John McCain criticizes President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, questions his statements on the usage of torture, wonders how parts of his administration are able to function, derides his attacks on the press and pledges to investigate any possible ties the commander-in-chief may have to Russia and Vladmir Putin in a wide-ranging interview.
In an interview with New York, Senator McCain reveals that after President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton back in November he was fully prepared to back his fellow party member despite the pair’s contentious relationship in the past, but quickly found himself at odds with the billionaire businessman.
The 80-year-old war hero saves his harshest words however for Russia and leader Vladmir Putin, and says that their decision to hack the recent election was a greater threat to the United States than any recent terror attack.
‘The severity of this issue, the gravity of it, is so consequential because if you succeed in corrupting an election, then you’ve destroyed the foundation of democracy,’ says McCain of the hacking.
‘So I view it with the utmost seriousness. I view it more seriously than a physical attack. I view it more seriously than Orlando, or San Bernardino.’
He then added: ‘As tragic as that was, the far-reaching consequences of an election hack are certainly far in excess of a single terrorist attack.’
Senator McCain later explains that this is why the United States must confront Russia, and why the Senate must put together a bipartisan select committee to probe President Trump’s possible involvement with any members of the foreign government or their leader.
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Anti-Trump tour: Senator John McCain (above on Friday) is criticizing President Donald Trump in a new interview, calling out his immigrant ban, views on torture, and recent speech at the CIA
Investigation: He also reveals his plans to do all in his power to have a probe launched into any possible ties between President Trump (above on the phone with Putin last month) and the Russian government
Senator McCain also uses the interview to talk about the infamous dossier he received last November, which was published in full this past January and included a number of unsubstantiated claims about President Trump and the Kremlin.
The most salacious of those claims was that Putin had obtained footage taken from the Ritz in Moscow that showed the billionaire businessman in a hotel room with a prostitute who he ordered to pee on the bed in the hotel room because the Obamas had slept there on a previous visit.
Both Putin and President Trump denied this claim, and the existence of any damaging information that might be used by the Kremlin to blackmail the newly elected leader of the free world.
McCain admits that he found the story to potentially be plausible at the time.
‘I didn’t know what to make of it, but everyone knows the Russians do use women and sex when people go to Russia. It’s an old KGB honeypot,’ he explained.
That is why he passed it directly to James Comey, the head of the FBI, when he returned to Washington DC, telling him: ‘It’s very important. You’re the person I want to give this to.’
McCain believes that Comey already had some knowledge of the dossier before the hand off, which also alleged that member of Trump’s team has worked with the Kremlin during the election.
President Trump and his staff dismissed those claims, along with everything else in the dossier, when pressed in January about ties between Russian and the campaign.
Dedicated: McCain also wants to have more information about Michael Flynn
Then, earlier this month, it was revealed that President Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had in fact spoke with the Russian ambassador about how some sanctions might be handled when the new administration moved into the White House.
This has now lead to even more questions, and concern, from Senator McCain, who says that he ‘liked’ Flynn.
‘When did Flynn know about anything to do with Russian interference? Why was there a gap of X number of days between the president being told and no action taken? What is the extent of the relationship between Flynn and the Russians?’ asks Senator McCain.
He is even more flabbergasted by the fact that the Senate does not want to launch a probe into this matter, which he views as ‘dysfunction’ at the very least, and something much more treasonous depending on the full story.
When asked why no one else is coming forward and calling for a thorough investigation into the matter, McCain says: ‘I frankly don’t know. It’s not a chapter of Profiles in Courage.’
Senator McCain states earlier in the article that the voices coming out against President Trump in the Republican party may start to grow in number however, especially if his approval rating continues to decline from its already historic low.
And that is something Senator McCain very much expects to happen in the coming months.
‘One thing politicians look at are ratings, and his ratings are going to continue to decline,’ says Senator McCain.
‘That means members of Congress will be more likely to resist things they do not agree with rather than roll over.’
Criticisms: Senator McCain says of the Russian president: ‘Putin won’t stop until the cost of going forward is too high’
That did not stop McCain from reportedly lashing out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he learned that a special committee would not be put together to investigate the situation in Russia.
After Senator McCain was told by Senator McConnell that his request to form a committee had been denied, McCain is said to have told friend ‘f***ing Mitch ain’t gonna do it.’
Senator McCain denies that claim, but did not dispute having recently commented to one advisor: ‘I keep looking behind me, and there’s no one there.’
Two days after Flynn resigned Senator McCain again tried to lobby the Senate Majority Leader to get a committee put in place, and once again was shut down.
That committee, depending on its findings, could lead to the appointment of a special prosecutor by the judicial department and possible even articles of impeachment depending on what it discovers about President Trump.
‘We’re clearly not there yet,’ says McCain.
Another major concern with McCain in the wake of Flynn’s ousting from office is the safety and security of the country.
