GOP congressman says US should 'start thinking about hitting back' at Russia

Ahead of Biden-Putin summit, Rep. Michael McCaul appeared on ABC's "This Week."

June 13, 2021, 12:49 PM

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Sunday called on the United States to "start thinking about hitting back" at Russia as President Joe Biden prepares for a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"You want to go into these talks in a position of strength, not of weakness," McCaul told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz. "I think (Biden) is going in a little bit out of weakness because he's made all these concessions."

When Biden and Putin meet Wednesday in Geneva, the list of controversies the two leaders are likely to address include everything from the poisoning and imprisonment of Putin opposition leader Alexey Navalny, and a string of cyber attacks on the U.S. emanating from Russian soil to Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline being built from Russia to the coast of Germany.

The meeting comes two days after Biden attends the NATO summit in Brussels and days after he met with the Group of Seven leaders in the U.K.

McCaul said it was a "smart" decision for Biden to attend the two summits prior to meeting with Putin.

"I think it's important we work with our NATO allies, we work with the G-7," he said. "I think in the past and (with former president Donald) Trump, the frustration was there was a lot of talk and no action, so that's why we espoused 'America First,' we wanted to espouse our ideals over our European partners. Now I think it's better when we work together."

McCaul though criticized what he described as a lack of "repercussions" from Biden against Putin on cyberattacks, saying, "I think we need to demonstrate -- and the president needs to demonstrate to Putin -- there will be consequences to your actions if you continue to do this."

"I think sanctions are great, but I think it's time to start thinking about hitting back," he said. "They need to know that when they do this, there are consequences to their actions and we're going to hit them back. Until we do that, they're going to continue with bad behavior."

Some Republicans have argued that Biden should not meet with Putin during his presidential debut on the world stage because of the controversies surrounding Russia.

When pressed by Raddatz on whether he agrees with Republican critics of the meeting, McCaul called the one-on-one with Putin the "most powerful and most dangerous meeting" of Biden's overseas trip.

"I think the price for admission to the ticket for this seat was way too high," McCaul said of the meeting, citing as an example the moving forward on construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which some critics have warned will increase Russia's leverage over Europe and which McCaul called a "bad move."

Biden said Sunday that the U.S. is not seeking conflict with Russia.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an earlier interview on "This Week," said that Biden is meeting with Putin to talk "directly" and "clearly" about Russia's recent aggressive actions.

McCaul reacts to Trump DOJ controversy

McCaul also spoke to Raddatz about a controversy in the U.S. that spilled into public view last week with reports that prosecutors with Trump's Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data from at least two Democrats who served on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as aides and their family members, one of whom was a minor.

McCaul, who previously served as a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice, said he agreed with the Attorney General's office's decision to turn the matter over to the Department of Justice Inspector General for investigation.

"Any time you open a case against or a subpoena against a member of Congress or a journalist, there's a very high predication to that," he said. "In the journalists' case, you're looking at First Amendment protections. With a member of Congress, obviously, you better have your facts together before you do something like this."

"I don't have all the facts here, but what I will tell you is, the inspector general is ... now investigating this, and I think that's where it properly belongs," McCaul added. "That's where the investigation should take place and let's see how that investigation turns out."

When asked by Raddatz whether he would encourage Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions, former attorney generals who served under Trump, to testify under oath, McCaul said the public needs to know "why this decision was made."

"I think we should have the benefit of the doubt of the decision-making that took place," he said. "Whether it has to be under oath or, you know, in what context that is, I think we need to know why this decision was made and I think the IG, that's within the proper purview of the IG."

ABC News' Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

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