Russian conspiracy allegations will continue to dog the White House until President Trump gets a handle on the administration’s opponents inside the U.S. intelligence community who are driving the story, warned Republican strategists in Washington.
President Trump has railed against the leaks apparently emanating from the National Security Agency, CIA or FBI. But so far, he has failed to take adequate steps to root out the faction within the intelligence apparatus that is undermining his presidency, whether they are holdovers from the Obama administration or elements intent on thwarting Mr. Trump to preserve their own power.
The targeted leaks to the news media about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials — including information from communications intercepted by intelligence agencies — resulted in the ouster of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as the president’s national security adviser and created a swirl of controversy last week around Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The intelligence leaks have kept the story alive, fueled attacks by Democrats and fractured the Republican majority on Capitol Hill, although no evidence has emerged of actual collusion with Russians to affect the election.
Deepening the crisis for the White House, many Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in calling for Mr. Sessions to recuse himself, although they refrained from joining the opposition party’s calls for the attorney general to resign.
“Republican members of Congress have got to stop being afraid of their own shadow and falling on their sword at the first inference of bad news,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “They need to grow a backbone and see the bigger picture here and hold the line. They need to understand what Democrats want here. They want Trump out — impeached or resigned, they don’t care which.”
Mr. Trump also should demand his critics produce evidence to back up allegations of a Russian conspiracy within the administration, said Mr. McKenna.