The national-security aspect isn’t functioning. Nobody knows who’s making the decisions,’ says McCain.
‘The Iranians are testing. The Russians are testing. They’re testing this administration. Who is making the decisions when we don’t have a national-security adviser?’
Russia is Senator McCain’s key concern for a number of reasons, the biggest of which being Putin.
Senator McCain makes it clear that is his mind Putin will go to great lengths to achieve his goals of having Russia displace the United States as the world’s superpower.
‘Putin won’t stop until the cost of going forward is too high,’ says Senator McCain of the man that president trump has publicly praised on multiple occasions.
More information: Senator McCain calls on the press to try and discover details of the events leading to Michael Flynn’s (above on Feb. 10) resignation from the Trump administration
Later in the interview, Senator McCain reveals that his disdain for Putin is also personal.
Senator McCain at one point in the piece speaks about the photo he keeps on his desk of a friend who he believes paid the ultimate price for criticizing Putin and the Russian government.
‘This here is Boris Nemtsov,’ McCain tells the writer while showing him the photo of the liberal politician who became one of Putin’s most vocal critics.
Senator McCain goes on to recount the last time he saw Nemtsov two years ago, just before he left for Russia.
‘He sat on that seat there, and I said, “Boris, I don’t think you should go back because they’ll try and kill you.” And he said, ‘I have to go back. I love my country,’ says McCain.
Senator McCain also speaks about the loss if his friend Boris Nemtsov (above), a critic of Putin who was shot dead in Russia
He was gunned down as he crossed a bridge in Moscow soon after, or as McCain says: ‘He was murdered in the shadow of the Kremlin.’
There have long been reports and rumors of Putin and the Kremlin making their detractors disappear in order to silence them, something Putin also managed to do with the press by dismantling it soon after he took office.
That is something many believe President Trump may also try to do, having launched a number of attacks on outlets whose coverage and stories he does not approve of over the past month.
Senator McCain on the other hand believes the press is what will save this country and get people answers when politicians refuse to do their jobs.
And he hopes this will be the case with Flynn’s resignation given the resistance in the Senate for a probe.
‘There’s just too many people out there who have this information. How did this Flynn thing happen?’ says Senator McCain.
The House meanwhile will be investigating how the information about Flynn got leaked to news outlets, something Senator McCain seems to have mixed feelings about and says can hurt security but also do much good.
‘In democracies, information should be provided to the American people,’ explains McCain.
‘How else are the American people going to be informed?’
Hitting out: President Trump has frequently gone after Senator McCain, calling him ‘foul mouthed’ after he refused to endorse the businessman in the wake of his ‘p****’ tape
This is just the beginning of what could be a two-term presidency for Trump of course, and Senator McCain explains that based on how things have gone thus far he has no idea what to expect.
‘I don’t know what he’s going to do,’ says Senator McCain.
‘Look at his stance on torture. Or everything. He’s been on all sides. He said intelligence groups are like Nazis, but then he said they’re the greatest in the world. So I have to judge him on what he does.’
Senator McCain also calls out President Trump for his speech at the CIA the day after the inauguration, where he spoke at length about the crowd size at his ceremony the day prior and hi disdain for the media.
‘I mean, most observers, whether they’re supporters or opponents, believe he should have gone and praised the CIA,’ says Senator McCain.
‘Instead, he wandered off into areas that are just not appropriate.’
The New York cover story comes after a weekend that saw Senator McCain being highly critical of President Trump at a conference in Germany on Friday and then on Meet the Press on Sunday.
Senator McCain told a number of high-ranking foreign officials, diplomats and leaders gathered at the Munich Security Council: ‘In many respects, this administration is in disarray, and they’ve got a lot of work to do.’
Two days later on Meet the Press he criticized President Trump’s recent wave of attacks on the media and press, stating: ‘The first thing that dictators do is shut down the press.’
Senator McCain, like members of the media, is no stranger to being on the receiving end of one of President Trump’s frequently deployed spiteful remarks.
Those remarks at one point included President Trump going so far as to criticize Senator McCain’s military accomplishments.
‘He’s not a war hero,’ President Trump said one month into his primary campaign back in 2015.
‘He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.’
McCain spent five years as a prisoner of war after his plane went down in Vietnam, where he was kept in a cage that limited his movement and left him unable to fully raise his arms.
Senator McCain has often said that it was those years that made him love his country and want to run for office.
And now he finds himself at odds with the president and his party.
‘These are challenging times, and I have to go my own way,’ says McCain.
‘It’s not disloyalty to the party.’
Senator McCain, who said in October he would not vote for President Trump after the release of his ‘p****’ tape, has found an ally in Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
The two men joined forces to release a joint statement after President Trump’s immigrant ban last month, sating: ‘Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.’
President Trump responded by tweeeting: ‘The joint statement of former presidential candidates John McCain & Lindsey Graham is wrong – they are sadly weak on immigration. The two… Senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.’