McCain Says Republicans ‘Doing Putin’s Job for Him’

The 2008 Republican nominee for president condemned his party and its president for the release of a controversial memo attacking the FBI.

STATEMENT BY SASC CHAIRMAN JOHN McCAIN ON PARTISAN ATTACKS ON THE FBI & DOJ

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement on partisan attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice:

“In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy. Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro, and beyond. Putin’s regime launched cyberattacks and spread disinformation with the goal of sowing chaos and weakening faith in our institutions. And while we have no evidence that these efforts affected the outcome of our election, I fear they succeeded in fueling political discord and dividing us from one another.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

Quite right.  Russia’s political warfare under the so-called Gerasimov Doctrine, among other things, calls for the “transformation of differences into contradictions” to sow chaos.  The document, at least in its English translation (which is the only one I have the ability to read) is rather cryptic and it’s possible to take liberties in interpreting it. Still, Molly McKew‘s analysis from last fall of how it’s being applied here is solid:

The Russian security state defines America as the primary adversary. The Russians know they can’t compete head-to-head with us—economically, militarily, technologically—so they create new battlefields. They are not aiming to become stronger than us, but to weaken us until we are equivalent.

Russia might not have hacked American voting machines, but by selectively amplifying targeted disinformation and misinformation on social media—sometimes using materials acquired by hacking—and forging de facto information alliances with certain groups in the United States, it arguably won a significant battle without most Americans realizing it ever took place. The U.S. electoral system is the heart of the world’s most powerful democracy, and now—thanks to Russian actions—we’re locked in a national argument over its legitimacy. We’re at war with ourselves, and the enemy never fired a physical shot. “The information space opens wide asymmetrical possibilities for reducing the fighting potential of the enemy,” Gerasimov writes. (He also writes of using “internal opposition to create a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state.”)

The hyper-polarized political and media climate in the United States is ripe for exploitation. There is a predisposition—particularly but not exclusively in Republican circles—to believe the system is rigged against one’s own interests, class, race, religion, etc. No president since George H.W. Bush has been considered legitimate by the base of the opposition party. There have been wild conspiracy theories about Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, in particular, but large swaths of Democrats believed that not only the 2000 but even the 2004 elections were stolen and the Bush and Cheney were Hitler if not worse.

In that environment, it’s not the least bit difficult to persuade both parties simultaneously that the FBI was working against their candidate in the 2016 election, a seeming impossibility. Democrats were understandably furious when then-Director Jim Comey coupled his announcement that there would be no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton in the email scandal with a scolding of her and her staff for being “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” and acknowledging “evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information.” Republicans saw the same moment as evidence of a cover-up by the FBI and the Obama administration for one of their own, citing the unfortunate meeting of Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch aboard his airplane as proof the fix was in.

Is it plausible that an Obama administration that downplayed Russian involvement in the 2016 election to avoid giving the appearance of using the intelligence and law enforcement agencies as a partisan tool was simultaneously conducting a nefarious witch hunt against the Trump campaign? Not to a rational observer. But, if you’re predisposed to believe that the other side is evil, it all makes sense.

As I noted yesterday, we’re simply not in the same place we were when the Watergate scandal was unfolding. While Republicans were naturally more skeptical that Richard Nixon did anything wrong and Democrats were naturally easier to persuade, both sides were generally looking at the same set of facts and held the same set of moral and ethical standards. Indeed, for all his flaws, Nixon himself ultimately yielded to the rule of law when the Supreme Court ruled against him on the tapes. I can’t imagine Trump doing that today.

FILED UNDER: James Joyner, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. James Pearce says:

    Indeed, for all his flaws, Nixon himself ultimately yielded to the rule of law when the Supreme Court ruled against him on the tapes. I can’t imagine Trump doing that today.

    Can you imagine Trump paying any price for refusing to “yield to the rule of law?” Republicans would cover for him and Dems would fundraise off it.




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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce:

    Can you imagine Trump paying any price for refusing to “yield to the rule of law?” Republicans would cover for him and Dems would fundraise off it.

    If that’s the best you can do, your BS Both Sides machine is in desperate need of an upgrade.




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  3. Jorient says:

    Why doesn’t someone tell that little sawed of SOB, John McCain, to just go away. He is the Maxipad Waters of the Republican Party. He has done enough damage to this country and is nothing more that a Ted Kennedy lookalike.




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  4. teve tory says:

    He is the Maxipad Waters of the Republican Party

    so hard to see why the Democrats have a 16-point advantage among women.

    keep it up, republicans!




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  5. grumpy realist says:

    @Jorient: Yes, that really is going to convince women to vote for your side….




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  6. Jorient says:

    Sorry, that was a Freudian slip.




