The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday that President Trump is “acting like someone who’s compromised” by the Russian government.
Rep. Adam Schiff said that Trump’s behavior at a much-criticized summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin gives the impression that the Russians have dirt on them that they’re holding over his head, though he does not have direct knowledge of any compromising information.
“There’s no ignoring the fact that for whatever reason, this President acts like he’s compromised,” Schiff (D-Calif.) said on ABC’s “This Week.” “There is simply no other way to explain why he would side with this Kremlin former KGB officer rather than his own intelligence agencies, why he would continually attack NATO.”
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At the summit in Helsinki last week, Trump questioned American intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 American election and stressed the strength of Putin’s denial of involvement, saying “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that carried out the interference effort. He later claimed he misspoke.
“I certainly think he’s acting like someone who’s compromised, and it may very well be that he is compromised, or it may very well be that he believes that he’s compromised, that the Russians have information on him,” Schiff said.
He said that Democrats on the Intelligence Committee were blocked by the Republican majority from investigating the possibility that Russians had laundered money through Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.
“The Republicans wouldn’t allow us to go near that,” he said. “I hope that [special counsel] Bob Mueller’s investigating it, because again, if that’s the leverage the Russians are using, it would not only explain the President’s behavior, but it would help protect the country by knowing that in fact our president was compromised.”
When asked at the same press conference whether Russia had compromising information on Trump, Putin dismissed the idea as ridiculous but did not directly deny it.
Former Trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, also appearing on “This Week,” called it an “easy, cheap shot” to claim Trump is compromised by the Russians.
He said that despite Trump’s words, he has imposed the toughest sanctions in recent history on Russia.
“That’s a pain that President Putin feels,” Bossert said. “If he keeps acting tough, we’ll forgive some of his comments.”
But Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor during the Obama administration, said the sanctions were only imposed because Congress required it.
Trump’s performance in Helsinki was a “tragic display of sycohpancy,” she said.
She called it a “very serious mistake” for Trump to sit down one on one with Putin with no aides or note takers present, noting that even top intelligence officials and Cabinet members seem to have no idea what was agreed to in the meeting.
“What his motivations are, I think is a legitimate question, one that I trust the special counsel is investigating,” Rice said. “But the policies that this President has pursued globally have served Vladimir Putin’s interest in dividing the west, undermining democracy, increasing fissures within NATO and has done very little to advance U.S. interest.”