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Paul Ryan Comments on Classified Info Back in Spotlight

Spokesman says speaker wants facts about Trump disclosure

Speaker Paul D. Ryan once suggested Hillary Clinton be barred from classified briefings but stopped short on calling for the same for President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Speaker Paul D. Ryan once suggested Hillary Clinton be barred from classified briefings but stopped short on calling for the same for President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Donald Trump’s sharing classified information with senior Russian officials has critics pointing to Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s suggestion during the campaign that Hillary Clinton be barred from getting such briefings.

Ryan, who is third in line for the presidency, had asked then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to revoke the Democratic presidential nominee’s access to classified material after the FBI found she had mishandled such information while she served as secretary of State but stopped short of recommending prosecution.

Clapper denied the request.

When asked if Ryan chose to weigh in on the possibility of Trump mishandling classified information, his aides were more subdued.

“We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount,” said Doug Andres, a Ryan spokesman. “The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”

Aides noted that at the end of a blistering op-ed Ryan wrote on the matter in July, he suggested that the briefings with Clinton could restart if she won the election.

“It’s no small matter to hand over classified information to a person as reckless with our national security as Clinton, absent the voting public’s explicit permission in November,” Ryan wrote. “If she is elected, those briefings can resume, allowing her more than two months to be fully briefed before she is sworn in as president.”

Other Republican House members were more forceful in their desire to seek the information Trump shared with Russian officials.

“Once again we are faced with inexplicable stories coming from the White House that are highly troubling,” GOP Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock said in a statement. “We need to have immediate classified briefings on what occurred at this meeting so that Congress can at least know as much as Russian leaders.”

Wisconsin GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Marine Corps veteran who once worked on counter-terrorism matters on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on the White House to provide a full transcript of Trump’s meeting with Russian officials the day after he fired FBI Director James B. Comey for his handling of an investigation between Trump’s campaign associates and the Kremlin.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer blasted Trump’s actions and said he had yet to hear Ryan’s observation on whether Trump should continue to receive classified information.

“Silence and inaction by our Republican friends and colleagues is unacceptable and inconsistent with their oath of office,” Hoyer said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said late Monday described Trump as having a “messy approach to intelligence that is very endangering.”

“We cannot have the president of the United States being casually loose lipped about confirming something — even if it’s in the public domain — to an adversarial nation,” the California Democrat said at a CNN town hall.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter

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