WASHINGTON - Two key Republican U.S. senators on Sunday questioned President Donald Trump's competency in handling foreign affairs, especially White House turmoil over national security operations and his seeming reluctance to confront Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the losing 2008 Republican presidential contender, told NBC's Meet the Press that he is worried about Trump's "understanding of some" foreign affairs issues and "contradictory articulations. I think the rollout of the ... immigration reform was an example of a need for an orderly decision-making process in the White House. And that, I think, is probably what's plaguing them more than anything else right now."
He said Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul turned Republican politician, has left European allies confused about his rhetoric and commitment to the NATO military alliance, even as Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday told the Munich Security Conference the United States would "hold Russia accountable" and was steadfast in its support of NATO.
"They are puzzled and they are concerned," McCain said of European leaders. "They realize that the linchpin of the Western alliance is the United States of America. They worry particularly when they see increased testings of this union that's being conducted by (Russian President) Vladimir Putin as we speak."
McCain has called for a broad congressional investigation into the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community, rejected by Moscow, that Russia hacked into the computer of the campaign chief of Democrat Hillary Clinton, the one-time U.S. secretary of state Trump defeated in the November election. The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks subsequently released thousands of emails from the account, revealing sometimes embarrassing behind-the-scenes efforts by Democratic operatives to help Clinton secure the Democratic presidential nomination.
Trump has repeatedly said he wants to improve relations with Russia, only reluctantly acknowledging the Russian hacking.
Senator Graham on Russia
But Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, speaking at the Munich conference, said the new American leader should be working with lawmakers to punish Moscow.
"2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress," Graham declared.
He added, "My biggest concern with President Trump .., is that he's never really looked the camera in the eye" and then say, "'Even though it was the Democratic Party that suffered from Russian interference, I am now the leader of the free world and I can assure you they're going to pay a price on my watch for trying to interfere in our election.'"
Trump last week fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, a retired Army general, after 24 days on the job for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his discussions with the Russian ambassador to Washington before Trump took office a month ago. Trump then had his replacement choice turn down the strategic White House post, but was interviewing new candidates for the job on Sunday.
Trump has also promised to issue a new travel ban this week covering seven Muslim-majority countries where there has been terrorist activity to replace an earlier edict blocked by court rulings.