Law­mak­ers alarmed by Trump The left and right voice con­cerns about his un­pre­dictabil­ity.

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY SEAN SUL­LI­VAN AND MIKE DEBONIS sean.sul­li­van@wash­post.com mike.debonis@wash­post.com Paul Kane, Ash­ley Parker and John Wag­ner con­trib­uted to this re­port.

A grow­ing ros­ter of Repub­li­cans and Democrats on Capi­tol Hill say they be­lieve Pres­i­dent Trump’s pug­na­cious rhetoric and un­pre­dictable be­hav­ior threaten to di­min­ish the United States’ stand­ing around the world, do real dam­age to frag­ile diplo­matic re­la­tion­ships and even weaken global sta­bil­ity.

Law­mak­ers are speak­ing in in­creas­ingly ur­gent tones about Trump’s un­usual for­eign pol­icy state­ments and his ten­dency to pick fights with do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional fig­ures. They say it has taken a toll on the way key al­lies, foes and other for­eign ob­servers view the United States. Even mem­bers of Trump’s own party are hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties vouch­ing for him.

“A coun­try’s more than one per­son,” said Sen. Marco Ru­bio (R-Fla.), when asked whether he is con­cerned that the pres­i­dent’s words have harmed the U.S. im­age. The se­na­tor, who dined Wed­nes­day with Trump but has also crit­i­cized the pres­i­dent’s pos­ture to­ward Rus­sia, added: “There’s more than one voice in Amer­ica.”

In a strik­ing speech to in­ter­na­tional de­fense of­fi­cials gath­ered Fri­day in Ger­many, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sug­gested that the sur­vival of the Western world is at risk from some of the ideas Trump has em­braced.

“The next panel asks us to con­sider whether the West will sur­vive. In re­cent years, this ques­tion would in­vite ac­cu­sa­tions of hy­per­bole and alarmism. Not this year,” McCain said, ac­cord­ing to pre­pared re­marks de­liv­ered Fri­day at the Mu­nich Se­cu­rity Con­fer­ence. “If ever there were a time to treat this ques­tion with a deadly se­ri­ous­ness, it is now.”

McCain did not men­tion Trump, who did not at­tend the con­fer­ence, by name. But it was clear that he was lament­ing the poli­cies and prac­tices of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion — and their threat to global sta­bil­ity. He imag­ined how dis­turbed the se­cu­rity con­fer­ence’s founders would be. The forum was formed 50 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, to bring world pow­ers to­gether to dis­cuss and fur­ther global sta­bil­ity.

“They would be alarmed by the hard­en­ing re­sent­ment we see to­ward im­mi­grants, and refugees, and mi­nor­ity groups, es­pe­cially Mus­lims,” McCain said. “They would be alarmed by the grow­ing in­abil­ity, and even un­will­ing­ness, to sep­a­rate truth from lies. They would be alarmed that more and more of our fel­low cit­i­zens seem to be flirt­ing with au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism and ro­man­ti­ciz­ing it as our moral equiv­a­lent.”

In an in­ter­view for Sun­day’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd, McCain was asked about Trump’s Fri­day tweet that the press is the “enemy of the Amer­i­can Peo­ple.”

McCain warned that a free press is “vi­tal” to “pre­serve democ­racy as we know it.”

“And with­out it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our in­di­vid­ual lib­er­ties over time. That’s how dic­ta­tors get started,” McCain said, clar­i­fy­ing that he was not call­ing Trump a dic­ta­tor but warn­ing that dic­ta­tors start by “sup­press­ing free press” and “we need to learn the lessons of his­tory.”

Top Repub­li­can con­gres­sional lead­ers have sought to cur­tail in­tra­party anx­i­ety by not­ing that while much of what Trump says is un­usual and trou­ble­some, in prac­tice, he is ac­tu­ally shap­ing up as a tra­di­tional GOP pres­i­dent. Trump’s sup­port­ers say he is still iron­ing out wrin­kles as he adapts to be­ing pres­i­dent. But oth­ers are los­ing pa­tience with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion amid qualms about its ap­proach to na­tional se­cu­rity, the U.S.-Rus­sian re­la­tion­ship and the risk to long-stand­ing al­liances the United States has cul­ti­vated with other na­tions.

Trump has come un­der heavy crit­i­cism for spear­head­ing a tem­po­rary im­mi­gra­tion ban on refugees and for­eign na­tion­als from seven ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim na­tions, which has been tem­po­rar­ily halted by a fed­eral court. He has also drawn fierce blow­back for dis­parag­ing crit­i­cal sto­ries about him as “fake news” and re­spond­ing to a Fox News in­ter­viewer telling him Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin is a “killer” by say­ing, “Do you think our coun­try is so in­no­cent?”

