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“I think ISIS can do terrible things, and I worry a lot about what is happening with the Muslim faith, and I worry about a whole lot of things about it,” McCain told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview today.
“But it is the Russians who are trying, who tried to destroy the very fundamental of democracy, and that is to change the outcome of an American election,” he said, referring to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“So I view Vladimir Putin ... I view the Russians as the far greatest challenge that we have,” said McCain, who serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
When asked about the reports that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner sought to set up back-channel communications with Russia about Syria and other policy matters, McCain said, “I don’t like it. I just don’t.”
“I know that some administration officials are saying, ‘Well, that’s standard procedure,’” he elaborated. “I don’t think it is standard procedure prior to the inauguration of a president of the United States by someone who is not in an appointed position.”
McCain’s comments come after Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly’s interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, in which Kelly said it would be “both normal ... and acceptable” to have back-channel communications.
McCain was one of the few senators to reach out to Australia after President Donald Trump’s January phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in which Trump got upset over an Obama-era deal between the countries for the U.S. to accept refugees from Australia.
In a statement on Feb. 2, McCain said he called Australia’s ambassador to the U.S., Joe Hockey, to “express my unwavering support for the U.S.-Australia alliance.”
McCain was warmly welcomed to the Parliament of Australia today in Canberra, and he laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial.