CODEL McCain’s statement and press engagement at the Marriott (January 2)

CODEL McCain’s statement and press engagement at the Marriott (January 2)

Senator McCain:  I’m here with Senator Klobuchar from Minnesota and Senator Graham from South Carolina.  We just had a very good meeting with our friends in the opposition.  We always express support for a vigorous political climate and a viable opposition, and media freedom.  But, we’re also committed to the freedom and independence of Georgia.  We support free trade agreements with Georgia, we support training, and eventual inclusion of Georgia into NATO, and we view the Georgians as our strong partner and friend.  And, we are grateful for the incredible and brave work their young soldiers continue to do in Afghanistan.

Senator Klobuchar:  I’m Amy Klobuchar, the Senator from Minnesota.  We had a really good meeting today with the minority party following a wonderful meeting yesterday with the Prime Minister.  Now we’re going to meet with the President.  And, I am in the minority party now in Washington, DC, with the loss.  We’re bi-partisan, but we get along, as you see.  But, one of the things I stressed in our meeting with the minority party is how important it is to have this peaceful transition in a real democracy and have a very active minority party,  That’s part of what distinguishes us from other countries that don’t have real democracies, that don’t allow the minority party to have a say.  That must continue in Georgia.  The second thing is just the importance of a free media and an independent media.  My dad was a reporter.  He’s now 88 year’s old, but I grew up a reporter family and I understand how we must have a media that asks hard questions, as much as we don’t always like it, it’s a very important part of democracy, and we think it’s important that should continue in Georgia.

Senator Graham:  Well, this has been a good trip.  Lots going on in the region.  All of us are going to go back and tell our colleagues that Russia is up to no good.  They’re undermining the Baltic states on a regular basis.  You live everyday lives dealing with the threat of Russia here.  So, there will be a bi-partisan effort beginning in a couple of weeks to pass new sanctions against Russia, where they’re hacking into our election and trying to destabilize democracy all over the world.  The opposition here I’ve known for a long time.  They’re committed to western integration.  Apparently you have a small pro-Russia element in the Parliament.  This should be a really good debate.  Do we want hook our wagon to Putin or do you to hook your wagon to Europe.  So, the fact that the main opposition party believes in NATO integration and western values, is reassuring to me. And from an American point of view, if you want to send a signal to the world, help Georgia.  Georgia is still one of the best examples, post-Soviet Union, of a country reorganizing itself, moving toward democracy, free speech, freedom of the press.  And we’re going to continue this relationship stronger.  We want more assistance to Georgia, more trade, more military interaction to counter Putin and what he represents.

Sen. McCain: There’s no doubt the Russians hacked into our election.  We don’t believe that they affected the election, but they attacked the United States of America.  We, on a bi-partisan basis in Congress, will be supporting increased sanctions, financial, other institutions, and we must do that.  And that’s the only thing that a thug and a bully, like Vladimir Putin, understands.

Q-n about Rustavi 2’s court case and whether the CODEL discussed with the government

Senator McCain: We discussed the importance of our commitment to a free media, and we believe that is very important.