Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is standing firm in his opposition to President Donald Trump’s seemingly cozy relationship with the Russian bear.
During a brief interview with CNN’s Manu Raju Thursday, McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, went after Trump for his defense over the weekend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly asked the president in an interview that aired Sunday if he respects Putin, whom O’Reilly described as “a killer.” In response, Trump seemed to draw a moral equivalence between Russia and the United States.
“We got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?” Trump replied.
O’Reilly didn’t say who, specifically, he thought Putin has killed, though the Russian leader — a former KGB agent and head of the FSB — is thought to be behind the assassinations of several people, including a number of reporters who have challenged the Kremlin over the years.
Raju asked McCain what he thought of that exchange.
“It’s really incredible,” the senator replied. “That the president of the United States would equate the greatest nation on earth — that has the greatest record of helping people all over the world — with that of Vladimir Putin, who is a butcher and a killer.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 9, 2017
This comes after McCain earlier this week signed onto a piece of legislation called the Russia Sanctions Review Act, which would require the Trump administration to submit to Congress a report explaining why it is seeking to lift sanctions on the Kremlin.
Upon receipt of the White House’s recommendation, should the bill pass, Congress would have up to 120 days to review the new sanctions, granting the legislative body the freedom to approve or disapprove them, CNN reported.
Senior Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway said last month that “all of that is under consideration” when asked on “Fox & Friends” if the White House is open to easing sanctions on Russia. And Trump, in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, suggested that sanctions could be lifted if Moscow aided in fighting terrorism.
“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” he told the newspaper.
However, according to Politico, Trump promised an opposition leader in Ukraine, which is being occupied by Russia, that he would not lift sanctions on the Kremlin until Putin pulls out of the country.
McCain said he supports the review bill because he is “concerned about lifting sanctions” on Russia because of Trump’s “equating the United States and Russia” during his sit-down with O’Reilly.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump was criticized by Republicans and Democrats for his approach to Russia. The U.S. intelligence community accused the Kremlin of being behind the hacks into the Democratic National Committee and the emails of John Podesta, the campaign chairman for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
In January, Trump reluctantly admitted that Russia played a role in the hacks, though he accused the DNC of not employing enough measures to block cyberattacks.