December 21st, 2014
03:48 PM ET

Sen. John McCain responds to President Obama on N. Korea, Russia & Cuba with CNN's Candy Crowley

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) joined CNN’s Candy Crowley to respond to her interview with President Obama, specifically on the topics of North Korea’s cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, Cuba, Guantanamo Bay, and Vladimir Putin.

 The interview aired Sunday, December 21st, on CNN at 9AM and 12PM EST

 Text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below

 MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley”

 TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

McCain on President Obama calling cyber-attack “cyber vandalism”: I think, again, the president is - does not understand that this is a new - this is a manifestation of a new form of warfare. When you destroy economies, when you are able to impose censorship on the world and especially the United States of America it's more than vandalism. It's a new form of warfare that we're involved in and we need to react and react vigorously, including reimposing sanctions that were lifted under the Bush administration, including other actions and that will squeeze them more economically and - but most of all, we have to really work together with the president and the Congress to come up with counters and abilities to respond, but more importantly to prevent.”

McCain on President Obama’s comments regarding Vladimir Putin: “I think that it's bizarre to think that any action on the part of the President of the United States has proved any deterrence to Vladimir Putin. We won't even give defensive weapons to the Ukrainians. We - President Obama - and we should be thanking the Saudis, who have allowed the value of a barrel of oil to go to the point where it's affecting dramatically Vladimir Putin's economy. It has nothing to do with any action taken by the President of the United States.”

 McCain on normalizing relations with Cuba: Well, because we would be rewarding the failure that they haven't done anything. If they had shown some progress, I think maybe that it would be what we are doing is endorsing their 50 years of oppression and repression in Cuba.”

 McCain on Guantanamo Bay: I always wanted to close Guantanamo, but I wanted to transfer those prisoners to maximum security prisons, prisons in the United States of America that the president has never had a plan for that. And he didn't mention to you that some 27 percent or 30 percent of these people we have released have reentered the fight. It's outrageous to release people that are going to reenter the fight and try to kill Americans and attack America. And that's the problem with his idea of doing, quote, "everything" he can.”

 

Full Transcript available after the jump.

 TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: Joining me now, Senator John McCain, who will, when he comes back to Washington in January and the new Congress is sworn in, become the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. So speaking in that soon-to-be role, Senator, I want to talk to you about a couple of things that the president said in his interviews.

But first, I just want to remind you and our audience what he said about the North Korean attack on Sony in cyberspace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionally as I said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: "Cyber vandalism" - what do you make of that?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZ.: I think, again, the president is - does not understand that this is a new - this is a manifestation of a new form of warfare. When you destroy economies, when you are able to impose censorship on the world and especially the United States of America it's more than vandalism. It's a new form of warfare that we're involved in and we need to react and react vigorously, including reimposing sanctions that were lifted under the Bush administration, including other actions and that will squeeze them more economically and - but most of all, we have to really work together with the president and the Congress to come up with counters and abilities to respond, but more importantly to prevent.

There have been cyber attacks from China that have betrayed some of our most important - hacking, which has betrayed some of our most important military secrets. We've identified a building in Beijing, that's run by the People's Liberation Army that are - we've lost billions of dollars in industrial capabilities and secrets that have been transferred to this.

This is a new form of warfare; we need to work and we need to harness the best minds in American, including some of those out in Silicon Valley, to help us devise ways of countering this.

CROWLEY:  Makes me wonder if the U.S. isn't really late to this table and why is that?

MCCAIN: You know, a part of it is because we haven't been able to work more closely together. Part of it is because where - it's very hard to determine where national security ends and personal privacy begins. This is a continuing debate that we have. I've got - Candy, I've been to more meetings on cyber than any other issue in my time in the Congress with less accomplished than any other. And it's time we sat down together and again, that's one reason why I think we - maybe we need some outside experts, the people who are really in the whole issue of the Internet and these capabilities that, frankly, maybe that expertise is not in the Congress or even in Washington, D.C.

CROWLEY: Right.

Is my bank account at risk for hacking from the Chinese or the North Koreans?

Is the water system - you know, it's - we know that infrastructure of the U.S., the electricity, are all those things as at risk as Sony was?

MCCAIN: I believe that they are at risk. Whether there's that capability or not is questionable. But over time, they're bound to have that capability. This is not vandalism. It is a new form of warfare. And we have to counter with that form of warfare with a better form of warfare.

CROWLEY: And I - secondly, I want to talk to you about Guantanamo Bay prison. You have said previously that you would help the president find a way to close it. I asked him whether he thought he could get Guantanamo Bay all the prisoners out and close it by the end of next year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There's going to be a certain irreducible number that are going to be really hard cases, because, you know, we know they've done something wrong and they are still dangerous, but it's difficult to mount the evidence in a traditional Article 3 court. You know, so we're going to have to wrestle with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: How can you help this president close Guantanamo Bay?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, the president continues to violate the law. He did in the Bergdahl case, which required notification of Congress. He just did on Cuba. That - he continues to act in the most imperial fashion. And this was the president who ran on an open and transparent presidency. It's very disappointing. He's taken a very different approach to dealing with Congress in light of the defeat in the last election.