McCain, who said there is con­cern that “Amer­ica is lay­ing down the man­tle of global lead­er­ship,” men­tioned sev­eral Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence — Vice Pres­i­dent Pence, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly and De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mattis — as ex­am­ples of of­fi­cials com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing the coun­try’s global role.

Democrats are less sub­tle. Among their top con­cerns: Trump’s charge that NATO is “ob­so­lete,” which they say has struck a nerve among U.S. part­ners in the West.

“I think our al­lies are le­git­i­mately ter­ri­fied that our pres­i­dent is not de­voted to NATO, that he is sup­port­ive of Euro­pean dis­in­te­gra­tion, that the ap­proach that he wants to take with Rus­sia will come at their ex­pense,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Demo­crat on the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence.

Law­mak­ers in both par­ties were still re­act­ing Fri­day and Satur­day to Trump’s news con­fer­ence Thurs­day, when he lashed out against the news me­dia, the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity and his crit­ics — and de­fended ad­vis­ers against claims of im­proper con­tacts with Rus­sia.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) re­sponded to a ques­tion about the news con­fer­ence Fri­day by letting out a long sigh. A few min­utes later, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-Ky.) wasn’t ea­ger to talk about it.

“I don’t have any ob­ser­va­tion about that,” he said when asked whether it hurt or helped Trump’s abil­ity to lead.

“We thought he was er­ratic; we’re learn­ing just how er­ratic he re­ally is,” Rep. Joseph Crow­ley (D-N.Y.), the chair­man of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus, said in a C-SPAN in­ter­view with a Wash­ing­ton Post reporter recorded Fri­day. “If this past week’s press con­fer­ence is any in­di­ca­tion of how he’s go­ing to con­duct him­self, I ac­tu­ally think it’s not just about House Democrats, but my House Repub­li­can col­leagues: When do they show any sign of re­sis­tance to this ad­min­is­tra­tion?”

McCon­nell ex­plained at a news con­fer­ence Fri­day that while Trump’s Twit­ter at­tacks on var­i­ous peo­ple don’t ap­peal to him, “What I am a fan of is what he’s been ac­tu­ally do­ing.” In an in­ter­view with The Post the day be­fore, the GOP leader also pointed out that Trump has not re­laxed sanc­tions on Rus­sia — a good move, in his view — even though he has pub­licly weighed do­ing so.

But Sen. Christo­pher A. Coons (D-Del.), a mem­ber of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said Trump’s rhetoric has made a tan­gi­ble and trou­bling dif­fer­ence. He said it has cre­ated a deep fear that Putin will try ad­vanc­ing more deeply into East­ern Europe, based on con­ver­sa­tions he has had with lead­ers of Baltic states and other Euro­pean na­tions.

“They are alarmed by nearly all of what Pres­i­dent Trump has said, as a can­di­date, as the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, as a pres­i­dent-elect, and as pres­i­dent, that sug­gests a mis­guided em­brace of Vladimir Putin and a re­fusal to di­rectly con­front Rus­sia’s or­ga­nized cam­paign to un­der­mine democ­racy,” Coons said.

Oth­ers were more for­bear­ing. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who sits on the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said Trump is “still hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion over the cof­fee ta­ble with the Amer­i­can pub­lic” as he de­cides which poli­cies to im­ple­ment.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said he takes com­fort in a be­lief that Mattis and Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son hold more ortho­dox Repub­li­can views on Rus­sia and can in­flu­ence Trump on that front.

While Corker and other Repub­li­cans have lauded mem­bers of Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity team, there is un­cer­tainty about how it will look and op­er­ate mov­ing for­ward. Michael Flynn re­cently re­signed as Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser amid rev­e­la­tions that he mis­led ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials about his in­ter­ac­tions with Rus­sia. Trump is still try­ing to fill that post.

In his weekly ad­dress, Trump touted some ac­com­plish­ments and in­ter­ac­tions with for­eign lead­ers. “We are not here for the ben­e­fit of bu­reau­crats, con­sul­tants or pun­dits. We are here to work for you and only for you, the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Trump said.

At the other end of Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue, Sen. Jeff Flake (RAriz.) de­clined to say any­thing when asked about Trump’s im­pact. “I don’t want to com­ment on daily state­ments by the pres­i­dent,” he said.

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