U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s training as a Jackson County prosecutor has given her pause about rushing to judgment about President Donald Trump’s Russian ties.
The Democratic senator held a series of town halls around Missouri this week and weighed in on a range of subjects, from Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ decision to sign “right to work” legislation earlier this year to the ongoing investigations into Russia’s influence during the 2016 election.
“I had some of that at the town halls: People who ask questions about treason and impeachment,” McCaskill told The Star on Thursday. “And I think it’s really important that we wait for the facts. I just don’t think it’s helpful. I don’t think it’s helpful to our country. I don’t think it’s helpful to our world standing. I don’t think it’s helpful for the things I want to get done. I don’t think we get anything by throwing those words around until we know what all the facts are.”
McCaskill made these comments the same week that The Washington Post reported that the FBI and Justice Department obtained a warrant last year to monitor communications from Trump campaign aide Carter Page based on probable cause that he was working as an agent for a foreign power.
“The prosecutor in me, you know, I was trained to never talk about a case — ever! — until we were sure we had all the facts we could possibly get, and then probably a good idea to wait until you got in a courtroom to do it,” said McCaskill, who served as Jackson County’s prosecutor from 1993 to 1998.
McCaskill said that she had a high degree of confidence that the facts would emerge through investigations by the Justice Department and the U.S. Senate.
“My sense is from people I know in and around the Justice Department and the FBI is, ‘It’s all hands on deck and they’re really trying to get to the bottom of it,’ ” McCaskill said. “And I also think the Senate investigations will be strong, particularly Lindsey Graham (Republican senator from South Carolina). He’s got the power of subpoena. He’s been very clear in public that this isn’t about a D or an R.”
McCaskill supported Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syria following a chemical attack, which was believed to be perpetrated by the Assad regime, that left dozens dead last week. However, she raised concerns that the airstrikes were an impulsive response instead of part of a broader strategy.
“What was most upsetting is you had one message from the ambassador to the U.N. from the United States and a completely different message from the secretary of state. Well, that’s not good in foreign policy. There needs to be everybody on the same page speaking with the same voice,” McCaskill said.
McCaskill, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, said that the president needs to develop a clearer and consistent stance on when the U.S. will use military force and when it will not.
“I think he has this idea — he loved to say so during the campaign — that you can’t be predictable. Well, that may be true in a real estate deal where you’re trying to negotiate or leverage a deal or figure out what you can survive in bankruptcy, and you know, faking people out and one day being mad and the next day being nice. I don’t know about all that,” McCaskill said. “But I will tell you this: that in foreign policy in a dangerous world that we have today, certainty matters. Predictability matters. It matters to our allies. It matters to the bad guys.”
The Democrat also panned the decision by the Republican-dominated legislature in Jefferson City and the new governor to enact a right-to-work law earlier this year.
The law, which has existed in nearby Kansas for decades, will enable employees in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying union dues, a policy that supporters say makes the state more hospitable to business but that opponents say is intended to weaken unions’ bargaining power.
“We’ve created more jobs in Missouri over the last several years than the surrounding states that were right-to-work. I think this idea that if we take away the right of people to bargain for a wage, for workers to bargain for a wage, that somehow that makes us less attractive to companies — I just think it’s silly. It’s not true. You know, bargaining for good wages and benefits is pretty all-American,” she said. “It’s one of the things that built the middle class in this country.”
McCaskill, who said she has not spoken with Greitens since he became governor, said that she hopes to get a repeal of the policy on the 2018 ballot.
“The only thing we know for sure about right-to-work is it means everybody’s going to take a cut in pay, and now maybe it helps the guys at the top of the company do better, but it doesn’t help the people who are struggling, who are trying to raise a family and send their kids to college,” she said. “And so I’m going to try and help repeal it on the ballot next year.”