Sen. McCain on Russia refusing to turn over Snowden

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," June 26, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Russia's got him. We want him. But this guy says, we ain't getting him.

Why John McCain says it is time to get mad at Vlad and give him an ultimatum now. Hand Ed over or we could be looking at the Cold War all over.

Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.

And Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. is not looking to start a fight, but it sure looks like Russia is already picking one. Because after 37 days on the run, NSA leaker Ed Snowden is safely holed up at a Moscow airport, and Vladimir Putin isn't remotely interested in shipping him back.

To Arizona Senator John McCain, who says enough is enough.

Senator, so much to get in to with you today, and thank you for joining us. What do you think of Vladimir Putin essentially taunting us with this guy?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Well, I think that we ought to have a realistic assessment of our relationship with the Russians and him specifically.

He is an old KGB colonel apparatchik that believes that he can somehow restore the prestige of the old Russian empire. He can't. The demographics, everything else, including an economy dependent on oil, works against him. But we have got to look at him from a realistic standpoint, and that is that he is a person who feels so emboldened these days, that he doesn't mind sticking his thumb right in our eye, which is what he is doing in this Snowden case.

When they first came out, Neil, and said, well, he is not in Russia, that's the old Soviet-speak, the old Cold War-speak. He wasn't in Russia. He was in a transit lounge. Now, give me a break. It's just -- so what do we need to do? One, I would reinvigorate our missile defense capabilities in Europe, which we conceded to them in hopes of the -- quote -- "reset."

How many times have we set that reset button, by the way? I think we should make clear that human rights abuses such as took place in the death and murder of Sergei Magnitsky and the bill we passed should be expanded to include other Russian violators of human rights as well. And we should make sure that they understand -- and there are several other measures we can take, but they understand what this is.

CAVUTO: Well, do you think Snowden is a traitor?

MCCAIN: I think he has violated our laws. I think he is subject to criminal prosecution for what he has done, and I think we really have revealed his true character when he flees to countries whose human rights records and transparency and all of the things he says he stands for are certainly not abundant.

So, I am not sure if the word traitor is the word, but certainly he has harmed American national security interests. Without a doubt, he has given ammunition to people like China who are saying, ah, see, Americans spy on people too. So it is OK for the Chinese to attack -- to launch cyber- attacks which -- against our most highly classified military capabilities.

CAVUTO: Let me switch gears to the immigration bill that could be on the verge of becoming law. I am hearing that behind the scenes, guys like you were trying to win over conservatives in particular, and that you were even calling movers and shakers -- but you didn't call me, so I was a little offended, but that's fine -- but that it is having the desired effect, that if that was the case, there is more support for this among conservatives than was the case before. Do you think that is the case?

MCCAIN: Oh, there's no doubt about it.

I have lived through this for quite awhile now, and it is vastly different. We were going to get in the high 60s number of votes, and we will get a good, solid Republican vote out of it, far far different from before.


CAVUTO: Well, did you call movers and shakers? Did you call big conservatives, like I am hearing like a lot of my colleagues, like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly?

MCCAIN: No, I didn't call them, no. I called other people, though.

CAVUTO: You called other people, not -- I was not on that list either.


MCCAIN: Well, I knew I would have the chance sooner or later to see you in all your sartorial splendor on television.


CAVUTO: There you go. Good answer.

MCCAIN: I saved a dime. Anyway...


MCCAIN: But, look, I think we have made enormous progress. Do we have enormous hurdles ahead of us? Yes. And so...

CAVUTO: But you think it is going to pass? You think it is going to pass?

MCCAIN: Oh, it's going to overwhelmingly.

But we would like to see more Republican senators frankly than we are probably going to see, but we are going to see a significant number of both Republican and Democrat. Then we have to work, along with the business community, along with the growers, along with the angelicals...

CAVUTO: Right.

MCCAIN: ... along with this broad coalition to try to convince our colleagues in a friendly fashion that they should take up this legislation, pass it. Then let's go to Congress.

CAVUTO: Well, you have an uphill battle with Rand Paul, your colleague.

He was saying, sir, ultimately, whether or not these people become citizens, under the "Gang of Eight" bill, it is up to the president. He said, I don't care if it is a Republican president or a Democratic president. It is too much power for one person to have. What do you think?

MCCAIN: As far as I know, we put together a bill. It went through the Judiciary Committee. We are now in our third week on the floor of the Senate. It is a normal process that I have grown used to after many years of service here in the United States Senate.


CAVUTO: So he is wrong? Are you saying he is wrong, that this fear of his is misplaced?

MCCAIN: I frankly don't know exactly what he is talking about, Neil. We have gone through the normal process. We have a president who has been supportive of the process, not agreeing with everything, but supportive. And the way we usually work is we pass a bill, the House passes a bill, we go to conference, and we come out with the legislation and signed by the president after it is passed again by both houses.


MCCAIN: That's the process we are going through.


CAVUTO: But he says and others like that, though, Senator, they say Ronald Reagan was hoodwinked on this tighten the border security thing, and even Reagan in retrospect said afterwards he regretted what amounted to many critics say, the first amnesty bill, if you will, and that they didn't really police that enforcement to the degree he had hoped.

MCCAIN: Well, I have got to tell you, I -- unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I was there at the time.

And what happened? Congress didn't appropriate the funds or take the action to get the border secure. It wasn't Ronald Reagan that didn't do it. It was the Congress of the United States.


CAVUTO: How do you know it won't happen again? How do you know it won't happen again?


MCCAIN: Because this is -- because this has triggers that are ironclad, in my view. They will tell you that it isn't. I am telling you that it is. And there is a commitment.

And, by the way, the border is much, much more secure. At the time that was passed in 1986, we had 4,000 Border Patrol agents. Now we have 21,000. This legislation will give 20,000 more.

Look, this will be the most well- defended border since the Berlin Wall went down. And so for those people who say this isn't good enough, their problem is not border security, Neil. It is other problems they have with legislation that would bring 11 million people out of the shadows.

CAVUTO: Now, Mexico is kind of feeding some conservatives' fears, because they are -- they're complaining about this, but at the same time they are arguing, hey, go ahead and grant them some amnesty or the equivalent and work on the border security thing later, but we find the border security thing offensive.

So, what do you think of that, and conservatives might pounce on that as another reason to delay this?

MCCAIN: Well, let me try to explain that we give them legal status, legal status as long as they haven't committed crimes, pass background checks, back taxes, all of those kinds of things, including learning English.

CAVUTO: Right.

MCCAIN: And then it is a 10-year process before they are eligible for a green card.

And then it is another three years or so before they can achieve citizenship. And they pay fees of hundreds and hundreds of dollars as -- on every step of the way. Meanwhile, we employ technology which we didn't have back in 1986 that would give us a secure border and an ability to surveil, situational awareness, we call it, of 100 percent and effective control of 90 percent. This is vastly different from 1986, and I was here at the time and I can assure you of that fact.

And so all I can tell you is this. If we don't do something -- and we would be glad to deal with the House of Representatives if they would pass a bill -- you're going to have de facto amnesty of -- for 11 million people. They are not going to self-deport. They are not going to be sent away, and they are going to be living in the shadows of our society. And you can't convince me that that's healthy for America.

CAVUTO: All right, so you were talking about you were there for 1986, the debate. It wasn't 1886?

MCCAIN: And '76 was one of our -- 1776 was one of our best years, as you recall.

CAVUTO: Indeed. Indeed.

Senator, touche. I guess I just missed the call. That's it.

John McCain in Washington, D.C.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

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