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McCaskill says Trump's blasts at intelligence experts threaten the nation

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., criticized President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday for his criticism of U.S. intelligence experts.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.,  contends that members of Congress in both parties – and the public – should be disturbed by President-elect Donald Trump’s recent comments criticizing the nation’s intelligence community.

Among other things, Trump has been firing off comments on Twitter that question the conclusions of intelligence experts that the Russian government was involved in hacking during the presidential campaign.

McCaskill sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which held a briefing Thursday with top intelligence officials.  McCaskill was among several committee members, mainly Democrats, who excoriated Trump during the hearing.

Later, in a conference call with reporters, McCaskill crystallized her concerns. “When an elected leader of this country trashes the intelligence community, it does nothing but help our enemies,” she said. “It helps Iran, it helps North Korea, it helps China. And it is a gift to (Russian leader) Vladimir Putin.”

McCaskill contended that Trump’s criticisms could lead to weaker intelligence-gathering and put the nation at risk. She called on Republicans in Congress to be more public with their own concerns about the president-elect’s attacks against intelligence officials.

McCaskill noted that most of the nation’s top intelligence officials are current or former members of the military – which she said may not be understood by the general public.

Warns of ACA repeal's impact on Medicare

McCaskill also is among the Democrats who co-signed a letter asking Senate GOP leaders to consider repairing the Affordable Care Act, rather than repealing it.

McCaskill was candid in observing that she didn’t expect the letter – written by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. – to do any good.

Among other things, she said that repealing the ACA will affect Medicare because of provisions that closed the so-called “doughnut hole,’’ where Medicare recipients previously got no help with their prescription drug costs. They receive benefits now.

Repealing ACA will end that help, McCaskill said.

She also criticized Republicans for focusing almost exclusively on repealing the ACA for years, without considering the consequences or coming up with an alternative.

“Even though they’ve had this homework assignment for seven years, they’re ignoring the fact that it’s due now,’’ she said. “And that is, ‘replace.’ “

Republicans will have to explain how they can guarantee that people can purchase health insurance on the private market, and not be barred because of pre-existing conditions, the senator said. She predicts they won't be able to do so.

“Once they repeal, they own it,’’ McCaskill said. “The chaos that will ensue in one-sixth of our economy will be on their doorstep.”

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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