Nobody wants intelligence leaks to be made to the media, but the real issue is that "Russia attacked the United States," not who leaked the information leading to news reports about communications between President Donald Trump's campaign aides and Russian officials, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin said Friday.
"Let's not be distracted from the issue here," Cardin, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN's "New Day" program. "The issue here was Russia attacked the United States. They attacked our free democratic election system. It's likely that they'll be involved in Europe in the 2017 elections.
"It's very possible that they'll get involved again in an American election. They have an agenda. We need to understand that and protect ourselves and take action against Russia."
Trump early Friday slammed the FBI through his Twitter account, saying the agency is "totally unable to stop the national security 'leakers'" and insisting the agency act "now" to stop the flow of classified information to the media.
His attack came after FBI Director James Comey refused a White House request challenge news reports about the communications before Trump's inauguration. The calls had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies. Comey said the matter remains an FBI investigation.
Cardin said Friday he finds the White House's request to Comey "very troublesome."
"The president has not come forward," said Cardin. "He hasn't released his tax returns. He hasn't cooperated as far as his current assets are concerned. He still has control over it. It raises a lot of questions."
Further, there are still investigations going on, Cardin said, and "these investigations must find out exactly what Russia is doing in the United States. It was an attack on our democratic system and we know they'll try to do this again.
"We need to protect ourselves so we need a complete investigation, and we certainly don't want the White House at all involved in trying to influence that investigation."
Cardin also spoke against Trump's plans to institute a new travel ban, after his first executive order was stopped by the courts. According to CNN reports, the administration is attempting to enlist the intelligence committee to bolster its case for a ban, including information about threats coming from the seven Middle Eastern countries it covers.
"They're trying to justify a policy that can't be justified," said Cardin. "It's a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations. It targets Americans traveling abroad. It adds to self-radicalization. That's the facts."
Trump may try to use his own interpretation of the facts, "but the intelligence community their reputation is such they're going to make sure that they tell the facts here, so I'm confident that this policy cannot be supported in regards to the intelligence community," the senator continued.
Also on Friday, Cardin spoke out about the language Trump is using concerning Mexico, saying that the president has damaged relationships with the other country.
"Our relationship between Mexico and the United States has been damaged by President Trump by the language he uses, by the policies he has announced, including the wall and trying to say the Mexicans are going to pay for it," said Cardin.
The United States should be concerned about the damages, he continued, because the United States needs the cooperation of the Mexican government to stop the flow of illegal drugs from coming in.
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