Politics

Trump Alleges Comey Leaked Classified Info, Prods GOP on Health Care Bill

President tweets former FBI director’s actions were ‘so illegal!’

President Donald Trump talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, in March at the White House, along with son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump. (Courtesy Shealah Craighead/White House)

President Donald Trump alleged that former FBI Director James Comey broke the law by leaking classified information and prodded Republican lawmakers to send him a final health care overhaul bill before they leave for an August break.

Trump bookended his Sunday with a series of remarkable tweets, with an apparent round of golf sandwiched in between, in which he first touted a joint U.S.-Russia cybersecurity working group, and then said it could never happen.

After appearing Sunday night to bend to experts who said it would be unwise and impractical to work with Russia after its hacking disrupted the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump was back at it on Monday morning.

Just after 6:30 a.m. EDT, Trump retweeted a Fox News tweet featuring its summary of a report by The Hill newspaper published Sunday night that alleged Comey included classified information in more than half the memos he prepared following conversations with Trump.

Comey had a friend leak one of the memos to The New York Times shortly after Trump fired him in May. The Hill’s story, which cites interviews with multiple officials familiar with Comey’s memos, however, does not allege that the leaked document contained classified information.

[Trump Calls Out Putin Over Election Meddling, Putin Denies It]

Still, it does suggest the former FBI chief broke his agency’s own rules by not seeking permission before releasing information about ongoing investigations, as well as by telling lawmakers he considered his memos personal property.

Trump, who says he tweets to his supporters as a way to communicate to them without what he views as a biased mainstream media filter, broke out the all-caps Monday morning when he followed the retweet with his definitive statement that Comey “leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media.”

“That is so illegal!” tweeted the president, whose Monday schedule includes no public events, a rarity for any chief executive.

As senators return to the Capitol this week, all attention will be on whether the Senate GOP conference can find a way to the 50 votes needed to pass a health care overhaul. If Republicans can find enough common ground, a House-Senate conference committee could begin ironing out differences in their bills. Both chambers would then have to pass that compromise version before Trump could sign it into law, something that would accomplish what was one of his biggest campaign promise.

He wants them to do just that.

The president tweeted that he “cannot imagine” that lawmakers would leave in a few weeks for their month-long summer recess “without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!”

Just how involved the president will be in working with his party’s Senate leaders to find the necessary votes remains unclear. He is off to France later this week to participate in Bastille Day festivities, which this year celebrate the 100th anniversary of American military forces joining the fight in World War I.

[Senate Returns No Closer to Health Care Deal]

White House officials contend Trump has been heavily involved in the Senate GOP conference’s health care bill-writing and arm-twisting. But he has not been as involved as either time the House took a swing at the complicated measure. There were signs that could be changing, with Trump hosting nearly 50 of the 52 Republican senators for a White House mini-summit about the legislation before they departed for the Fourth of July recess.

Republicans appear no closer to a deal than before they left for the Independence Day break.

It’s “almost impossible to try to solve when you’re trying to do it with 51 votes in the United States Senate, in which there is not significant consensus on what the final result ought to be,” Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said Thursday during a town hall meeting.

The president also weighed in on a controversy left over from the G-20 summit, when daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump briefly took his seat among other world leaders. Trump contends he asked her to do so, with White House aides noting the discussion had turned to an issue on which she is working, African migration and health.

Experts and former diplomats say secretaries of state typically have replaced U.S. presidents when they have had to leave the main meeting room at past gatherings of world leaders. Trump contended Monday morning that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “agrees” that having his daughter fill in for him was “very standard.”

Trump followed that with a tweet bashing the media, writing that had Hillary Clinton become president and asked her daughter Chelsea Clinton to hold her seat at a global summit, the “Fake News” would proclaim “CHELSEA FOR PRES!”

Joe Williams contributed to this report.

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