In a statement issued Saturday, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona lashed out at U.S. President Donald Trump – again. The statement was in response to Trump’s insistence that Vladimir Putin was being truthful when he told him that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.
This is the full account of McCain’s words:
“President Trump today stated that he believed Vladimir Putin is being sincere when he denies Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and reiterated that he hopes to cooperate with Russia in Syria.
“There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community. There’s no ‘principled realism’ in cooperating with Russia to prop up the murderous Assad regime, which remains the greatest obstacle to a political solution that would bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria. Vladimir Putin does not have America’s interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.”
Trump: Putin “insulted” by allegations
In early October, U.S. intelligence agencies said the Russians did indeed interfere with the American election, with a degree of success not yet fully known. But after meeting with Putin on the sidelines at an economic summit in Danang, Vietnam Saturday, Trump said Putin denied interfering and added that he believes the former KGB agent.
Following his talk with Putin, Trump traveled on Air Force One to meet with Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi. While on board he spoke with reporters about his talk with Putin. “Every time he sees me, he said: ‘I didn’t do that.'” Trump told the reporters. “And I believe — I really believe — that when he tells me that, he means it.”
Trump also said that it is time to heal the rift with Russia in order to solve other issues and lashed out at the Democrats for falsely charging there was collusion. He told the press that the accusations being leveled at the Russians have made Putin feel “very insulted.”
He has since said he also believes U.S. intelligence agencies when they said Russia did meddle in the election. But in a weekend tweet he also called some intelligence leaders “political hacks.”
McCain and Trump at odds
In addition to McCain, others in the U.S. made statements criticizing Trump’s embracing of Putin’s denials. Michael McFaul, a prominent political science professor at Sanford University who was a U.S. ambassador to Russia in Barack Obama’s administration, said he was “disturbed that our president believes a KGB agent and continues to refuse to believe the CIA.”
McFaul added that he hopes “Trump’s national security team will be more forceful in convincing the president of the basic facts of Russia’s violation of our sovereignty last year.”
McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been at odds with President Trump over issues in the past and has publicly criticized Trump before. For his part, Trump has denigrated McCain on multiple occasions.