His predecessors, Republican and Democrat, when suffering defeat in the second part - era of their presidency, have always reached out. The president has gone exactly the opposite direction.

I always wanted to close Guantanamo, but I wanted to transfer those prisoners to maximum security prisons, prisons in the United States of America that the president has never had a plan for that. And he didn't mention to you that some 27 percent or 30 percent of these people we have released have reentered the fight.

It's outrageous to release people that are going to reenter the fight and try to kill Americans and attack America. And that's the problem with his idea of doing, quote, "everything" he can.

If he really wants to do everything he can, identify a maximum security prison in America.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you finally, I said to the president that on Cuba, that he has been accused by his critics, including you and others, that this is just another - he's just getting rolled, that his naiveté, once again, has led him to try to open relationships with a dictator who doesn’t deserve it.

He answered me by talking about Putin, saying he heard the exact same thing about Putin. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There was a spate of stories about how he was the chess master and outmaneuvering the West and outmaneuvering Mr. Obama and this and that and the other. And right now, he's presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis and a huge economic contraction. That doesn't sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: What you think?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: I think that it's bizarre to think that any action on the part of the President of the United States has proved any deterrence to Vladimir Putin. We won't even give defensive weapons to the Ukrainians. We - President Obama - and we should be thanking the Saudis, who have allowed the value of a barrel of oil to go to the point where it's affecting dramatically Vladimir Putin's economy. It has nothing to do with any action taken by the President of the United States.

CROWLEY: You think the economic sanctions have done any of that?

MCCAIN: I - they have had almost no effect until the price of oil continued to sink. And in fact, those sanctions have had very little effect. And Vladimir Putin's popularity in his country is still incredibly high.

And there has been no relaxation or drawback from Vladimir Putin's part as a result of this.

CROWLEY: Senator, what do you - what is your big opposition to looking at relaxing relationships with Cuba?

You more than anyone had a lot of reasons not to support, let's say, normalization of relations with Vietnam. But you support that. Fifty years, 50 years, this has - this - these embargos - and it hasn't done anything.

Why not try it?

MCCAIN: Well, because we've shown no progress. We are rewarding Cuba for the kind of behavior that has characterized both Castro brothers. There's some 70 people who are in Cuba who have fled the United States or in the case of one who shot a New Jersey and killed -

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: - police officer -

MCCAIN: - a trooper in New Jersey -

CROWLEY: - sure, but isn't that the point? Isn't that his point? His point is after 50 years of the same policy, they haven't done anything.

Why not try something else?

MCCAIN: Well, because we would be rewarding the failure that they haven't done anything. If they had shown some progress, I think maybe that it would be what we are doing is endorsing their 50 years of oppression and repression in Cuba.

CROWLEY: Got to get you a couple of political questions here. The first is you said the president hasn’t shown any signs of changing. And yet he called Democrats on the House side against House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and said you need to vote for this budget.

And we need to get it passed.

So he actually worked against something of the leadership and the House wanted - in order to get a budget deal with Republicans.

Is that not reaching across the aisle?

MCCAIN: What I - what I - I think it's just putting - making his members of his - of his party, including former Speaker Pelosi, the Democratic leader. So I think it's more of an internal struggle with the Democrats more than it is working with Republicans.

CROWLEY: But he got a deal with Republicans. He got a budget deal with you guys.

MCCAIN: Well, but there was never any sit-down with Republicans as that was being put together. There has not been any outreach of any kind that I know of from the White House to Republicans no matter where they are. And I think Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have continued to state that.

CROWLEY: Put on your strategist hat and tell me how you think on the Republican side 2016 will play out.

MCCAIN: I think for the first time, Candy, you may see national security as a - maybe since the end of the Cold War - in much larger role, particularly in the Republican Party, where we have really some strong differences of policy outlook on America's role in the world. It's sort of a traditional conflict that's gone on within our party.

But it's - but because of the world we live in today, I think national security will play a much greater role in affecting the views of the voters. And that - I think that's going to make it much more interesting in some respects. And so therefore, you may see greater divisions from people like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and people on the other side like Rand Paul and others.

So I think you may see that kind of debate play a much greater role in this upcoming nomination fight.

CROWLEY: Wow! Doesn't that sort of make the case for a former secretary of state on the Democratic side?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it makes a case that it - well, the question needs to be raised is what did the secretary of state on the other side accomplish as secretary of state. And I think the results are - were not very appealing to the average American.

CROWLEY: Senator John McCain, I hope you have a wonderful holiday, Happy New Year. See you back in Washington.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Candy.

END

 

 

 

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