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  7. Jorient says:

    Sorry, being PC is not my forte. Did not know you were a girl.




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  8. Mister Bluster says:

    Why doesn’t someone tell that little sawed of (sic) SOB, John McCain, to just go away.

    Here is his contact information.
    Now nothing is stopping you from sending your greetings.




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  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Jorient:

    I still remember when people on the Right admired military heroes and believed in law enforcement. Now you’re just automata, North Koreans marching in lockstep and praising Traitor Don. Brain-dead cult members. You have nothing to add here, we already know everything you have to say about anything. It’s like that with Branch Davidians, Scientologists, Trumpaloons. . .




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  10. Jorient says:

    @michael reynolds: Michael, John McCain was a prisoner of war, not a war hero. He became a hero to the left when it became obvious that he was not a real republican. I have more combat missions that John McCain every dreamed of with numerous medals, and I am not a hero, I simply did my job. So did John McCain. I know you people on the left like him because he carries your water for you. But, don’t do the liberal thing by trying to discredit me. What scares me are people like you who follow the left and voted for the Clinton’s. What is wrong with you?




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  11. michael reynolds says:

    @Jorient:
    Is that you J-E-N-O-S? Dumb enough to be, and with the same tediously limited bag of tricks.




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  12. James Pearce says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    If that’s the best you can do, your BS Both Sides machine is in desperate need of an upgrade.

    It’s not the best I can do.

    But the fact remains, we’re not talking about Kristen Gillibrand or Cory Booker’s hot fire condemnation of Trump’s attacks on the FBI. Nope, it’s John McCain.

    Again.




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  13. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Nah…not even J E N O S would lie about his military record.




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  14. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I still remember when people on the Right admired military heroes and believed in law enforcement.

    I still remember when the left condemned the FBI and the DOJ, but now they’re BFFs?




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  15. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    You are the king of false equivalency.




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  16. al-Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    Can you imagine Trump paying any price for refusing to “yield to the rule of law?” Republicans would cover for him and Dems would fundraise off it.

    Yes, I can imagine it, it would be great day.

    Republicans control the entire federal government so the odds are long that any Republicans will peel off and support any price what-so-ever for Trump to pay. This will hold as long as Republicans are running the table and implementing their far right agenda.

    Democrats fundraising off of Trump’s refusal to ‘yield to the rule of law’?
    God, I would hope so. What’s the alternative? They agree with Republicans that this was a partisan witch hunt, and they retreat, content to be a majority popular-vote but permanently out of power party in Washington?




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  17. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You are the king of false equivalency.

    No, I’m the king of the call out.

    Decades of skepticism about the FBI and the DOJ has now become “Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope.”

    Donald Trump is a political problem to be solved in the next election. Accept it. Internalize it. Tattoo it on your forehead if you must. But don’t think the FBI is going to be the deus ex machina that saves our country.




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  18. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce: So, I’ll just ask outright: Are you a paid troll or do you do it for free?




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  19. James Pearce says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Democrats fundraising off of Trump’s refusal to ‘yield to the rule of law’? God, I would hope so. What’s the alternative?

    I picked up a Steven Saylor novel last night, opened the page and saw a quote from Pompey Magnus.

    “Stop quoting laws to us. We carry swords.”

    The Democrats are quoting laws. The Republicans are carrying swords.




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  20. wr says:

    @James Pearce: Maybe it was Pompey who killed Natalie Wood. You should demand that the LASD use all their resources checking that out.




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  21. James Pearce says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Are you a paid troll or do you do it for free?

    I’m a dissenter, and we don’t get paid that much. Wanna back my Patreon?

    Didn’t think so.

    @wr: Maybe you’re the troll.




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  22. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    On the other hand, the people he is warning are the leaders of the group that booed when in his concession speech, Sen. McCain called Obama “a good man who loves his country.” I seriously doubt that anyone to whom his current message is directed gives a flying flock about what he thinks about the Nunes memo.




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  23. al-Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    The Democrats are quoting laws. The Republicans are carrying swords.

    Remember Michele Obama’s ‘they go low, we go high’ exhortation? While it seems noble, and all that ‘milk and cookies’ and ‘walks on the beach at sunset’ stuff sounds good and makes you feel good for the moment, they’re getting ready to take up their AK’s and shred you.

    I’m a Bobby Kennedy liberal and my advice is:

    “They go low, we napalm them and bury the traces of the ashes of their carcasses in the Meadowlands until a final resting place can be found.”




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  24. james ronald hunt says:

    @James Pearce: one word describes you IDIOT




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  25. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “@wr: Maybe you’re the troll.”

    Just… sad.




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  26. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.

    Wear that shoe, bud.

    It fits.

    @james ronald hunt:

    one word describes you IDIOT

    Thanks but there are at least two others: Fat and ugly.




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