Mere minutes after President Donald Trump approved the declassification of the controversial memo claiming abuse of surveillance powers by the FBI, Sen. John McCain issued a sharp criticism of his Republican colleagues and Trump. In a statement, the senator from Arizona who is currently away from Washington undergoing treatment for brain cancer called on his colleagues and Trump to stop “manufacturing partisan sideshows” that ultimately only benefit Russia.
“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s,” McCain said in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded.”
The senator said it is high time that the country’s elected officials not lose track of what’s actually important. “In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy,” McCain said. “Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro and beyond.” It is critical for the country to get to the bottom of what happened and everyone, “including the president,” has to “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.”
He wasn’t the only Republican to publicly express unease about the fight over the memo. Fellow Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake had issued a statement Thursday with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons that called for Trump to “heed the warnings of the Justice Department and FBI, and reverse his reported decision to defy longstanding policies regarding the disclosure of classified information.”
There was also criticism over the partisan rancor that preceded the release of the memo from former Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, who used to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Rogers said that the whole fight over the memo had cost the committee its credibility with the intelligence community. “Unfortunately I do,” he told NPR. “And it’s not necessarily even the credibility from the public perspective. I know for a fact [people in the intelligence community] don’t trust Republicans and Democrats on this committee anymore to keep a secret in the intelligence community.”
Meanwhile, the FBI Agents Association also released its own statement, saying the bureau’s workers would “not allow partisan politics to distract us” following the release of the memo. “The American people should know that they continue to be well-served by the world’s preeminent law enforcement agency,” Thomas O’Connor, the group’s president, said. Earlier in the day, Trump took to Twitter to criticize leaders at the FBI and the Justice Department for their supposed bias in favor of Democrats and against Republicans.