Interactive: This week in political news
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - President Donald Trump departed Washington Friday embarking on a four-country, five-stop tour overseas, leaving behind a sea of turmoil surrounding his administration.
Several explosive reports were released this week alleging the president shared confidential information about an ISIS threat related to the use of laptops on aircraft with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The information given to the president was reportedly provided by Israel and the foreign ally is now concerned their asset is in danger.
The disclosure has called into question U.S. credibility with partners ahead of the president’s first international trip. The president will travel to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican. He will also attend NATO meetings and summit while in Italy.
News out of Washington continued to develop at a rapid pace through the week. We’ve put together a summary of this week’s biggest moments in political news.
On Monday, Trump met with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi. The White House said the two leaders discussed counter-terrorism efforts and economic cooperation.
“The two leaders discussed bilateral defense cooperation, counterterrorism, resolving the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, and the threat to regional stability posed by Iran. They also explored ways to increase economic cooperation,” the White House said in a statement.
The Trump administration announced it was looking at Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to act as the ambassador to the Vatican. As president of Gingrich Productions, she produced documentaries on Pope John Paul II. President Trump will meet with Pope Francis Wednesday while he visits Vatican City. When asked about the president's upcoming trip, the Pope said he will not use his time with the president to preach but rather find a common ground for peace.
"I never make a judgment about a person without hearing him out," the pope said.
The president had a complicated relationship with the pope during the 2016 presidential campaign. The pontiff criticized Trump for his desire to build a border wall with Mexico.
“In the social and civil context, as an appeal not to build walls but bridges, not to exchange evil for evil, but to conquer evil with good, offense with forgiveness — a Christian must never say: ‘you will pay for this!.’ Never; this is not a Christian gesture; offense is defeated by forgiveness — to live in peace with everyone," Pope Francis said.
Trump responded to the comments during an interview on Fox Business.
“I think that the pope is a very political person. I think that he doesn’t understand the problems our country has. I don’t think he understands the danger of the open border that we have with Mexico,” Trump said.
On Monday evening, The Washington Post released a report alleging President Trump disclosed highly classified information about an ISIS terror threat pertaining to laptops on airplanes to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. That information was provided by Israel and the foreign ally is now concerned their asset is in danger.
Congress reacted strongly to the report taking to Twitter.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) characterized the sharing of this information as "deeply disturbing."
"Reports that this information was provided by a U.S. ally and shared without its knowledge sends a troubling signal to America's allies and partners around the world and may impair their willingness to share intelligence with us in the future," said McCain.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), an outspoken critic of President Trump, said if The Washington Post report was true, the president's actions were "dangerous."
The president’s National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster held a news conference at the White House and called the accusations against the president false.
Early Tuesday morning the president released a series of Tweets contradicting McMasters claim from the night before. Instead, Trump claimed he did the right thing by sharing the information.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said transcripts from the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov should be released to the Intelligence Committee. Although Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said he had not officially heard from the White House on the matter.
"I'd like to think somebody from the White House who was in the room is going to get on the phone and tell me what they said," Burr stated.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged, "it would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House."
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch defended the president’s actions claiming the responsibility of running the White House invites criticism.
"This man has been subject to more criticism than any predecessor that I know of. They hate him, they didn't like the fact that he won, he beat their favorite, it was a remarkable election," Hatch said.
Trump also met with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The administration plans to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters to recapture the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State group. However, Turkish officials consider the Kurdish group, known as YPG, as a terrorist group because of its ties to the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party.
McMaster held a news conference and appeared to change his tone from his press conference on Monday evening. The advisor called the disclosure to Russian officials "wholly appropriate” and the president had been engaging in the "routine sharing of information" with foreign leaders.
The national security adviser drew attention again when he sidestepped a question about whether Jerusalem’s Western Wall was part of Israel.
"That sounds like a policy decision," McMaster said.
Israel considers the entire city of Jerusalem to be its eternal capital. Israel captured the Old City during the 1967 Mideast war.
Israeli media outlet reported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested to join the president on his trip to the Western Wall next week but was turned down by the White House.
Tuesday evening The New York Times released a report claiming President Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to put an end to the investigation into National Security Adviser, Gen. Michael T. Flynn. The report also stated Comey kept memos detailing his meetings with the president and shared them with close colleagues at the FBI.
The White House denied the report.
Once again Congress took to social media to issue statements Tuesday evenings report.
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Government Reform, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he was willing to issue a subpoena to get ahold of the memo’s FBI Director James Comey kept on his meeting with Trump.
Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said, "It appears like a textbook case of criminal obstruction of justice."
During opening remarks on the floor, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer made a statement calling for an independent investigation.
“Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation's highest law enforcement agencies are mounting in this land,” Schumer said. “The stated explanations for these explanations White House have been porous shifting and all too often contradictory. The country is being tested in unprecedented ways.”
On the House floor, Rep Al Green (R-Tex.) called for the President's impeachment.
While at a news conference with the Italian prime Minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin said called the accusations and media frenzy surrounding the president “political schizophrenia.“ He suggested at the conference Russia would be willing to share the records of last week’s talks between Trump and Lavrov with the U.S. congress if the White House approved.
Another Washington Post report emerged Wednesday claiming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested to other top Republicans that Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying Donald Trump. However, a representative for McCarthy said the remark was a bad joke.
Wednesday evening, the Department of Justice named Former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor into allegations the Presidents campaign and National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn had ties to Russia.
On Thursday, the President released several tweets expressing his annoyance at the appointment of the special prosecutor.
On Capitol Hill, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to lead a heightened federal Trump-Russia investigation, briefed the entire Senate behind closed doors at the Capitol.
Congressmen Chaffetz announced he would resign from congress. The departure comes just days after the House Oversight Committee Chairman was willing to issue a subpoena to obtain Comey's memos on his meeting with Trump. He later said he was skeptical about the memos and not sure if the documents even exist.
During a news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump was asked if he urged Comey to close or back down from the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Trump abruptly remarked “no.”
On Friday President Trump tweeted he was preparing for his trip abroad.
In the afternoon Trump and the first lady departed Joint Base Andrews en route to the first stop on their multi-nation tour, Saudi Arabia.
Later Friday, The New York Times issued a report claiming President Trump referred to former FBI Director James Comey as a "nut job" to Russian officials. The report also claims his firing would relieve “great pressure.”
Friday evening it was announced former FBI Director James Comey would testify in an open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee. No date was immediately set for the hearing.