Russian efforts to disrupt the 2016 elections are grounds for canceling Monday’s summit between President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Friday.
On Friday, the Justice Department announced that 12 Russians were indicted for their roles in hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and leaking emails that were accessed. The indictment said the Russians were acting “in their official capacities,” CNN reported.
McCain, a Republican staunchly opposed to Trump’s foreign policy, said the indictments prove Russia’s antagonism to the United States.
“These revelations add to a body of evidence confirming an extensive plot by Vladimir Putin’s government to attack the 2016 election, sow chaos and dissension among the American electorate, and undermine faith in our democracy,” McCain said in a statement, according to Fox News.
McCain said the Trump administration has done too little in response to Russia’s cyber attack.
“Despite repeated warnings from our nation’s top intelligence and military leaders, the Kremlin’s efforts to weaken our institutions have continued unabated with insufficient action taken by the administration or Congress to strengthen our cyber defenses, safeguard our election systems, and deter further destabilizing activities,” he said.
McCain also said that in such a climate, Trump should either play hardball with Putin or not bother talking to the Russian leader.
“President Trump must be willing to confront Putin from a position of strength and demonstrate that there will be a serious price to pay for his ongoing aggression towards the United States and democracies around the world. If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward,” McCain said in a statement, The Hill reported.
“Putin is not America’s friend. … Putin is America’s enemy,” McCain said.
Despite McCain’s comments and the release of the indictment, the White House said Trump will not change his plans.
“It’s on,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, according to the BBC.
A Russian official said the summit is essential.
“We consider Trump a negotiating partner,” said Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov. “The state of bilateral relations is very bad. We have to start to set them right.”
On Friday, Trump indicated there were many topics to be covered during Monday’s meeting in Helsinki, Finland.
“We will talk about a number of things: Ukraine, Syria, the Middle East, nuclear proliferation,” Trump said, according to NBC. “We are massively modernizing and fixing and buying and it’s just a devastating technology. It is a very bad policy.
We have no choice. We are massively big and they are very big and I’ll be talking about nuclear proliferation. I will absolutely bring up meddling. Hopefully, we will have a very good relationship with Russia, China and other countries.”
Jon Huntsman, America’s ambassador to Russia, said that the conversation will include areas of contention.
“You need to go in with eyes wide open,” Huntsman said. “And you need to make sure that we’re willing, on our side, to hold Russia responsible for the many activities that they are responsible for, whether that is election meddling; malign activities throughout Europe, including the Balkans, UK and Brexit, France, and Italy, just to mention a few; and to hold them responsible for this new form of warfare — hybrid warfare that we have seen most recently.”