Russia ‘is succeeding’ at influence, election interference around world, McCain says

McCain also said Russia has "paid little or no penalty" for its "misbehavior."

April 2, 2017, 12:58 PM

— -- Sen. John McCain said Russia is “succeeding” at exerting influence and interfering with elections around the world, with “little or no penalty.”

“They're succeeding,” the Republican chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on “This Week” Sunday. “They’re succeeding in their dismemberment of Ukraine. They’re succeeding in exerting an enormous influence in the Middle East, which they never had before. They have succeeded in interfering with our election, and we know that they continue that in the French elections, and in other elections.”

“And, so far, they have paid little or no penalty for all of this misbehavior,” the Arizona senator said.

But McCain added that President Trump’s administration includes people who have no “illusions” about Russia.

"I think the national security team that the president has assembled is outstanding ... I hope that he listens to them because they don’t have any illusions about Vladimir Putin and Russian behavior,” McCain said.

On the U.S. investigations of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties between that country and Trump associates, McCain said: “We know for a fact the Russians tried to change the outcome of our election, attacking the very fundamental of democracy … We need to know how, we need to know why, and most of all we need to know what to do to prevent this kind of activity, which they continue to carry on in free nations around the world.”

Raddatz asked the McCain about an earlier interview on “This Week” of Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov, in which the top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed allegations of Russian election meddling as “slander” and “fake news.”

Noting that Peskov “made no secret that Vladimir Putin preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton” in the 2016 election, Raddatz asked McCain if it was possible that Russia may still be trying to help President Trump.

“I would be astounded,” McCain said in response. “But this is why we need a select committee” to investigate possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, instead of the separate investigations that are currently occurring in both the House and Senate, and by the FBI.

“Every time we turn around another shoe drops from this centipede, and we need to examine all of the aspects of it,” McCain said.

Raddatz asked McCain for his thoughts on House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes' going to the White House to receive information related to the Russia investigation, a move that White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended last week as routine and “100 percent proper.”

There is “obviously a schism between Republican and Democrats [on the House Intelligence Committee], let alone that bizarre fashion with which all of this happened,” McCain said. “If we're really going to get to the bottom of these things [on Russia], it's got to be done in a bipartisan fashion. And as far as I could tell, Congressman Nunes killed that.”

In contrast to the House panel’s probe, the senator said he was happy to see the Senate Intelligence Committee working together in a bipartisan fashion on its investigation.

"The fact is that these committees -- especially Intelligence Committees and Armed Services Committees -- we work closely together as Republicans and Democrats. We have to. It's for the good of the security of the nation and the men and women who serve us,” he said.

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