicans would call on Trump officials to brief the Senate.

"I'm sure we'll find out in due course," said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, urging patience.

RELATED: In rebuke to Trump, senators may vote to side with US intel community

Democrats are eager to push the toughest language possible in a potential "Sense of the Senate" resolution condemning Trump's comments but realize they may lose Republican support if they go too far.

"The tougher the better," said a Democrat involved in the discussions.

Durbin said he would support a resolution that conveyed the highly critical statement made by GOP Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, Monday but acknowledged Republicans might not be willing to go that far and said one Republican senator had already expressed misgivings.

Sanctions bill under consideration

Durbin said backing a tough sanctions bill authored by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen is also under consideration. That legislation would impose sanctions on any country that interferes in US elections.

"It will take shape in the next couple of days," Rubio said about his bill. "I certainly expect our legislation to be in the mix."

"Chuck said he wanted to think things over about what was said this morning before coming up with a specific plan," said Durbin who added that Schumer is reaching out to the entire Democratic caucus on how to proceed.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell cited Rubio's legislation as one of the options Congress is considering as a response.

"There's a possibility that we may well take up legislation related to this," McConnell said on Capitol Hill after mentioning Rubio's proposal. "In the meantime, I think the Russians need to know that there are a lot of us who fully understand what happened in 2016, and it really better not happen again in 2018."

Cornyn said he supports more sanctions.

"I think what we ought to focus on is additional sanctions instead of just some messaging exercise," said Cornyn, who pointed to a bill being written by Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner as a starting point. "That was one of the things Sen. Schumer mentioned where I think we could find some common ground to turn the screws on Russia."

Gardner's legislation, introduced a few months ago, would require the State Department to determine if Russia should be designated a state sponsor of terror. Gardner explained that because of Russia's repeated bad acts around the world -- including the downing of an airline, invading of its neighbors, poisoning of individuals on foreign soil and carrying out information warfare against other countries, they should earn that designation.

"I think this is legislation Congress should consider," Gardner said. "This is one more quiver that American power can bring to bear."

Resolution also being considered

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he is working on a resolution to "reaffirm support for the intelligence community," following Trump's comments.

Notably, Flake's measure is not legislation; it is a Senate resolution that would not become law. Flake said his goal is to bring the proposal to the Senate floor and have it pass with unanimous consent this week or next. Flake said he has spoken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the resolution but stopped short of saying that the Kentucky Republican supported the move.

"They're not saying don't do this or this is the wrong thing to do," Flake said.

Durbin said he hopes Democrats and Republicans can reach a bipartisan agreement, as they did previously when they voted to impose sanctions against Russia for election interference.

"We hope they will join us in a bipartisan effort," Durbin said. "They did on the imposition of sanctions despite reluctance from the White House. So, there is some sentiment on the Republican Senate side against Vladimir Putin and maybe we'll see it again."

Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, said he thinks the Senate should act first on an anti-tariffs measure to show Putin the chamber will defend European allies. Corker also warned Tuesday that Trump's actions wouldn't easily be fixed by congressional action.

"There is no question that the President's 15 minutes at a press conference can do more damage than it takes us months to overcome. I would say the first step we should take would be to pass this tariff legislation," Corker said.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 735999

Reported Deaths: 13486
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1007151752
Lake54249977
Allen40946680
St. Joseph36335553
Hamilton35829408
Elkhart28844443
Tippecanoe22475219
Vanderburgh22367397
Porter18946311
Johnson18067381
Hendricks17317315
Clark13036192
Madison12762339
Vigo12501249
LaPorte12086215
Monroe11957172
Delaware10755187
Howard10001218
Kosciusko9466117
Hancock8373142
Bartholomew8098156
Warrick7799155
Floyd7690178
Grant7098174
Wayne7072199
Boone6745101
Morgan6611140
Dubois6166117
Marshall6111112
Cass5876105
Dearborn583178
Henry5785105
Noble565984
Jackson503773
Shelby494396
Lawrence4602120
Gibson437192
Harrison436672
DeKalb430585
Clinton428453
Montgomery425889
Whitley398739
Huntington394480
Steuben391057
Miami383968
Knox372890
Jasper372649
Putnam363760
Wabash355380
Adams342755
Ripley340770
Jefferson331881
White317754
Daviess298399
Wells292081
Decatur285992
Fayette282162
Greene280585
Posey272034
LaGrange268970
Scott267554
Clay261347
Washington242132
Randolph242081
Spencer232931
Jennings230949
Starke219354
Fountain213946
Sullivan212242
Owen203356
Jay197830
Fulton196040
Carroll190420
Orange184754
Perry184637
Rush174025
Vermillion170044
Franklin168535
Tipton163445
Parke146716
Pike135634
Blackford135132
Pulaski117445
Newton108934
Brown102641
Crawford101415
Benton99014
Martin89515
Warren82615
Switzerland7948
Union71410
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1091623

Reported Deaths: 19528
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1268061406
Cuyahoga1132982134
Hamilton804211211
Montgomery518231015
Summit47606955
Lucas42618792
Butler38548585
Stark32661909
Lorain25199486
Warren24390300
Mahoning21795588
Lake20846371
Clermont19880240
Delaware18608133
Licking16488212
Fairfield16327200
Trumbull16196468
Medina15379266
Greene15143244
Clark14096299
Wood13168189
Portage12966206
Allen11740232
Richland11433199
Miami10713220
Wayne8923214
Columbiana8881229
Muskingum8831133
Pickaway8596121
Marion8561136
Tuscarawas8509245
Erie7958155
Hancock6944128
Ashtabula6904172
Ross6876156
Geauga6741148
Scioto6444102
Belmont5978168
Union575448
Lawrence5590102
Jefferson5583151
Huron5462120
Sandusky5380122
Darke5374126
Seneca5311122
Washington5228109
Athens520858
Auglaize494986
Mercer481585
Shelby470293
Knox4513110
Madison439363
Putnam4301101
Ashland426590
Fulton426469
Defiance424697
Crawford3993107
Brown397557
Logan383276
Preble381398
Clinton374163
Ottawa369081
Highland356862
Williams343475
Champaign335358
Guernsey317653
Jackson314152
Perry295950
Morrow287239
Fayette283550
Hardin271964
Henry270366
Coshocton266157
Holmes2625101
Van Wert244263
Adams240053
Pike238634
Gallia236749
Wyandot232155
Hocking216462
Carroll192448
Paulding174340
Meigs145540
Noble134137
Monroe132542
Harrison109637
Morgan108823
Vinton84915
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 54°
Huntington
Mostly Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 56°
Decatur
Mostly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 54°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 53°
Tuesday will be a mostly cloudy and warm day with the chance of a few afternoon thundershowers.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events